Edited by Dan Leo, LL.D., Associate Professor of Unread Classics; Darts Team Coach, Olney Community College; author of Bozzie and Dr. Sam: The Case of the Importunate Lady, the Olney Community College Press.
Illustrated by rhoda penmarq for penmarq intercosmic productions™” (assisted by roy dismas and eddie el greco).
A lady having at this time solicited him to obtain the Archbishop of Canterbury's patronage to have her son sent to the University, one of those solicitations which are too frequent, where people, anxious for a particular object, do not consider propriety, or the opportunity which the persons whom they solicit have to assist them, he wrote to her the following answer, with a copy of which I am favoured by the Reverend Dr. Farmer, Master of Emanuel College, Cambridge.
'I hope you will believe that my delay in answering your letter could proceed only from my unwillingness to destroy any hope that you had formed.
‘Hope is itself a species of happiness, and, perhaps, the chief happiness which this world affords: but, like all other pleasures immoderately enjoyed, the excesses of hope must be expiated by pain; and expectations improperly indulged, must end in disappointment.
‘If it be asked, what is the improper expectation which it is dangerous to indulge, experience will quickly answer, that it is such expectation as is dictated not by reason, but by desire; expectation raised, not by the common occurrences of life, but by the wants of the expectant; an expectation that requires the common course of things to be changed, and the general rules of action to be broken.
'When you made your request to me, you should have considered, Madam, what you were asking. You ask me to solicit a great man, to whom I never spoke, for a young person whom I had never seen, upon a supposition which I had no means of knowing to be true. There is no reason why, amongst all the great, I should chuse to supplicate the Archbishop, nor why, among all the possible objects of his bounty, the Archbishop should chuse your son.
‘I know, Madam, how unwillingly conviction is admitted, when interest opposes it; but surely, Madam, you must allow, that there is no reason why that should be done by me, which every other man may do with equal reason, and which, indeed, no man can do properly, without some very particular relation both to the Archbishop and to you.
‘If I could help you in this exigence by any proper means, it would give me pleasure; but this proposal is so very remote from all usual methods, that I cannot comply with it, but at the risk of such answer and suspicions as I believe you do not wish me to undergo.
'I have seen your son this morning; he seems a pretty youth, and will, perhaps, find some better friend than I can procure him; but, though he should at last miss the University, he may still be wise, useful, and happy. I am, Madam,
'Your most humble servant,
'June 8, 1762.'
'To MR. JOSEPH BARETTI, AT MILAN.
'London, July 20, 1762.
'However justly you may accuse me for want of punctuality in correspondence, I am not so far lost in negligence as to omit the opportunity of writing to you, which Mr. Beauclerk's passage through Milan affords me.
'I suppose you received the Idlers, and I intend that you shall soon receive Shakspeare, that you may explain his works to the ladies of Italy, and tell them the story of the editor, among the other strange narratives with which your long residence in this unknown region has supplied you.
'As you have now been long away, I suppose your curiosity may pant for some news of your old friends.
‘Miss Williams and I live much as we did. Miss Cotterel still continues to cling to Mrs. Porter, and Charlotte is now big of the fourth child. Mr. Reynolds gets six thousands a year. Levet is lately married, not without much suspicion that he has been wretchedly cheated in his match. Mr. Richardson is dead of an apoplexy, and his second daughter has married a merchant.
'My vanity, or my kindness, makes me flatter myself, that you would rather hear of me than of those whom I have mentioned; but of myself I have very little which I care to tell. Last winter I went down to my native town, where I found the streets much narrower and shorter than I thought I had left them, inhabited by a new race of people, to whom I was very little known.
‘My play-fellows were grown old, and forced me to suspect that I was no longer young.
‘My only remaining friend has changed his principles, and was become the tool of the predominant faction.
‘My daughter-in-law, from whom I expected most, and whom I met with sincere benevolence, has lost the beauty and gaiety of youth, without having gained much of the wisdom of age.
‘I wandered about for five days, and took the first convenient opportunity of returning to a place, where, if there is not much happiness, there is, at least, such a diversity of good and evil, that slight vexations do not fix upon the heart.
'I think in a few weeks to try another excursion; though to what end? Let me know, my Baretti, what has been the result of your return to your own country: whether time has made any alteration for the better, and whether, when the first raptures of salutation were over, you did not find your thoughts confessed their disappointment.
'Moral sentences appear ostentatious and tumid, when they have no greater occasions than the journey of a wit to his own town: yet such pleasures and such pains make up the general mass of life; and as nothing is little to him that feels it with great sensibility, a mind able to see common incidents in their real state, is disposed by very common incidents to very serious contemplations.
‘Let us trust that a time will come, when the present moment shall be no longer irksome; when we shall not borrow all our happiness from hope, which at last is to end in disappointment.
'I beg that you will shew Mr. Beauclerk all the civilities which you have in your power; for he has always been kind to me.
'May you, my Baretti, be very happy at Milan, or some other place nearer to, Sir,
'Your most affectionate humble servant,
(To be continued. This week’s chapter made possible in part through the sponsorship of Bob’s Bowery Bar™ on the northwest corner of Bleecker and the Bowery. “Kindly turn off your cell phone before entering. No loud badinage, soliloquizing, laughter, weeping, nor wailing permitted. No gnashing of teeth, no tabs, no credit cards. Don't forget to try Bob’s famous ‘basement-brewed’ house Bock – goes great with Bob’s ‘house-cured’ free-range goat jerky!”)