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see we are now coming northward again, though in no great haste; the Venetian and Milanese territories, and either Germany or the South of France (according to the turn the war may take), are all that remain for us, that we have not yet seen : as to Loretto, and that part of Italy, we have given over all thoughts of it.
MR. WEST TO MR. GRAY.
Bond-street, June 5, 1740.
I LIVED at the Temple till I was sick of it: I have just left it, and find myself as much a lawyer as I was when I was in it. It is certain, at least, I may study the law here, as well as I could there. My being in chambers does not signify to me a pinch of snuff. They tell me my father was a lawyer, and, as you know, eminent in the profession; and such a circumstance must be of advantage to me. My uncle too makes some figure in Westminster Hall, and there's another advantage: then my grandfather's name would get me many friends. Is it not strange that a young fellow, that might enter the world with so many advantages, will not know his own interest, &c. &c. What shall I say in answer to all this? For money, I neither doat upon it nor despise it : it is a necessary stuff enough. For ambition, I do not want that neither; but it is not to sit upon a bench. In short, is it not a disagreeable thing to force one's inclination, especially when one's young? not to mention that one ought to have the strength of a Hercules to go through our common law; which, I am afraid, I have not. Well! but then, say they, if one profession does not suit you, you may choose another more to your inclination. Now I protest I do not yet know my own inclination, and I believe, if that was to be my direction, I should never fix at all: there is no going by a weathercock. I could say much more upon this subject, but
there is no talking tête-à-tête cross the Alps. O the folly of young men, that never know their own interest! they never grow wise till they are ruined ! and then nobody pities them, nor helps them. Dear Gray! consider me in the condition of one that has lived these two years without any person that he can speak freely to. I know it is very seldom that people trouble themselves with the sentiments of those they converse with; so they can chat about trifles, they never care whether your heart aches or no. Are you one of these? I think not. But what right have I to ask you this question ? Have we known one another enough, that I should expect or demand sincerity from you ? yes, Gray, I hope we have; and I have not quite such a mean opinion of myself, as to think I do not deserve it. But, Signor, is it not time for me to ask something about your
further intentions abroad? Where do you propose going next! an in Apuliam ? nam illò si adveneris, tanquam Ulysses, cognosces tuorum neminem. Vale. So Cicero prophecies in the end of one of his letters,* and there I end.
Florence, July 16, 1740. You do yourself and me justice, in imagining that you merit, and that I am capable of sincerity. I have not a thought, or even a weakness, I desire to conceal from you: and consequently, on my side, deserve to be treated with the same openness of heart. My vanity perhaps might make me more reserved towards you, if you were one of the heroic race, superior to all human failings : but as mutual wants are the ties of general
* This letter (written apparently in much agitation of mind, which Mr. West endeavours to conceal by an unusual carelessness of manner) is chiefly inserted to introduce the answer to it; which appears to me to be replete with delicate feeling, manly sense, and epistolary ease. If the reader should think as highly of it as I do, let me remind him that the writer was not now quite four and twenty years old.
society, so are mutual weaknesses of private friendship, supposing them mixed with some proportion of good qualities; for where one may not sometimes blame, one does not much care ever to praise. All this has the air of an introduction designed to soften a very harsh reproof that is to follow; but it is no such matter : I only meant to ask, Why did you change your lodging? Was the air bad, or the situation melancholy? If so, you are quite in the right. Only, is it not putting yourself a little out of the way of a people, with whom it seems necessary to keep up some sort of intercourse and conversation, though but little for your pleasure or entertainment (yet there are, I believe, such among them as might give you both), at least for
your information in that study, which, when I left you, you thought of applying to? for that there is a certain study necessary to be followed, if we mean to be of any use in the world, I take for granted; disagreeable enough (as most necessities are) but, I am afraid, unavoidable. Into how many branches these studies are divided in England, every body knows; and between that which
you and I had pitched upon, and the other two, it was impossible to balance long. Examples shew one that it is not absolutely necessary to be a blockhead to succeed in this profession. The labour is long, and the elements dry and unentertaining ; nor was ever any body (especially those that afterward made a figure in it) amused, or even not disgusted in the beginning; yet, upon a further acquaintance, there is surely matter for curiosity and reflection. It is strange if, among all that huge mass of words, there be not somewhat intermixed for thought. Laws have been the result of long deliberation, and that not of dull men, but the contrary; and have so close a connexion with history, nay, with philosophy itself, that they must partake a little of what they are related to so nearly. Besides,
tell me, have you ever made the attempt? Was not you frightened merely with the distant prospect? Had the gothic character and bulkiness of those volumes (a tenth part of which perhaps it will be no further necessary to consult, than as one does a dictionary) no ill effect upon your eye? Are you sure, if Coke had been printed by Elzevir, and bound in twenty neat pocket volumes, instead of one folio, you should never have taken him up for an hour, as you would a Tully, or drank your tea over him? I know how great an obstacle ill spirits are to resolution. Do you really think, if you rid ten miles every morning, in a week's time you should not entertain much stronger hopes of the chancellorship, and think it a much more probable thing than you do at present; The advantages you mention are not nothing ; our inclinations are more than we imagine in our own power; reason and resolution determine them, and support under many difficulties. To me there hardly appears to be any medium between a public life and a private one; he who prefers the first, must put himself in a way of being serviceable to the rest of mankind, if he has a mind to be of any consequence among them: _ này, he must not refuse being in a certain degree even dependent upon some men who already are so. If he has the good fortune to light on such as will make no ill use of his humility, there is no shame in this : if not, his ambition ought to give place to a reasonable pride, and he should apply to the cultivation of his own mind those abilities which he has not been permitted to use for others' service. Such a private happiness (supposing a small competence of fortune) is almost always in one's power, and the proper enjoyment of age, as the other is the employment of youth. You are yet young, have some advantages and opportunities, and an undoubted capacity, which
you have never yet put to the trial. Set apart a few hours, see how the first
and at the end of it you are still the master : if you change your mind, you have only got the knowledge of a little somewhat that can do no hurt, or give you cause of repentance. If
inclination be not fixed upon any thing else, it is a symptom that you are not absolutely determined against this, and warns you not to mistake mere indolence for inability. I am sensible there is nothing stronger against what I would persuade you to, than my own practice; which may make you imagine I think not as I speak. Alas! it is not so; but I do not act what I think, and I had rather be the object of
your pity, than that you should be that of mine; and, be assured, the advantage I may receive from it, does not diminish my concern in hearing you want somebody to converse with freely, whose advice might be of more weight, and always at hand. We have some time since come to the southern period of our voyages; we spent about nine days at Naples. It is the largest and most populous city, as its environs are the most deliciously fertile country, of all Italy. We sailed in the bay of Baiæ, sweated in the Solfatara, and died in the grotta del Cane, as all strangers do ; saw the Corpus Christi procession, and the King and Queen, and the city underground (which is a wonder I reserve to tell you of another time), and so returned to Rome for another fortnight; left it (left Rome !) and came hither for the summer. You have seen* an Epistle to Mr. Ashton, that seems to me full of spirit and thought, and a good deal of poetic fire. I would know your opinion. Now I talk of verses, Mr. Walpole and I have frequently wondered you should never mention a certain imitation of Spencer, published last year by a f namesake of yours, with which we are all enraptured and enmarvailed.
* The reader will find this in Dodsley's Miscellany, and also amongst Mr. Walpole's Fugitive Pieces.
+ Gilbert West, Esq. This poem, “On the Abuse of Travelling," is also in Dodsley's Miscellany.