Lorna J. Clark (ed.), The Court Journals and Letters of Frances Burney, Vol. 3: 1788

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Letter from Thomas Twining toFrances Burney, 20 January 1788

The letter to FB from Thomas Twining is marked (probably in the hand of Charlotte Barrett) to be printed with the Court journal for 1788, to be inserted after p. 2925 of the manuscript (at the end of January 1788; see p. 85).

  • Colchester,
  • 20 January 1788
Thomas Twining To Frances Burney

  • ALS (Berg), 20 Jan. 1788 (numbered 2925 on pp. 1 and 4)
  • 2 sheets 4to, 4 pp.
  • Annotated: An admirably humorous Letter from Mr. Twining on his Promotion to a Living of £90 pr Annum. (2)

Colchester Jany 20. 1788.

Dear Miss Burney,

Is it peace?—How can it be peace &c—? But I have no right,—poor sinner as I am, to come into your presence with the least simper upon my face. I will not attempt to joke myself out of the scrape. That would be as preposterous as if Mr. Hastings should make his defence before the House of Lords by cutting two or three capers, or jumping over the bar.—And yet now, what is all this but simpering?—Lord bless me!—I, too, who pique myself upon having an uncommon power of commanding my muscles, & putting on the face of a man going to be hanged, while the shoulders of my inward man are jolting up & down in the convulsions of a horse-laugh.—What can I do with myself!—And what is still more impudent, I not only cannot look perfectly grave myself, but cannot imagine you to look otherwise than pleasant upon me:—but I know it is pg 340not so,—I know it is not so—I know you frown—at least you do in theory: in practice, I believe, you wd. find it rather—What am I about?—I must e'en back out of your presence-chamber, & come in again.

Dear Miss B.

—I am, really & truly, perfectly ashamed of my abominable silence. You cannot be more angry with me than I really am, & have long been, with myself. I can only say this—that not a single fortnight of this long silence was intended. Your letter—I am saying what only serves to blacken my crime, but it is the truth—Your letter, gratified & delighted me; & I should have turned upon my heel in a fret, to any living soul who had only hinted a possibility of my not thanking you for it within a month after I received it. But alas! to my frailty, & singular talent of procrastination, nothing is impossible. As time stole on, sin, &, of course, the necessity of apology first, then the difficulty of apology, & last of all, the impossibility of apology—'tis so frightful, that I stop there; unable to make any thing of this, in the way of a grammatical sentence. ("Muscles! do your office"!—they are relaxing again!)—Well—but,—I spied a little bit of a paw in one page of my last letter from Chelsea College, that gave me comfort. The hand-writing upon the wall of Belshazzar's palace was not more terrible to him, than this hand-writing upon the wall of the Queen's House was comfortable & encouraging to pauvre moi: it seemed to speak your mercy, & say:

  •       Mene, Mene, tekel Upharsin.
  •    i.e. 'Tis mean, tis mean, to kill a Parson!

—So far, I have tried what a little forced pleasantry will do for me;— with a great deal of real penitence & humiliation wrapped up in it. The word parson gives me fair occasion to modulate into another subject, that may be favourable to me, as it will (I hope) put your mind into a posture of congratulation; with which it can no more hold its posture of resentment, than I can now hold two livings without a dispensation:—for, you must know, my old Cambridge acquaintance the Bp. of London has just given me the living of St. Mary's, in Colchester. Its value is no great matter— about £90 a year, I believe: but from its situation, & other circumstances, it, alone, has always been more desirable to me than greater things elsewhere; & so pray be as glad as you possibly can. But admire me too;—I actually asked for this dab of preferment. It is the first piece of pushery I ever was guilty of; & it has answered so well, that all my old sneaking principles of modesty & delicacy &c. are overturned de fond en comble; & pg 341I believe if I were to begin the world again, I should run at every thing that came in my way like a mad bull. ((Is not that your way at Court?)) Above all things, I repent of having been, all my life, so enteté (—I put myself in mind of Capt. Aresby—Did you ever read Cecil—Hush!) with the foolish notion of being contented. Not but the thing is well enough too, in itself; but the worst of it is, the world is so contented with one's being contented. I have never thought so well of this virtue in myself, since I read an excellent thing, &, I verily believe, a very true thing, that Sr. Wm. D'Avenant says about it: vizt, "Contentedness, when examined, doth mean something of laziness as well as moderation."—So you see how I am likely to improve, if I live long enough!—But now, let me move your pity, & try to steal into your forgiveness that way. Consider what a gauntlet I have to run!—Archbishop, Bishop, & their examining Chaplain, more frightful than themselves—Dispensation, Institution, Sollicitor's fees, Secretary's fees &c &c.—What will become of me?—Imagine me, shut up in a Chaplain's apartment at Lambeth, and forced to write my thoughts, in Latin, upon two Theological questions whether I have any thoughts upon them or not!—Pray don't you think, as I always did, that the Examinée, upon these occasions, has a natural right—a right, of which he ought no more to be deprived, than of the right of self-defence when he is corporeally attacked—to examine the Examiner in his turn?—Well—I must endure it with what patience I may. I can write "about it, Goddess, & about it"; & words will go for meaning all the world over. I believe I am but a scurvy Theolog;—but that, you need not mention at Court.—

I have another claim upon your commiseration: nay, many claims— but the loss of 4 teeth—the 4 front, contiguous teeth of my upper set, I do not mention. (I like that sort of Rhetorical lie.) I have not wherewithal to make an F, or a V, if you wd. give the world for them—but that, I say nothing of. I have got this preferment just in time—to whistle sermons to a polite congregation. This is a trifle. But this Press work! (Were you ever in the—Hush!) Here am I printing, in a ruinous manner, a great fat Quarto, which not above a dozen persons, perhaps, will buy, & not half the dozen read. And really now, it is, I verily believe, owing, principally at least; to the hurry I have been in, all the Summer, to get this business off my hands, or, at least, off my head, that I have behaved thus shabbily to you, & indeed to many others of my best & most valued friends & porrescondents. Dr. Johnson, you know, said that illness "makes a man a scoundrel." I have not, thank God, had this excuse to plead. But I fancy, the being in the Press has some effect of the same kind. Well, I hope it will be a purgatory to me, & that I shall come out a new man pg 342[xxxxx 2–3 words] <blemish>.—I shall be in town soon, & shall inquire at Newton House, whether I may be permitted to throw myself at your feet. I have thought of you, often & often: indeed, Conscience took care of that!—I have had my punishment,—I wonder whether you will ever write to me again!——Will you vouchsafe, un beau jour, to try me once more?— You see I keep to my new principles. Me. T. begs her best compls. It is time to release you. Pardon all this foolery. & believe me, most truly & sincerely Yours T.T.

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