The Collected Letters, Volume 1


TC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE; 29 March 1819; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18190329-TC-MAC-01; CL 1:173-175.


Edinr, Monday (29th March) 1819—

My dear Mother,

I am so much obliged to you for the affectionate concern, which you express for me, in that brief letter—that I cannot delay to send you a few words by way of reply— I need not repeat, what I have already told to Sandy who will be glad to communicate it, that I am in good health— If I continue to walk, I shall become very strong shortly— I was affected by the short notice you give me of Aunt Mary's death,1 and the short reflection with which you close it. It is true, My dear Mother, that “we must all soon follow her”—such is the unalterable and not unpleasing doom of men—then it is well for those, who at that awful moment which is before everyone, shall be able to look back with calmness, and forward with hope. But I need not dwell upon this solemn subject—it is familiar to the thoughts of every one who has any thought.

I am rather afraid that I have not been quite regular in reading that best of books which you recommended to me. However last night I was reading upon my favourite Job; and I hope to do better in time to come. I entreat you to believe that I am sincerely desirous of being a good man; and tho' we may differ in some few unimportant particulars: yet I firmly trust that the same Power who created us with imperfect faculties, will pardon the errors of every one (and none are without them) who seeks truth and righteousness, with a simple heart.

You need not fear my studying too much. In fact my prospects are so unsettled that I do not often sit down to books with all the zeal that I am capable of. You are not to think I am fretful. I have long accustomed my mind to look upon the future with a sedate aspect; and at any rate, my hopes have never yet failed me. A French Author (D'Alembert,2 one of the few persons who deserve the honourable epithet of honest man) whom I was lately reading, remarks that one who devotes his life to learning ought to carry for his motto—Liberty, Truth, Poverty; for he that fears the latter can never have the former. This should not prevent one from using every honest effort to attain a comfortable situation in life; it says only that the best is dearly bought by base conduct, and the worst is not worth mourning over. But I tire you I doubt—we shall speak about all these matters more fully in summer. For I am meditating just now to come down to stay awhile with you—accompanied with a cargo of books. Italian German & others—you will give me yonder little room—and you will’ waken me every morning about 5 or 6 o'clock—then such study—I shall delve in the yard too; and in a word become not only the wisest but the strongest man in those regions. This is all claver [idle talk] but it pleases one. The young man Murray (with whom I used to correspond) informs me that he thinks of going to teach and preach in the island of Man: and invites me to spend a month or two with [him].3 Perhaps it would be well to go. But we shall talk about all this afterwards—

If the carrier do not come before a fortnight, you may direct the box to me at Forrest's. I long to have some cakes. The last, I think, were the best I ever ate. The butter you will be astonished to learn is nearly done. I have no doubt that it has been filched: and besides Hill has eaten of it since I came, having given me meal in return— If you send a[ny le]t it be a pound or so.

I am reduced to this part of the sheet to subscribe myself,

My dear Mother / Yours most affectionately /

Thomas Carlyle