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To Mariane and Jane Reynolds (Oxford, September 5th, 1817)
Oxford, September 5, 1817
My dear Friends
You are I am glad to hear comfortable at Hampton, where I hope you will receive the Biscuits we ate the other night at Little Britain. I hope you found them good. There you are among sands, stones, Pebbles, Beeches, Cliffs, Rocks, Deeps, Shallows, weeds, ships, Boats (at a distance), Carrots, Turnips, sun, moon, and stars and all those sort of things—here am I among Colleges, halls, Stalls, Plenty of Trees, thank God—Plenty of water, thank heaven—Plenty of Books, thank the Muses—Plenty of Snuff, thank Sir Walter Raleigh—Plenty of segars,—Ditto—Plenty of flat country, thank Tellus’s rolling-pin. I’m on the sofa—Buonaparte is on the snuff-box—But you are by the seaside—argal, you bathe—you walk—you say “how beautiful”—find out resemblances between waves and camels—rocks and dancing-masters—fireshovels and telescopes—Dolphins and Madonas—which word, by the way, I must acquaint you was derived from the Syriac, and came down in a way which neither of you I am sorry to say are at all capable of comprehending. But as a time may come when by your occasional converse with me you may arrive at “something like prophetic strain,” I will unbar the gates of my pride and let my condescension stalk forth like a ghost at the Circus. The word Ma-don-a, my dear Ladies—or—the word Mad—Ona—so I say! I am not mad—Howsumever when that aged Tamer Kewthon sold a certain camel called Peter to the overseer of the Babel Sky-works, he thus spake, adjusting his cravat round the tip of his chin—“My dear Ten-story-up-in-air! this here Beast, though I say it as shouldn’t say’t, not only has the power of subsisting 40 days and 40 nights without fire and candle but he can sing.—Here I have in my Pocket a Certificate from Signor Nicolini of the King’s Theatre; a Certificate to this effect——” I have had dinner since I left that effect upon you, and feel too heavy in mentibus to display all the Profundity of the Polygon—so you had better each of you take a glass of cherry Brandy and drink to the health of Archimedes, who was of so benign a disposition that he never would leave Syracuse in his life—So kept himself out of all Knight-Errantry. This I know to be a fact; for it is written in the 45th book of Winkine’s treatise on garden-rollers, that he trod on a fishwoman’s toe in Liverpool, and never begged her pardon. Now the long and short is this—that is by comparison—for a long day may be a short year—A long Pole may be a very stupid fellow as a man. But let us refresh ourself from this depth of thinking, and turn to some innocent jocularity—the Bow cannot always be bent—nor the gun always loaded, if you ever let it off—and the life of man is like a great Mountain—his breath is like a Shrewsbury cake—he comes into the world like a shoeblack, and goes out of it like a cobbler—he eats like a chimney-sweeper, drinks like a gingerbread baker—and breathes like Achilles—so it being that we are such sublunary creatures, let us endeavour to correct all our bad spelling—all our most delightful abominations, and let us wish health to Marian and Jane, whoever they be and wherever.