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[368]

To his sister Mary.

Dublin,1 Oct. 14, 1838.
my dear Mary,—--I write now in the coffee-room of a hotel in the capital of Ireland. . . . Learn to understand your own language, my dear sister; make it a study, and fix upon it your serious thought. Most of the world speak their mother tongue unconsciously; and, like Monsieur Jourdain in Moliere's delicious comedy, would be astonished if they should be told that during all their lives they had been talking prose! Read the Bourgeois Gentilhomme, if you have not read it before now; it is easy French, and is full of pleasant turns.

This sheet is enriched by a picture of Abbotsford and of Melrose Abbey. I hope that you know all about these already. The life of Scott must have made you acquainted with Abbotsford; and Melrose Abbey is the scene of his earliest—I am inclined to think his best—poem.

When you have a moment's leisure, catch up the ‘Lay of the Last Minstrel;’ read its sounding lines, which enter the ear like the reverberating hoofs of the fast-going horse. There is much that is stirring in Scott. His poetry is martial music: and I always feel when reading it (though for the thousandth time) as if stirred by a trumpet.

I have visited Abbotsford, and seen those towers which you may see in the picture. It was with deep melancholy that I contemplated this structure, to rear which the distinguished author had enslaved his mind and life. Every stone, and all those towers and fantastic monuments, proclaimed his vanity. Foolish man! why could he not have lived in contentment in an ordinary house, built after common designs, without aping those great baronial models, to equal which all his fortune was of course incompetent? Abbotsford looks well enough in a picture; perhaps it would seem imposing to one who had not seen the larger castles of England. I approached it, after having visited Lambton Castle, Auckland Castle (or palace), Raby Castle, Brancepeth Castle, Wytton Castle, Ravensworth, &c., in the North of England, in four of which I have been as a guest. And, after these proud piles, I cannot express to you the littleness of every thing about Abbotsford. Melrose is a beautiful ruin. I passed two days with Sir David Brewster at his seat, directly opposite the Abbey, with the silver Tweed—— that river so illustrious in Scottish history—flowing between; and from my chamber window, while the moon was riding aloft, I looked out upon this venerable ruin, illustrated by poetry and association, and upon the towering Eildon Hills, which, with their majestic bodies, stood like two grand sentinels over the scene.

God grant that you and all the family may be well, with happiness as a sunbeam in your paths! Study, my dear girl; employ your time; catch the priceless moments, and believe that they are better than gold and silver.

As ever, affectionately yours,


1 Sumner visited Glasgow, and probably took a steamer from Liverpool for Dublin; but no letter covering this week of his tour, Oct. 7-14, has been preserved.

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