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Miss Powys *.
Lichfield, Oct. 23, 1784. You have obliged me by the translation of Rousseau's SECOND WALK. The perspicuity, and beauty of the language, leave no doubt of its doing every justice to the sentiments of the author ; but, good heaven! what are those sentiments ? how shockingly unamiable, how totally absurd! Every being of distinguished genius will, from the prevalence of envy, have a number of foes. Is he therefore to conclude human nature incapable of kind and generous affection ? Basely shall he suspect, and ungratefully shall he repress, every glow of kindness and benevolence, when it would shine upon him? So doing, Rousseau was not fit
* A lady of abilities and accomplishments, unmarried, and resident at Clifton near Bristol. January, 1810.
to converse with the rest of his species, and was deservedly an outcast from them.
What overweening vanity, as well as dark suspicion, appears in these reveries! No books are worth his attention! He has discovered mankind to be so despicable, its interests are below his care! and he deems the most trivial egotisms a more important legacy to society than any other subject of disquisition he could possibly choose. Proud and vain, selfish and cold, indeed, Rousscau didst thou become. Thy heart had lost its health, for philanthropy is the health of the heart. What splendour of style can have power to shield thy self-sufficient egotisms from just indignation and contempt? Ah! how little do we perceive in them of that open, sprightly, affectionate spirit, which warmed and illumined the morning of thy days! gave vigour to thy scientific researches; drew to thee many amiable individuals, who generously waved, in tribute to thy merit, those objections to plebeian birth which prevail in France with a force so generally exclusive ; and who, by thus receiving thee into their society, enlarged thy sphere of characteristic contemplation, and enabled thee to trace the motives of human action, in thy enchanting novel, with truth and accuracy. It is melancholy to reflect, on perusing these thy later works, how much less estimable thy age
than thy youth; to see thee verifying, in thy example, the following exclamation in “ the mournful and angry Night Thoughts,"
« How few, of human kind, bring back at eve,
Immaculate, the manners of the morn!”
A rheumatic complaint obliged me to make an excursion to Buxton this summer, though most unwilling to leave my dearest father, in his present weak, though not diseased state; but glad tidings of his exemption from every thing like illness blessed my absence, and I found a pleasing succession of animated hours in the medley society of that crowded scene. Many agreeable people sought my regard. Amongst them, my neighbour, the young, the brave, the gallant, unfortunate Captain Arden, who has lost his right-arm in the naval service of this country. He preceded me at Buxton near a fortnight; and, on my arrival, introduced me to all the very desirable intimacies which his pleasing manners had enabled him to form. Soon after I came, the youthful and lovely Lady Foster Cunliffe descended, like a goddess, amongst us. She unites the most engaging affability to the powers of an ingenious mind, and a cultivated understanding, and to the attractions of radiant beauty and majestic grace. She is on a larger scale, both as to face and figure,
but I never saw features, or a countenance so like my lost Honora's. Her complexion is of as glowing bloom, with a superior degree of fairness ;—the contour of the face; the form of the mouth; the nose, that between Grecian and Roman, is lovelier than either; the etherial smile on the lip, and the bright glance of intelligence and joy, are all HONORA. The same soft complacency shone in her eyes while she conversed with
I was obliged to explain the source of those involuntary tears which so often filled my eyes, as she hung on my arm, in animated conversation. The regret I felt when we parted was extreme, more indeed than the shortness of our acquaintance warranted, but for the influence of this endearing, this fascinating resemblance.
The autumnal glory of this day puts to shame the summer's sullenness. I sit writing upon this dear green terrace, feeding, at intervals, my little golden-breasted songsters. The embosomed vale of Stow, which you know it overlooks, glows sunny through the Claud-Lorain-tint, which is spread over the scene, like the blue mist over a plumb. How often has our lost Honora hung over the wall of this terrace, enamoured of its scenic graces! Never more will such bright glances discriminate and admire them. Well do I know
that the sadness of this reflection touches your heart as it does mine. That source of sympathy between us is sacred, and inexhaustible. Fare well.
Lichfield, Oct. 29, 1784.
I have lately been in the almost daily habit of contemplating a very melancholy spectacle. The great Johnson is here, labouring under the paroxysms of a disease, which must speedily be fatal. He shrinks from the consciousness with the extremest horror. It is by his repeatedly expressed desire that I visit him often : yet I am sure he neither does, nor ever did feel much regard for me; but he would fain escape, for a time, in any society, from the terrible idea of his approach
* An intelligent friend of Miss Seward, residing, at the date of this correspondence, at Ludlow: since married to Mr Pennington, master of the ceremonies at Clifton, near Bristol