Sunday, June 16, 2013

Cursing the English Summer

Two interesting [and very pertinent] excerpts from the letters of Horace Walpole (1717-1797) were recently pointed out to me:*

To George Montagu, Esq., Strawberry Hill, June 15, 1768. 

I perceive the deluge fell upon you before it reached us. It began here but on Monday last, and then rained near eight-and-forty hours without intermission. My poor hay has not a dry thread to its back. I have had a fire these three days. In short, every summer one lives in a state of mutiny and murmur, and I have found the reason: it is because we will affect to have a summer, and we have no title to any such thing. Our poets learnt their trade of the Romans, and so adopted the terms of their masters. They talk of shady groves, purling streams, and cooling breezes, and we get sore-throats and agues with attempting to realise these visions. Master Damon writes a song, and invites Miss Chloe to enjoy the cool of the evening, and the deuce a bit have we of any such thing as a cool evening. Zephyr is a north-east wind, that makes Damon button up to the chin, and pinches Chloe’s nose till it is red and blue; and then they cry, This is a bad summer! as if we ever had any other. The best sun we have is made of Newcastle coal, and I am determined never to reckon upon any other. We ruin ourselves with inviting over foreign trees, and making our houses clamber up hills to look at prospects. How our ancestors would laugh at us, who knew there was no being comfortable, unless you had a high hill before your nose, and a thick warm wood at your back! Taste is too freezing a commodity for us, and, depend upon it, will go out of fashion again.

To the Rev. Mr. Cole, Strawberry Hill, May 28, 1774. 

Nothing will be more agreeable to me, dear Sir, than a visit from you in July. I will try to persuade Mr. Granger to meet you ; and if you had any such thing as summer in the fens, I would desire you to bring a bag with you. We are almost freezing here in the midst of beautiful verdure, with a profusion of blossoms and flowers ; but I keep good fires, and seem to feel warm weather while I look through the window; for the way to ensure summer in England, is to have it framed and glazed in a comfortable room.

  As it is

* Thank you Mom