Wilson was preparing a Life of De Foe, and had written to Lamb for guidance.
TO BERNARD BARTON.
December 23, 1822.
Dear Sir,—I have been so distracted with business and one thing or other, I have not had a quiet quarter of an hour for epistolary purposes. Christmas, too, is come, which always puts a rattle into my morning skull. It is a visiting, unquiet, unquakerish season. I get more and more in love with solitude, and proportionately hampered with company. I hope you have some holidays at this period. I have one day,—Christmas Day; alas! too few to commemorate the season. All work and no play dulls me. Company is not play, but many times bard work. To play, is for a man to do what he pleases, or to do nothing,—to go about soothing his particular fancies. I have lived to a time of life to have outlived the good hours, the nine-o’clock suppers, with a bright hour or two to clear up in afterwards. Now you cannot get tea before that hour, and then sit gaping, music bothered perhaps, till half-past twelve brings up the tray; and what you steal of convivial enjoyment after, is heavily paid for in the disquiet of to-morrow’s head.
I am pleased with your liking “John Woodvil,” and amused with your knowledge of our drama being confined to Shakspeare and Miss Baillie. What a world of fine territory between Land’s End and Johnny Groat’s have you missed traversing! I could almost envy you to have so much to read. I feel as if I had read all the books I want to read. Oh, to forget Fielding, Steele, etc., and read ’em new!
Can you tell me a likely place where I could pick up cheap Fox’s Journal? There are no Quaker circulating libraries? Elwood, too, I must have. I rather grudge that Southey has taken up the history of your people; I am afraid he will put in some levity. I am afraid I am not quite exempt from that fault in certain magazine articles, where I have introduced mention of them. Were they to do again, I would reform them. Why should not you write a poetical account of your old worthies, deducing them from Fox to Woolman? But I remember you did talk of something of that kind, as a counterpart to the “Ecclesiastical