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THE BRIGHTON SEASON IN 1798
Yes, my dear Sarah, you are indeed often in my thoughts, and whenever I shall have a home let me hope you will sometimes at least deign to grace it. Its door will always fly open to welcome you. Here-though perhaps you will smile when I say so-I feel alone in a crowd, as a thousand gay images are passing continually by me; but, like the ombres chinoises, they leave no trace, nothing for the heart to fix upon, or the mind to recall with any real satisfaction to itself. Yet as you wish me to send you a register of the follies of the place, I must obey; though, were I to do them justice, I should exhaust reams of paper, and ruin you in postage. But where shall I begin? With Concannon's supper parties, where there is charming music, which you are not compelled to listen to, where French dishes are served up on silver chiffoirs, and where champagne goes round with glees and bon mots to an early hour; or with Mrs. Schollet's humbler though merrier meetings, where there is more beauty though less fashion, and where "my lady's toilet" and a thousand whimsies fill the room with noise and disorder; or with Miss Haldimand's conversationes, where I was introduced on the first evening blindfold, and where Miss Cleaver, a relation of the Huttons, plays divinely on the harp, and looks as divinely; or with Lord Carrington's ball, where I spent last night among Lady Marys and Lady Bettys, where the supper shone most splendidly with youth and beauty, and jellied meats and grapes and pine-apples? No, my dear Sarah, I will begin with a list of the dramatis persone here, and leave my whereabouts for another chapter. Here is Mrs. Armstead (Fox is pheasant-shooting in Norfolk), who lives in
a small cabin with a man and a maid, and who is reading "Emily Montagu" for the third time; Mrs. Bristow who still dances à l'opéra, but is now in a little disguise, having last winter got rid of a dropsy in a remarkable manner; Mrs. Horsley, who looks very dull and rather old; a Miss Grant, who is seldom seen, but who, without entering into these gaieties, looks very cheerful and very well, and makes many kind enquiries after her friends; Miss Hunt who was once to have been married to Lord Wycombe, and who has three mines in Cornwall with 3,000 lamps burning night and day in each of them; Tommy Onslow, who is one instant seen in his phaeton and six, and the very next on a docktail pony, with his skirts pinned up, and his hat in his hand, bumping along the London road at the rate of twelve miles an hour; General Manners, who follows the hounds in a low chair, which he says he gave eight guineas for twelve years ago, and which is dragged up and down the hills by a tall white coach-horse; Miss White, a most charming and elegant woman about thirty-five, who, after having long excited the admiration of the Pump Room by her wit and her talents, shut herself up in her father's sick-room for two long years, but he is now dead and she lives at present in Sir J. Reynolds's house at Richmond on an independency of 1,200l. per annum-you must know her; Lady Lucan, who is illuminating a Shakespeare with her beautiful drawings, and who sleeps every night in her little steel travellingbed, lest she should feel any difference between at home and abroad; and Mrs. Hope, who turns up her nose alike at English peeresses and English [customs], and
A ROMANTIC MARRIAGE
whose little girls come in regularly with the dessert after dinner, with earrings, and necklaces, and white gloves. But I could continue my list till Christmas, and shall conclude with Mr. Spencer, who is a nephew of the Duke of Marlboro', who translated "Leonora," and who married rather oddly. When he was at Heidelberg, a mutual attachment took place between him and the wife of an ex-German nobleman, who became uneasy at it, and Mr. S. left the place. She was an Englishwoman born there. On his departure she solicited leave of her husband to hear once a year of Mr. S. The Baron consented, and immediately wrote to Mr. S. to meet him. at an Inn on the road. Mr. S. came and found him dead; he had shot himself and had left a letter on the table, recommending his wife as a most amiable and excellent woman to the regard and protection of Mr. Spencer. Mrs. S., who has nothing remarkable about her, is just here. À propos, I have just received a letter from Brignola; he is well, but low in spirits, at Florence, and desires his homage to you. Parsons and myself are here on the edge of old Ocean, who has been taken rather fractious lately. The spray wets our windows, and the wind rocks our beds, and the door sometimes requires three men to shut it. We live like Gibbon and Deyverdun (in only one respect, I fear), breakfasting separately and dining together, when disengaged. We then sometimes indulge ourselves with a partie carrée; and Mr. Walpole, the Munich minister, and Mr. Gray, our Resident at Dresden, have formed it frequently with us. We have a decent cook, and P.'s Frenchman is just equal to an omelette or a fricassee. P. bathes most
furiously, and parades along the cliff in a flannel robe and pantaloons. By some he is taken for the Pope, who has emigrated; by others for a Carthusian friar. Your More returns her best thanks for kind enquiries. She still excites a little notice, and is for ever scampering with the hounds or the ladies. But, adieu! my dear Sarah. I must prepare myself for Lady Clark's supper, where there is to be a general insurrection this evening. Remember me to everybody at Aspleyns and Amersham.
An Epistle to a Friend '-Letters from Dr. Warton -W. Gilpin-Criticisms and changes in the poem-Mr. Hayward's criticism-Rogers and Fox, Erskine - Political warfare- The Fox banquet, 1798 - The Duke of Norfolk - Prosecution of Gilbert Wakefield Parr and Mackintosh.
THE 'Epistle to a Friend' was already finished when, in the autumn of 1797, Richard Sharp enquired about it. It had in all probability originated in conversations with him, and it may be regarded as a poetical reply to the arguments he had used to induce Rogers to leave his suburban home and plunge into the social life of the West End of London. His nephew, Samuel Sharpe, speaks of it as a picture of his mind at the age of thirtyfive, as "The Pleasures of Memory" shows his mind at the age of twenty-nine. The "Epistle to a Friend" describes his views of life, and his feelings on Art, on Literature, and on Society, as one who valued cheap pleasures, who had lived out of town, and was separated from London's round of gaiety and glitter.' Readers of my account of Rogers's early days will have no difficulty in understanding the truth of this statement. I have previously said that there was a struggle in his own mind which he turned into poetry. This praise of country life, from the point of view of a dweller in the