The Collected Letters, Volume 1


TC TO ROBERT MITCHELL; 31 May 1819; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18190531-TC-RM-01; CL 1:178-180.


Mainhill, 31st May 1819—

My dear Friend,

In compliance with your request, I transmit to you, by the medium of our dearly-beloved Johnston, the information which I have gleaned respecting your Brother1 at St John's—and the plan of our correspondence during the summer. It is the rainy evening of a dull day which I have spent in reading a little of Klopstock's Messias2 (for the man Jardine, who broke his engagement); and in looking over the inflated work of ‘Squire Bristed on ‘America and her resources.’3 ‘Vivacity,’ therefore, on my part, is quite out of the question— But without further preface—

From the scanty notices communicated by the Antigua Doctor, it appears that your Brother returned from America about two years ago; that he is unmarried, and maintains a small tho' respectable domestic establishment in the chief town of the island; that his trading capital, which was disposed of at his departure, has not been replaced since his return; that, in fact, trade being rather low in those parts, and William in consequence not engaged in enterprises of great moment, he is living principally at present by the produce of his former industry. Such is all the meagre detail which I could extract from James Johnston alias Bogs.4 But if you will be prevailed upon to visit Mainhill, any time shortly—James declares himself ready to give you every satisfaction. At all events he returns to the land flowing with rum & treacle, in about two months, and will be extremely happy at being charged with any message or letter from you.

With regard to the conveyance of our letters—I have ascertained that one John Little is almost daily in the habit of driving coals from Annan to Ecclefechan. He always calls at the house of his brother-in-law, James Thomson,—a man who lives within three doors of the gaol—and pursues no earthly occupation, but buttressing the house-corner and eating victual. I spoke to the man Little: and if, from these data, you can invent an address which may enable our old friend Post John to deliver your letter into the hands of this coal-man, I have no doubt that it will arrive safely at Ecclefn. To confess a truth, I am not without my doubts of your punctuality: yet am I unwilling to forego the hope of frequently hearing from you. My life for some months is likely to be peaceful & destitute of incident: a letter from Ruthwell will constitute a pleasing variety in the simple avocations which, principal[l]y it must be confessed for avoiding ennui, I desing [design] to pursue for a few months.

I have done, as usual, almost nothing since we parted— Some one asked me with a smile, of which I knew not the meaning, if I would read that book, putting into my hands a volume of Rousseau's confessions.5 It is perhaps the most remarkable tome, I ever read. Except for its occassional obscenity, I might wish to see the remainder of the book: to try if possible to connect the character of Jean Jacques with my previous ideas of human nature. To say he was mad were to cut the knot, without loosing it. At any rate, what could have induced any mortal, mad or wise, to recollect and delineate such a tissue of vulgar debauchery, falseheartedness & misery—is quite beyond my comprehension. If we regret our exclusion from that Gallic constellation, which has set, and found no successor to its brilliancy—the memoirs of Marmontel 6 or Rousseau's confessions should teach a virtuous Briton to be content with the dull sobriety of his native country. I will not speak of the Abbé Raynal: of others I have nothing to say.

It is late; the husbandmen of this rustic mansion are all sunk in profound repose: why should I longer wake? A slender steed is to be saddled for me to-morrow by six o'clock—whereupon I design to ride with this sheet to Johnston at Bogside— An important errand, you will say.

Meanwhile, Good night,

ever your's /

Thomas Carlyle—

Will you write to me within ten days?7 If the letter (when written, which is the most important particular) were directed to the care of John Little Carter Ecclefn—and if verbal orders were given to the old Postman where to leave it—there could be no danger of its safe arrival— When you come hither—a horse will convey you in two hours— I have many things to tell you, which escaped me in our late desultory colloquies— In this neighbourhood I have found two pieces of Siennite and a morsel of Grauwacke8—which I am not mineralogist enough to regard with the smallest extacy—