January-September 1856

The Collected Letters, Volume 31


JWC TO DAVID DAVIDSON ; 2 February 1856; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18560202-JWC-DD-01; CL 31: 21-22


5 Cheyne Row, 2nd Feb.1856.

MY DEAR FRIEND,—I made sure of seeing you before your departure from London, but you slipt away like that most provoking of all things, “a knotless thread;”1 and I was feeling to have “lost you quite.” “Not so fast!” (my gracious, were you ever “at the sea-bathing” in North Berwick?2 and do you remember an idiot that used to shuffle about there saying, “Not so fast!” I have not thought of him these five-and-thirty years before! and I could paint his picture at this moment, but it is not necessary). You have not forgotten us—or even forgotten “your promise,” and I call that very nice of you—being a man! Dear darling old Betty3 will be delighted to see you! it will be next best to seeing myself, and I should say you, with your memories of old things, will enjoy seeing her, and hearing her; and so the doctrine of “virtue ever its own reward”4 will for once at least hold good! The address is Mrs. Braid, 5 West Adam Street, in the George's Square region it is. It would be a pleasure to visit you, and make acquaintance with your wife;5 and decidedly I for one, will not be in Scotland without inquiring how you are situated, and going to spend a day or two with you, “if convenient.” But Mr. C. has such a physical horror of travelling, and of any change, even for the better, in his arrangements, that our journeys are few and far between. It has become through a long course of years, a part of our life, like any other, to spend a month every winter at Lord Ashburton's in Hampshire, and that one visit Mr. C. thinks quite a sufficient year's visiting for both himself and me, in which notion I do not always agree with him. But “anything for a quiet life,”6 as I daresay your wife says too sometimes. However, neither Mr. C. nor I have given up the idea of seeing old Scotland again, and I will keep the other idea (of visiting you and your wife) as an integral part of it. For the rest, you will be interested to hear that within the last two weeks, I have made two involuntary attempts on my life; neither of which proved fatal! First during my stay at the Grange, the house Dr. (the Ashburtons keep a Dr. all to themselves, a questionable luxury I think) ordered me an embrocation for my throat, and I DRANK it every drop!7 supposing that England expected me!8 A revolution of three days in my “interior” (as Mr. Carlyle calls it) was the unexpectedly unimportant result of this mistake. Since my return, in taking a flying leap in the dark (!) I struck myself a violent blow on the right side which was supposed to have fractured it; but as it was only sprained and bruised, I am now recovering, and won't if I can remember it take flying leaps in the dark again; at least not till I return to Jeanie Welsh in some other planet. God bless you—my affection to Betty; and look me up again before long, will you?—Sincerely yours,