The Collected Letters, Volume 1


TC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE; 10 January 1821; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18210110-TC-MAC-01; CL 1:308-309.


Edinr Wednesday night 10th Jany 1821.

My dear Mother,

Tho' I believe I was the last active party in this our correspondence, yet hearing your wish that I should write again, and having a few minutes time to app[l]y as suits me, you see I am so dutiful a son, that I apply it solely to gratify you in this point. In truth it requires no great effort to apply it so; for I am always glad when I have the means of writing to you as I am doubly glad when I have the chance to hear from you. There is nothing attractive in my history indeed; but it is gratifying every way to unfold myself before one to whom I am bound by so many titles of gratitude and respect even if the ‘link of Nature’1 did not bind me, and who I am aware would reckon few occurrences happier than one that would restore me to happiness and health such as in the ‘blooming-time of life’ they are wont to be enjoyed. I am afraid, however, that you take my case too deeply to heart. It is true, I am toiling on the waves, and my vessel looks but like a light canoe; yet surely the harbour is before me, and in soberness when I compare my tackle with that of others, I cannot doubt hardly that I shall get within the pier at last. Without figure, I am not a genius, but a rather sharp youth, discontented and partly mismanaged, ready to work at aught but teaching, and to be satisfied with the ordinary recompense of every honest son of Adam, food and raiment and common respectability. Can I fail to get them if I continue steadfast? No I cannot fail. The way, indeed, is weary, it leads thro' a dry parched land wherein few waters be; but how happy is it that I journey unattended by Remorse!2 that my conscience, tho' it wound, does not sting me; that my heart, when it faints, does not condemn! I ought to be grateful that it is so; and to bear those ‘light afflictions’3 calmly—they are not sent without need.

You observe, Mother, I talk about my own affairs most fluently: yet there are other affairs about which I am any thing rather than indifferent. It will be changing the direction more than the nature of my thoughts (for this also is one of my concerns) if I enquire particularly into your situation at Mainhill. How are you? Tell me largely when you write. I fear your health is feeble: I conjure you be careful of it. Do you get tea— the weary tea—alone now? By the little table ben [at the back of, in the back room of] the house? I advise you to use it frequently: it is excellent for weak stomachs. And do not, I entreat you, let any considerations of thrift or such things restrain you in those cases. None of us is rich; but we should certainly be poor indeed, if among us—we could not muster enough for such a purpose. Keep yourself from cold most careful[ly] this unhealthy season, and read the ‘worthies’ any thing that will satisfy that high enthusiasm of your mind, which, however you may disbelieve it, is quite of a piece with my own. Do you still get the Repository?4 I observe there is to be a fresh Magazine at Glasgow—embracing the interests of the United Secession Church: I wish it could be got for you.

But here I must end. A happy new-year to you, my dear Mother, and many many of them—to be a blessing to us all!— Write to me next time in the most ample manner. My best love to all the children.

Ever your affectionate son, /

Thomas Carlyle.

Do you care about that fish? One kind costs 3½d the other 2½ d per pound. Boil it, change the water, and—Beat [add] butter.