The Collected Letters, Volume 1


TC TO WILLIAM GRAHAM; 15 September 1820; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18200915-TC-WG-01; CL 1:274-276.


Mainhill, 15th September, 1820

My dear Sir,

You must dispense with Dixon's acknowledgment for the letter you so kindly sent him; and content yourself with mine instead of those which should have come from both. Frank set out on Friday; and owing to the negligence of our little postmaster the packet was withheld till next Monday: so that tho' I instantly mounted that unhappy shelty, and proceeded to Dumfries, the place of his embarkation, where I hoped the emigrant still continued wind-bound, as fast as its small limbs could carry me, I found the Queensberry sloop—sailed for Liverpool two tides before. Having again enclosed the note, I entrusted it to Armstrong of Hook, by whose means, I doubt not, Dixon has already got it, and flatters himself with the prospect of happily encountering its owner in the Western Land.1

You distress me exceedingly by the gloomy and despondent colour, which your mind but too plainly appears to have assumed, since we parted. It is true that from experience I can know but little of your situation: yet I have felt what it is to be wretched—wretched to the very heart—and tho' my sympathy can be of little value, it is deeply and faithfully offered. I know how barren are the usual topics of consolation—how they pass over a mind diseased, like sunshine over a bottomless abyss—and to advise you may seem presumptuous in one of my inexperience. Yet I would remind you, my friend, that all is not lost. Tho' the fortune which honourable and industrious enterprise amassed should in fact be scattered to the winds; the integrity and skill which amassed it remain unimpaired behind. Do not then despair. Consider what may yet be done, and do it with a resolute mind. A thousand instances will readily occur of persons who have gloriously recovered from embarrassment as deep as that you labour under: And if after all, this should not be your destiny; look the matter steadily in the face, and its hideousness disappears. If you get the neglect or even the pity of many cold and shallow persons, whose God is prosperity; is not the respectful sympathy of one true-hearted man sufficient to compensate for it all? You enjoy such sympathy, I know, from many men; and misfortune will never make you lose it. Evils enough are connected with the loss of wealth, indeed, do what we may: but you ought to reflect that in this case no one suffers but yourself; no children look to you for support; and the grey hairs of your parents have gone peacefully down to that still country where misfortune never comes. I know you have thought of all this a hundred times already; I know you are already determined to strain every sinew that no mean or advantage which yet remains—however slight—may be neglected: but such thoughts and resolutions cannot be too often repeated or too strongly confirmed; and I am sure you will excuse my unasked condolence, and judge more correctly than to impute it to vain loquacity or idle officiousness. But I will not continue the subject farther; because tho' matters look drearily at present, I am convinced that your efforts will yet put everything to rights. I have the strongest persuasion that I shall see you many a time joyful as ever in the new town of Glasgow: and afterwards when I get a house—for this too is preordained—I know that I shall meet you there, and finally demonstrate that “entaits”2 whether in Van Dieman's Land or Britain are fatal things and worthy of all condemnation. This is like a dream; but you will see it happen in process of time.

In fact I care not how soon it happen, the saughs of Mainhill afford but a scanty shelter, and Goethe with all his fellow singers, tho' they might console a disembodied spirit, with some lunar gleams of happiness—are very insufficient for a man of flesh and blood. You are distressed by too much sensation of outward things; I by too little; and thus you see “the fruit of that forbidden tree” which lost us Eden, lies like a fund of aloes in the heart of every son of Adam. I hear not of Margaret,3 and know not if I ever shall. Such beings are shadows, radiant shadows, that cross our path in this dark voyage; we gaze on them with rapture for a moment; and pass away—borne onward by the tide of Fate, never to behold them, never more.— Nor do I hear of Irving except through your letter. Tell him it is well to be diligent; but he ought to forswear thin potations. Milk for a man of his kidney is little better than a meal of east wind. You may say besides that he is an epistle in my debt, and runs a risk of soon being two.— Mr. Carlile4 I have not seen or heard of. But I suppose the wedding is over and the honey-moon progressing slick right away! The man is a very honest good man; and his track thro' life lies as straight before him as a row of cabbages. I wish and predict for him all manner of calmness and contentment.— You see that I have not room for my furnishings to Brewster.5 In fact they are not worth room; and anyway I suppose none of them are printed yet. I need not say how much I should be gratified by another letter from you—good news if possible—if not any news.— In revenge I should have paid the postage on this occasion; but I listen to the voice of mercy and forbear.— The tender mercies of the wicked are cruel. Pardon this gossipy will o' the wisp letter, and believe me to be,

My dear Friend, / Most sincerely yours, /

Thomas Carlyle