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[274]

To Mr. Elisha Ticknor.

Edinburgh, February 15, 1819.
It is only five days since I wrote you, my very dear father, but it seems a much longer time. Such sad hours, occupied only with cruel regrets, move but slowly. . . . . I had been in Edinburgh but one day when your letter arrived. Of course I had seen nobody, and had done nothing, and in the five days that have passed since, I have not had the spirit to go out of the house. I remembered, however, all your injunctions to go on, and accomplish the purposes for which I came to Europe, and as there remains really very little to do, I do not think but I shall accomplish it. It consists chiefly in seeing many different persons, learning their opinions, modifying my own, and, in general, collecting that sort of undefined and indefinite feeling, respecting books and authors, which exists in Europe as a kind of unwritten tradition, and never cones to us, because nobody ever takes the pains to collect it systematically, though it is often the electric principle that gives life to the dead mass of inefficient knowledge, and vigor and spirit to inquiry. Besides this, I desire to learn something of Scottish literature and literary history, and pick up my library in this department and in English. It is not a great deal; if it were, I might shrink from it.

I began this morning, recollecting that the longer I suffer myself to defer it, the longer I must be kept from you. The first person I went to see was Mrs. Grant. . . . . I had not yet seen her, but when she knew why I did not call, she sent me a note which touched me very deeply . . . The hour I passed with her was very pleasant to me.

Afterwards I called on Dr. Anderson, β€˜the good old Doctor Anderson,’ as the β€˜Quarterly Review’ calls him, and as everybody must think him to be who has seen him even once. He is the person, perhaps, of all now alive, who best knows English literary history, to say nothing of Scotch, which was, as it were, born with him. He received me with all the kindness I had been taught to expect from him, and to-morrow morning I am to breakfast with him and explain to him all I want to do and learn here, and get what information he can give me. He is a kind of literary patriarch, almost seventy years old, and I certainly could not have put myself into better hands. You see, my dear father, that I have already begun to do what you desired, and I shall go on until it is finished. In five weeks, I think nothing will remain to be done in Edinburgh, and then I shall go, by the way


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