TC TO THOMAS DE QUINCEY; 11 December 1828; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18281211-TC-TD-01; CL 4:432-435.
TC TO THOMAS DE QUINCEY
Craigenputtoch, 11th December, 1828—
My dear Sir,
Having the opportunity of a frank, I cannot resist the temptation to send you a few lines, were it only to signify that two well-wishers of yours are still alive in these remote moors, and often thinking of you with the old friendly feelings. My Wife encourages me in this innocent purpose: she has learned lately that you were inquiring for her, of some female Friend; nay even promising to visit us here, a fact of the most interesting sort to both of us. I am to say, therefore, that your presence at this fireside will diffuse no ordinary gladness over all members of the household; that our warmest welcome, and such solacements as even the desart does not refuse, are, at any time and at all times, in store for one we love so well. Neither is this expedition so impracticable: we lie but a short way out of your direct route to Westmoreland; communicate, by gravelled roads, with Dumfries, and other places in the habitable globe; were you to warn us of your approach, it might all be made easy enough. And then such a treat it would be to hear the sound of Philosophy and Literature, in the hitherto quite savage wolds, where since the Creation of the World no such music, scarcely even articulate speech, had been uttered or dreamed of! Come, therefore, come and see us; for we often long after you: nay I can promise too that we are almost a unique sight in the British Empire; such a quantity of German Periodicals, and mystic speculation, embosomed in plain Scottish Peat-moor being nowhere else that I know of to be met with.
In idle hours, we sometimes project founding a sort of Colony here, to be called the ‘Misanthropic Society’; the settlers all to be men of a certain philosophic depth, and intensely sensible of the present state of Literature; each to have his own cottage, encircled with roses or thistles as he might prefer; a Library and pantry within, and huge stack of turf-fuel without; fenced off from his neighbours by fir woods, and when he pleased, by cast-metal railing; so that each might feel himself strictly an individual, and free as a son of the Wilderness: but the whole Settlement to meet weekly over coffee; and there unite in their Miserere; or what were better, hurl forth their defiance, pity, expostulation, over the whole universe civil, literary and religious. I reckon this place a much fitter site for such an Establishment than your Lake Country; a region abounding in natural beauty, but blown on by coach horns, betrodden by picturesque Tourists, and otherwise exceedingly desecrated by too frequent resort; whereas here, tho' still in communication with the manufacturing world, we have a solitude altogether Druidical, grim hills tenanted chiefly by the wild grouse, tarns and brooks that have soaked and slumbered u[n]molested since the Deluge of Noah, and nothing to disturb you with speech, except Arcturus and Orion, and the Spirit of Nature, in the Heaven and in the Earth, as it manifests itself in anger or love, and utters its inexplicable tidings, unheard by the mortal ear. But the misery is: the almost total want of Colonists! Would you come hither, and be king over us; then indeed we had made a fair beginning, and the ‘Bog School’ might snap its fingers at the ‘Lake School’ itself, and hope to be one day recognised of all men.
But enough of this fooling! Better were it to tell you in plain prose what little can be said of my own welfare; and inquire in the same dialect after yours. It will gratify you to learn that, here in the desart, as in the crowded city, I am moderately active and well; better in health, not worse, and tho' active only on the small scale, yet in my own opinion honestly, and to as much result as has been usual with me at any time. We have horses to ride on, gardens to cultivate, tight walls and strong fires to defend us against Winter; books to read, paper to scribble on; and no man or thing, at least in this visible Earth, to make us afraid; for I reckon that so securely sequestered are we, not only would no Catholic rebellion, but even no new Hengist-and-Horsa Invasion, in any wise disturb our tranquillity. True, we have no society; but who has, in the strict sense of that word? I have never had any, worth speaking much about, since I came into this world: in the next, it may be, they will order matters better. Meanwhile, if we have not the wheat, in great quantity, we are nearly altogether free from the chaff, which often in this matter is highly annoying to weak nerves. My Wife and I are busy learning Spanish; far advanced in Don Quixote already: I purpose writing mystical Reviews for somewhat more than a Twelvemonth to come; have Greek to read, and the whole Universe to study (for I understand less and less of it); so that here as well as elsewhere I find that a man may ‘dree his wierd’ [endure his destiny] (serve out his earthly Apprenticeship) with reasonable composure; and wait what the flight of years may bring him, little disappointed (unless he is a fool) if it bring him mere nothing—save what he has already, a Body and a Soul, more cunning and costly treasures than all Golconda and Potosi could purchase for him. What would the vain worm, Man, be at? Has he not a Head, to speak of nothing else, a Head (be it with a Hat or without one) full of far richer things than Windsor Palace, or the Brighton Teapot1 added to it? What are all Dresden Picture-galleries, and Magazines des Arts et des Mètiers [of the Arts and Handicrafts] to the strange painting, and thrice wonderful and thrice precious workmanship that goes on under the cranium of a Beggar? What can be added to him, or taken from him, by the hatred or love of all men? The gray-paper, or the white silk-paper, in which the gold-ingot is wrapped: the gold is inalienable; he is the gold.— But truce also to this moralizing! I had a thousand things to ask, concerning you; your employments, purposes, sufferings and pleasures. Will you not write to me, will you not come to me and tell? Believe it, you are well loved here; and none feels better than I what a spirit is for the present eclipsed in clouds. For the present it can only be: time and chance are for all men; that troublous season will end; and one day with more joyful, not deeper or truer regard, I shall see you ‘yourself again.’2 Meanwhile, pardon me this intrusion; and write, if you have a vacant hour which you would fill with a good action— Mr Jeffrey is still anxious to know you: has he ever succeeded? We are not to be in Edinburgh I believe till spring; but I will send him a Letter to you (with your permission) by the first conveyance.— Remember me with best regards to Professor Wilson and Sir W. Hamilton, neither of whom must forget me; not omitting the honest Gordon who, I know will not.
The bearer of this Letter is Henry Inglis, a young gentleman of no ordinary talent and worth; in whom, as I believe, es steckt gar viel [there is quite a bit]. Should he call, himself, pray let this be an introduction, for he reverences all spiritual worth, and you also will learn to love him.— With all friendly sentiments, I am ever, My Dear Sir,
Most faithfully Your's, /
The address is: Craigenputtoch, Dumfries, And for speed our surest day is Wednesday, the Market of that Burgh.