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“I know how to be blind.” But he was not able to say as much ; he did not know how to be deaf. He wrote of it to his friends, even to those in France, thus: “The exchange of letters," he remarked, “is the conversation of deaf people, and the only link which con. nects them with society.” He found his latest consolations in his pretty country-house at Blackheath, which he had called by the French name of Babiole. He employed his time there in gardening and cultivating his melons and pineapples; he amused himself by vegetating in company with them.
“I have vegetated here all this year,” he wrote to a French friend (September, 1753), “ without pleasures and without troubles; my age and deafness prevented the first; my philosophy, or rather my temperament (for one often confounds them), guaranteed me against the last. I always get as much as I can of the quiet pleasures of gardening, walking, and reading, and in the meantime I await death without desiring or fearing it."
He never undertook long works, not feeling himself sufficiently strong, but he sometimes sent agreeable essays to a periodical publication, The World. These essays are quite worthy of his reputation for skill and urbanity. Nevertheless, nothing approaches the work-which was no work to him—of those letters, which he never imagined any one would read, and which are yet the foundation of his literary success.
His old age, which was an early one, lasted a long time. His wit gave a hundred turns to this sad theme. Speaking of himself and one of his friends, Lord Tyrawley, eq lly old and infirm: “Tyrawley and I," he said, “have been dead two years, but we do not wish it to be known.”
Voltaire, who under the pretence of being always dying, had preserved his youth much better, wrote to him on the 24th of October, 1771, this pretty letter, signed “Le vieux malade de Ferney":
“Enjoy an honorable and happy old age, after having passed through the trials of life. Enjoy your wit and preserve the health of your body. Of the five senses with which we are provided, you have only one enfeebled, and Lord Huntingdon assures me that you have a good stomach, which is worth a pair of ears. It will be perhaps my place to decide which is the most sorrowful, to be deaf or blind, or have no digestion. I can judge of all these three conditions with a knowledge of the cause ; but it is a long time since I ventured to decide upon trifles, least of all upon things so important. I confine myself to the belief that, if you have sun in the beautiful house that you have built, you will spend some tolerable moments ; that is all we can hope for at our age. Cicero wrote a beautiful treatise upon old age, but he did not verify his words by deeds; his last years were very unhappy. You have lived longer and more happily than he did. You have had to do neither with perpetual dictators nor with triumvirs. Your lot has been, and still is, one of the most desirable in that great lottery where good tickets are so scarce, and where the Great Prize of continual happiness has never been gained by any one. Your philosophy has never been upset by chimeras which have sometimes perplexed tolerably good brains.
You have never been in any sense a charlatan, nor the dupe of charlatans, and that I reckon as a rare merit, which adds something to the shadow of happiness that we are allowed to taste of in this short life."
Lord Chesterfield died on the 24th of March, 1773. In pointing out his charming course of worldly education, we have not thought it out of place even in a Democracy,* to take lessons of savoir vivre and politeness, and to receive them from a man whose name is so closely connected with those of Montesquieu and Voltaire, who, more than any other of his countrymen in
* This was written in June, 1850,
Critical Essay by Sainte-Beuve
his own time, showed singular fondness for our nation ; who delighted, more than was right, perhaps, in our amiable qualities; who appreciated our solid virtues, and of whom it might be said, as his greatest praise, that he was a French wit, if he had not introduced into the verve and vivacity of his sallies that plicable something of imagination and color that bears the impress of his race.
'RAVEL IN HOLLAND.—On me dit, Mon.
sieur ! que vous vous disposez à voyager, et que vous débutez par la Hollande. De sorte j'ai crû de mon devoir, de vous souhaiter un bon voyage, et des vents favorables. Vous aurez la bonté, j'espère, de me faire part de votre arrivée à la Haye; et si après cela, dans le cours de vos voyages, vous faites quelques remarques curieuses, vous voudrez bien me les communiquer.
La Hollande, où vous allez, est de beaucoup la plus belle, et la plus riche des Sept ProvincesUnies, qui, toutes ensemble, forment la République. Les autres sont celles de Gueldres, Zélande, Frise, Utrecht, Groningue, et OverYssel. Les Sept Provinces composent, ce qu'on appelle les Etats Généraux des Provinces-Unies,