June 19, 1780.
SHALL I tell you my dreams? – To give an account of my time, is
doing, I assure you, but little better. Never did there exist a more
ideal being. A frequent mist hovers before my eyes, and, through its
medium, I see objects so faint and hazy, that both their colours and
forms are apt to delude me. This is a rare confession, say the wise,
for a traveller to make: pretty accounts will such a one give of outlandish
countries: his correspondents must reap great benefit, no doubt, from
such purblind observations: – But stop, my good friends; patience
a moment! – I really have not the vanity of pretending to make
a single remark, during the whole of my journey: if -------- be contented
with my visionary way of gazing, I am perfectly pleased; and shall write
away as freely as Mr. A, Mr. B, Mr. C, and a million others, whose letters
are the admiration of the politest circles.
All through Kent did I doze as usual; now and then I opened my eyes
to take in an idea or two of the green, woody country through which
I was passing; then closed them again, transported myself back to my
native hills, thought I led a choir of those I loved best through their
shades, and was happy in the arms of illusion. The sun sat before I
recovered my senses enough to discover plainly the variegated slopes
near Canterbury, waving with slender birchtrees, and gilt with a profusion
of broom. I thought myself still in my beloved solitude, but missed
the companions of my slumbers. Where are they? - Behind yon blue hills,
perhaps, or t'other side of that thick forest. My fancy was travelling
after these deserters, till we reached the town, vile enough o'conscience,
and fit only to be past in one's sleep. The moment after I got out of
the carriage, brought me to the cathedral; an old haunt of mine. I had
always venerated its lofty pillars, dim aisles, and mysterious arches.
Last night they were more solemn than ever, and echoed no other sound
than my steps. I strayed about the choir and chapels, till they grew
so dark and dismal, that I was half inclined to be frightened, looked
over my shoulder, thought of spectres that have an awkward trick of
syllabling men's names in dreary places, and fancied a sepulchral voice
exclaiming: "Worship my toe at Ghent; my ribs at Florence; my skull
at Bologna, Sienna, and Rome. Beware how you neglect this order; for
my bones, as well as my spirit, have the miraculous property of being
here, there, and every where." These injunctions, you may suppose,
were received in a becoming manner, and noted all down in my pocket-book
by inspiration (for I could not see) and, hurrying into the open air,
I was whirled away in the dark to Margate. Don't ask what were my dreams
thither: – nothing but horrors, deep-vaulted tombs, and pale though
lovely figures extended upon them; shrill blasts that sung in my ears,
and filled me with sadness, and the recollection of happy hours, fleeted
away, perhaps, for ever! I was not sorry when the bustle of our coming-in
dispelled these phantoms. The change, however, in point of scenery was
not calculated to dissipate my gloom; for the first object in this world
that presented itself, was a vast expanse of sea, just visible by the
gleamings of the moon, bathed in watery clouds; a chill air ruffled
the waves. I went to shiver a few melancholy moments on the shore. How
often did I try to wish away the reality of my separation from those
I love, and attempt to persuade myself it was but a dream!
This morning I found myself more cheerfully disposed, by the queer Dutch
faces with short pipes and ginger-bread complexions, that came smirking
and scraping to get us on board their respective vessels; but, as I
had a ship engaged for me before, their invitations were all in vain.
The wind blows fair; and, should it continue of the same mind a few
hours longer, we shall have no cause to complain of our passage. Adieu!
Think of me sometimes. If you write immediately, I shall receive your
letter at the Hague.
It is a bright sunny evening: the sea reflects a thousand glorious colours,
and, in a minute or two, I shall be gliding on its surface.