The eleventh of March, 2011: some wisdom from Walpole

“When people will not weed their own minds, they are apt to be overrun with nettles.” – Letter to Caroline, Countess of Ailesbury, July 10, 1779

“When men write for profit, they are not very delicate.” – Letter to Rev William Cole, September 1, 1778

“What has one to do, when one grows tired of the world, as we both do, but to draw nearer and nearer, and gently waste the remains of life with friends with whom one began it.” – Letter to George Montagu, November 21, 1765

Potted sagacity from the letters of the writer Horace Walpole (1717-97) – a wise man, no doubt, though not one to turn to for literary criticism (“At present, nothing is talked of… but what I cannot help calling a very insipid and tedious performance: it is a kind of novel, called The Life And Opinions Of Tristram Shandy” – letter to Sir David Dalrymple, April 4, 1760).

All of the above puts me guiltily in mind of Aunts Aren’t Gentlemen, PG Wodehouse (Arrow, 2008), in which Bertie is being upbraided by Vanessa Cook, to whom he is accidentally betrothed:

“And that silly laugh of yours, you must correct that. Lord Chesterfield said that since he had had the full use of his reason nobody had ever heard him laugh. I don’t suppose you have read Lord Chesterfield’s ‘Letters To His Son’?”

…Well, of course I hadn’t. Bertram Wooster does not read other people’s letters. If I were employed in the post office, I wouldn’t even read the postcards.

This whole Clutterbuck is an outrage against Horace Walpole’s privacy.



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