The Collected Letters, Volume 1


TC TO THOMAS MURRAY; 1 July 1814; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18140701-TC-TM-01; CL 1:16-19.


Annan 31st June [1 July] 1814.

My Dear Murray,

I have read over your letter,1 many a time, and every time with renewed pleasure. I will not spend time in congratulating you on the ease of your expression, the neatness of your stile, or the versatility of your remark:—your letter pos[s]esses, in my eyes, a higher excellence—it is the letter of a friend [underscored twice]. Lives there on Earth, a being formed of such unkindly clay, as to wish, oyster-like, to retire within his shell, and crawl thro' this world unheeded and unheeding—without one heart to sympathize in his disappointment, or rejoice at his success? Alive to the joys of sociality, at least I am not that being;—and when I turn my thoughts on the north, the remembrance of here and there a friend with whom I have been happy—nay perhaps the sensation of some still finer and still stronger attachments!—the idea that these friends, too, sometimes think on me—altogether—sets o' vibrating the best and the noblest feelings of the heart.— I am got into heroics—but the theme inspires heroics—2

In return for your pleasing letter, I have nothing to give you but dry and musty details about myself—a subject on which it is always disgusting to expatiate;—and which, therefore, I shall dispatch as soon as possible.— In three words, then, you are to know, that, after going to Annan on Monday morning, I commenced and still continue my teaching—six hours a-day;—that (as you expected, not inclining to board in the Academy) I procured a furnished room in the house of a Merchant here—for 4/6 per week;—and that I am perfectly comfortable at present;—and you know the whole.

Annan is perhaps the finest little town in the south of Scotland. Its situation on the banks both of the Solway and Annan,—the fresh'ning breezes, with which it is visited from the British channel,—the cleanness of its streets, and the neat elegance of its buildings—all conspire to render it delightful. Here, too, is an immense shoal of gentry [gentry underscored twice]!—nay smile not—gentry—that is to say, hard-handed (aforetime) men of labour—venders of Congo tea,—and retailers of Jamaica pepper,—who thro' cavils and cabals and cash-accompts and treacle and tann-pits3 [treacle and tann-pits underscored twice], have put themselves in condition to swagger round their little ring of vanity, with all the innate worth of lucky Save-alls,4 and all the conscious dignity of purse-proud Hobnails;—who procure for their sons posts in—the Excise; and who after educating their daughters, bring them into the mighty field of Man-catching, and having set them fairly on the scent—‘Cry havoc! and let slip these dogs of war!’5— To all these I have been introduced, and by them all treated with great condescension:—they and I, 'tis likely, have very different opinions, concerning who it is that condescends.— Those ladies of the chace!—

‘Onward they move a Husband-hunting band,
Flaunt o'er the streets, and darken all the land.’6

—‘Peace be to all such!— pointing hand mark only’—I trade not with them—— Johnson (Clint) is still continuing his practice or rather attendance at Lochmaben. He has been raising the Devil at Ecclefechan concerning some of his love affairs &c &c N. B.— Cannot succeed.

Divinity Johnson has recommenced his school. He is a good lad;—and really I feel for him, for he is so much implicated one way and another, that he will be obliged to go to Selkirk, next harvest! He is worthy of a better fortune—but what can he do? He is to be examined alongst with Irving Carlyle,7 some of these days, and if found qualified, to be admitted to the privilege of being a—whig Student [underscored twice]. Depend upon it—if they reject him—foul play has been shewn. Their examinations have something in them very original.— Take the following instance. Irving Carlyle (who poor man! full oft has past their ordeal) in [one] of his examinations (on what branch of literature, the learned Doctors were the story sayeth not) was asked— “If a Pot were set on a fire, what is it that would make it boil?”— Irving was dumb— “Power would make it boil” said the learned Doctors!!—and the examination [underscored twice] closed.

I noticed, with pleasure, the insertion of your ‘Critique’:8 but was very much mortified,—at seeing the pitiful conclusion which the Editor had foisted in,—in addition to the error in the signature. 'Tis a matter of no consequence—only it ruffles in the mean-time. Our Bard9 has at length compelled them to print his poetry—and prose too,—for, was not that same Blattum-Bulgium disquisition his? And had not he a letter last week ‘on Burns’?— What a flo[w] of language—what a strength of epithet he pos[s]esses!— Do you intend writing any thing more at present?

I have not many friends in Edinr.—remember me in the kindest manner to those I have. Present (I will not say compliments—that is too cold a word) my warmest wishes to Miss J. Merchant. She is a young lady whose acquaintance I would strongly advise you, assiduously to cultivate.— she may have her foibles—who of us has them not? But in addition to the external accomplishments of an elegant and beautiful form, she pos[s]esses a refinement of mind and a sensibility of heart, that must command respect and esteem wherever they appear.10

Nothing will give me more pleasure, My Dear Murr[ay, than] to hear from you frequently. Would it not be better, think y[ou, to] appoint some time—say once a-fortnight—when we should expect each other's letter? Appoint the terms, yourself, of our correspondence—only let me be sure of it. In return for your literary intelligence which will be peculiarly interesting to me, I'm afraid I shall have no equivalent to offer.— However I shall always take care to repay you with something— I did not send you a letter by Mr. Waugh11—first, because I thought you would not like him; and second, because—I had none to send.— ‘But you will attend’!— A carrier (he brought my trunks safe) is to set off for Edinr about monday and will be with you by Thursday, or so— Now if I can by any means, write another epistle to you, ‘by the sure conveyance of’ this same ‘honest carrier’, I shall certainly look for your answer.— Tell our Poet, that by Hook or crook, I'll see to have a letter for him by the same opportunity—and let him have one ready in return. Tell Mr. Forrest to be in the way of getting his poem ready—for a letter he shall have—and a swinging one too—so let him look to it.12— But I am at the end of my paper—good night! my Dear Tom—and believe me

your sincere friend, /

Thomas Carlyle

I don't think I have any great chance of seeing Caven13—at least soon.— Excuse innaccuracies, and the worst of writing. Best respects to Mr & Mrs For[r]est whose kindness I shall not soon forget—