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First, and perhaps most important of all, he was a very great nobleman with six names and two dukedoms; he was also a Peer of France, a Prince of the Holy Empire, a Grandee of Spain, a Baron of Rome, a Member of the French Academy, the grand-nephew of Cardinal Mazarin, and Ambassador to several countries, the last England. He was a soldier—but not much of a one; a poet—if Walpole were one ; an actor— in the salons of kind friends; a diplomat—of some adroitness, but scant achievement; he was in nothing great save in being a great gentleman.
Much in his personal appearance would seem to have been pleasing to Walpole, if he cared for a man who resembled himself. “Very battered, delicate, and anxious about his health; very little and plain in his person,” thus wrote Walpole, by hearsay, ere the Duke arrived in London. There was nothing to change in this description when the twain met. His portrait
—by Allan Ramsay—shows a thin-featured, sad-eyed, refined French countenance, of distinct gentleness and charm. “He had a sweet politeness," wrote Lord Lyttleton and wrote the Pope; a “coquetterie d'esprit,” bis secretary (the grotesque Chevalier D'Eon) called it; a kind and bright courtesy, I choose to term this trait, which is so characteristic of the best French natures.
He had many of Walpole's tastes and be liked many of Walpole's friends, especially Lady Ossory. He loved Nature —as did Walpole—he loved a garden. Had he shared but a little Walpole's gay spirit, bis cheerfulness, his sportiveness,
he would with his adroit mind and his sweet amenity have made a perfect courtier, a wonderful diplomat. But bis countenance indicates a constitutional depression of spirits; and the death of his only son, combined with his own valetudinarianism, bad brought him—not into the melancholia of the nineteenth century—but to an equally baffling obsession, the vapours of the eighteenth.
The Duke bad the pleasure of vast popularity in England, if anything gave pleasure to so blasé a gentleman. He bad the undying honour of having a hat named for him—the very smallest of all cocked bats. Anstey's New Bath Guide asks:
And what with my Nivernois hat can compare
Bagwig and laced ruffles and black solitaire? Without doubt the Duke's dress influenced the wide and sudden popularity in England of that “dandiacal body,” the Macaroni.
His life (save bis public services) was spent much like Walpole's own. He was given to arranging little formal kindnesses, to manipulating social fetes, to writing dreary congratulatory verses, to presenting ingenious complimentary addresses, to composing dialogues, and producing little fables. The end of one life was bowever far removed from the sheltered close of the other with his fair and tender “StrawBerries” at Strawberry Hill. At fourscore the frail feeble body languished two years in a French prison, but triumphed in a like term of life after his release. He closed his days, this nobleman of many titles and names, as Citizen Mancini.
A philosopher and kindly gentleman alike, his last act was characteristic, the composition of some pleasant complimentary verses to his physician.
His works, which were collected and published in his last years, fill eight volumes. In them are no inimitable letters such as Walpole wrote, hence the Duke is to us but a shadow of the past; while Walpole is our personal friend.
In 1776 Walpole wrote thus to his friend, the poet Gray: “The Duc has parts, and writes at the top of the mediocre.” This opinion may have changed ere the year 1785, or the many French titles and offices atoned mightily for slight literary capacity; for in the later days of 1784 Walpole received from the Duke the French rendering of the Essay on Modern Gardening; and what be thereafter thought of the Duke's talent is recorded in no uncertain speech. From Walpole's letters, after the translation was made public, we have such laudatory sentences as these :
You will find it a most beautiful piece of
He (the Duc) has bestowed on me more dis-
INTRODUCTORY NOTE turning my slight Essay on Gardening into the pure French of the last age; and, which is wonderful, has not debased Milton to French poetry; on the contrary, I think Milton has given a dignity to French poetry—nay, and harmony.
We have, however, a much more valuable and interesting record than these chance allusions in two long and explicit letters, written by Horace Walpole to bis collaborateur wbolly on the subject of this Translation.
We are permitted to present these two literary treasures in facsimile in these pages. The first, dated January 6th, 1785; (and unsigned) is of special interest; it is plainly the original draught of Walpole's letter of thanks written upon toe receipt of the manuscript translation; and it shows Walpole's alterations and after-thoughts. How few they are! Seven elisions of the title “your Excellency,” one change in the tense of a verb, the addition of two short clauses, these are all in the closely-written pages.
Much of Walpole is revealed to us by this original draught: bis full and fluent vocabulary; the accurate balance in bis literary work between thought and its expression; the readiness and precision of his pen in recording. All these characteristics bave not been attributed to Walpole by his critics, or even by his admirers; many have fancied his letters to the end of bis life were, when transmitted, copies from originals which had received corrections, alterations and even studied revision ere they attained their perfection of finish. We learn from this important manuscript letter that the perfection was a babit, aimost an instinct; acquired doubtless through many early years of unvarying and rigid revision. The student of chirography will find these letters of interest. Clear and readable as print, clean without blot or erasures, they are witnesses to that exactness, that nicety which was in Walpole more than a characteristic, a trait; it was an ingrained part of his very
One suggestion in Walpole's letter might well bave been adopted, the use of the word Gardenist to indicate a designer and maker of gardens. Over a century has passed, and we still have no word to signify precisely that calling.
These letters do not betoken so great an intimacy between the two garden-lovers as we had been led to think probable through their close association in authorship, and through Walpole's intercourse with the Duke in Paris. But these epistles are grateful responses for what Walpole deemed a great favour ; and I note throughout his published letters that such as offer thanks for formal attentions and gifts often assume a correspondent punctiliousness of wording ; even with intimate friends to whom he addresses at other times bis most frivolous pages.
It is the constant sneer of “cold, sowr-complexioned critics," that Walpole had no sincere love of Nature. It is true that Nature in the wild has no place in his writings; and his life was spent with slight cognizance of the grand and sub