Mauchline, 18th July 1788
You injured me, my dear Sir, in your construction of the cause of my Silence. From Ellisland in Nithsdale to Mauchline in Kyle, is forty & five miles ; there, a house a building, & farm inclosures & improvements to tend ; here, A new---not so much indeed a new as a young wife Good God, Sir, could a my dearest BROTHER expect a regular correspondence from me! I who am busied with the sacred Pen of Nature, in the mystic Volume of Creation, can I dishonour my hand with a dirty goose feather, on a parcel of mash’d old rags? I who am “Called as was Aaron” to offer in the Sanctum Sanctorum, not indeed the mysterious bloody types of future MURDER, but the thrice hallowed quintessences of future EXISTENCE ; can I but I have apologised enough: I am certain that You, my liberal minded & much-respected Friend, would have acquitted me, tho’ I had obeyed to the very letter that famous Statute among the irrevocable Decrees of the Medes and Persians ; “Not to ask Petition, for forty days, of either god or man, save THEE. O Queen, only (1)
I am highly obliged to you, my dearest Sir, for your kind, your elegant compliments, on my becoming one of that most respectable, that truly venerable Corps ; they who are, without a metaphor, the Fathers of Posterity, the Benefactors of all coming Generations ; the Editors of Spiritual Nature, & the Authors of Immortal Being. Now that I am “one of you,” I shall humbly but fervently endeavour to be a conspicuous Member. Now it is “called Today,” with my powers & me; but the time fast approacheth, when, beholding the debilitated victim of all-subduing Time, they shall exclaim, “How are the Mighty fallen, & the weapons of war perished!!” (2)
Your book came safe, and I am going to trouble you with farther Commissions. I call it troubling you, because I want only, Books; the cheapest way, the beat ; so you may have to hunt for them in the evening Auctions. I want Smollet’s works, for the sake of his incomparable humour. I have already Roderick Random & Humphrey Clinker. Peregrine Pickle, Lancelot Greaves & Ferdinand Count Fathom, I still want; but as I said, the veriest ordinary Copies will serve me. I am nice only in the appearance of my Poets. I forget the price of Cowper’s Poems, but I believe I mist have them. I saw the other day, proposals for a Publication entitled, “Bankes’s new & complete Christian’s family bible ;” Printed for C. Cooke, Paternoster row, London. He promises at least to give in the Work, I think it is, three hundred & odd Engravings, to which he has put the Names of the first Artists in London. You will know the character of the Performance, as some Numbers of it are published ; and if it is really what it pretends to be, set me down as a Subscriber, & send me the Published Numbers.
Let me hear from you, your first leisure minute, & trust me, you shall, in future, have no reason to complain of my Silence. The dazzling perplexity of Novelty will dissipate, & leave me to pursue my course in the quiet Path of methodical Routine.
I might go on to fill up the Page, but I dare say you are already sufficiently tired of,
My dear Sir, yours sincerely,