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after their publication, he could never take into his hand without disgust. It is strange, I replied, that pieces so much admired for their eloquence could give no satisfaction to their author. Why, said he, with regard to their style and eloquence
I am not altogether dissatisfied with them; but I dread always qu'ils pèchent par le fond ; and that their lustre is only the blaze of a day.
I am sensible of your great partiality and friendship, in offering to become my translator for any work, which I may hereafter give to the public: surely I could not desire to be introduced to foreign countries in a more advantageous manner than I should be by your elegant pen. But my écritoire is at present exhausted, and I have no prospect of filling it: I am even unsettled as to my views of establishing myself; and I indulge myself in the humour of living from day to day, partly in reading, partly in company, partly in indolence. I am afraid that you indulge yourself too much in this last enjoyment: otherwise, why do you, who have taste and knowledge in so eminent a degree, desire to translate the work of any other person, and not rather give some original performance to the public? You say, perhaps, that the constraint under which you labour in France discourages you : and you envy the liberty of England. But be assured, that the indifference, and I may say, barbarism of England, is more discouraging than all the persecutions of France, which sometimes tend only to give a lustre to an author, and to render him more interesting.
I beg my compliments to all my friends of your
society; they may be assured that I shall never give up the thoughts of revisiting them, but with
I am with the greatest sincerity, my dear sir, your most obedient and most humble servant,
DAVID HUME TO THE COUNTESS DE
London, 230 December, 1768. I Am somewhat ashamed, dear madam, but still more sorry, to be obliged to address you by letter, instead of enjoying your conversation, as I flattered myself all last autumn. My intended journey was every day delayed, for different reasons, which appeared, each of them, at the time, solid and invincible; but it would be difficult for me to explain the amount of the whole. The truth is, I have, and ever had a prodigious reluctance to change my place of abode; and though this disposition was more than counterbalanced by my strong desire of enjoying your society, it made me perhaps yield more easily to the obstacles which opposed my journey. For this reason I shall say nothing of my future intentions, lest I expose myself to the same reproach of irresolution, in case I do not fulfil them. But I own I have, during a long time, felt the strongest inclination of hearing from you; and knowing your situation with regard to health and domestic satisfaction. The count, I hear, was to be married some weeks ago : I am told, that all your friends are extremely pleased with the alliance ; and that the young couple were to come home and live with you,-a project likely to turn out much to their advantage, and your satisfaction. I flatter myself that this arrangement will tend very much to give you more liberty in the disposal of your time—the circumstance which seemed to me chiefly wanting to your enjoyment of life: some constraint must still remain ; but I hope that, besides being alleviated by your friendship for the object, it will now also admit of intervals and relaxation. It will be difficult for you ever to be so happy as I wish you; and I am more difficult to please than you yourself would be with regard to every circumstance of your situation.
I think it my duty to inform you concerning all your friends in this country. The Bedford family seem to be comforted, entirely, from the shock they received on poor Lord Tavistock’s death : some even reproached the duke with being too easily comforted; but it proceeded from the ardency of his temper, which always takes itself to the present object without reserve.
He begins to apprehend that he is losing his eyes again, and that he has endured a very cruel operation to no purpose.
Lord and Lady Holdernesse live elegantly and sociably, as usual: my lord is only not quite contented in being left out of the present plan of administration, and not to have any occupation. Lady Emily is their great consolation, and is a fine girl,- but will not prove so handsome as we expected.
I believe the Duchess of Grafton was your acquaintance: her adventure cannot be unknown to you. It is not doubted, but, as soon as she is divorced, she will marry Lord Ossory; and the duke, his kept mistress, who was very lately a lady of the town. These are strange scenes, and very contrary to your manners.
Lord Beauchamp is married to a young lady of family and fortune, who has an entire complaisance for Lady Hertford : so that this incident, which she always dreaded, will nowise interrupt their correspondence. Lord Beauchamp makes a very good figure in parliament; but the young people cannot endure him, on account of his want of sociableness : you remember there was the same complaint against him at Paris ; and it is a pity, considering his amiable manner in other respects.
There was a report here, which got into the newspapers, that I was going over to France in my former station : but it never had the least foundation. The truth is, I would rather pay you a visit voluntarily than in any public character; though indeed the prospect of affairs here is so strange and melancholy, as would make any one desirous of withdrawing from the country at any rate. Licentiousness, or rather the frenzy of liberty, has taken possession of us, and is throwing every thing into confusion. How happy do I esteem it, that in all my writings I have always kept at a proper distance from that tempting extreme, and have maintained a due regard to magistracy and established government, suitably to the character of an historian and a philosopher. -I find on that ac ant my authority growing daily; and indeed have no reason to complain of the public, though your partiality to me made you think so formerly. Add to this, that the king's bounty puts me in a very opulent situa. tion. I must, however, expect that, if any great public convulsion happen, my appointments will cease, and reduce me to my own revenue : but this will be sufficient for a man of letters, who surely needs less money both for his entertainment and credit than other people.
A-propos to such people, we hear that our friend Rousseau made an elopement from the Prince of Conti, and filed into Dauphiny. He tired there, and offered to return to Mr. Davenport, but is now retired to Dombes, where he will not long remain. He is surely the most singular and most incomprehensible, and at the same time the most unhappy man that ever was born. I have seen the copy of a paper, which he wrote in Dauphiny, containing the sentiments of all man. kind with regard to him. It is certainly genuine. Some marks of genius, with a great many of vanity, prove it to be no counterfeit. Did he elope from the Prince of Conti, without making a quarrel with you or his benefactor? It seems he is determined not to return to you.
I beg you to lay me at the Prince of Conti's feet, and to express my inviolable regard and attachment to his highness. May I also beg you to remember me to M. De Vierville, and M. De Barbantane. I hope Miss Bechett is well, and has the same passion, but more moderate, for you. Adieu, dear madam, believe me to be yours with the greatest sincerity.