Seven Selected Letters
by Ignatius Sancho
TO MR. M----.
August 7, 1768.
LORD! what is Man?--and what business have such lazy, lousy, paltry beings of a day to form friendships, or to make connexions? Man is an absurd animal--yea, I will ever maintain it--in his vices, dreadful--in his few virtues, silly--religious without devotion--philosophy without wisdom--the divine passion (as it is called) love too oft without affection--and anger without cause--friendship without reason--hate without reflection--knowledge (like Ashley's punch in small quantities) without judgement--and wit without discretion.--Look into old age, you will see avarice joined to poverty--letchery, gout, impotency, like three monkeys, or London bucks, in a one-horse whisky, driving to the Devil.--Deep politician with palsied heads and relaxed nerves--zealous in the great cause of national welfare and public virtue--but touch not--oh! touch not the pocket--friendship--religion--love of country--excellent topics for declamation!--but most ridiculous chimera to suffer either in money or ease--for, trust me, my M----, I am resolved upon a reform.--Truth, fair Truth, I give thee to the wind!--Affection, get thee hence! Friendship, be it the idol of such silly chaps, with aching heads, strong passions, warm hearts, and happy talents, as of old used to visit Charles Street, and now abieth in fair G--h House.
I give it under my hand and mark, that the best recipe for your aching head (if not the only thing which will relieve you) is cutting off your hair--I know it is not the ton; but when ease and health stand on the right--ornament and fashion on the left--it is by no means the Ass between two loads of hay--why not ask counsel about it? Even the young part of the faculty were formerly obliged to submit to amputation, in order to look wise.--What they sacrificed to appearances, do thou to necessity.--Absalom had saved his life, but for his hair. You will reply, "Cæfar would have been drowned, but his length of hair afforded hold to the friendly hand that drew him to shore." Art, at this happy time, imitates Nature so well in both sexes, that in truth our own growth is but of little consequence. Therefore, my dear M--, part with your hair and head-achs together;--and let us see you spruce, well shorn, easy, gay, debonnair--as of old.
I have made enquiry after L----'s letter. My friend R---- went to demand the reason for omitting to publish it, and to reclaim the copy. The publisher smiled at him, and bid him examine the M. C. of J. 13, where he would find L. and the same paper of the 20th instant, where he would also find P---- B----'s very angry answer.--Indeed the poor fellow foams again, and appears as indecently dull as malice could wish him.
I went to the coffee-house to examine the file, and was greatly pleased upon the second reading of your work, in which is blended the Gentleman and the Scholar. Now, observe, if you dare to say I flatter, or mean to flatter, you either impeach my judgement or honesty--at your peril then be it.--For your letter of yesterday, I could find in my conscience not to thank you for it--it gave a melancholy tint to every thing about me. Pope had the head-ach vilely--Spenser, I have heard, suffered much from it--in short, it is the ail of true geniuses.--They applied a thick wreath of laurel round their brows--do you the same--and, putting the best foot foremost--duly considering the mansion--what it has suffered through chance, time, and hard use--be thankfully resigned, humble, and say, "It is well it is no worse!"
I do not wish you to be any other than nice in what new acquaintance you make--as to friendship--it is a mistake--real friendships are not hastily made--friendship is a plant of slow growth, and, like our English oak, spreads, is more majestically beautiful, and increases in shade, strength, and riches, as it increases in years. I pity your poor head, for this confounded scrawl of mine is enough to give the head-ach to the strongest brain in the kingdom--so remember I quit the pen unwillingly, having not said half what I meant; but, impelled by conscience, and a due consideration of your ease, I conclude, just wishing you as well as I do my dear self,
Your cure, in four words, is OUT--OFF--YOUR--HAIR!
TO MR. M----.
Sept. 20, 1768.
OH! my M----, what a feast! to a mind fashioned as thine is to gentle deeds!--could'st thou have beheld the woe-worn object of thy charitable care--receive the noble donation of thy blest house!--the lip quivering, and the tongue refusing its office, thro' joyful surprize--the heart gratefully throbbing--overswelled with thankful sensations--I could behold a field of battle, and survey the devastations of the Devil, without a tear--but a heart o'ercharged with gratitude, or a deed begotten by sacred pity--as thine of this day--would melt me, altho' unused to the melting mood. As to thy noble, truly noble, Miss----, I say nothing--she serves a master--who can and will reward her as ample--as her worth exceeds the common nonsensical dolls of the age;--but for thy compeers, may they never taste any thing less in this world--than the satisfaction resulting from heaven-born Charity! and in the next may they and you receive that blest greeting--"Well done, thou good and faithful," &c. &c. Tell your girls that I will kiss them twice in the same place--troth, a poor reward;--but more than that--I will respect them in my heart, amidst the casual foibles of worldly prejudice and common usage.--I shall look to their charitable hearts, and that shall spread a crown of glory over every transient defect.--.The poor woman brings this in her hand;--she means to thank you--your noble L----, your good girls--her benefactors--her saviours. I too would thank--but that I know the opportunity I have afforded you of doing what you best love, makes you the obliged party--the obliger,
Your faithful friend,
TO MR K----.
