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resisting Miss Marie Wilton if I had ever experienced an attack from that young lady; but I take all the flattering things you and your critical friends—they worry me sometimes, those critical friends--are pleased to say about Miss Marie Wilton's wit, and grace, and agility. I am afraid you know too many oritics, Louisa ; and when I consider how those self-appointed censors increase and multiply in these latter days, I can't help thinking of a story of old Lady Strange, the widow of the famous engraver, and the lady who in youth saved her husband from the soldiers who sought his life, by sheltering him under her hoop petticoat. The critics remind me of the story, and they may consider its application as intended for them if they so choose. Lady Strange lived to a very great age, and a long time after the death of her husband; but she was to the last, of her dear partner's political creed, a staunch Jacobite. It chanced one day that a gentleman in her company, talking of bygone politics, chanced to speak of the Chevalier Charles Edward, by the name the adherents of the House of Hanover usually gave him: that of the “Pretender." Whereat cried old Lady Strange, usually very taciturn, but with a wonderful sharpness and alacrity—“Pretender, forsooth! and be dd to you.” And that is what I say to some of the critics. You must pardon, my dear, the use of a naughty word ; you must remember that it was a long time ago when ladies were more frank-spoken in their conversation than at present, and, moreover, that the ugly expletive in question was made use of by a lady of quality and title. If you are very much shocked, draw a pen carefully through the word when you show this letter to your friends; and as for the critics—but I check my pen, remembering that in my humdrum way I am always criticising somebody or something.
There are three wonderful humorists, you tell me, at the
Strand: one a lady, the very perfection of archness and quaint oddity without exaggeration, a Miss Charlotte Saunders; and two Dromios—two gentlemen I mean Messrs. Clark and Rogers—who, without interfering in the least with each other's fun, are excruciatingly comic. And Miss Martha Oliver, I learn from your letter, has the most beautiful eyes, and the sweetest smile, and the most silveryspeaking voice you have heard; and Miss Swanborough, the fair manageress of this prosperous house—which you tell me is nightly attended by the élite of the aristocracy-is graceful, and dignified, and eminently tasteful. Sure, the days of Madame Vestris, and Mrs. Honey and Mrs. Waylett, must have returned again.
Dearest Louisa, my gossip about plays and players is fast drawing to a close; but I cannot pass over in silence your rapturous eulogium of a wonderful little man called Robson -one of the half-dozen people, they say, who is successful in making the Queen laugh-who, according to all I hear, not only succeeds, night after night, in making people scream themselves hoarse with merriment, but—a better faculty, my dear-makes them weep their eyes red with sympathising grief. Be assured that we have heard often and favourably of this Mr. Robson, even in this remote Pumpwell. You have seen him, you say, in the Porter's Knot,” and in 6. Retained for the Defence." Doctor Gradus, of the grammar school, who went purposely to town in the spring, and attended the Olympic Theatre in the company of a person of quality intimately connected with the court, says that you should see Robson in “ Daddy Hardacre,” in “The Wandering Minstrel,” and especially in a wonderful parody of a Greek play, in the Italian version of which Madame Ristori amazed and astonished all Europe, called “ Medea." Doctor Gradus talks in his good, solemn, somewhat pompous
way of Robson, as though he were a national institution—a perpetual censor, appointed, not only to hold the mirror up to nature, and show vice her own image, but to commend to our admiration and emulation such qualities as rugged fidelity and loving disinterestedness.
can paint, to the minutest hair-breadth of verisemblance,” said the Doctor to me, over his fourth cup
of tea last Tuesday evening, the petty meannesses, and spites, and jealousies that disfigure humanity, as in the marvellous and life-like, heart-searching, and soul-knowing manner peculiar to Robson ; but, on the other hand, no actor, comic or tragic, can give us so graphic a portraiture of a true friend and an honest man. Madam," the Doctor, with grave emphasis, went on; "if Pumpwell-le-Springs were not a hundred and eighty-seven miles from the great metropolis, and did not the parents of some of my pupils object as a matter of principle to dramatic entertainments, I would give the entire school a half-holiday tomorrow for the express purpose of seeing Robson ; and I believe, Madam, that I should be tempted to subject to the correction of stripes that perverse and obdurate boy who did not consider Robson to be the finest actor he had ever seen.”
“ Doctor Gradus," I replied, “I have the highest respect for your critical acumen and judgment. Will you be so good as to ring for Shanko Fanko? I want my maid and my bed-candle."
And lo! as I pen these lines, Shanko Fanko answers a similar summons, and departs to fetch chambermaid and candlestick. Adieu, my pet !
LETTER THE EIGHTH.
ON THE BEHAVIOUR OF YOUNG LADIES.
My treasure is aware that, from the first, these letters were not destined for her eyes alone. They were intended to be somewhat more catholic in their scope and aim. I accorded permission to my Louisa to impart the contents of my communications to her female acquaintances; nay, moreand herein may lie some pardonable vanity on my part—to collect their opinions, and seek their suffrages, on the epistolary merits of the lorn old woman .at Pumpwell. Am I the first correspondent, think you, who has written with a view to an audience somewhat more extended than the recipient of her letters? Had Mr. Walpole no one save Sir Horace Mann in his mind when he wrote ? May not Brother Abelard, when he indited those fervent epistles to Sister Héloïse, have reflected, with a sort of simper, that they, or portions of them, might be shown en cachette to some chosen female confidants of the Paraclète ? Did Madame de Sévigné imagine that her letters would be seen by no one but her pert doctor from the country? And, finally, might not my great namesake, my Lord Chesterfield himself—and I believe your papa was really, albeit remotely, of that illustrious family, my dear—have intended his unrivalled letters to be perused by a good many more people besides that son who, I believe, requited the good advice so liberally
and elegantly bestowed on him, by growing up an intolerable coxcomb, and a confirmed rake?
Thus, Louisa, when you tell me that you have availed yourself of the license granted to you, and that you have shown these letters to a circle sufficiently large of your acquaintance, I am not in the least surprised to hear that while some express themselves much pleased with the matter they contain, and with the style in which that matter is couched, another section of readers, as considerable, perhaps, as the first, make no effort to conceal their extreme dislike and distaste for all that I have written.
I should be a very silly, as well as a very vain person if I did not expect—and had not from the first expected—such an alternate condemnation and applause. Was it so long since, my dear, that in a volume of elegant extracts you read a certain fable relating to an old man, his son, and his donkey? Only yesterday, turning over a collection of perhaps the finest letters that ever were written in this world, I came, in the pages of the “Spectator," upon a little apologue written by Mr. Joseph Addison. As it bears somewhat forcibly on the matter in hand I will transcribe it.
“ My worthy friend Sir Roger," writes the Spectator, “ when we are talking of the malice of parties, very frequently tells us an accident that happened to him when he was a schoolboy, which was about the time when the feuds ran high between the Roundheads and Cavaliers. This worthy knight, being then but a stripling, had occasion to inquire the way to St. Anne's Lane, upon which the person whom he spoke to, instead of answering the question, called him a young Popish cur, and asked him who had made Anne a saint. The boy, being in some confusion, inquired of the next he met, which was the way to Anne's Lane, but was called a prick-eared hound for his pains; and, instead of being shown the way, was told