TC TO THOMAS MURRAY; 1 February 1815; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18150201-TC-TM-01; CL 1:37-41.
TC TO THOMAS MURRAY
Annan. Feby. 1st. 1814 .—
My Dear Sir,
I designed, according to my promise, to have written you immediately after my arrival in Annandale—but delay[ed] till I should be able to execute the second part of my commission—the procuring you a copy of Stewart Lewis' poems. 1 Th[is] I found to be a task of some difficulty; there being but few, in the country—and those mostly in the pos[s]ession of people, with whom I had no dealings.— I heard at length of a copy, in the hand[s] of a certain ancient personage (Jamie White the Cooper); and from him, I was lucky enough to obtain it. It is imperfect, but I believe wants only two pages at each end—and at any rate it [is] the best, indeed only one, I could get hold of.
Upon reperusing the volume, I feel more and more confident, that it contains poems, which if properly selected and given to the world along with the other productions of its Author, would secure him both honour and emoluments:—I am not going to enter into any critical detail of their merits; but I cannot help [ob]serving, that had Lewis never written any thing else, than [the] ‘verses on the death of an only son’—and the song ‘Wandering Ma[ry’—] his title to the name of poet would have been undisputed. The volume indeed abounds with a strain of original thought and fee[ling] which is not always to be met with in books of the kind. [And] for the want of which, a thousand ban-dogs and dun-[de]er and donjon-keeps and Ladyes fair2 can never compensate.
You will readily believe, I received with great pleasu[re] the intelligence your letter gave me, of the speedy publication of these poems, in which I have expressed so much interest[.] Lewis is a man whose misfortunes I pity, and whose genius I admire—and he may rely upon all the little influence I po[ss]ess, being exerted in his favour. Tell him to send me, along with your letter (and the sooner, the better) half-a-dozen of his prospectus; and I entertain little dowbt of being able to give a good account of them—at least, the contrary shall not happe[n] for want of assiduity on my part— I have only one othe[r] observation to make on the subject—and it is—the price you mention is one half too little—no person that would be at the pains to give half-a-crown for Lewis' poems—that would not also give four or five shillings with equal cheerfulness—nay with more—for 2/6 has such a pitiful sound—and conveys such a diminutive idea with it. But those who conduct the publication—have been influenced, no doubt, by reasons, to which I am a stranger.
You will be so good as call on Mr Hay,3 with the enclosed note. And—should you be fortunate enough to get any money—I will thank you (after paying yourself) to see if you can procure me an Italian grammar and dictionary—and some small easily-read Italian book— I am intently set upon teaching myself the language and your failure in sending me the apparatus, will occassion considerable disappointment. A small French dictionary, too, is an article I would like to have—there is a small pronouncing one, written, I think, by l'Abbé (somebody)4—will you see if it is to be got? I wish you would call at the shop of Miller and Adie—5 and see if you can get a small case of Mathematical instruments, capable of going into a waist coat pocket—consisting solely of a pair of compasses, one of whose legs admits a limb for describing circles on paper—and another for describing them on a slate— Whether it has a scale is of no great consequence— If you can procure one of those—or any other at a reasonable rate, you may send it me.— Another book, I want—is—Playfair's6 second volume— And with the remainder (if any—and if Wallace's7 sale still continues) you may purchase me a ‘Blairs lectures’.8— I make no apology for giving you all this trouble— I shall be ready to perform the same services for you when occassion offers.
It is a considerable time since I saw Leslie's review of La Place'[s] essay on chances9—and remarked with considerable surprise—the bold avowall of his sentiments on Hume's doctrine— ‘The Christian Instructor’ attacks him with considerable asperity—and, I think, success. Hume's essays, I have not read—and therefore cannot condemn— The evidence of testimony, too, no doubt has its limits— But as far as I can judge, all that is urged either by La Place or His reviewer—does not at all affect Christianity. Supposing even the extreme case, which he adduces, of the sun's being visible at London during the whole twenty four hours—were all the individuals who might be supposed capable of seeing the phenomenon, to agree in giving their testimony to the fact—nay more—were they willingly for its sake to submit to hardships, privation and death rather than deny it; who is there that would not credit their assertion? Christianity is supported by evidence as strong as this—and the facts on which it is founded are confirmed by a testimony sealed in blood—a testimony to which none but a man bigotted to scepticism will refuse to assent.
What are the news in Edinr? How is Miss Merchant (I have utterly lost her letter); and her admirer, who according to Jack is a man every inch o' him? Have you had any more rencounters with Poet Irving?10 How could you be so careless, as to take no notice of the fruit of the labours (at hospital) of that ardent spirit Samuel Caven Junr—and of Laurie the solemn!11— Good generous souls! Peace be with ye both! Far far from your gates be the spirit-stirring charms of chambermaids—and the soul-affrighting countenance of lack of teaching [underscored twice]!— I wish I could gratify you with any news from this ancient burgh: but here our life glides smoothly on undisturbed by any incident, save the occassional convention of some three score and ten honest persons for the purpose of eating ginger-bread, and wearing neat's leather at what they are pleased to denominate a ball [underscored twice]—or the agreement of here and there a couple of his Majesty's liege subjects, to live together, for the purpose of breeding and begetting green grocers and excisemen. Of late, indeed, the atmosphere of Annan has been loaded with the effluvia of goose-lard—and its waters impregnated with concoctions of tea:—that is—a plan for the consumption of bohea, and for exterminating the fowls of the species Anseres [underscored twice: goose]—has been pursued with unwearied industry by the Nabs12 of Annan sin[ce] the commencement of 1815.— Rejoice ye worthy nabs! rejoice and [be] glad for to-morrow ye shall be forgotten!
Last Saturday and Sunday I was at Ruthwell Manse seeing Mr Mitchell. Mr. Duncan is really an intelligent pleasing man. Indeed the characteristic of every member of the family, seems to be a wish to make all about them happy.— He spoke of you—and seemed rather disappointed that you had favoured him with no communications for so long a time—your literary character was mentioned as a production that did you credit.13 Mr. Duncan spoke of allot[t]ing a corner of his paper to a periodical series of essays—similar to the Idler14—by way of engaging the pens of the Dumfries-shire literati. Whether the plan will be executed I cannot say: but I think it would be a pleasant thing.—
If you do not get this letter soon enough, to transact the multiplicity of commissions it contains (on the same day); I wish you would call upon Mr. Forrest's lodger Johnson—and leave the parcel there to be conveyed to Ecclefn in his box— Failing in this—there is a man Smeal15 living in 22 East-Richmond st Mrs. Farmer's—who could convey it in his box to its destination— I leave the management of the business—entirely to your own discretion. Write me at any rate soon:—and do not forget Poet Lewis' publication.— I remain
My Dear Murray, / yours with sincerity /