To Frances Horner

date 1 April 1803

from Edinburgh

To Frances Horner (1 April 1803)

My dear Horner — I daresay the sight of my handwriting is as terrible to you as that on the wall was to Belshazzar; and it is just as well to tell you in the beginning that I do write principally for the purpose of dunning you. I have some right to dun too; not merely because I am the master, to whom your service is due, but because I have myself sent fifty pages to the press before I ask you for one. Hear now our state, and consider: — Brown has been dying with influenza, and is forbidden to write for his chest’s sake. De Puis[1] is dying with asthma, and is forbidden to write for his life’s sake. Brougham is roaming the streets with the sons of Belial, or correcting his colonial proofs, and trusting everything to the exertions of the last week, and the contributions of the unfledged goslings who gabble under his wings. Elmsley — even the sage and staid Elmsley — has solicited to be set free from his engagements. And Timothy[2] refuses to come under any engagements with the greatest candour and good nature in the world. Now, if you two fail utterly, I shall be tempted to despair of the republic. I would not have you comfort your indolence, however, with this despair. If you will send us thirty pages between you, I shall undertake for its salvation, at least for this campaign. And even if you do not, I am afraid we shall not die nobly, but live pitifully, which will be much worse. Trash will be collected, and I shall have the pleasure of marching in the van of Mr.—, and Mr.—, and Dr.—, and Mr.—, and I do not know who, that are ready to take your places beside me. Now, my good Horner, let me conjure you “by the consonancy of our studies,” and all other serious considerations, to deliver me from this evil; and refuse one dinner, or shorten two nights’ sleep, or encounter some other petty evil, to save us from this perplexity. You have many fair days before you to shine and sport in, and may be glad sometime to remember the exertions I ask of you, &c.

I hear of your talking about dung,[3] and of your making a great deal of money. Good. I wish you would let me into the secret. Remember me to Murray, whom I miss very much, and to Brougham. This place is in a state of terrible depopulation, quoad me at least. Do you hear anything of Hamilton? I daresay these alarms will send him home, or at least the Sanscrit books, which are still more precious to him than his own person.

God bless you Horner. When I am out of humour with my own lot, I generally wish to be you. Do not forget me, however; and we shall continue very good friends and rivals no doubt, though you have the vantage ground. — I am, always very faithfully yours.

P.S. — The wig arrived in great order, and I am resolved to mount it boldly next session.


[1] De Puis “A nickname for Dr. John Thomson” (HC).

[2] Timothy “Mr. Thomas Thomson” (HC).

[3] I hear of your talking about dung “In an appeal in the House of Lords” (HC).

as quoted in Lord (Henry) Cockburn, Life of Lord Jeffrey with a Selection from His Correspondence, in 2 vols (Edinburgh: Adam and Charles Black, 1852), II, 67-9.
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