The Collected Letters, Volume 1


TC TO THOMAS MURRAY; 22 August 1815; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18150822-TC-TM-01; CL 1:57-60.


Annan, 22d August 1815.—

My dear Sir,

I received your last letter,1 at a time when after my defaults, I had little reason to expect it; and I proudly resolved not to be behind my time again. Resolutions, as your favourite Young so pathetically laments, are too often made only to be broken2—and I am a melancholy instance of the truth of this observation.— I will not tire you with trite excuses—you know me well enough to be convinced that few things give me more pleasure than a letter from you; and bearing this in mind, you may impute my silence to whatever cause you will:—call it business or laziness, sickness or sorrow—only forget it, and all will be well.

Our holidays commence in a few days; and you may easily conceive, I have resolved many a plan for passing them to most advantage.— I was struck at the hint you give of the possibility of our meeting in Autumn and had well nigh resolved to visit Galloway for this end.3 But I naturally dislike locomotion, and when I came to reflect on the hardships of a solitary excursion of eighty miles, I was obliged to lay aside my scheme. Sometimes I am for visiting Dublin—but I believe all that I could see there would hardly compensate for the trouble of going and returning. At other times, I am decidedly of opinion, that I ought to visit the lakes of Cumberland;— ‘Til reflecting on the swarms of amateurs, attorneys, esquires, clothiers, nabobs, hoc genus omne [all of this sort]4 that at that time there ride prosperously—to put the poor pedestrian to the blush, I rejoice that I am far from Keswick:—so that you see my projects are no sooner formed than laid aside. I expect, after all, that I shall continue during the whole of my leisure time—at Ecclefechan in a state of vegetation or torpor.— By the way could you get your liberty for two or three days to see your friends in Girthon? If so who knows but I could prevail upon myself to come as far as Gatehouse and see you? I doubt you will not be able to get away, and consequently this must be given up too. I wish you would think of it however; and let me know your opinion directly.—

I am happy to find you so agreeably situated in Wigtown. Mrs Tweedal has a sister married to Mr Church5 of Hitchill, an extensive and respectable farmer in this neighbourhood. I was at their house last Saturday & Sunday. They are excellent people. Mrs Church was mentioning you, and observing that she had received a letter from her sister stating her high satisfaction with Mr Murray.— Have you ever seen Miss Murray,6 your former governess? It seems, she is a very sensible young lady—provided she incline not to the redoubtable sisterhood of bas bleus [bluestockings]. I like originals above all things.— You have no doubt, a large quantity of female beauty in the shire, and I hope and trust that among those provincial cynosures, you pass your time with much gaieté de coeur [gaiety of heart]. Do not get in love—if you can help it.— Probably you are not far from New Galloway; and if so, you will sometimes see Andrew—give my respects to him if you fall in with him. James Campbell7 is a native of that part of the country too:—have you heard whether he is returned from the Continent? It was talked about Castlemilk not long ago, that Mrs Hart was scampering from one end of France to the other, with much velocity and an extensive suite (Campbell would be with her) whilst the Major was at London, with his fortune and shoulder-blade broken—obliged to sell his cattle and his stuff to support her extravagance

I was at Ruthwell lately. Mitchell has been very sick— The Doctor says he is threatened with a consumption.8 He has been at Dublin, for the benefit of the sea-air; and I would hope is out of danger.— Honest Andr[e]w Beattie9 is gone to America! Mitchell tells me that ‘whilst some of the men of Corrie were weeping bitterly and making great mourning at his departure; our man of music shouldered his fiddle, and actually played them a spring’. He was going ‘he kent nocht where’—to Canada or Carolina—give him rice to plant and fear him never.

When you saw that long story about ‘thunder’10 you would mark me down for one po[s]sessed—with the rage of writing. Nevertheless it was no such thing. I cannot take time to explain it—but the publication was purely the effect of ennui. Who was that ‘Gallovidian’ that conjectured so bravely upon Electricity? Mitchell says it was you. I might have made some remarks upon it had I seen it when it first appeared but it was two or three weeks old before I heard of it—and long ere that, both it and Ichneutes had journeyed to the land of forgetfulness. Are you in the way of writing any thing at present? It is long since you appeared in print now.

I was re[a]ding lately, Stewarts life of Robertson, Smith's wealth of nations, and Kames' Essays on the principles of morality.11 The first is a sensible sort of book—unworthy, however, of Stewart. Dr Smith is a man of much research, & appears to understand completely all the bearings of his complicated subject. I have read his first and second volumes with much pleasure. He always writes like a philosopher. With regard to Lord Kames—his works are generally all an awkward compound of ingenuity and absurdity and in this volume the latter quality it appears to me, considerably preponderates. It is Metaphysical; upon Belief, identity, Necessity &c &c and I devoutly wish that no friend of mine may ever come to study it—unless he wish to learn—

To weave fine cobwebs fit for scull
That's empty when the moon is full.12——

—and in that case he cannot study under a more proper master.—

I leave Annan on Friday— Direct your next letter to me at Ecclefechan. Tell me, in what state of forwardness is your discourse? I too have an Exegesis to write—but when—is another circumstances. To be serious, Tom, I am growing daily and hourly more lukewarm about this preaching business.— The trade (for it is become a trade) is completely overstocked. And independently of this how would it suit one's humour—after spending the flower of ones life in the service of some pitiful country 'squire—to be obliged after all to flatter and wheedle his piques and prejudices in order to obtain—a country parsonage; whence after spinning out a few years of dreary existence, to ‘drop into the grave unpitied & unknown’?13— In this neighbourhood there are several students of divinity who, unless turned out to grass have no prospect of obtaining a livelihood at all. This looks badly.—

Can you tell me any more news of Caven and Laurie? They are strange characters— I wonder how Joseph14 gets forward in instructing the Fifeshire gentlemen—(for ‘they are all gentlemen’)— I am impatient to hear from you—write me soon—and b[e]lieve me—Dear Murray,

Yours truly /

Thomas Carlyle