The Collected Letters, Volume 1


TC TO ALEXANDER CARLYLE; 23 December 1820; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18201223-TC-AC-01; CL 1:297-299.


Edinr, 23d Decr 1820—

My dear Alick,

I am going away to Glasgow tomorrow morning very early, and as Farries has not made his appearance this week, I conjecture that he will present himself in a day or two with a large bundle of letters from Mainhill: so that unless I bestir myself to-night [you ru]n the risk of failing to hear from me in ret[urn. I] am busied with many things indeed; but I [must] not disappoint you, and therefore I strain a point to exhibit some small sketch of my way of life since the last letter.

If Foster of Corchess did his duty well, you must know by this date—if he did it at all, you will know on Sunday, that I am much better than when I wrote the last woful epistle. I was then rather unhappy: the wet journey and this vile smoky mist, which is all the air we have to breathe here, produced an affect upon [me] of a very unpleasant kind. The case got wrong, the outward man, and then the inward man1 is sure to follow. But I walked, and swallowed drugs, and walked and swallowed drugs again, till things have come back to their old level. Not absolutely as well as one of you fortunate husbandmen—who if it were but for the free breeze of heaven which you inhale, and which makes the pulse of life to play so cheerily within you, ought to reckon your lot happy in comparison with a sallow-faced city lordling: not so well as you, I say; but still well—and hoping to be better. I have fallen upon a notable invention of late, whereby all the evils of writing are avoided, and what was once a noxious compression may become a salutary exercise. I write standing! It would do your heart good to see me placed upright like a gear-powl [clothespole], over against a chair which I have exalted to the table and above which I have placed an old fir [writin]g desk of the landladys—altogether forming an elevation of five feet odd inches. I stand plumb, almost; and yesterday I wrote seven hours without detriment— But here comes the ‘busy housewife’2 with tea and what not! So down goes my apparatus—and I leave you for a season.—

My dear boy, I have drunk that infusion, smoked a cigar, mounted the scaffolding, and here I stand again! Something I was talking about health—but if I gossip on in this way, my sheet will be done presently, and you no whit the wiser. Therefore I become serious.

The Review about which I have prosed so often, is destined I think to die in the womb of its Mother. Our bookseller Tait wrote to London, you know, and got a—refusal. Brewster then said in great dignity that he would go and see Oliver and Boyd3 (now becoming great dealers) to consult about it. He went; they were from home; and here it rests. I called the other day; and the man would talk of nothing but two cold Poles which he had discovered in the North,—Poles of great intensity—‘very interesting’ ‘quite satisfactory’ and so forth. Then Jardine4 the engineer (of Millhouse-bridge) came in; and so they set forth how canals were to be dug—bogs drained—coals found &c; and then went to communicate their speculations to the Royal Society of Physical science in this ‘intellectual city.’ I am astonished to see this Doctor so flourishing a man. Except activity, a kind of bustling shop-keeper activity, he has few mental qualifications that I can discover. More hope for me, the duller he is! In fact, I have little fear, when in health: I feel as if I could wrestle with the (strong) Skeleton Necessity5 and lay him on his back after all. Brewster has kneed him: it must be fair brute strength, if I bring him down at all. One other pull I have had—in the shape of a project to translate Schiller's history of the Thirty years war—a German book, of which I have just finished a specimen; and given it to Tait (above mentioned) who is to transmit the thing to Longman & Co. London.6 I expect an answer in about a fortnight. Tait is going to start some periodical work by and by: he is collecting ‘literary men’ about him for it even now; and seems particularly disposed to secure even such humble cooperation as mine.7 I can say little about this Longman business; nor do I care very much—if it fail, I will try something else. No rest till I get into bread ‘honest and fair’8—for this indolence is worse to me than any drudgery. But (sweet Sir!) I am wandering far away from the point in hand, which was—having told you of my own welfare—to ask after yours. How are all, in this raw weather? Are my Mother, my Father well? Have you set up school yet? Chiefly, do you read any? And write? If you persevere, I have often predicted the result. And do not, my dear boy, let your heart be troubled9 about futurity. I know and feel that something good is before us—if we persevere in deserving it. Farewell my brother!

ever your's /

Ths Carlyle

I am to be back in about a week. Has the ‘Mathematik’10 written to me? My love to all the creatures at home.