Richmond, Oct. 20, 1769.
WHAT, my honest friend K----, I am heartily glad to see you, quoth I--long look'd for, come at last.--Well, we will have done with that;--you have made ample amends for your silence--have approved yourself, what I ever esteemed you--an honest hearty good lad.--As to your apologizing about your abilities for writing--'tis all a humm--you write sense;--and verily, my good friend, he that wishes to do better must be a coxcomb.--You say you was thrown from your horse but once--in my conscience I think once full oft enough--I am glad, however, you escaped so well.--The description of your journey I return you thanks for--it pleased me much--and proved that you looked rather farther than your horse's head.--A young man should turn travel--home--leisure--or employment--all to the one grand end of improving himself:--from your account of Dalkeith, I now view it "in my mind's eye" (as Hamlet says) and think it a delightful spot.--I was wrong, I find, in my notions of the Edinburghers--for I judged them the grand patterns for--cleanliness--politeness--and generosity. Your birth-day entertainments made a blaze in our papers, which said, amongst other things, that the puncheons of rum stood as thick in your park as the trees--oh! how I licked my lips, and wished the distance (400 miles) less between us.--You do not say a word about coming back again.--Poor Pat has paid his last debt--peace and bliss to his spirit! rest to his bones!--his wife and daughter (both with child) and his youngest child all came down;--what a scene had I to be spectator of!--trust me, James, I cry'd like a whipt school-boy--but then my noble master--Great God! reward him!--tell me not of ninety covers--splendour--and feasting--to wipe away the tears of distress, to make the heart of the widow to sing for joy.--May such actions ever (as they have long been) be the characteristic of the good Duke of M----! Dr. James, thy favorite, twice came here;--at his first visit he gave no hope--the next day he came, and poor Pat had resigned up his spirit two hours before he got here;--his Grace paid him the tribute, the rich tribute, of many tears--and ordered me to get a lodging for his widow and children:--in the evening he ordered me to go to them from him--and acquaint Mrs. W---- how very sensible he was of her great loss, as well as his own--that he would ever be a friend to her--and as to the boy--though he was perfectly well satisfied with his conduct in his place--yet, if he would like any trade better than continuing his servant--he would put him out, and support him through his apprenticeship;--and he would give him a year to consider it.--Pat has chose to stay, and his Grace promises whoever uses him ill shall be no servant here:--on the night of his interment, after all was over, the Duke wrote to the widow himself, and enclosed a twenty-pound bill--and repeated his promises.--Your own heart my dear James, will make the best comment--which is grandest--one such action--or ten birth days--though in truth the latter has its merit;--it creates business, and helps the poor.--I suppose you will expect me to say something of our family. Her Grace, I am truly sorry to say it, has been but poorly for some time--and indeed is but indifferent now--God of his mercy grant her better health! and every good that can contribute to her happiness.--The good Marquiss is with us--and has been ever since you left us.--Are not you tired? This is a deuced long letter.--Well, one word more, and then farewell. Mrs. M---- is grown generous--has left off swearing and modelling. S---- is turned Jew, and is to be circumcised next Passover. W---- is turned fine gentleman--and left off work-and I your humble friend, I am for my sins turned Methodist.--Thank God! we are all pretty hobbling as to health.--Dame Sancho will be much obliged to you for your kind mention of her--she and the brats are very well, thank Heaven! Abraham gives up the stockings--and monkey Tom his box--they both, with all the rest, join in love and best wishes to your worship.--I, for my own share, own myself obliged to you--and think myself honored in your acknowledging yourself my pupil;--were I an ambitious man I should never forgive you,--for in truth you by far excel your master:--go on, and prosper, "Render unto Coesar the things which are Coesar's;"--laugh at all the tall boys in the kingdom.--I rest, dear Jemmy, thy true friend and obliged fellow servant,
TO MR. S----.
Charles Street, Nov, 26, 1774.
