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LETTERS TO DR. GRAY.
DR. ROBERT GRAY, who was made Bishop of Bristol in 1827, and died in 1834, was distinguished by piety, learning, and varied acquirements in general literature. He was the author of (amongst others) two works which attained both immediate popularity and permanent reputation "The Key to the Old Testament and the Apocrypha," published in 1790; and "Connexion between the Sacred Writings, and the Literature of the Jewish and Heathen Authors," published in 1816. Mrs. Piozzi frequently refers to them, and took just pride in being his friend and correspondent. My extracts are mostly chosen for the sake of the light they throw on her character or that of her contemporaries, and their value for this purpose may not depend on the importance of the topic or the soundness of the remark. Her manner of referring to Piozzi in these letters completely disproves the notion that she thought meanly of his understanding or neglected him.
"Brynbella, 14th Oct. 1798.
"There is no chance of our seeing London this next spring; so if we take the whole French navy, and if in consequence they beg for peace, or if, enraged with their worthless Directory, all the 700,000 men in arms
come home under command of some Oliver Cromwell or some General Monk, and make a new revolution at the taxes may some of them be taken off, and we may all meet merrily, at least cheerfully, at Bath this year without fear of fresh assessments. Meanwhile, tho' all this is far more feasible and far more probable than many a strange event we have witnessed, I must apprehend it is no better than a bounce.
"The odious Egyptians, after worshipping crocodiles so long, will perhaps worship Buonaparte, whose manifesto seems to have come out of one of their mouths; nor does your kind consolation, though I rely with firmness on its truth, take the desired effect.
"Surely those are the basest of nations who accept the yoke of French democracy. Surely so trodden down as that, they never will hope to raise their hopes again. How the wild scheme will end, how much the slavish French will bear from their five tyrants, who came completely from nothing and must return to nothing back again, I guess not, but am charmed with the strong contrast between Nelson's pious letter and their vile agent's blasphemous proclamation. I hear our warrior's father is a clergyman ... how must his and Lady Nelson's hearts leap for joy!
"Have you seen the death of a charming girl in the papers, whose long and severe sufferings interest all her friends, and have half broken her sweet mother's heart! Maria Siddons! more lamented, I do think, than virtue, value, and science all combined would be.
But she had youthful beauty; and to that quality our fond imaginations never fail to affix softness of temper and a gentle spirit, every charm resident in female. minds. You are very happy, however, my dear Sir, as fine things as we ladies are, to have two boys for purpose of protecting your one girl. Brothers are a vast advantage to young women, and save them from a
thousand embarrassments when they would not permit (in these illuminated days) a parent's hand to be of any use to them.
"I am ashamed. 'Tis this moment struck into my head that by dear Nelson's pious ancestor you mean the admirable writer of the Feasts and Fasts. I had no notion they were any way related, but reading over your kind letter again 'tis plain it must be so.
"You will think me as stupid as Lord Carlisle's cook, who begged permission to examine the library one day, because, says he, I have been told when a child about Nelson's feasts and fasts . . . and 'tis time to read it in earnest, and fix upon some good receipts. This is a fact."
"No. 43, Great Pultney Street, Bath, "Fryday, 11th Jan. 1799.
"Home is the place for happiness, though leaving it a moment produces pleasure; and dear Mr. Gray will not be found deserting his post, or slumbering on his stand, should the call of enquiry sound forth. It grieves me not a little to hear the Dissenters cry out, and see the Socinians sneer at the supineness of our orthodox clergy. My health has permitted me to go
but twice to church in this town yet, and never did I listen to more eloquent discourses than were pronounced those two times; but every book one borrows breathes democracy; every mouth opens against Church establishments; every play, every novel discourages subordination, and militates against conjugal fidelity and filial reverence. The batteries against religion are scarcely masked ones; her outworks give way, and good people cluster close into the citadel. I feel amazed and shocked at the strange process made since I was here before, not made by vice; that has perhaps been nearly the same for ever,- but by shameless avowal of all which was once concealed, and desire of justifying what till now was always condemned."
"Brynbella, Oct. 1799.
"Mr. Piozzi is at his best now, and has little to torment him except foxhunters who break his fences, and perpetual showers that hinder his fields from drying so as to admit the wheat which must be sown, or else no bread for next year. .. Yet tho' he walks out at present and enjoys a gleam of sunshine when it comes, his health is itself a mere gleam of sunshine, and gives him but little power of promising a visit to Berkshire. You must come to us at Bath,-that will be best; and we shall have Mr. Chappelow and Mrs. Pennington, and contrive to conclude the old year with tolerable chearfulness. .. Yet how awful a thought is it that with this next December concludes that date of 17- to which we were all born, and with which our
fingers have been so long acquainted. Some more extraordinary events will perhaps fill up the twelve or thirteen weeks that remain of the time, and mark the moment with a strong impression. The Italians seem to apprehend their sufferings are scarce over. 'Roma quondam orbis caput, postea Populi Romani Sepulchrum,' has still a load of insects within her, preying on her putrid and neglected carcase. Will they set up a new Pope? If they do, Abbé Maury has my vote, and he is Pierre Maury; and that will tally neatly enough with my remark how all power ends with the same name it began. France has done so exactly. Clovis is Louis, you know, as our Vale of Clwydd is Llwydd and Lloyd and the first Stadtholder of Holland was William. The last wretched creature that made believe Emperor of Rome possess'd both the names of Romulus and Augustus; but if the last Pope be Peter, it will do for me.
"To be serious, these are terrifying times,-they are indeed. Our little Bishop of St. Asaph thinks the French will set up an Adepte, an Illuminè man, to profane the papal chair for ever. Perhaps they will. The poor bishop did look very dismal for awhile, and the first Sunday I went to the Cathedral after Mrs. Bagot's death affected my spirits so, that I came home seriously and unfeignedly sick. I have, as you well know, no Ton insensibility about me, but I really find those lucky that have; because everything shows that reason and religion, good sense in this world and firm trust in a better, have not half as much power to calm