To Mary Hewson with a Postscript to Dorothea Blunt
ALS: American Philosophical Society
Preston, Nov. 25. 1771.
I came to this Place on Saturday night right well and untir’d with a 70 miles Journey that day. I met with your and my Dolly’s joint Letter which would have refresh’d me with its Kindness if I had been ever so weary. The Account you give of a certain Lady’s having entertain’d a new Gallant in my Absence, did not surprize me:6 For I have been us’d to Rivals; and scarce ever had a Friend or a Mistress in my whole Life that other People did not like as well as myself. And therefore I did not wonder when I read in the Newspapers some Weeks since, that “the Duke of C.” (that general Lover) “had made many Visits of late to an old Lady not many Miles from Craven Street.”7 I only wonder’d, considering the Dislike she us’d to have for the Family, that she would receive his Visits: But as I saw soon after, that Prince Charles had left Rome and was gone a long Journey nobody knew whither, I made no doubt but the News Writers had mistaken the Person, and that it was he who had taken the Opportunity of my Absence to solace himself with his old Friend.8 I thank you for your Intelligence about my Godson. I believe you are sincere when you say you think him as fine a Child as you wish to see. He had cut two Teeth, and three in another Letter make five; for I know you never write Tautologies. If I have over reckon’d, the Number will be right by this time. His being like me in so many Particulars pleases me prodigiously; and I am persuaded there is another which you have omitted tho’ it must have occurr’d to you while you were putting them down. Pray let him have every thing he likes; I think it of great Consequence while the Features of the Countenance are forming. It gives them a pleasant Air, and that being once become natural, and fix’d by Habit, the Face is ever after the handsomer for it, and on that much of a Person’s good Fortune and Success in Life may depend. Had I been cross’d as much in my Infant Likings and Inclinations as you know I have been of late Years, I should have been, I was going to say not near so handsome, but as the Vanity of that Expression would offend other Folks Vanity, I change it out of Regard to them, and say, a great deal more homely. I rejoice that your good Mother’s new Regimen succeeds so well with her.9 We are to set out, my Son and I, tomorrow for London, where I hope to be by the End of the Week, and to find her and you and all yours, well and happy. My Love to them all. They tell me Dinner is coming in, and I have yet said nothing to Dolly, but must nevertheless conclude, my dear Friend, Yours ever most affectionately
I am very happy here in the pleasant Family of Mr. Bache’s Mother and Sisters.
I love you more than you can imagine. Yours most sincerely,
To Miss Dorothea Blunt.
6. In the absence of Polly’s and Dolly’s letter this nonsense can be explained only by conjecture. Ours is that the lady was Mrs. Stevenson and the gallant was BF’s host in Preston, Richard Bache, who had been cordially received in Craven Street during BF’s absence on his tour.
7. BF of course amended the quotation but probably did not invent it. On Oct. 2 the Duke of Cumberland (1745–90), the King’s brother, had married in secret Anne Luttrell Horton at her home in Mayfair; the marriage was not reported for a month: London Chron., Nov. 5–7; Lloyd’s Evening Post, Nov. 8–11. See also Wilmarth S. Lewis and A. Dayle Wallace, eds., Horace Walpole’s Correspondence with the Countess of Upper Ossory (3 vols., New Haven, 1965), 1, 64; Wilmarth S. Lewis and Warren H. Smith, eds., Horace Walpole’s Correspondence with Sir Horace Mann (11 vols., New Haven, 1954–71), VII, 344.
8. Charles Edward, the Young Pretender, was living in Italy. In August, 1771, he turned up in Paris, where negotiations were begun that eventuated in his marriage the following year. Winifred Duke, In the Steps of Bonnie Prince Charlie (London, New York, etc., ), pp. 267–9. BF embroidered his nonsense by bringing the Prince to London and making him an old friend of Mrs. Stevenson.
9. See Mary Hewson to BF above. Nov. 2.