In my last, I mentioned to you Mosse's Hospital; which, I think, deserves particular notice, whether we consider it as a specimen of architecture, or, as an example to prove, that every principle of our nature may be rendered subservient to the interests of humanity.
As a building, it is magnificent, and, being the most faultless I ever beheld, is a lasting monument of the abilities of Mr. Castels, who was also the designer of the duke of Leinster's, and the Parliament House. In other respects, the structure must do eternal honour to the founder, Dr. Mosse, a physician of this city; who, by the mere effort of his own genius, in defiance of avowed opposition, and contempt of popular clamour, erected this stately fabric, for the purpose of relieving lying-in-women; the first charity of the kind in these kingdoms, and in which, above 10,000 poor females have been delivered within
p.26twenty years. His only resources were lotteries, and the emoluments arising from the concerts and gardens. The benevolence of the public was at length awakened; the king gave stability to the institution by a charter, and parliament bestowed a bounty on the widow of him, who had devoted his life to the service of his fellow-creatures.
The present master of this hospital, is a Doctor Jebb, a gentleman of fine parts; whose acquaintance, I am sure, you would be pleased with. He tells me, that except some beds given, and endowed by private donors, the fund for support of this charity, is raised from musical entertainments, and from subscriptions to a right of walking in the gardens at all times. They have lately built a large circular room, called the Rotunda, of an area, as I guess, about a third of that of Ranelagh, but without any pillar in the centre. Here they have an organ and orchestra for concerts, in the wet evenings of summer, and for balls in winter. So that, upon the whole, this is the Vauxhall, Ranelagh, and Pantheon of Dublin.
Nay, it is something more than all these, it is a polite place of public resort on Sunday evenings. Whether this entertainment be strictly defensible, in a religious point of view, I shall not determine; but, if the goodness of the end may in any instance be pleaded in justification of the means, I think it may in this. However, it seems rather a matter of wonder, that London, so fond of amusement, and so ready to adopt new fashions of dissipation, has not struck out something similar, for passing those hours, which on some people sit so heavy; and which may, after all, be spent in a much worse manner.
On these nights, the rotunda and gardens are prodigiously crowded, and the price of admission being only sixpence, every body goes. It would perhaps benefit the charity, if the price were doubled, for though it might exclude a great many, it would, I think, bring more money. On the other hand, it must be confessed, that the motley appearance gives an air of freedom; for the best company attends, as well as those to whom another sixpence might be an object.
There are twelve other hospitals in Dublin, of great public utility, all of which are carefully and skilfully attended; a particular account of these, could give little entertainment even to you; one thing, however, in which they differ from those of London, I must remark to you; the physicians and surgeons are not elected by the governors, as with us; but when a vacancy happens, it is filled up by a majority of the faculty, who belong to the hospital.
Almost every parish in the city has schools, supported by charitable donations, collected principally in the churches at charity sermons. And to evince the national humanity, parliament grants an annual sum to a Poor-house, for receiving, and supporting foundlings from every part of the kingdom. To this house, I have been assured that they send children even from Wales, and the western coast of England.
Upon the whole, Dublin is no contemptible city; and we should rather wonder, that, considering its limited trade, it is as well as it is, than that it is not better. It must, however, be acknowledged, that
p.29except the new streets, which are paved and flagged like those of London, it is abominably dirty. In this rainy weather, I see the gentlemen of the army, and others, of the younger sort especially, generally booted; from which I suppose that boots are the ton here.
I, who you know always speak and write from present feeling, cannot describe to you how much I was hurt by the nastiness of these streets, and by the squalid appearance of the canaille. The vast inferiority of the lower ranks in Dublin, compared even with those of the country towns in England, is very striking. Seldom do they shave, and when they do, it is but to unmask the traces of meagreness and penury. In a morning, before the higher classes are up, you would imagine that half the prisons in Europe had been opened, and their contents emptied into this place. What must it have been then, even within three years, when near 2000 wretches, much worse, of course, than any now to be seen, exercised the unrestrained trade of begging? I am told that the nuisance was risen to such a pitch, that you could scarcely
p.30get clear of any shop you entered, without the contamination of either ulcers or vermin, from the crowd of mendicants, who beset the door.