YOUNG says, "A friend is the balsam of life"--Shakspeare says,--but why should I pester you with quotations?--to shew you the depth of my erudition, and strut like the fabled bird in his borrowed plumage--in good honest truth, my friend--I rejoice to see thy name at the bottom of the instructive page--and were fancy and invention as much my familiar friends as they are thine--I would write thee an answerer--or try, at least, as agreeably easy--and as politely simple.--Mark that; simplicity is the characteristic of good writing--which I have learnt, among many other good things, of your Honor--and for which I am proud to thank you;--in short I would write like you—think like you (of course); and do like you; but as that is impossible, I must content myself with my old trick;--now what that trick is--thou art ignorant--and so thou shalt remain--till I congratulate you upon your recovery--A propos, you begun your letter ill, as we do many things in common life;--ten days elapsed before you finished it--consequently you finished it well.--My dear friend, may you, thro' God's blessing, ever finish happily what you undertake--however unpromising the beginning may appear to be!--I want you much in town--for my own sake--that's a stroke of self-love.--And do you mean to bring any candles up with you?--that's another!--I do not wonder at your making your way amongst the folks of Hull--although there are four of the same profession;--we love variety.--I will give them credit for admiring the Artist;--but if they--that is two or three of them--have penetration to look deeper--and love the Man--then I shall believe that there are souls in Hull.--So--my cramp epistle fell into the hands of thy good and rev. father--tant pis--why he must think me blacker than I am.--Mons. B-- goes on well:--I suppose you know he has opened an Academy in St. Albans Street--at two guineas a year--naked figures three nights a week--Mr. Mortimer--and several eminent names upon his list--and room left for yours--he hops about with that festivity of countenance--which denotes peace and good-will to man.--I have added to my felicity--or Fortune more properly has--three worthy friends--they are admirers and friends of Mortimer and Sterne;--but of this--when we meet.--You are expected at B---- House upon your return--and I hope you will call on them, if consistent with your time--and agreeable to you.--My friend L---- is in town, and intends trying his fortune among us--as teacher of murder and neck-breaking--alias--fencing and riding.--The Tartars, I believe, have few fine gentlemen among them--and they can ride--though they have neither fencing nor riding masters;--and as to genteel murder--we are mere pedlars and novices--for they can dispatch a whole caravan--or a hoorde--and eat and drink--wench and laugh--and, in truth, so far they can match our modern fine gents.;--they have no acquaintance with conscience--but what's all this to you?--nothing--it helps to fill up the sheet--and looks like moralizing;--the good-natured partiality of thy honest heart will deem it--not absolutely nonsense.--Alas!--thus it often happens--that the judgement of a good head is--bumfiddled--and wrong biass'd by the weakness of a too kind heart;--under that same weakness let me shelter my failings and absurdities--and let me boast at this present writing--that my heart is not very depraved--and has this proof of not being dead to virtue;--it beats stronger at the found of friendship--and will be sincerely attached to W---- S----, Esq--while its pulsations continue to throb in the breast of your obliged
Do pray think about returning--the captain--the girls--the house--the court, stand all--just where they did--when you left them.--Alas! Time leaves the marks of his rough fingers upon all things--Time shrivels female faces--and fours small-beer--gives insignificance, if not impotency, to trunk-hose--and toughness to cow-beef.--Alas! alas! alas!--
TO MR. STERNE.
IT would be an insult on your humanity (or perhaps look like it) to apologize for the liberty I am taking--I am one of those people whom the vulgar and illiberal call "Negurs."--The first part of my life was rather unlucky, as I was placed in a family who judged ignorance the best and only security for obedience.--A little reading and writing I got by unwearied application.--The latter part of my life has been--thro' God's blessing, truly fortunate, having spent it in the service of one of the best families in the kingdom.--My chief pleasure has been books.--Philanthropy I adore.--How very much, good Sir, am I (amongst millions) indebted to you for the character of your amiable uncle Toby!--I declare, I would walk ten miles in the dog-days, to shake hands with the honest corporal.--Your Sermons have touch'd me to the heart, and I hope have amended it, which brings me to the point.--In your tenth discourse, page seventy-eight, in the second volume--is this very affecting passage--"Consider how great a part of our species--in all ages down to this--have been trod under the feet of cruel and capricious tyrants, who would neither hear their cries, nor pity their distresses.--Consider slavery--what it is--how bitter a draught--and how many millions are made to drink it!"--Of all my favorite authors, not one has drawn a tear in favour of my miserable black brethren--excepting yourself, and the humane author of Sir George Ellison.--I think you will forgive me;--I am sure you will applaud me for beseeching you to give one half hour's attention to slavery, as it is at this day practised in our West Indies.--That subject, handled in your striking manner, would ease the yoke (perhaps) of many--but if only of one--Gracious God!--what a feast to a benevolent heart!--and, sure I am, you are an epicurean in acts of charity.--You, who are universally read, and as universally admired--you could not fail--Dear Sir, think in me you behold the uplifted hands of thousands of my brother Moors.--Grief (you pathetically observe) is eloquent;--figure to yourself their attitudes;--hear their supplicating addresses!--alas!--you cannot refuse.--Humanity must comply--in which hope I beg permission to subscribe myself,
Reverend, Sir, &c.
