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[276] which can never be learnt but on the spot, because they are never preserved but as a kind of tradition, especially in cases like this, where the literature has not yet been fully elaborated and criticised. This, indeed, is the great advantage of the society of men of letters in Europe: it saves an immense amount of time; for a question, addressed to one who has thoroughly studied a subject you are just beginning to investigate, often produces an answer that is better than a volume, and perhaps serves as a successful explanation to half a dozen. There is a good deal of this society in Edinburgh, certainly, but not so much as I expected to find, or else I am not in a situation to understand or enjoy it. I know, however, all the principal persons who compose it, and meet them frequently, but there seems to be a great difficulty about it, or rather a great defect in it. When a number of persons are met together, as at a dinner, the conversation is rarely general; one person makes a speech, and then another, and finally it stops, nobody knows why, but certainly there is a kind of vis inertioe in it, which makes its tendency rather to stop than to go on. It is necessary, therefore, to take each person singly, and then, if you insist upon talking with him, it is most probable he will talk very well. I know of but two exceptions to this remark, and they are Prof. Playfair and Walter Scott, who under all circumstances must be delightful men.

To his sister

. . . . I build a great many castles in my head, and have many a waking and sleeping vision about a home, but all must remain uncertain and unsettled till we meet. For myself, the desire that prevails over all others is, that of returning the little I can, of the great debt my infancy and childhood, and indeed my whole life, has incurred to you and to our dear father. How this may best be done must be determined by yourselves, and my life will easily accommodate itself to it, as you are now its chief objects and highest duties.


March, 1819.—Edinburgh is certainly one of the beautiful cities of Europe. It is situated on the declivity of a hill ending with the bold rock on which the Castle stands, or, rather, is there broken by a bold ravine which divides the old town from the new. . . . . It is hardly necessary to be nice in the selection of particular points about Edinburgh. It is all beautiful, and it is enough to get upon a height

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