Dublin, by the bye, is indebted to one of our countrymen, a Doctor Woodward, who has a deanery in the country, and a parish in the city, for its riddance of this pest. He, with a laudable and unremitting perseverance, so vanquished the national prejudice on this head, that he at length prevailed to have a poor bill passed, free from all those errors that experience had discovered in the English poor laws.
In London, one can rarely want amusement, the very streets are an inexhaustible source of it. There is something refreshing in that variety of cheerful objects, which they perpetually exhibit. There is such a cleanness in the streets, such a richness in the shops, such a bustle of business, such a sleekness of plenty, such a face of content, and withal, such an air of pleasure, as infuse the most delicious sympathies. Here, we see but little to cheer, or exhilarate reflection, but much to sadden and depress the spirits. There is, indeed,
p.31a motion, but it is such, as when the pulse of life begins to stagnate, or like that of the wheel of some great machine, just before the power which impelled it, ceases to act. Here, to be sure, you meet some splendid equipages, and a large suite of lackeys after a sedan chair; you see a fair range, or two, of houses, and some rich shops; and you frequently meet faces fair enough to make Circassia gaze; but all these scarcely compensate for the painful sensations produced by the general mass.
Yet the women say, that the social pleasures are more easily obtained here than in London. They argue, that the English are generally so intent upon business, that they will not spare time for their company, and are consequently devoid of all sentimental attachment; that, matrimony being less the fashion among them, they are for obtaining the favours of the fair, by speedier methods than those of attentions and respects, which, when reciprocal, are among the choicest sweets of life; and that public amusements being less frequent here, domestic entertainments are more in use. These are points I shall not dispute with
p.32the ladies, though I am not convinced of the truth of their arguments. I cannot help remarking, however, that the English are not so addicted to the bottle, which is as great an enemy to sentiment and the graces, as either business or pleasure.
Adhering strictly to your advice, I am every day on horseback, and find vast benefit from it. At first, I felt myself fatigued after riding ever so little; now, after repeated essays, like half-fledged birds, fluttering before they fly, I make excursions of some miles, without being weary. But the roads near the city are very bad, and the streets are so slippery, that I am obliged to have my horse led out of town.
Yesterday I went down the North Strand, catching the sea-breezes as I rode along. Summer-hill, the suburb leading to it, affords one of the most charming prospects in the world. Before you, is the sea, covered with ships; on the left of the bay, is a country beautifully varied, and sufficiently dressed by art, to enrich the landskip; to the right, the conical mountains of Wicklow terminate your view. The river Liffy,
p.33and part of the city compose the fore-ground of this exquisite piece.
Summerhill, as well for the beauty of the situation, as purity of the air, is become the residence of several persons of fortune. I was led to it a few days since, to see one of the most pleasing collections of pictures, I have almost any where observed; and you will be the more surprised when I tell you, that they are all copies; but they are copies of a very peculiar sort. One of them taken from the Galatea of Raphael, they now consider as an original; the original being almost defaced. They were the property of a Mr. Moore, who, during a long residence at Rome, had them painted by Albano, and others, the best masters, from the chef d'oeuvres in that imperial city.
I have seen another collection here, far more valuable, as composed of originals belonging to a Mr. Stewart, whose son was married to a daughter of lord Hertford; among them is a capital piece, of Christ in the manger, by Rubens.
Though an amateur of the fine arts, I cannot think that catalogues of pictures are either worth your reading, or my writing, especially as they are not the productions of this country. You, I know, will be better pleased with pictures of life and manners; and were I a moral painter, I should be glad to gratify you. A sketch, however, I shall attempt of the quondam owner of the former collection, which, if highly finished, would exhibit a very extraordinary picture of human nature.
