Mrs. Wordsworth’s sister.
December 25, 1815.
Dear Old Friend and Absentee,—This is Christmas Day, 1815, with us; what it may be with you I don’t know,—the 12th of June next year, perhaps; and if it should be the consecrated season with you, I don’t see how you can keep it. You have no turkeys; you would not desecrate the festival by offering up a withered Chinese bantam, instead of the savoury grand Norfolcian holocaust, that smokes all around my nostrils at this moment from a thousand firesides. Then what puddings have you? Where will you get holly to stick in your churches, or churches to stick your dried tea-leaves (that must be the substitute) in? What memorials you can have of the holy time, I see not. A chopped missionary or two may keep up the thin idea of Lent and the wilderness; but what standing evidence have you of the Nativity? ’Tis our rosy-cheeked, homestalled divines, whose faces shine to the tune of unto us a child was born,—faces fragrant with the mince-pies of half a century, that alone can authenticate the cheerful mystery. I feel, I feel my bowels refreshed with the holy tide; my zeal is great against the unedified heathen. Down with the Pagodas; down with the idols,—Ching-chong-fo and his foolish priesthood! Come out of Babylon, oh my friend, for her time is come, and the child that is native, and the Proselyte of her gates, shall kindle and smoke together! And in sober sense what makes you so long from among us, Manning? You must not expect to see the same England again which you left.
Empires have been overturned, crowns trodden into dust, the face of the Western world quite changed; your friends have all got old, those you left blooming, myself (who am one of the few that remember you)—those golden hairs which you recollect my taking a pride in, turned to silvery and gray. Mary has been dead and buried many years; she desired to be buried in the silk gown you sent her. Rickman, that you remember active and strong, now walks out supported by a servant-maid and a stick. Martin Burney is a very old man. The other day an aged woman knocked at my door and pretended to my acquaintance. It was long before I had the most distant cognition