TC TO DAVID AITKEN ; 9 December 1840; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18401209-TC-DA-01; CL 12: 351-353
TC TO DAVID AITKEN
Chelsea, 9 Decr, 1840—
My dear Sir,
Partly connected with the Booke of the Kirk,1 which you were kind enough to leave me as a legacy when you last went hence, there is another Book, Baillie's Letters and Journals, which I want very greatly to get, and cannot fall in with here for love or money. I have looked on it in the British Museum;2 but it is beyond my faculty to read it there; and nowhere else, in Bookshops, Cambridge Libraries or the shelves of private friends, can I discover more than traditions and provoking rumours of it. I am told the Book is common in Scotland: who knows but you may have it, or may in some way have access to it, and could let me have a loan of it for a little? I boast of the virtue of returning books lent me, in a faithful manner! Our friend Sam3 could easily find means of conveyance,—to the care of Fraser in Regent-Street. On the whole, Letters being so cheap, and you so helpful, I find I may at least ask you about it.— Literary men borrow books sub rosâ, it is said, from the Advocates' and Signet and all manner of open Libraries, and have them sent hither and sent thither, punctually restoring them; it is a thing not entirely unknown to myself of old; but I am out of all their Ledgers there for a long while past.
Baillie's is not the only Book I want; the History of Scotch Covenanting, which is the History of Scotland altogether in Charles First's time, is the point I drive at. Much that perhaps is common in Edinburgh is unattainable here. Did not some “Stevenson” or other lately put forth a publication on that subject?4 I have now by me a very trivial History of the Covenanters published by Waugh & Innes in 1830, two small volumes;5 but it tells me nothing which I did not long ago know, or even know the contrary of. Did Peterkin6 promulgate nothing on this? Do no Pamphlets, Records, State Trials or the like exist, which can help one to represent to himself those actual Scottish years from 1637 to 1660, especially the earlier portion of them? What for example, is known about Jenny Geddes7 and her performance in St Giles's in that summer Sunday of 1637? Do not laugh, I pray you; but ask some Dr Lea8 or other; if so be any Dr can tell. You will oblige me greatly. Poor old Spalding9 is but a kind of triviality; yet he is worth all the rest to me hitherto. I read Mark Napier's first Book on Montrose too,—with astonishment, confusion and despair: what I learnt of new was the colour of Montrose's stockings when they hanged him; this and almost nothing more from Mark.10 In short, I am very ill off indeed; and could be right thankful for charitable help from any quarter of the sky.
Did you ever see the young man Dodds?11 He wrote me a long Letter; in my answer to which I inserted a card to introduce him if he liked. No word since. I am interested in this forlorn Dodds, and find traces of a valiant substantial heart in him; a man perhaps capable of being helped (which so few are), if one knew how! It is a divine office; the divinest we have here below, that of helping. Tell me whether I have procured you such a luxury in this man's acquaintance; or only a new trouble and futility.
My Wife is better than usual this winter: we join in many cordial salutations to you and Mrs A.
Yours always truly, /