January 1829-September 1831

The Collected Letters, Volume 5


TC TO HENRY INGLIS; 5 April 1830; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18300405-TC-HI-01; CL 5:87-89.


Craigenputtoch, 5th April, 1830—

My Dear Sir,

One reason why I did not answer your most welcome Letter1 was that, for the last two months, I have been in almost weekly meditation of a journey to Edinr, in quest of Books. Another was that tho' very idle, I had, properly speaking, very little time; but was occupied, painfully enough sometimes, in the service of worthless taskmasters, Discontent, Biliousness, Indolence, and the Devil; or at best, in resisting these that they might fly from me.

I undertook, some five months ago, to write a History of German Literature; for which I ordered, in good time, all manner of books and necessary documents, indeed; only few or none of these came to hand; there lay the grievance. A journey to Edinburgh might have helped me, but this I liked not; and so from Wednesday to Wednesday I have waited, and in disappointment devised new shifts; till of late I have got into a higher humour, and determined both not to go to Edinburgh at present, and to write the first volume of my History before stirring from this house, tho' not another bookleaf should reach me here, and I were to write purely by guess, or by inspiration. I feel infinitely relieved in mind since then.

Now by way of helping me thro this magnanimous enterprize, will you perform for me the following piece of service. I want three Books, one of them very particularly, which I think may be found in your Library; at all events, by the aid of some friendly Advocate, may be procured from the neighbouring establishment. The first and most essential is Barclay's Ship of Fools, a Translation of the old German Narrenschiff: this I should very specially wish to see. The oldest Edition, if there is a choice in that respect, will suit me best. Mr Napier is surely not destitute of such ancient classics; at worst, you will find me some Barclay in the Advocates' Library, or perhaps in some private collection you have access to. I wish greatly to see it.

The second is any old English (at any rate the oldest) Translation of Reineke Fuchs, or Reynard the Fox,2 as it will be named in the version: I should hope, your Bibliographer will be able to furnish you with this also; at least, to tell you some distinct story about it, and where it may be met with. I read a little shabby Reynard the Fox, printed on greyish paper, when I was a schoolboy, and have never seen another: but the Book was once a universal one, in our language as in others; and surely some very old Edition of it, much more authentic than that grey-paper one must be in existence.3 This Reynard I should also wish very much to get hold of; almost as much as Barclay, only that I know not with the same certainty whether it be attainable.

The third Book is one that I care less about, just at this time, yet by and by it will be essential, and even now it might be helpful: it is Horn's Poesie und Beredtsamkeit der Deutschen, in three volumes, with the Umrisse another volume (prior in date) which completes the Subject.4 It is not in your Library, I doubt, but is for certain in the Advocates', whence I must show you how it is to be extracted.

If you know any Advocate in town at present, the business will be easy: especially if our friend Moir is there, who has engaged to let me have ten volumes from his List, none of which [have I yet] called for. Weir5 also would be ready to help me; or [—— if Weir is] not in Town. On the whole, I know not rightly how to direct you; and, if Moir is not there, must leave it all to your own discretion, and benevolence. Barclay, I hope, you will find in your own Library, and also Reynard: at worst, I can do without Horn if it is not to be had. But, for the love of Heaven, get me those other two; or convince me that they are not to be got!

The last point regards the transmission of them. If you can leave the volumes, any time before next Tuesday, with Mr Aitken, ‘Bell & Bradfute's Bank-street,’ with direction to send them off immediately, along with whatever others may be there for me (a parcel from Moir will be there, unless it come tomorrow), the whole business wil be beautifully managed.— Do you know a Bookseller in George-street, (by Sign, I mean) called ‘John Boyd[’]?6 He has had two rags of Magazines belonging to me (Fraser's Town and Country London Magazine) which he should have sent over to Bank-street, about six weeks ago. The Town and C. Magazines I believe not to be worth a rush each; only if you saw the man's sign, and could order him to do his duty, before Tuesday, it were more satifactory. The Able Editor sends them to me.

Forgive, forgive this impudent Invoice, which has no feature of a Letter. But I am like a carman on Leith walk, and my garron [horse] has fallen and is strangling, and I call on Heaven and Earth and all charitable men to bear a hand, and cut the straps. Oh had he but this load off him, how he would snuff up the east-wind, and to his death refuse every such other!

Mrs. C. is well, and busy with gardeners and garden-seeds, and kindly salutes you. We hold it a thing fixed that you will come and see us the very next time [words cut away] ed. Write with these Books, or write with[out] [words cut away] [th]at I may be put out of suspense), and tell [words cut away] and sincerely what you are doing and [words cut away] ing. Fear nothing; only do not desert yourself, [words cut away] is indifferent. Ever yours

T. C.