Thomson and Johnson were joke characters created by RLS and Baxter when they they were students at the university of Edinburgh.
[As usual, dots between square brackets indicate cuts made by Sidney Colvin. For full, correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 5, 1329.]
To Charles Baxter [Colvin 1911, 2, pp. 248-249]
[Bournemouth, November 13, 1884]
My dear Thomson,
It’s a maist remarkable fac’, but nae shüner had I written yon braggin’, blawin’ letter aboot ma business habits, when bang! that very day, my hoast begude [= cough began] in the aifternune. It is really remaurkable; it’s providenshle, I believe. The ink wasnae fair dry, the words werenae weel ooten ma mouth, when bang, I got the lee. The mair ye think o’t, Thomson, the less ye’ll like the looks o’t. Proavidence (I’m no’ sayin’) is all verra weel in its place; but if Proavidence has nae mainners, wha’s to learn’t? Proavidence is a fine thing, but hoo would you like Proavidence to keep your till for ye? The richt place for Proavidence is in the kirk; it has naething to do wi’ private correspondence between twa gentlemen, nor freendly cracks, nor a wee bit word of sculduddery [= loose talk] ahint the door, nor, in shoart, wi’ ony hole-and-corner wark, what I would call.
I’m pairfec’ly willin’ to meet in wi’ Proavidence, I’ll be proud to meet in wi’ him, when my time’s come and I cannae dae nae better; but if he’s to come skinking aboot my stair-fit, damned, I micht as weel be deid for a’ the comfort I’ll can get in life.
Cannae he no be made to understand that it’s beneath him? Gosh, if I was in his business, I wouldnae steir my held for a plain, auld ex-elder that, tak him the way he taks himsel’, ‘s just aboot as honest as he can weel afford, an’ but for a wheen auld scandals, near forgotten noo, is a pairfec’ly respectable and thoroughly decent man. Or if I fashed wi’ him ava’, it wad be kind o’ handsome like; a pun’-note under his stair door, or a bottle o’ auld, blended malt to his bit marnin’, as a teshtymonial like yon ye ken sae weel aboot, but mair successfu’.
Dear Thomson, have I ony money? If I have, send it, for the loard’s sake.