Born to a good estate, after receiving the best education this kingdom could give, he made the tour of Europe; but Rome had such attractions, that it became his home for several years. There he engaged in such connections, as rendered him for ever after estranged to his native country, and enthusiastically devoted to the house of Stuart, whose interests he not only maintained in conversation, but supported by his purse.
Upon his return to Ireland, too refined, perhaps, by Italian virtuosoship, for the relish of his country neighbours, he avoided their company, though fond of society, and confessedly one of the finest gentlemen in the kingdom. He
p.35therefore found himself unable to take that lead, to which his large fortune, and high accomplishments, gave him such just pretensions; his estate too lying in one of those northern counties, where whiggism was prevalent, he became at length almost sequestered from the world: his table was frequented by few, except mere toad-eaters, though he lived in a style of magnificence till then unknown in that country.
But his ruling attachment marked every action of his life. He was returned to parliament for a borough, but would not take his seat for several years, to avoid taking the oaths; till at length a rule of the house, pointing at him, was made, that whoever did not take their seats before a certain day, should be expelled.
Instead of following nature, in ornamenting his demesne, he took up the whimsical thought of cutting it into the form of a thistle. I have it from a gentleman, who has often seen the park, that he cut a deep and wide trench, of a mile in circumference for the bulb of the flower, with double ramparts from thence, forming the petals, with clumps of trees representing the down; the avenue to his
p.36house was for the stalk, and the several fields branching from thence, and from each other, delineated the leaves. This indeed was madness, but you must allow there was method in it.
To the famous Dr. King of Oxford, he committed the education of his son; who, instead of imbibing from his tutor, the principles of his father, became an admired character in the court of England; which so enraged his unnatural parent, that he withdrew that scanty maintenance he had before allowed him. What could the young man do? He was obliged to relinquish for ever all title to an estate of above 4000l. a year, for an annuity of about 800l. This transaction so crushed his spirits, that he soon after died of a broken heart.
The old gentleman had three daughters of distinguished accomplishments. The first gentlemen of the kingdom had asked, and had been refused, their hands; for no reason that could be discovered, but that the political principles of the suiters were different from those of Mr. Me. The eldest at length listened to the addresses of a gentleman in every respect her equal, a knight
p.37of a shire, and of a most respectable character; whose only fault was, that he was descended of an old whig family. From that instant the father disclaimed her as a child, and settled his estate upon one of his younger daughters, who had issue. Here you'll say there was no great harm done, but mark the sequel.
In the neighbourhood of Mr. Me lived a Mr. Stt, an old batchelor of small fortune derived from his ancestor, who settled there in the reign of James I. to whom he is said to have been a near kinsman. This gentleman did not fail to pay his constant assiduities, during the last years of Mr. Me's life; and had the good, or rather indeed ill fortune, to insinuate himself thoroughly into his good graces. It became the established opinion of this now doating old man, that Mr. St was the next rightful heir to the crown of England, failing the Pretender and his issue. Accordingly, about six weeks before his death, in the eighty-fourth year of his age, being attacked by a palsy, which would have injured an understanding even hitherto unimpaired, he altered his will in favour of Mr. St, and disinherited all his own children and grandchildren.
The heirs at law, however, did not acquiesce under this testament, so repugnant to the principles of equity, and the common feelings of humanity. They litigated it under the plea of an unsound mind in the testator, and of undue influence in the legatee. They had, indeed, no other; for the heir had used every precaution, that the will should be drawn, and perfected,according to all due solemnities and legal formalities. Chancery sent it to be tried by a jury in the King's Bench.
After a trial of twenty-four hours, the jurors divided in opinion, eight being for the will, and four against it; a juror was therefore withdrawn, and consequently there was then no issue. In a few terms after, it was decided by the same judges, and another jury, who were unanimous against the will. And thus, for once, triumphed over the vain ordinances of man, that eternal law of nature, which is the law of God.
I am, &c.