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THE DEATH OF PRINCESS CHARLOTTE
you, did not every thing appear to intimate a deliberate intention of as wilful malice on your part as could well be digested into a system. However, time and Nemesis will do that, which I would not, even were it in my power remote or immediate. You will smile at this piece of prophecy—do so, but recollect it: it is justified by all human experience. No one was ever even the involuntary cause of great evils to others, without a requital: I have paid and am paying for mine--so will you.
(1817, March 5. Letter 633, to Lady Byron,
Vol. IV., p. 68.)
The death of the Princess Charlotte has been a shock even here, and must have been an earthquake at home.
The death of this poor Girl is melancholy in every respect, dying at twenty or so, in childbed-of a boy too, à present princess and future queen, and just as she began to be happy, and to enjoy herself, and the hopes which she inspired. To be sure Providence is a fine fellow, and does wonders; “the gods take care of Cato.” I think, as far as I can recollect, she is the first royal defunct in childbed upon record in our history. I feel sorry in every respect-for the loss of a female reign, and a woman hitherto harmless; and all the lost rejoicings, and addresses, and drunkenness, and disbursements, of John Bull on the occasion.
(1817, December 3. Letter 680, to John
Murray, Vol. IV., p. 184.)
I heard from Moore lately, and was very sorry to be made aware of his domestic loss. Thus it is
medio de fonte leporum—in the acme of his fame and of his happiness comes a drawback as usual.
(1818, February 20. Letter 687, to John
Murray, Vol. IV., p. 202.)
Sir Samuel Romilly has cut his throat for the loss of his wife. It is now nearly three years since he became, in the face of his compact (by a retainerprevious, and, I believe, general), the advocate of the measures and the Approver of the proceedings, which deprived me of mine. I would not exactly, like M' Thwackum, when Philosopher Square bit his own tongue-—"saddle him with a Judgement;" but
“ This even-handed Justice Commends the ingredients of our poisoned Chalice
To our own lips.” This man little thought, when he was lacerating my heart according to law, while he was poisoning my life at its sources, aiding and abetting in the blighting, branding, and exile that was to be the result of his counsels in their indirect effects, that in less than thirty-six moons—in the pride of his triumph as the highest candidate for the representation of the Sister-City of the mightiest of Capitals [i.e. Westminster]—in the fullness of his professional careerin the greenness of a healthy old age—in the radiance of fame, and the complacency of self-earned richesthat a domestic affliction would lay him in the earth, with the meanest of malefactors, in a cross-road with the stake in his body, if the verdict of insanity did not redeem his ashes from the sentence of the laws he had lived upon by interpreting or misinterpreting, and
JOHNSON'S “ VANITY OF HUMAN WISHES ”
died in violating. This man had eight children, lately deprived of their mother: could he not live ? Perhaps, previous to his annihilation, he felt a portion of what he contributed his legal mite to make me feel ; but I have lived-lived to see him a Sexagenary Suicide. It was not in vain that I invoked Nemesis in the midnight of Rome from the awfullest of her ruins.
(1818, November 18. Letter 720, to Lady
Byron, Vol. IV., p. 268.)
Read Johnson's Vanity of Human Wishes,--all the examples and mode of giving them sublime, as well as the latter part, with the exception of an occasional couplet.
I remember an observation of Sharpe's, (the Conversationist, as he was called in London, and a very clever man,) that the first line of this poem was superfluous, and that Pope (the best of poets, I think,) would have begun at once, only changing the punctuation
Survey mankind from China to Peru.”
The former line, “Let observation," etc., is certainly heavy and useless. But 'tis a grand poem -and so true true as the 10th of Juvenal himself. The lapse of ages changes all things—time—language -the earth-the bounds of the sea, the stars of the sky, and every thing “about, around, and underneath' man, except man himself, who has always been, and always will be, an unlucky rascal.
unlucky rascal. The infinite variety of lives conduct but to death, and the infinity of wishes lead but to disappointment. All the discoveries which have yet been made have multi
plied little but existence. An extirpated disease is succeeded by some new pestilence; and a discovered world has brought little to the old one, except the first and freedom afterwards—the latter a fine thing, particularly as they gave it to Europe in exchange for slavery. But it is doubtful whether“ the Sovereigns” would not think the first the best present of the two to their subjects.
(1821, January 9. “Extracts from
Diary,” Vol. V., p. 161.) Why, at the very height of desire and human pleasure,—worldly, social, amorous, ambitious, or even avaricious,-does there mingle a certain sense of doubt and sorrow-a fear of what is to come-a doubt of what is—a retrospect to the past, leading to a prognostication of the future? (The best of Prophets of the future is the Past.) Why is this, or these ?-I know not, except that on a pinnacle we are most susceptible of giddiness, and that we never fear falling except from a precipice—the higher, the more awful, and the more sublime; and, therefore, I am not sure that Fear is not a pleasurable sensation ; at least, Hope is; and what Hope is there without a deep leaven of Fear ? and what sensation is so delightful as Hope ? and, if it were not for Hope, where would the Future be ?-in hell. It is useless to say where the Present is, for most of us know ; and as for the Past, what predominates in memory? --Hope baffled. Ergo, in all human affairs, it is Hope-Hope-Hope. I allow sixteen minutes, though I never counted them, to any given or supposed possession. From whatever place we
THE STAGING OF MARINO FALIERO
commence, we know where it all must end. And yet, what good is there in knowing it? It does not make men better or wiser. During the greatest horrors of the greatest plagues, (Athens and Florence, for example-see Thucydides and Machiavelli), men were more cruel and profligate than ever. It is all a mystery. I feel most things, but I know nothing, except .
(1821, January 28. Extracts from a
Diary,” Vol. V., p. 190.) If any part of the letter to Bowles has (unintentionally, as far as I remember the contents) vexed you, you are fully avenged; for I see by an Italian paper that, notwithstanding all my remonstrances through all my friends (and yourself among the rest), the managers persisted in attempting the tragedy (of “Marino Faliero”], and that it has been "unanimously hissed !!” This is the consolatory phrase of the Milan paper, (which detests me cordially, and abuses me, on all occasions, as a Liberal), with the addition, that I “brought the play out” of my own good-will.
All this is vexatious enough, and seems a sort of dramatic Calvinism-predestined damnation, without a sinner's own fault. I took all the pains poor mortal could to prevent this inevitable catastrophe partly by appeals of all kinds, up to the Lord Chamberlain, and partly to the fellows themselves. But,
remonstrance vain, complaint is useless.
Well, patience is a virtue, and, I suppose, practice will make it perfect. Since last year (spring, that