The Collected Letters, Volume 1


TC TO ALEXANDER CARLYLE; 26 January 1820; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18200126-TC-AC-01; CL 1:221-223.


Edinburgh, 26th January 1820—

My dear Brother,

I was very happy to learn, by the carrier's arrival, some hours ago, that you were all in a state of health & motion at the period of his departure. You will be satisfied, in your turn, to hear that I am still a-foot, not withstanding the late tremendous reign of frost, which seemed enough to destroy every symptom of animal or vegetable life. Of all the kinds of weather that in my lifetime have descended from the pitiless North, the tract which is just ended appears to have been the most appalling. What with ice & snow and biting breezes, Edinr seemed to be the capital of Greenland rather than of Caledonia. But the thaw is come at last, and I have gone through the process of freezing, without any inconvenience, except a filthy snivelling cold, which I picked up last Saturday, and which I expect to lay down to-morrow or next day. It may last a week if it will, for it gives me very small uneasiness.

Your long letter gratified me not a little. You are by far too severe a critic of your own productions. The account of your journey to Cumberland, was replete with amusing notices. I can perfectly conceive the feelings excited by your situation at Workington, upon being refused admittance at Curwen's Arms.1 It is at such a time, that the dogged stubborn sentiment of obdured patience2 (too nearly allied to ill-nature, in some other cases) is really valuable. One has often room to use it, in the business of life. You have now partly seen Cumberland; & tho' at a time of disadvantage, your journey will not be altogether fruitless: the remembrance of Skiddaw & the wild mountains that have frowned, since the creation's dawn, beside him, is a pleasant subject for the mind to rest on; and even the sight of the rude but honest-hearted boors that inhabit those regions, and the comparison of their ways of thinking & acting with our own, is always attended with enjoyment, and might be with advantage.

I am truly glad to find that you persevere in Hume. The remarks you make upon the various characters of whom he treats, seem just, as far as I can remember. Nor can I blame your enthusiasm at the name of Wallace or him of Bannockburn.3 Those heroes stood in the breach when their country was in peril; that Scotland is not as Ireland is perhaps owing in a great measure to their exertions.— As you proceed in the narrative, the events will become more interesting; & you will have more occassion to be on your guard against Mr Hume's propensities to toryism. Next time you write, I shall expect to hear about Surrey & Wolsey, Elisabeth, Raleigh, Drake &c. Before concluding, I will again take the liberty to advise you to be very careful of your writing— Your spelling is materially improved: a little farther care will make it quite perfect.4

Your fears about my health are very obliging; though quite unnecessary at the present. In fact I am generally in very fair health: and I do not study at all too severely—indeed not diligently enough I fear. For some time back, I have been employed a part of each night in writing a paper for the Edinr Review. I at last gave it in last Monday—in a letter to Francis Jeffrey Esqr5—desiring him to send it back if it did not suit his purpose. I have yet got no answer! Indeed I should not be surprised if it were not accepted: it was written on a very dry subject; and I was not at the time in my happiest mood for writing well. But if (as is very likely) it be returned upon me, I shall not take it greatly to heart. We can try again upon a more promising theme. No mortal but you knows of it; so I shall not feel abashed, at the failure of an attempt which was honest in its nature, and will be unknown in its consequences—to any except friends. I shall tell you the result next letter. You do well to read the Scotsman. You will find in it a considerable quantity of information, and by combining it with the Courier6 (of the Manchester paper, I know little), you will be able to form some idea of the state of the Country, which at this time has an aspect particularly striking. In case I should forget to do it elsewhere, I must beg you to tell the sutor [cobbler], that I cannot get the Scotsman, till he send me an order in writing to that effect. I may have it next journey. Believe me to be,

Your affectionate Brother /

Thos Carlyle.