To Dr LEWIS.
I have not found all the benefit I expected at Scarborough, where I have been these eight days—From Harrigate we came hither by the way of York, where we stayed only one day to visit the Castle, the Minster and the Assembly-room. The first, which was heretofore a fortress, is now converted to a prison, and is the best, in all respects, I ever saw, at home or abroad—It stands in a high situation, extremely well ventilated; and has a spacious area within the walls, for the health and convenience of all the prisoners except those whom it is necessary to secure in close confinement. Even these last have all the comforts that the nature of their situation can admit. Here the assizes are held, in a range of buildings erected for that purpose.
As for the Minster, I know not how to distinguish it, except by its great size and the height of its spire, from those other ancient churches in different parts of the kingdom, which used to be called monuments of Gothic architecture; but it is now agreed, that this stile is Saracen rather than Gothic; and, I suppose, it was first imported into England from Spain, great part of which was under the dominion of the Moors. Those British architects who adopted this stile, don’t seem to have considered the propriety of their adoption. The climate of the country, possessed by the Moors or Saracens, both in Africa and Spain, was so exceedingly hot and dry, that those who built places of worship for the multitude, employed their talents in contriving edifices that should be cool; and, for this purpose, nothing could be better adopted than those buildings, vast, narrow, dark, and lofty, impervious to the sun-beams, and having little communication with the scorched external atmosphere; but ever affording a refreshing coolness, like subterranean cellars in the heats of summer, or natural caverns in the bowels of huge mountains. But nothing could be more preposterous, than to imitate such a mode of architecture in a country like England, where the climate is cold, and the air eternally loaded with vapours; and where, of consequence, the builder’s intention should be to keep the people dry and warm—For my part, I never entered the Abbey church at Bath but once, and the moment I stept over the threshold, I found myself chilled to the very marrow of my bones. When we consider, that in our churches, in general, we breathe a gross stagnated air, surcharged with damps from vaults, tombs, and charnel-houses, may we not term them so many magazines of rheums, created for the benefit of the medical faculty? and safely aver, that more bodies are lost, than souls saved, by going to church, in the winter especially, which may be said to engross eight months in the year. I should be glad to know, what offence it would give to tender consciences, if the house of God was made more comfortable, or less dangerous to the health of valetudinarians; and whether it would not be an encouragement to piety, as well as the salvation of many lives, if the place of worship was well floored, wainscotted, warmed, and ventilated, and its area kept sacred from the pollution of the dead. The practice of burying in churches was the effect of ignorant superstition, influenced by knavish priests, who pretended that the devil could have no power over the defunct if he was interred in holy ground; and this indeed, is the only reason that can be given for consecrating all cemeteries, even at this day.
The external appearance of an old cathedral cannot be but displeasing to the eye of every man, who has any idea of propriety or proportion, even though he may be ignorant of architecture as a science; and the long slender spire puts one in mind of a criminal impaled with a sharp stake rising up through his shoulder—These towers, or steeples, were likewise borrowed from the Mahometans; who, having no bells, used such minarets for the purpose of calling the people to prayers—They may be of further use, however, for making observations and signals; but I would vote for their being distinct from the body of the church, because they serve only to make the pile more barbarous, or Saracenical.
There is nothing of this Arabic architecture in the Assembly Room, which seems to me to have been built upon a design of Palladio, and might be converted into an elegant place of worship; but it is indifferently contrived for that sort of idolatry which is performed in it at present: the grandeur of the fane gives a diminutive effect to the little painted divinities that are adorned in it, and the company, on a ball-night, must look like an assembly of fantastic fairies, revelling by moonlight among the columns of a Grecian temple.
Scarborough seems to be falling off, in point of reputation. All these places (Bath excepted) have their vogue, and then the fashion changes. I am persuaded, there are fifty spaws in England as efficacious and salutary as that of Scarborough, though they have not yet risen to fame; and, perhaps, never will, unless some medical encomiast should find an interest in displaying their virtues to the public view—Be that as it may, recourse will always be had to this place for the convenience of sea bathing, while this practice prevails; but it were to be wished, they would make the beach more accessible to invalids.
I have here met with my old acquaintance, H[ewet]t, whom you have often heard me mention as one of the most original characters upon earth—I first knew him at Venice, and afterwards saw him in different parts of Italy, where he was well known by the nick-name of Cavallo Bianco, from his appearing always mounted on a pale horse, like Death in the Revelations. You must remember the account I once gave you of a curious dispute he had at Constantinople, with a couple of Turks, in defence of the Christian religion; a dispute from which he acquired the epithet of Demonstrator—The truth is, H—owns no religion but that of nature; but, on this occasion, he was stimulated to shew his parts, for the honour of his country—Some years ago, being in the Campidoglio at Rome, he made up to the bust of Jupiter, and, bowing very low, exclaimed in the Italian language, ‘I hope, sir, if ever you get your head above water again, you will remember that I paid my respects to you in your adversity.’ This sally was reported to the cardinal Camerlengo, and by him laid before pope Benedict XIV, who could not help laughing at the extravagance of the address, and said to the cardinal, ‘Those English heretics think they have a right to go to the devil in their own way.’
