To Mrs. Wylie (Inverness, August 6, 1818)
Inverness, August 6, 1818
My dear Madam
It was a great regret to me that I should leave all my friends, just at the moment when I might have helped to soften away the time for them. I wanted not to leave my brother Tom, but more especially, believe me, I should like to have remained near you, were it but for an atom of consolation after parting with so dear a daughter. My brother George has ever been more than a brother to me; he has been my greatest friend, and I can never forget the sacrifice you have made for his happiness. As I walk along the Mountains here I am full of these things, and lay in wait, as it were, for the pleasure of seeing you immediately on my return to town. I wish, above all things, to say a word of Comfort to you, but I know not how. It is impossible to prove that black is white; it is impossible to make out that sorrow is joy, or joy is sorrow.
Tom tells me that you called on Mr. Haslam, with a newspaper giving an account of a gentleman in a Fur cap falling over a precipice in Kirkcudbrightshire. If it was me, I did it in a dream, or in some magic interval between the first and second cup of tea; which is nothing extraordinary when we hear that Mahomet, in getting out of Bed, upset a jug of water, and, whilst it was falling, took a fortnight’s trip, as it seemed, to Heaven; yet was back in time to save one drop of water being spilt. As for Fur caps, I do not remember one beside my own, except at Carlisle: this was a very good Fur cap I met in High Street, and I daresay was the unfortunate one. I daresay that the fates, seeing but two Fur caps in the north, thought it too extraordinary, and so threw the dies which of them should be drowned. The lot fell upon Jones: I daresay his name was Jones. All I hope is that the gaunt Ladies said not a word about hanging; if they did I shall repent that I was not half-drowned in Kirkcudbright. Stop! let me see!—being half-drowned by falling from a precipice, is a very romantic affair: why should I not take it to myself? How glorious to be introduced in a drawing-room to a Lady who reads Novels, with “Mr. So-and-so—Miss So-and-so; Miss So-and-so, this is Mr. So-and-so, who fell off a precipice and was half-drowned.” Now I refer to you, whether I should lose so fine an opportunity of making my fortune. No romance lady could resist me—none. Being run under a Waggon—side-lamed in a playhouse, Apoplectic through Brandy—and a thousand other tolerably decent things for badness, would be nothing, but being tumbled over a precipice into the sea—oh! it would make my fortune—especially if you could contrive to hint, from this bulletin’s authority, that I was not upset on my own account, but that I dashed into the waves after Jessy of Dumblane, and pulled her out by the hair. But that, alas! she was dead, or she would have made me happy with her hand—however in this you may use your own discretion. But I must leave joking, and seriously aver, that I have been very romantic indeed among these Mountains and Lakes. I have got wet through, day after day—eaten oat-cake, and drank Whisky—walked up to my knees in Bog—got a sore throat—gone to see Icolmkill and Staffa; met with wholesome food just here and there as it happened—went up Ben Nevis, and—N.B., came down again. Sometimes when I am rather tired I lean rather languishingly on a rock, and long for some famous Beauty to get down from her Palfrey in passing, approach me, with—her saddle-bags, and give me—a dozen or two capital roastbeef Sandwiches.
When I come into a large town, you know there is no putting one’s Knapsack into one’s fob, so the people stare. We have been taken for Spectacle-vendors, Razor-sellers, Jewellers, travelling linendrapers, Spies, Excisemen, and many things I have no idea of. When I asked for letters at Port Patrick, the man asked what regiment? I have had a peep also at little Ireland. Tell Henry I have not camped quite on the bare Earth yet, but nearly as bad, in walking through Mull, for the Shepherds’ huts you can scarcely breathe in, for the Smoke which they seem to endeavour to preserve for smoking on a large scale. Besides riding about 400, we have walked above 600 Miles, and may therefore reckon ourselves as set out.
I assure you, my dear Madam, that one of the greatest pleasures I shall have on my return, will be seeing you, and that I shall ever be
Yours, with the greatest respect and sincerity,