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worse, I have groaned between two and three months ;
the debility has survived the pain, and though now easy, I am carried about in my chair, without any power, and with a very distant chance of supporting myself, from the extreme weakness and contraction of the joints of my knees. Yet I am happy in a skilful physician, and kind assidu. ous friends : every evening, during more than three months, has been enlivened (excepting when I have been forced to refuse them) by some cheerful visits, and very often by a chosen party of both sexes.
How different is such society from the solitary evenings which I have passed in the tumult of London! It is not worth while fighting about a shadow, but should I ever return to England, Bath, not the metropolis, would be my last retreat.
Your portrait is at last arrived in perfect condition, and now occupies a conspicuous place over the chimney-glass in my library. It is the object of general admiration : good judges (the few) applaud the work; the name of Reynolds opens the eyes of the many; and were I not afraid of making you vain, I would inform you that the original is not allowed to be more than five and thirty. In spite of private reluctance and public discontent, I have honourably dismissed myself*. I shall arrive at Sir Joshua's before the end of the month; he will give me a look, and perhaps a touch; and you will be indebted to the president one guinea for the carriage. Do not be nervous, I am not rolled up; had I been so, you
* His portrait.
might have gazed on my charms foar months ago. I want some account of yourself, of my lady (shall we never directly correspond ?) of Louisa, and of Maria. How has the latter since her launch supported a quiet winter in Sussex ? I so much rejoice in your divorce from that bKitty Coventry, that I care not what marriage you contract. A great city would suit your dig. nity, and the duties, which would kill me in the first session, would supply your activity with a constant source of amusement. But tread softly and surely; the ice is deceitful, the water is deep, and you may be soused over head and ears before you are aware. Why did not you or Elmsley send me the African pamphlet * by the post? it would not have cost much. You have such a knack of turning a nation, that I am afraid you will triumph (perhaps by the force of argument) over justice and humanity. But do you not ex. pect to work at Belzebub's sugar plantations in the infernal regions, under the tender government of a negro driver? I should suppose both my lady and Miss Frith very angry with you.
As to the bill for prints, which has been too long neglected, why will you not exercise the power, which I have never revoked, over all my cash at the Goslings? The Severy family has passed a very favourable winter; the young man is impatient to hear from a family which he places above all others; yet he will generously write next week, and send you a drawing of the
• Lord S.'s “ Observations on the Project for abolishing the Slave Trade."
alterations in the house. Do not raise your ideas; you know I am satisfied with convenience in architecture, and some elegance in furniture. I admire the coolness with which you ask me to epistolize Reynell and Elmsley, as if a letter were so easy and pleasant a task; it appears less so to me every day.
MR. GIBBON TO LORD SHEFFIELD.
Lausanne, August 7, 1790. I ANSWER at once your two letters ; and I should probably have taken earlier notice of the first, had I not been in daily expectation of the second. I must begin on the subject of what really, interests me the most-your glorious election for Bristol. Most sincerely do I congratulate your exchange of a cursed expensive jilt, who deserted you for a rich Jew, for an honourable connexion with a chaste and virtuous matron, who will probably be as constant as she is disinterested. In the whole range of election, from Caithness to St. Ives, I much doubt whether there be a single choice so truly honourable to the member and the constituents. The second commercial city invites, from a distant province, an independent gentle. man, known only by his active spirit, and his writings on the subject of trade; and names him, without intrigue or expense, for her representative : even the voice of party is silenced, while factions strive which shall applaud the most.
You are now sure, for seven years to come, of never wanting food,-I mean business : what a crowd of suitors or complainants will besiege your door! what a load of letters and memorials will be heaped on your table! I much question whether even you will not sometimes exclaim, Ohe! jam satis est! but that is your affair. Of the excursion to Coventry I cannot decide, but I hear it pretty generally blamed: but, however, I love gratitude to an old friend; and shall not be very angry if you damned them with a farewell to all eternity. But I cannot express my indignation at the use of those obsolete, odious words, Whig and Tory. In the American war they might have some meaning; and then your lordship was a Tory, although you supposed yourself a Whig: since the coalition, all general principles have been confounded ; and if there ever was an opposition to men, not measures, it is the present. Luckily both the leaders are great men ; and, whatever happens, the country must fall upon its legs. What a strange mist of peace and war seems to haug over the ocean! We can perceive nothing but secrecy and vigour, but those are excellent qualities to perceive in a minister. From yourself and politics I now return to my private concerns, which I shall methodically con. sider under the three great articles of mind, body, and estate.
I am not absolutely displeased at your firing so hastily at the hint, a tremendous hint, in my last letter. But the danger is not so serious or imminent as you seem to suspect; and I give you my word, that, before I take the slightest step which can bind me either in law, conscience, or honour, I will faithfully cominunicate, and we
will freely discuss the whole state of the business, But at present there is not any thing to communicate or discuss; I do assure you that I have not any particular object in view : I am not in love with any of the hyænas of Lausanne, though there are some who keep their claws tolerably well pared, Sometimes, in a solitary mood, I have fancied myself married to one or apother of those whose society and conversation are the most pleasing to me; but when I have painted in my fancy all the probable consequences of such a union I have started from my dream, rejoiced in my escape, and ejaculated a thanksgiving that I was still in possession of my natural freedom. Yet I feel, and shall continue to feel, that domestic solitude, however it may be alleviated by the world, by study, and even by friendship, is a comfortless state, which will grow more painful as I descend in the vale of years. At present my situation is very probable; and if at dinnertime, or at my return home in the evening, I sometimes sigh for a companion, there are many hours, and many occasions, in which I enjoy the superior blessing of being sole master of my own house. But your plan, though less dangerous, is still more absurd than mine : such a couple as you describe could not be found; and, if found, would not answer my purpose; their rank and position would be awkward and ambiguous to myself and my acquaintance; and the agreement of three persons with three characters would be still more impracticable. My plan of Charlotte Porter is undoubtedly the more desirable ; and she might either remain a spinster (the case is not