TO MR. M----.
July 27, 1777.
Go-to!--the man who visits church twice in one day, must either be religious--curious--or idle--which ever you please, my dear friend--turn it the way which best likes you--I will cheerily subscribe to it.--By the way, H----n was inspired this morning--his text was from Romans--chapter the--verse the--both forgot;--but the subject was to present heart, mind, soul, and all the affections--a living sacrifice to God;--he was most gloriously animated, and seemed to have imbibed the very spirit and manners of the great apostle.--Our afternoon Orator was a stranger to me--he was blest with a good, clear, and well-toned articulate voice;--he preached from the Psalms--and took great pains to prove that God knew more than we--that letters were the fountain of our knowledge--that a man in Westminster was totally ignorant of what was going forward in Whitechapel--that we might have some memory of what we did last week--but have no sort of conjecture of what we shall do to-morrow, &c. &c.--Now H----n's whole drift was that we should live the life of angels here--in order to be so in reality hereafter--the other good soul gave us wholesome matter of fact--they were both right--(but I fear not to speak my mind to my M---- who, if he condemns my head, will, I am sure, acquit my heart.)--You have read and admired Sterne's Sermons--which chiefly inculcate practical duties, and paint brotherly love--and the true Christian charities in such beauteous glowing colours--that one cannot help wishing to feed the hungry--cloathe the naked, &c. &c.--I would to God, my friend, that the great lights of the church would exercise their oratorical powers upon Yorick's plan;--the heart and passions once listed under the banners of blest philanthropy--would naturally ascend to the redeeming God--flaming with grateful rapture.--Now I have observed among the modern Saints--who profess to pray without ceasing--that they are so fully taken up with pious meditations--and so wholly absorbed in the love of God--that they have little if any room for the love of man;--if I am wrong, tell me so honestly--the censure of a friend is of more value than his money--and to submit to conviction, is a proof of good sense.--I made my bow to-night to Mrs. H----; the rest of the rogues were out--bright-eyed S---- and all.--Mrs. H---- says that you are hypped--nonsense!--few can rise superior to pain--and the head, I will allow, is a part the most sensible if affected--but even then you are not obliged to use more motion than you like--though I can partly feel the aukward sensations and uneasy reflections, which will often arise upon the least ail of so precious a member as the eye--yet certain I am, the more you can be master of yourself (I mean as to chearfulness, if not gaiety of mind) the better it will of course be with you.--I hope G---- is well--and that you ride often to see him I make no doubt--I like the monkey--I know not for why, nor does it signify a button--but sure he is good-tempered and grateful--but what's that to me?--Good night--the clock talks of eleven.
To MR. F----.
Charles Street, January 27, 1778.
FULL heartily and most cordially do I thank thee--good Mr. F----, for your kindness in sending the books--that upon the unchristian and most diabolical usage of my brother Negroes--the illegality--the horrid wickedness of the traffic--the cruel carnage and depopulation of the human species--is painted in such strong colours--that I should think would (if duly attended to) slash conviction--and produce remorse in every enlightened and candid reader.--The perusal affected me more than I can express;--indeed I felt a double or mixt sensation--for while my heart was torn for the sufferings--which, for aught I know--some of my nearest kin might have undergone--my bosom,at the same time, glowed with gratitude--and praise toward the humane--the Christian--the friendly and learned Author of that most valuable book.--Blest be your sect!--and Heaven's peace be ever upon them!--I, who, thank God! am no bigot--but honour virtue--and the practice of the great moral duties--equally in the turban--or the lawn-sleeves--who think Heaven big enough for all the race of man--and hope to see and mix amongst the whole family of Adam in bliss hereafter--I with these notions (which, perhaps, some may style absurd) look upon the friendly Author--as a being far superior to any great name upon your continent.--I could wish that every member of each house of parliament had one of these books.--And if his Majesty perused one through before breakfast--though it might spoil his appetite--yet the consciousness of having it in his power to facilitate the great work--would give an additional sweetness to his tea.--Phyllis's poems do credit to nature—and put art--merely as art--to the blush.--It reflects nothing either to the glory or generosity of her master--if she is still his slave--except he glories in the low vanity of having in his wanton power a mind animated by Heaven--a genius superior to himself--the list of splendid--titled--learned names, in confirmation of her being the real authoress.--alas! shews how very poor the acquisition of wealth and knowledge are--without generosity--feeling--and humanity.--These good great folks--all know--and perhaps admired--nay, praised Genius in bondage--and then, like the Priests and the Levites in sacred writ, passed by--not one good Samaritan amongst them.--I shall be ever glad to see you--and am, with many thanks,
Your most humble servant,
End of Seven Selected Letters by Ignatius Sancho