The Collected Letters, Volume 1


TC TO THOMAS MURRAY; 28 November 1815; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18151128-TC-TM-01; CL 1:60-64.


Annan. 28th November 1815.

My Dear Murray——It is with great grief of heart that I acknowledge myself again to blame. I know, it is some months since I should have written you.—nay, for that matter it is some months since I should have visited you in Galloway1— And (proh! pudor) [shame upon me!] at this present date, I have neither visited nor written you. I confess my faults; and tho' I cannot entirely excuse—I pretend to state such circumstances as will greatly palliate them.— The visit to Galloway was an excursion from which, after your last letter, I had promised myself much gratification: and I certainly did design, in due time to accomplish it. But alas! I was attracted to the circuit-trials by a rumour that Francis Jeffrey Esqr2 was to be one of the pleaders! I went to Dumfries accordingly—but Francis Jeffrey Esqr did not make his appearance, and I only derived from my journey—the satisfaction of hearing and feeling the remarks and wit of sundry bums3 and turnkeys, as, by means of their lungs and batons, they performed their part in the scene—and of witnessing a most edifying display of indictments and interlocutors—rendered doubly impressive by my being all the while surrounded and overpowered by a load of tinkers and shoe-blacks.— This was sufficient to prevent my expedition. For before I had returned home and got myself in readiness, the weather was broken—and before the weather mended, my time was expired. So that, you see, I am pardonable on that head.— With regard to the letter,—I intended as soon as I got to Annan, to send you an account of these circumstances as an explanation of my nonappearance:—but here again I was disappointed. About this time, it occurred to me, that I had two exercises from the Divinity Hall—and that it would be proper to set about discovering what were their contents—and what was to become of them. It occurred to me; much about the same time that it would be proper to study Stewart's Essays, Berkel[e]y's principles of knowledge, Rumfords Essays, Newton['s] Institutes, Simpson's Fluxions4 &c &c &c— If to these overpowering engagements, you add the numberless fits of indolence—and the perpetual visitations of spleen, to which one is subjected in this dirty little uncomfortable planet of ours—I presume you will have a sufficient excuse for my silence; and will rather wonder indeed that you have heard from me at all. To be honest—I will confess to you (for seriously I am excessively busied) that I doubt much whether I could have prevailed upon myself to write even now—had it not been to consult you about our journey to Edinr, the time for which is fast approaching.— I want to know whether you have any discourse ready: and if so whether you design to give it in, this winter. I set about writing one some time ago: and at last (and let [us] be thankful) I have something put together in the shape of an answer to the question ‘num detur religio naturalis?’5— Very little of it is yet translated: So that you see, tho' I had nothing else to mind it would be employment enough for the time that remains— I have however twenty other things equally pressing to attend to:—and this, by the way, will excuse the blunders of this hasty letter.— But what I desire of you at present is to write immediately to some of our Edinr friends (Mr. Andrew or? Maclaurin6 or any other) to engage a day (if you read this winter, of course we appear together) for our ‘delivering’ in the Divinity Hall. But what is to be particularly attended to, is—that unless the day be one one [sic] immediately bordering upon the Christmas recess—the first day before or at any rate the one preceding that—I cannot read this year. I request you will desire your correspondent to mention the circumstances to the Doctor—and examine forthwith whether the day is to be procured. If Dr. Ritchie7 cannot suspend his lecturing for a day—and if the reading day immediately before the recess be engaged—possibly our friend could induce some of its present occupants to give up their rights. Christmas I think falls on a Monday—and the saturday preceding, may possibly be unengaged—in which case the Doctor I think could devote it to this purpose—and if you read (as I hope you have determined to do: and if not I earnestly wish you would set about preparing— I could not think of mounting the rostrum by myself—at the fag end of a (Doctor's) lecture)—if you read, this will answer pretty well.—you know my circumstances—and I leave the management of this affair entirely to your discretion; and if a day cannot conveniently be had—it makes no great difference.8 I am aware that I am giving you a very great deal of trouble—but I need not take up time in apologies: I hope I can apply to you with security about such a matter; and if I did not I should not have mentioned the subject at all. What I particularly request is expedition—lest the day be engaged. You will get this about friday; say you write to Edinr on Saturday—demanding an answer in great haste—and get one about the end of next week; I will hope and expect to hear from you an account of the result about the 7 [December]. You will think me forward and confident enough after my own negligence—but I rely on your good nature—and I entreat you use expedition for I am anxious to know the issue.

This is one of the dullest letters in the world. Indeed how could it be otherwise? Overwhelmed by differential calculi, secondary qua[nt]ities, and systems of of [sic] pneumatics, ontology, theology and cosmogeny—it is wonderful that I have heart enough lef[t] to write at all. But, [my good] Murray, get me these matters cleverly managed—and I engage [to make] up for all deficiencies in good time.

I have not heard a syllable of our acquaintances [for ma]ny days— They may be all at the bottom of the sea for any th[ing I kn]ow about them.— I might mention that I saw (did not speak to) Carson of Gatehouse9—at the court of Dumfries—when I was there. He was grown a little shorter since I had seen him—in other respects he seemed the same. I saw him afterwards walking with Mr—— I forget what somebody called him—minister of some conventicle in Dumfries—I forget the name of the sect, but the very sound chilled my mind with ideas of fanaticism and inward light. James Johnson says he saw in the newspaper's that ‘Mrs W. Carson” of Buccleugh street10 was delivered of a son— Is it possible that this wretched person after all his adventures can be quietly married—and above [all] is it possible that after all his notable atchievements in the brothels of Edinr he can have mounted the tub of the fanatic, and declared his resolution

‘To fight like mad or drunk,
For dame Religion as for punk’?11

—You must discuss me all these matters— I have many more to inquire after, when we meet.— The answer to the letter that you write to Edinr will shew us when we ought to set out—you recollect your promise of taking Annan in your way? I intend you shall keep it faithfully.— Write me I intreat you immediately upon getting an answer from Edinr, which I trust you will receive very soon. I had a multitude of other things to tell you—but I have neither time nor patience at present— I wait with impatience for your answer—& remain, My Dear Sir,

yours most sincerely /

Thomas Carlyle 12