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going to be a hero? He has filled a leaf in the book of fame, but it is a very blotted leaf.
It is amazing how building increases everywhere near London, though, as I said, my neighbours decrease. This is the necessary lot of age. One of our ministers prays, that when we come to die we may have nothing to do but to die. In one sense the petition is rational : but if it means, nothing to do for ourselves; nothing to do for others; nothing to do in any of the useful stations of life; the languor and privations, if not the sufferings of age, more than balancing its few enjoyments; then, truly, I do not think the blessing is much to be prayed for. I am rather getting into a melancholy vein, and I ought not, for I have much to be thankful for, and shall have more when your next letter comes to tell me, as I hope it will, Such a day, such an hour, I have taken my place for London, thence to proceed to Newington,—where you will be sincerely welcomed by, dear Mrs. Estlin, your affectionate friend.
LETTERS TO MRS. FLETCHER.
MY DEAR MADAM,
Sept. 1813. I have to thank you for your very entertaining letter. I would have undergone a good wetting, and even a suspicion of danger, to have enjoyed the grandeur of your thunder-storm. Indeed I am rather partial to a death by lightning; and were I to choose the mode of my departure, should certainly prefer to be “by touch ethereal slain.” However, as I have no right to choose for
you, I am glad you got shelter under the roof of your hospitable, though penurious, farmer. Surely he must be a phænomenon even in the Highlands : but I believe it is rare in all professions for the same person to amass and to enjoy riches. Even with regard to the treasures of the mind, which one should suppose would include the power of using them, the laborious collector of facts and dates produces some ponderoụs volume, which sleeps on the shelf till some light and airy wit skims it for tale and anecdote, or some original genius shapes and moulds it into a system.
I am now reading the third and fourth volumes of Mrs. Montague’s Letters. To me, who have lived through all the time she writes of, they are interesting --independent of the wit and talent, -as recalling a number of persons and events once present to my mind : they are also, I think, very entertaining, though, as letters, somewhat studied. With all her advantages she seems not to have been happy. She married not Mr. Montague from affection. It is evident she looked upon him as a wise and kind friend, but nothing more ;-a little too wise sometimes, when he kept her in the country longer than she liked. To a person so married, nothing will fill the mind and give a permanent interest to life, but children. She lost her child; and notwithstanding all that nature and all that fortune had given, and high cultivation, and chosen society, and public esteem, she speaks of life as a thing to be got through, rather than to be enjoyed.
Stoke Newington, June 1814. What do I think of the French !-- In the first plaçe, it requires some time before one can think at all, events succeed each other with such astonishing rapidity. The constitution held out to the king's acceptance was indeed all one can wish,—the principles of liberty were carried
further than even in ours,—but you see he has not signed it; and if he had, it is a jest to talk of a constitution, when three or four foreign armies are in the kingdom.
France, proud France, gallant France, is a conquered country. I do not think we yet know her real inclinations; convulsed by a revolution, tyrannized over by a despot, and owing her deliverance to her very enemies,—how she is humbled, how much she has suffered; but how much she has inflicted! The French, however, have a better chance for happiness with the mild imbecility of the Bourbons than with Napoleon...
This was written a week ago : and now SpainSpain has disappointed all our hopes : “ Down with the Cortes,-up with the Inquisition !” and, as at Naples some years ago, the few fine spirits who would have rejoiced in a better order of things will be consigned to dungeons. I do not know what we can gather from the contemplation of all these revolutions, but this; that the concerns and destinies of all the world are too high for us; that we must wait the winding up of the drama, and be satisfied in promoting and enjoying the happiness of our own little circle.......
The three persons who have most engaged the attention of London societies this year have been women :-Miss Edgeworth, Madame de Stael, and now the Duchess of Oldenburg, who shows, they
say, a most rational and unsated curiosity. But kings and emperors are now appearing on the stage, and the lesser lights must "pale their ineffectual fires." Dear madam, will not you and Miss F. come to London to see all these sights? You are much mistaken if you think, as you seem to do, that you
shall find us anxiously speculating about the liberties of Europe. We shall be squeezing to get a sight of Alexander, and taking tickets for fêtes, and looking at the prince's fireworks, and anecdotes to shine with in the next party. Shall I be equally mistaken, or shall I not, when I suppose
in Edinburgh are deep in mathematics and metaphysics with Dugald Stewart? I want to know how his work is relished. I am glad he has spoken a good word for final causes, the search for which, under the guidance of judgement and impartiality, certainly assists investigation as truly as it is the reward of it.
Stoke Newington, August 1814. What an alteration a few weeks has made in London !
If you but crossed the street a month ago, you had a chance of meeting a prince or an emperor; and now it is empty beyond the usual emptiness of summer, and everybody you meet has been, or is planning to go, across the