July 8, 1854.
The gentleman, who has waited so long for an Autograph, expresses by his patience a compliment to myself far greater than any which I can flatter myself with deserving. For this I thank him sincerely. At the same time I am painfully sensible how little I can seem to have met this courtesy on his part by any corresponding expressions of courtesy on my own. My delays must have appeared unaccountable. Yet they are not so, but have real grounds of palliation in facts notorious to my friends. The first is this that through some accidental oversight in the boyish stage of my education I was never taught to make (or consequently to mend) a pen.
The second is this: I suffer now, and have long suffered, from such a shattering of the nervous system as causes a sense of distraction, and even of horror, to connect itself with the manual act of writing or indeed with any act requiring a close effort of attention. Hence it has arisen that, for some years, I have transferred in all cases where the circumstances allowed it all my duties of letter-writing to one of my daughters; that it is mainly accounts for the delay and appearance of discourtesy, but with this I trust any impression of wilful discourtesy will be removed.
Thomas De Quincey
-from The de Quincey Memorials: Being Letters and other Records, here first Published from Communications from Coleridge, the Wordsworths, Hannah More, Professor Wilson, and Others. Edited, with Introduction, Notes, and Narrative by Alexander H. Japp in Two Volumes (London: William Heinemann, 1891) vol. ii