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).

To Francis Horner (9 April 1802)

Dear Horner,

I have been cutting at my quill for these five minutes, pondering with the most intense stupidity what apology I should make for not having written to you before. The truth is, though it is anything but an apology, that I have written none of my reviews yet, and that I was afraid to tell you so. I began to Mounier, however this morning; and feel the intrepidity of conscious virtue so strong in me already, that I can sit down and confess all my enormities to you. I must first tell you about the Review, though, that you may be satisfied that it holds the first place in my affection. We are in a miserable state of backwardness, you must know, and have been giving some symptoms of despondency; [end p.248] various measures have been tried, at least, against the earliness of our intended day of publication; and hints have been given of a delay, that I am quite afraid would prove fatal. Something is done, however; and a good deal, I hope, is doing. Smith has gone through more than half his task. So has Hamilton. Allen has made some progress: and Murray and myself, I believe, have studies our parts, and tuned our instruments, and are almost ready to begin. On the other hand, Thomson is sick: Brown has engaged for nothing but Miss Baillie’s plays; and Timothy has engaged for nothing, but professed it to be his opinion, the other day, that he would never put pen to paper in our cause. Brougham must have a sentence to himself; and I am afraid you will not think it a pleasant one. You remember how cheerfully he approved of our plan at first, and agreed to dive us an article or two without hesitation. Three or four days ago, I proposed two or three books that I thought would suit him: he answered with perfect good-humour that he had changed his view of our plan a little, and rather thought that he should decline to have any connection with it.

I forget to tell you that I ran away for three days to the Circuit at Glasgow, where I recruited Birkbeck, and Lockhart Muirhead, and my friend Dr. Brown for our review. They are all so lately enrolled, however, that I doubt if we can expect any active service from them for our first number. Birkbeck talks of going to France in the summer; and Brown I am afraid will have but little time to spare from his patients and his botany. We are most in want of a German reviewer at present; without that language it would be ridiculous to pretend that we are to give a passable account of Continental literature: and now I am sick of this subject, and if Murray has sent you his chapter on the Prospectus, I think you will be completely master of it.

“I am a little curious” to hear more what you have been doing, and what impressions have been made upon you by the things you have seen and heard. Upon the whole, I hope you will be wearied of London by the end of this month, and will return to us with the good resolution of remaining. I cannot find out, either, whether you are to have any thing to do in the House of Lords, and beg you would tell me as much of all these things as you think proper. For my part, I have no sort of news to repay you with. Brougham is going on diligently with his book. I have good hopes of it now, for he says it will not be ready for publication for two years at least to come.

This vernal weather is so extremely cold, that I cannot afford to sit still any longer. As soon as it grows warm, I engage to write you a more entertaining and more legible letter; on condition, however, that you take an idle morning to send me a large sheetful of London intelligence.

Believe me always, dear Horner,

Very faithfully yours,