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The Wits and Beaux of Society Volume 2

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HORACE WALPOLE. The Commoners of England.—Horace's Regret for the Death of his Mother.— 'Little Horace' in Arlington Street.—Introduced to George I.— Characteristic Anecdote of George I.—Walpole's Education.—Schoolboy Days.—Boyish Friendships.—Companionship of Gray.—A Dreary Doom.— Walpole's Description of Youthful Delights.—Anecdote of Pope and Frederic of Wales.—The Pomfrets.—Sir Thomas Robinson's Ball.—An Admirable Scene.—Political Squibs.—Sir Robert's Retirement from Office.—The Splendid Mansion of Houghton.—Sir Robert's Love of Gardening.—What we owe to the 'Grandes Tours.'—George Vertue.—Men of One Idea.—The Noble Picture-gallery at Houghton.—The 'Market Pieces.'— Sir Robert's Death.—The Granville Faction.—A very good Quarrel.— Twickenham.—Strawberry Hill.—The Recluse of Strawberry.—Portraits of the Digby Family.—Sacrilege.—Mrs. Darner's Models.—The Long Gallery at Strawberry.—The Chapel.—'A Dirty Little Thing.'—The Society around Strawberry Hill.—Anne Seymour Conway.—A Man who never Doubted.—Lady Sophia Fermor's Marriage.—Horace in Favour.—Anecdote of Sir William Stanhope.—A Paper House.—Walpole's Habits.—Why did he not Marry?— 'Dowagers as Plenty as Flounders.'—Catherine Hyde, Duchess of Queensberry.—Anecdote of Lady Granville.—Kitty Clive.—Death of Horatio Walpole.—George, third Earl of Orford.—A Visit to Houghton.—Family Misfortunes.—Poor Chatterton.—Walpole's Concern with Chatterton.— Walpole in Paris.—Anecdote of Madame Geoffrin.—'Who's that Mr. Walpole?'—The Miss Berrys.—Horace's two 'Straw Berries.'—Tapping a New Reign.—The Sign of the Gothic Castle.—Growing Old with Dignity.— Succession to an Earldom.—Walpole's Last Hours.—Let us not be Ungrateful.

Had this elegant writer, remarks the compiler of 'Walpoliana,' composed memoirs of his own life, an example authorized by eminent names, ancient and modern, every other pen must have been dropped in despair, so true was it that 'he united the good sense of Fontenelle with the Attic salt and graces of Count Anthony Hamilton.'

But 'Horace' was a man of great literary modesty, and always undervalued his own efforts. His life was one of little incident: it is his character, his mind, the society around him, the period in which he shone, that give the charm to his correspondence, and the interest to his biography.

Besides, he had the weakness common to several other fine gentlemen who have combined letters and haut ton, of being ashamed of the literary character. The vulgarity of the court, its indifference to all that was not party writing, whether polemical or political, cast a shade over authors in his time.

Never was there, beneath all his assumed Whig principles, a more profound aristocrat than Horace Walpole. He was, by birth, one of those well-descended English gentlemen who have often scorned the title of noble, and who have repudiated the notion of merging their own ancient names in modern titles....