The Collected Letters, Volume 1


TC TO JAMES CARLYLE, THE ELDER; 2 September 1818; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18180902-TC-JCE-01; CL 1:138-141.


Kirkcaldy2nd September 1818—

My Dear Father,

Having arrived in safety at this place, I sit down to give you an account of my adventures by the way—and my proceedings since I left the Mainhill. After shaking hands with Sandy I winded down the Baileyhill, easily forded the Black Esk, & proceeded along the banks of its sister stream to Eskdalemoor-manse, which I reached about seven o'clock. I cast many an anxious thought after Sandy and the horses which he was conducting: but I hope they arrived in safety after all. The minister is a kind hospitable man. Saturday morning was wet, and he would fain have persuaded me to stay all day with him; but when he could not succeed he spread before me a large map of Dumfriesshire, pointed out the best road & gave me a line to one Anderson (a cousin of his wife) from whom I was to get some meat as I passed Lyart upon Meggot [Meggat] water. After my departure the rain slackened a little, but the hill-tops were covered with a dark mist which the wind tossed about briskly. I proceeded up the Esk which originates about 6 miles above the manse in the junction of two streams, the Tomleuchar & the Glenderg of which the latter rises near the eastern edge of Ettrick Pen,1 the former a few miles eastward. Ascending Glenderg I came into Ettrick water, which I crossed at a place called Cosser's hill, where a hospitable but sluttish & inquisitive old woman, gave me some potatoes &c with directions for finding Riskenhope the head of the two Lochs (St Mary's & the Lowes) upon Yarrow water, distant about four miles. I was upon the brow of a solitary ridge of moorland hills when I saw the two clear blue lakes, and in about half an hour I had crossed the stream which unites them, and was upon the road up Meggat, a brook which rises a little to the north of Whitecomb, and joins the easter[n]most lake (St Mary's) after a course of about 6 miles. When I got to Anderson's at Lyart it was almost 7 o'clock, & his sister pressed me much to stay all night, the man (an arrant miser as I found afterwards) did not press me so keenly. As it was raining a little, & Peebles 14 miles distant I thought of accepting their invitation, & having got some tea was endeavouring to enter into some conversation with this rich old farmer. But when he perceived that I was going to continue with him all night he became so churlish in his replies that I could think of it no longer, & taking my hat & stick I thanked him for his entertainement, & crossed the water of Meggat leaving this Nabal2 of Yarrow with his sister in utter amazement at my departure, for it was now near eight, and the night was rainy. But in half an hour I came into [the] road which I had travelled over before (as I came down), & tho' the rain continued, I reached the house of a kind herdsman upon Manor water (which comes into the Tweed near Peebles), and met with a warm reception from him after 9 o'clock. Next morning was dry & the day became windy; so I arrived at Edinr that same afternoon about 5—& staid all night with Donaldson—formerly Irvings assistant at Kirkcaldy. Next day I saw Mr Leslie [Irving overwritten with Mr] who was very kind, and got me a book that I was wanting from the library & talked with me about two hours very frankly. I also purchased for my kind Mother a black bonnet with ribbands and othe[r] equipments which the people engaged to put into a box & send by Gavin Johnston the Annan Carrier. I hope she will accept of it for my sake who owe her so much. It is directed to the care of Robert Brand Lockerby. I enclose you a draught for £15, which you will know how to dispose of. It is not likely that I shall feel any want of it at present, and no one can have a better right to it than you. My prospects in this place are far from brilliant at present. About a month before I went away, a body had established himself in my neighbourhood & taken up a school, but could make next to nothing of it. During the vacation however he seems to have succeeded in getting most of my scholars—and today I mustered only 12. This will never do. The people's rage for novelty is the cause of it, I suppose, for the poor creature is very ignorant, & very much given to drink. I make no doubt I could reestablish the school, but the fact is I am very much tired of the trade, and very anxious to find some other way of making my bread, and this is as good a time for trying it as another. Irving is going away too, and I shall have no associate in the place at all. I think I could find private teaching perhaps about Edinr to support me till I could fall into some other way of doing. At any rate, I have more than seventy pounds (besides what I send you) of ready money, and that might keep me for a season. In short I only wait for your advice, till I give in my resignation against the beginning of December. I have thought of trying the law, & several other things, but I have not yet got correct information about any of them— Give my kindest love to all my brothers & sisters. I expect a letter very soon for I shall be unhappy till I resolve upon something. In the mean time however, I remain,

My Dear Father

Yours affectionately /

Thomas Carlyle

I have not yet seen much of the country but the crops seem more backward than in Dumfriesshire. They are busy exporting potatoes from this place to England—what part I know not—so the article will probably be dear.