TC TO DAVID LAING ; 19 September 1842; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18420919-TC-DL-01; CL 15: 97-98
TC TO DAVID LAING
Chelsea, 19 Septr, 1842—
My dear Sir,
Last night the two little Books with your Letter lay waiting for me; I had been out for a while into Suffolk,—over also into Cambridgeshire and Hunts, seeking memorials of Oliver Cromwell! I did not find much; the memory of the mighty man is gone nearly altogether, in those his native regions, into a foolish mythus; the people's notions about him, where any notion at all survives, are not only false but absurd and stupid: such is “immortality” within a space of some two poor centuries! “Posterity,” like Actuality, if you “appeal” to it, is too often very much of a blockhead. They are not happy who have nothing better than Posterity to appeal to!— Yet I did find Oliver's farm-fields, which he had tilled and pastured, at St. Ives; the fields and soil are still there, and the shadow of the man still hovering over them: I also had the satisfaction to discover his old House, which will be a ruin soon, near the Cathedral of Ely; and smoked a cigar on the very horse-block (louping-on stone) which had been Farmer Cromwell's,—not without reflexions, under the stars there!—
Your two little Books are very welcome, and worthy of many thanks. I had already managed to see the Drummond Publication,1 which you may fancy was very interesting: tonight I will go into my old friend Rous's version of the Psalms; I am anxious to see to what extent I have been wrong in fancying him the sole and final versifier of our Scottish Psalter. Poor old Sir Francis!2 Immortality is a very mortal thing in that province too.
Can you point out to me any Scotch account of the Battle of Dunbar;3 or even as much as any intelligible account of the ground it was fought on? I find in the Memoirs of Captain Hodgson (I think), a stupid kind of Book, very lazily edited by Sir Walter Scott,4 some glimmerings of conceivability; among the Notes, if I remember, there is a notice of some Memorial to be presented to the Government Committees by David Leslie himself;5 his Letter to that effect is given; and the result of the memorial is also given, in his continuing to be commander: but the Memorial itself where is it? Our Editor should have said, but does not by any whisper. Do you think, it exists; above all was it ever printed? It ought to be printed, if possible. Indeed our Scottish fightings in that Civil War generally seem to demand a little word of criticism: Montrose's battles, in Wishart,6 approach close to the incredible; and it is only after enormous guessing, and questioning without response, that one can form any conjecture as to Preston,7 Dunbar and others. I wish I could fly to Cockburnspath some day, and then round by the Signet library!8
Wishing you well out of Baillie,9 and well into something else as Laudable, I remain always, with thanks and esteem,
Yours most truly /
You have not yet got up to London in search of Knox?10 You are not to fail me when you come.