The Collected Letters, Volume 1


TC TO ALEXANDER CARLYLE; 29 March 1819; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18190329-TC-AC-01; CL 1:171-173.


Edinr29th March 1819—

My dear Brother,

I snatch a hurried hour from the German lesson, to answer your kind and entertaining epistle, which reached me this forenoon. I need not say how pleasing it is to me to learn that you are all in good bodily health, and comfortable spirits. The most important part of my task will be accomplished, when I have assured you that the same is the case with me. I still walk out before breakfast—and for an hour or two after; of which practice I find the beneficial effects in an increased appetite for victual, and a general vigour of body. I have no doubt that two or three months of summer exercise will completely restore this my digestive apparatus (as our Professor calls it) to that state of activity which a person at my age, not addicted to excesses of any kind, and gifted with a sound constitution, ought naturally to expect.

I was interested by the intelligence you transmit to me. Poor Latimer's hunting-tunes, recall some by-gone scenes to my recollection. The paraphrases need not be pushed beyond moderation: they must in time come to be generally employed.1 It is greivous to learn the misconduct of poor Mary Brown.2 An unlucky race, as you rightly remark: but your consolation is well founded too;—‘every herring must indeed hang by its own head.’3 I think I recollect the Hash4 that has done the mischief—a large, square soft-looking lump, about a year older than myself. Jock Carruthers5 (of Har[e]gills) staid in his Mother's house. Does the slut-thief propose to marry the unlucky creature?

I am glad to understand that the library6 is in a prosperous state. It is to be hoped that our native village will no longer be the scorn of neighbouring districts, for its deficiency in this particular. You are very right in stating that the Abbé Raynal7 is rash in some of his conjectures. He was a jesuit priest in his time; but afterwards quarrelled with them—renounced their society, and with it, all moderation in treating of their religion. He was obliged to leave France for his opinions, & resided for a time in England and lastly in the Netherlands. The man seems to have had a fiery temper; and it is only for the facts that his books contain, that anyone can respect them[.] There is no wonder that you feel it impossible to find much time for reading in the present season. Keep doing a little at your hours of relaxation—both in writing and reading; and you will never repent it. In reading Raynal, you will of course attend to the geography of the countries.

What ails that indolent young person, Doil,8 or more properly speaking, Jack, that he will not write? If I had any time, I would send him a letter this very night.

With respect to my occupations at this period; they are not of the most important nature. Berzelius' paper is printed—I was this day correcting the proof-sheet—. The translation looks not very ill in print. I wish I had plenty more of a similar [sor]t to translate and good pay for doing it. Let us wait a while. I am still at the German, as I hinted above. My teacher9 is not a man (any more than he was a boy) of brilliant parts; but we go on in a loving way together—and he gives me the pronunciation correctly, I suppose. I am able to read books, now, with a dictionary. At present, I am reading a stupid play of Kotzebue's10—but to-night I am to have the history of Frederick the Great from Irving. I will make an affu' struggle11 to read a good deal of it & of the Italian in Summer—when at home.

The young man Hill is going away in about a week—a few days after which, I in[tend t]o be in Forrest's No. 3. S. Richmond st. Not that I profoundly a[d]mire the character of Jock—for I believe him after all to be a ‘[Tu]rk in grain’;12 but his wife is a trusty neat-handed, excellent body; and the room will do as long as I live in it—for I have thoughts of coming down to you, about June or so. I hate to go to a stranger; and Forrest's in other aspects is an eligible place.

There is nothing new here that I wot of—fierce sort of weather, which I daresay is no stranger to you. How do the farming operations proceed? I hope to help you at the hay-time. But time is our tedious scroll should now have ending.

I am always, / My dear Boy, / Your's faithfully, /

Thomas Carlyle