Aside from that, I picked Horace Walpole as today's writer. My set of his letters was printed in 1909. And so many pages are uncut! How could someone not read such delightful letters? But the purpose of uncut sets is to preserve the words for those of us farther down the road, of course. They get loved eventually, even if whoever bought the set in 1909 never cracked it. The gold leaving on the cover is untouched, suggesting the books sat in someone's library all during that long century, until they came at last to my hands.
So. on December 23rd, 1742, Horry wrote to Sir Horace Mann about not having anything to say, and how some fill up their letters--reminds me of what people say about their blogs when they don't have anything to report.
I have had no letter from you this fortnight, and I have heard nothing this month: judge how fit I am to write. I hope it is not another mark of growing old; but I do assure you, my writing begins to leave me. Don't be frightened! I don't mean this as an introduction towards having done with you--I will write to you to the very stump of my pen, and as Pope says:
Squeeze out the last dull droppings of my sense."
But I declare, it is hard to sit spinning out one's brains by the fireside without having heard the least thing to set one's hand a-going. I am so put to it for something to say, that I would make a memorandum of the most improbable lie that could be invented by a duchess-dowager: as the old Duchess of Rutland does when she is told of some strange casualty, "Lucy, child, step into the next room and set that down." --"Lord, Madam!" says Lady Lucy, "it can't be true!" "Oh, no matter, child; it will do for news into the country next post."
But do you conceive that the kingdom of the Dull is come upon earth--not with the forerunners and prognostics of other to-come kingdoms? No, no; the sun and the moon go on just as they used to do, without giving us any hints: we see no knights come prancing upon pale horses, or red horses; no stars, called wormwood, fall into the Thames, and turn a third part into wormwood; no locusts, like horses, with their hair as the hair of women--in short, no thousand things, each of which destroyed a third part of mankind: the only token of this new kingdom is a woman riding on a beast, which is the mother of abominations, and the name in the forehead is whist: and the four-and-twenty elders, and the women, and the whole town, do nothing but play with this beast. Scancal itself is dead, or confined to a pack of cards; for the only malicious whisper I have heard this fortnight, is of an intrigue between the Queen of hearts and the Knave of clubs. . . .
. . . and our schemes succeed so well that the Opera begins to fill surprisingly; for all those who don't love music, love noise and party, and will any night give half-a-guinea for the liberty of hissing--such is English harmony!
I have been in a round of dinners with Lord Stafford, and Bussy the French minister, who tells one stories of Capuchins, confessions, Henri Quatre, Louix XIV, Gascons, and the string which all Frenchmen go through, without any connection or relation to the discourse. These very stories, which I have already heard four times, are only interrupted by English puns, which old Churchill translates out of jest books into the mouth of my Lord Chesterfield, and into most execrable French.
Adieu! I have scribbled, and blotted, and made nothing out, and, in short, have nothing to say, so good night!