Edinburgh, 24th May 1802
My dear Bob — Worse and worse you see, in the way of regularity. This marriage, you think, will interfere with our correspondence; but I cannot think that yet, and would rather have you lay the blame upon circuits and sessions, and, above all, upon new houses and furniture for rooms. We came here, to Queen Street I mean, about ten days ago, and have ever since been in such an uproar with painters, and chimney-sweeps, and packages of old books, and broken china, that I have scarcely had time to eat my dinner, or to find out where my pens and paper were laid till yesterday. Then, you know, this is the beginning of our session; and, moreover, it is the time of the General Assembly of the Scotch National Church; (you apostate dog! where will you find anything so high sounding as that in your new religion?) And we have parsons and elders by the dozen, with their families, from St. Andrews, to entertain; and I have a cause to plead in the said venerable Assembly, and am to declaim, in the name of a Presbytery, against a poor sinner whom they have accused of profane swearing, and a habit of scoffing at religion, and great levity of behaviour; but I declare to you that I will plead it fairly.
But you are as great a delinquent as I am nearly, — not only to me (for I deserve nothing), but to all your other friends, as I understand, and you cannot have half my apologies. I hope you are quite well, however, and can only suppose that you are busy making your entré into the Church. Are you reverend yet, or not? or is there any chance of your being rejected, or of your changing your mind and drawing back? I do not much like the threat in your last, about not coming to Scotland for this summer, and hope the election will force you for a while among us whether you will or not. If you do not get a curacy immediately, I do not see what you can debate; for I am afraid, after you are once beneficed, you will practise the virtue of residence in a very exemplary manner; and that we shall see each other no oftener than you visit your metropolitan. There is something dolorous in the breaking up of long intimacies, and the permanent separation of those who have spent so much of their life together. We have spent too much of it together though, I am persuaded, ever to fall off from an intimacy, and shall speak to each other with familiarity, although we should not meet for twenty years to come. I can answer for myself at least, in spite of all the change that marriage is to make upon me. What the Church may work on you, I cannot so positively determine. I met with an old sonnet of yours this morning, on the first fall of snow in December 1794, which brought back to my mind many very pleasing recollections. Indeed, there is no part of my life that I look back upon with so much delight as the summer days we loitered at Herbertshire, in the first year of our acquaintance. I date the beginning of it from the time of your father’s death, and often call to mind the serene and innocent seclusion in which we then lived from the world. I should be sorry if I could not live so again, and am sure that I could be as pure, and as careless, and as romantic, if I had only as much leisure, and as pliant a companion.
I have nothing new to tell you of. Our Review has been postponed till September, and I am afraid will not go on with much spirit even then. Perhaps we have omitted the tide that was in our favour. We are bound for a year to the booksellers, and shall drag through that, I suppose, for our own indemnification; but I foresee the likelihood of our being all scattered before another year shall be over, and, of course, the impossibility of going on on the footing upon which we have begun. Indeed, few things have given me more vexation of late than the prospect of the dissolution of that very pleasant and animated society in which I have spent so much of my time for these last four years, and I am really inclined to be very sad when I look forward to the time when I shall be deserted by all the friends and companions who possessed much of my confidence and esteem. You are translated into England already. Horner goes to the English bar in a year. S. Smith leaves this country for ever about the same time. Hamilton spends his life abroad as soon as his father’s death sets him at liberty. Brougham will most probably push into public life, even before a similar event gives him a favourable opportunity. Reddie is lost, and absolutely swallowed up in law. Lord Webb leaves us before winter. Jo. Allen goes abroad with Lord Holland immediately. Adam is gone already, and, except Brown and Jo. Murray, I do not think that one of the associates with whom I have speculated and amused myself, will be left with me in the course of eighteen months. It is not easy to form new intimacies, and I know enough of the people among whom I must look for them, to be positive that they will never be worthy of their predecessors. Comfort me, then, my dear Bobby, in this real affliction, and prove to me, by your example, that separation is not always followed by forgetfulness, and that we may still improve and gladden each other at a distance. My Kitty is quite well, and very rational and amiable. If it were not for her I should run after my friends, and indulge my inherent spirit of adventure by a new course of exertion. But she is my brother and sister, my father and mother, my Sanscrit, my Sydney, and my right venerable cousin, as old Homer says in Andromache.
I dined at Murrayfield the other day. Write me very soon and tell me what you are doing and meditating, and especially when I am to see you again, and how. It is the sweetest weather in the world, and all are in ecstacy with our prospect, and our evening walks. Remember our number is 62. I see no new books of any consequence, and am sadly behind with my task for the Review. I have been more impeded by the law than I had reckoned upon. Cath. sends her love to you, and hopes you will bring her a pair of gloves when you come down. She is going to Herbertshire, she says, some time this autumn. — Believe me always, my dear Bob, yours most affectionately.