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WM. HAYLEY, Esq.
Lichfield, Dec. 23, 1784. At last, my dear bard, extinct is that mighty spirit *, in which so much good and evil, so much large expansion and illiberal narrowness of mind, were blended ;—that enlightened the whole literary world with the splendours of his imagination, and, at times, with the steadiest fires of judgment; and, yet more frequently, darkened it with spleen and envy ; potent, through the resistless powers of his understanding, to shroud the fairest claims of rival excellence. Indiscriminate praise is pouring, in full tides, around his tomb, and characteristic reality is overwhelmed in the torrent.
With me the month of August passed agreeably away at Buxton, spite of its wonderous paucity as to local graces; yet, when different friends took me in their carriages on morning airings upon the mountains, my eye dwelt with pleasure upon some fine effects of light and shade, the only beautiful
objects on those high wild hills. What a humid climate! Not a day without rain, and chilling coldness of atmosphere! Once, for about a quarter of an hour, the snow fell in large flakes, and reminded us of Shakespeare's pretty description :
" The seasons alter, hoary-headed frosts
Fall in the fresh lap of the damask rose.”
But no roses were there to spread their bosoms to such churlish visitors. Surrounded by an agreeable and numerous company, a disposition, social as mine, felt little disposed to mourn over the inverted seasons. We had much mental sun-shine ; not once, as I recollect, was it overshadowed by tenacious pride, by envy, or by spleen. Thus did cheerfulness, and unanimity, compensate the straightness of our dusky mansion, the inelegance of its board, and the unpleasant effluvias which met us on the staircase, and in every passage.
When the beauteous Crescent shall be finished, and rendered habitable, all these sins against our corporeal senses will probably be reformed.
Dr Darwin called here the other morning. We walked to Mr Saville's garden, accompanied by its owner. Talking about some rare and beautiful plants, Dr Darwin turned to me, and asked if I had seen the CALMIA. On my saying no, he
continued" it is a flower of such exquisite beauty, that would make you waste the summer's day in examining it:-you would forget the hour of dinner; all your senses would be absorbed in one; you would be all eye." I smiled, and asked him to describe it :“ What, in the first place, was its colour :"_“Precisely that of a seraph’s plume.” We laughed, as he intended we should, at the accuracy of the description. He told us afterward, that he had heard much of the flower, but, as yet, had not seen it.
Mr and Mrs Whalley are just arrived at Avignon. Thus he writes in his last letter: “ I have lately made a most agreeable excursion to Lausanne, through the beautiful Pays de Vaud, accompanied by a young Danish nobleman of great merit, fine talents, and polished manners.
The situation of Lausanne pleased me more than that of Geneva. It commands a finer view of the lake, is more rural, and less pretending. It is not encumbered, as about Geneva, with a multitude of country-seats, nor insulted by the cropt hedges and formal gardens, which crowd upon the eye round that famous city. From Lausanne I took up my staff and walked to explore Vevay and Clarens, rendered so interesting by Rousseau in his immortal ELOISA. Vevay is a neat pretty town, situated at the extreme end of the lake ; but Clarens is a beggarly village,
where we find no traces of Julie, Clara, St Preux, or Wolmar. However, the wily peasants have found their account in beguiling the warm imaginations of credulous strangers, and point out, with an air of confidence, the celebrated Elysium of tender memory, and the situation of Wolmar's chateau. From Geneva we came directly hither. At Lyons we took places in the coche d'eau for Avignon, and found our trajet down the rapid Rhine very delightful, adorned as are its banks by numberless villages, vineyards, and the picturesque ruins of ancient castles; yet the banks of the gentler Soane, between Macen and Lyons, charmed us still more, as being more various, more pastoral, and as the different parts of the landscape were more finely contrasted. The celebrated Pont St Esprit, that hangs, with such noble lightness, over the rapid Rhone, pleased us infinitely. We like Avignon, and are settled here for the winter. The provisions are good and cheap, the fruits delicious, the air pleasant, except when the sharp bize pierces to the marrow; but it purifies the air, braces the nerves, and like a skilful surgeon, cuts to cure."
And now, my dear bard, after having snatched you to the continent by Whalleyan magic, I restore you to Eartham. Suffer me, then, to express my gratitude for the kind attention and ardent welcome with which my poetical offspring has been received in its lovely precincts; for the critical accuracy of those observations which have strengthened their claims to the public smile, and for the generous, the discriminating approbation which has so highly gratified their parent.
“ The scoff of spleen shall miss its wounding aim,
For Hayley praises, and his praise is fame.”
DR PERCIVAL OF MANCHESTER.
Lichfield, Feb. 17, 1785. I thank you, Sir, with the fervour of a pleased spirit, for the ingenious pamphlet * you have sent
The system it holds forth, and, as I think, demonstrates, has long been a favourite hypothesis of mine. Judge, then, with what pleasure I see its rational probability so benevolently, so ably asserted.
* A Tract, by Dr Percival, on the probability that conscious .. sensation extends through the vegetable as well as anima! world.