Indeed H— was the only Englishman I ever knew, who had resolution enough to live in his own way, in the midst of foreigners; for, neither in dress, diet, customs, or conversation, did he deviate one tittle from the manner in which he had been brought up. About twelve years ago, he began a Giro or circuit, which he thus performed—At Naples, where he fixed his headquarters, he embarked for Marseilles, from whence he travelled with a Voiturin to Antibes—There he took his passage to Genoa and Lerici; from which last place he proceeded, by the way of Cambratina, to Pisa and Florence—After having halted some time in this metropolis, he set out with a Vetturino for Rome, where he reposed himself a few weeks, and then continued his route for Naples, in order to wait for the next opportunity of embarkation—After having twelve times described this circle, he lately flew off at a tangent to visit some trees at his country-house in England, which he had planted above twenty years ago, after the plan of the double colonnade in the piazza of St Peter’s at Rome—He came hither to Scarborough, to pay his respects to his noble friend and former pupil, the M— of G—, and, forgetting that he is now turned of seventy, sacrificed so liberally to Bacchus, that next day he was seized with a fit of the apoplexy, which has a little impaired his memory; but he retains all the oddity of his character in perfection, and is going back to Italy by the way of Geneva, that he may have a conference with his friend Voltaire, about giving the last blow to the Christian superstition—He intends to take shipping here for Holland or Hamburgh; for it is a matter of great indifference to him at what part of the continent he first lands.
When he was going abroad the last time, he took his passage in a ship bound for Leghorn, and his baggage was actually embarked. In going down the river by water, he was by mistake put on board of another vessel under sail; and, upon inquiry understood she was bound to Petersburgh—’Petersburgh,—Petersburgh (said he) I don’t care if I go along with you.’ He forthwith struck a bargain with the captain; bought a couple of shirts of the mate, and was safe conveyed to the court of Muscovy, from whence he travelled by land to receive his baggage at Leghorn—He is now more likely than ever to execute a whim of the same nature; and I will hold any wager, that as he cannot be supposed to live much longer, according to the course of nature, his exit will be as odd as his life has been extravagant.
[This gentleman crossed the sea to France, visited and conferred with Mr de Voltaire at Fernay, resumed his old circuit at Genoa, and died in 1767, at the house of Vanini in Florence. Being taken with a suppression of urine, he resolved, in imitation of Pomponius Atticus, to take himself off by abstinence; and this resolution he executed like an ancient Roman. He saw company to the last, cracked his jokes, conversed freely, and entertained his guests with music. On the third day of his fast, he found himself entirely freed of his complaint; but refused taking sustenance. He said the most disagreeable part of the voyage was past, and he should be a cursed fool indeed, to put about ship, when he was just entering the harbour. In these sentiments he persisted, without any marks of affectation, and thus finished his course with such case and serenity, as would have done honour to the firmest Stoic of antiquity.]
But, to return from one humourist to another, you must know I have received benefit, both from the chalybeate and the sea, and would have used them longer, had not a most ridiculous adventure, by making me the town-talk, obliged me to leave the place; for I can’t bear the thoughts of affording a spectacle to the multitude Yesterday morning, at six o’clock, I went down to the bathing-place, attended by my servant Clinker, who waited on the beach as usual—The wind blowing from the north, and the weather being hazy, the water proved so chill, that when I rose from my first plunge, I could not help sobbing and bawling out, from the effects of the cold. Clinker, who heard me cry, and saw me indistinctly a good way without the guide, buffetting the waves, took it for granted I was drowning, and rushing into the sea, clothes and all, overturned the guide in his hurry to save his master. I had swam out a few strokes, when hearing a noise, I turned about and saw Clinker, already up to his neck, advancing towards me, with all the wildness of terror in his aspect—Afraid he would get out of his depth, I made haste to meet him, when, all of a sudden, he seized me by one ear, dragged me bellowing with pain upon the dry beach, to the astonishment of all the people, men, and women, and children there assembled.
I was so exasperated by the pain of my ear, and the disgrace of being exposed in such an attitude, that, in the first transport I struck him down; then, running back into the sea, took shelter in the machine where my clothes had been deposited. I soon recollected myself so far as to do justice to the poor fellow, who, in great simplicity of heart, had acted from motives of fidelity and affection—Opening the door of the machine, which was immediately drawn on shore, I saw him standing by the wheel, dropping like a water-work, and trembling from head to foot; partly from cold, and partly from the dread of having offended his master—I made my acknowledgments for the blow he had received, assured him I was not angry, and insisted upon his going home immediately, to shift his clothes; a command which he could hardly find in his heart to execute, so well disposed was he to furnish the mob with further entertainment at my expence. Clinker’s intention was laudable without all doubt, but, nevertheless, I am a sufferer by his simplicity—I have had a burning heat, and a strange buzzing noise in that ear, ever since it was so roughly treated; and I cannot walk the street without being pointed at; as the monster that was hauled naked a-shore upon the beach—Well, I affirm that folly is often more provoking than knavery, aye and more mischievous too; and whether a man had not better choose a sensible rogue, than an honest simpleton for his servant, is no matter of doubt with
Yours, MATT. BRAMBLE SCARBOROUGH, July 4.