To Thomas B. Wait

    Newburyport, Massachusetts        29 April 1821

    My dear friend—

    Did I tell you that when I went to Boston I made a sort of covenant with my book-cupidity that I would not indulge it to a greater amount than two or three dollars at most; and the first time I entered Wells store,1 I threw my eyes on the Walpoleonia, & saw it contained some letters relative to the quarrel between my dear friends Hume the Atheist, & Reaussau the half orthodox christian;2 and as quick as lightning I paid one, twenty five for it—but had no sooner opened it & saw the devision of its contents than I was fearfull I had made a bad bargain; as the letters were not more than about ten per cent on the contents, all the rest was made up of annecdotes about Kings, & Queens, their mistresses & Gallants, of which I then did not care, as farmers say, a straw whether I knew them or not, but as I had got the book I thot it prudent to make the best of it, & say no more about it—I then renewed my covenant & swore I would be cautious how I drew again on my prescribed fund—But I had no sooner sealed & delivered this new engagement with Book cupidity, than in poped Mr. Wells & as tho he thought he had a good opportunity to put off a book sent to him, without being sent for, & of which, I discovered knew nothing of its contents, merits, or reputation among the devourers of rare books, handed it to me, & looking at the title, & reading The Apocraphal New-Testament,3 & giving it a thumbing over the leaves, just to see the heads, I found it was just the book I had wondered for many years why it was not published in a volume by itself, so I demanded the price, & gave it him & took the book well satisfied, tho the two dollars fifty cents with what I had the moment before paid for Walpoleonia, considerably exceeded my devoted fund; and I could only pacify my conscience by persuading myself that I had got a rare & valuable book, which I might not, for a great length of time, have an opportunity again to purchase—So I felt satisfied, not then expecting to see or hear of another book I might think I wanted while in Town—But as my unluc[k]ey stars would have it, I run my eyes over the lettering on the back of a row of books then lying before me on the Counter, & what should I see but Dr. Sykes’ dissertation on the origin & designe of Sacrifices,4 a book I have long saught after, but not able to procure it, or hear of any body who had read, or knew any thing about it—What could I do? my fund was more than exhausted—one broken covenant to pay for; & a new one just entered into, which I could not in conscience dispense with—Book-cupidity, like the Christians Devil, & Pagans furies balling in my ears, buy it, buy it, you will never have another opportunity! However I run it over, & laid it down, & went out of the store as stoute as Peter when he drew his sword,5 & was ready to fight the world; And in less than an hour, like him, tho I did not curse & sweare like him I returned to the store to buy the book, but after runing it over & seeing its contents I made an effort & broke out of the store, leaving the book, the Devil & the furies all in a rage at my cruel[t]y towards poor Cupidity—I now found I had made a conquest, & began to glory in my self sufficiency!! But every time I entered the store I was litterally haunted to buy the book; yet by looking into it & reading a passage here & there, tho instructive on a subject I have wanted to see examined by some philosophical divine, as I take Dr. Sykes to have been, if I can trust to some character I have read, I always found my grace of resistance to surmount the temptation, & so I left town with my integrity safe. But I am haunted night & day & fear, I shall buy the plaugy thing the first moment I enter Boston, this week, or next, on my way to Plymouth Court—Now what shall I do? One of two things I must do or I shall give my money & take the book—I must pass on to Plymouth through Cambridge & Roxbury, taking Brighton in the way, & so leave Boston for on the larbord hand—or I must generate a passion for some other book, I have not read, but want much to read, & one I may get the loan of without paying a price of the book—Now according to the true theory of the passions I count this practicable; whether it has ever been put in practice or not I dont care; it is enough for me to know the theory is good—I will then answer for the practice—And a case now occurs directly in point to make experiment—

    For some time I have wanted to read Raymond on political economy6—& you have the book, & will lend it to me to read while on my journey, & at Boston—Now I have nothing to do, but to contemplate the pleasure and Knowledge I shall gain by reading Raymond, till it becomes a passion sufficient to banish my desire for Sykes—This is seting the devil at war with himself, & making him pull down his own house7—Tis opposing a passion, under the direction of reason, to another passion against reason. Indeed it is the principle in human nature by which every man beleiving the religion of Jesus may regenerate himself—that is put off the old man and put on the new man—Help Good Lad & friends—


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    ALS, TFP. Addressed to Boston.