William Hone to Rev. Samuel Butler, 4 April, 1825

[1780-1818] - [1818-1824] - [1825-1832] - [1832-1842] - Hone Correspondence

William Hone to Rev. Samuel Butler, 4 April, 1825. 1-TEI-

45 Ludgate hill, London
4 April 1825.

To say that I am obliged and flattered by the honor you do me, through the kind note accompanying a copy of your Sermon at the funeral of Dr. Parr, would be a cold expression of my feelings on receiving them this morning — my alacrity in acknowledging the unlooked for favor, would be, if I had the pleasure of being known to you better, an assurance of my warm, and I could almost say, my affectionate respect on the occasion.

Shut up with my books at the back of my house in the midst of London, I scarcely know, but from a daily newspaper, what passes within the world, and I was ignorant that it had devolved on you to "bury Caesar"— I speak so of him, whose vast intellect commanded my admiration, and whose child-like simplicity so tempered his greatness that I could say of him, whom most men feared, I know not whether I most reverenced his greatness, or loved his gentleness. A hero it has been said, is no hero to his valet — but this is because the valet is not also a hero. There were men about Dr. Parr to whom he seemed only a little higher than themselves, because he descended to the meanness of their capacity, and who when his mind soared to the source of light, imagined it lost in clouds — these were babblers of anecdotes concerning him in his lifetime and will be tale-tellers of his table-talk now — gossips of what they call his "common" table-talk, who never talked commonly because he never talked ill. So, at least, I infer he could not talk, who in the few interviews I had the happiness to be indulged with, uttered wiser things than most can bring forth in the course of their existence. I remember when I first saw Dr. Parr's [one word][?] invitation to me to breakfast with him, I went from Warwick to Hatton with delight and trembling, and approached towards him with indescribable awe after I had been announced by his man Sam. The Doctor rallied me on my embarrassment and in five minutes I was astonished by finding myself as intimate with him as if I had been known to him for years. He had the art, by being without art, of making a man easy in his company immediately, and the four or five hours I spent at Hatton Parsonage that morning were the most delightful I ever enjoyed, save on my next visit, which the Doctor insisted on my making to him the Sunday following at Dinner, when I had the felicity of hearing his conversation till all the party left in the Evening, leaving me to sleep there. After supper the Doctor challenged me to meet him as early as, he was pleased to say, I should please in the morning. This we settled should be at six o'clock. At that hour I left my room while the clock struck and descended to the Library, where the Doctor awaited my arrival, gave me most cordial greeting, and then telling me he had stayed the lighting of his pipe till I came, he sat down and said "now to business." That morning interview, Sir, was brought to my recollection (it never can be erased from my memory) by your Sermon and especially by the 15th page. He lighted his pipe and said "Now, Hone, to business" — "In what way, Sir?" — withdrawing his pipe and slapping his hand on my knee he answered by a solemn look (one of his looks) "You must answer me a question, & answer it honestly and truly — What is your creed?" It was an unexpected, & irresistable requisition, and I answered your, & and allow me to add Sir, my excellent friend, honestly truly & fully. He was the only man to whom I ever did, or perhaps could disclose myself — and not a secret of my heart was hidden from him. The remembrance of those three hours before Mrs. Parr came down to breakfast brings tears to my eyes. Dr. Parr, Sir, was the noblest hearted man I ever talked with, and the wisest I have known, and wiser than any I can know — that is my conviction and belief. I loved him more than any human being of whom I saw so little — his death was a blow upon my heart.

2The last time I saw him was at Hatton in the Autumn of 1823 where I spent about three hours and nearly one third of the time was occupied by himself on the subject of human decay and death. His mind then was vigorous as a giants limbs in full manhood.

Pardon me Sir for having scribbled so much & to so little purpose, seeing that your letter required I should briefly & respectfully acknowledge your remembrance of me and let me add I account it a happy circumstance that what I thought an evil has been a good to me. I mean that the accident that procured me the distinction of your regard. I hope Sir I may cherish it, and that no act of mine will ever occasion you to think of me otherwise than as, Sir,

Your most respectful and sincerely obliged Servant
W Hone
The Venerable Archdeacon Butler.
British Library, Add. MS 34586, ff. 4-5. [return]
Hone has filled up the writing space on his sheet, and here he fills in the folded panels adjacent to the address. [return]
William Hone. Date: 2014-02-26