Desipere in Loco

“Unaccustomed, of late years at least, to deal with tales of twice-told travel, I can not but feel, especially when, as in the present case, so much detail has been expended upon the trivialities of a Diary, the want of that freshness and originality which would have helped the reader over a little lengthiness. My best excuse is the following extract from the lexicographer’s “Journey to the Western Islands,” made in company with Mr. Boswell during the year of grace 1773, and upheld even at that late hour as somewhat a feat in the locomotive line.

These diminutive observations seem to take away something from the dignity of writing, and therefore are never communicated but with hesitation, and a little fear of abasement and contempt. But it must be remembered that life consists not of a series of illustrious actions or elegant enjoyments; the greater part of our time passes in compliance with necessities, in the performance of daily duties, in the removal of small inconveniences, in the procurement of petty pleasures, and we are well or ill at ease as the main stream of life glides on smoothly, or is ruffled by small obstacles and frequent interruptions.

“True! and as the novelist claims his right to elaborate, in the ‘domestic epic,’ the most trivial scenes of household routine, so the traveler may be allowed to enlarge, when copying nature in his humbler way, upon the subject of his little drama, and, not confining himself to the great, the good, and the beautiful, nor suffering himself to be wholly engrossed by the claims of cotton, civilization, and Christianity, useful knowledge and missionary enterprise, to desipere in loco by expatiating upon his bed, his meat, and his drink.”

[Note: “dulce est desipere in loco” = Latin phrase: it is pleasant to be frivolous at the appropriate time.]