The Collected Letters, Volume 1


TC TO ALEXANDER CARLYLE; 24 March 1821; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18210324-TC-AC-01; CL 1:346-348.


Edinr Saturday 2. P.M. [24 March 1821]

My dear Alick,

I am rather stupidly inclined to-day; but they have brought me up the box in good time, and I shall darken a sheet of post for you, with all the willingness in the world. I need not say with what satisfaction, I perused your merry frolicksome epistle, or how glad I am to learn that all is going on calmly with you. As times are, one ought to be contented with calmness: meat and drink and freedom would shew like prosperity to many thousands of our brethren, in various countries of Europe.1 It is matter of comfort, that in spite of all obstructions, you can still keep the Jackall Landlord2 at the staff's end, and meet any of his satellites with an untroubled countenance. No doubt the man needs his revenues; but unless circumstances alter, I fear he will find it requisite to use a stronger lure next season, before he can raise them all. Dinners with the Laird are powerful things; but they cannot decoy money from an empty purse. However, the Scotsman says that, next year, prices will be high—if the cornbill is kept up which it will be—and then all will flourish for a space. He is not a prophet or a prophet's son, to be sure; but I could like to believe him this once:—once and no more, for he says that in the subsequent year— all will go to pot again, and that agriculture will waver & vibrate and stagger this way perpetually till the ports are opened and those ‘accursed’ restrictions on the Corn-trade are abolished forever.

I am also not a little amused at your brief sketches of country news. I sympathize with the love-lorn Irishman's emotions on finding that his pledged bride was of the male gender:3 and for the unhappy Pate,4 with his dose of jalap [purgative] and whiskey,—alas! what tongue can tell his pangs! May they prove a warning to our youth, when similar temptations assail them! You have a lively way of conceiving those things; and your mode of expressing them is getting more & more perfect. I think in time you cannot fail to acquire a superior style both of penmanship and diction. Continue to practice both the one and the other: there is no plan but this; & this never fails, if persisted in with attention, to succeed ultimately. By way of encouraging and in part aiding your progress I have sent you old Cobbett's Grammar5—from which you may I think derive considerable information on the subject of writing, and at all events considerable information as to his political sentiments, which are here expressed in a very singular mode. I got it only to-day, or I would have read it over; for now & then it tickles one mightily. I hope to find you a complete grammarian,6 when I come to Annandale.

There is not any thing new in my history since last intelligence-day. I am teaching—between 8 and 10 o'clock in the morning,—a task which I believe is to conclude ere long; I saunter about one while, read another, write a third. The Review7 you hint at is on the stithy at this date: it would have been finished before this, but some trifling ‘lives’ for Brewster interposes with a previous claim. I expect little good of the undertaking: but so it yield me nine or ten guineas I shall be content. Waugh is very civil; and I am to give him in the article next week. It goes to press immediately.

There was another plan talked of lately—for I am full of plans; and tho' a hundred fail, I shall continue to hope that the hundred and first will succeed. The worthy provost of Kirkcaldy met me the other day; and stated that he had been concocting a scheme, which he imagines might turn out well for me. It was to take smart and extensive lodgings; to spy about for two or three young 'squirelings desirous of being educated in Edinr; to admit them under my hired roof, at the rate of (say) 80 or 90 guineas a-head, and thus to remunerate myself for superintending their studies at the College or High School. If the project prospered,—to take a house, and flourish amazingly: he himself had one boy or perhaps two. I promised to consider of this for next afterharvest; but said that being destitute of connexions in a great measure, I had litt[l]e expectation of getting a suitable number of boys. This did not seem impracticable to the good Magistrate: and he left me with a strict charge to bestir myself, to inquire at least, and let him know the issue.

I have made not [no] inquiries yet, having been prevented by writing &c; but really the measure does not seem, on second thoughts, so unfeasible as it did at first. It would involve me in care; but it would not interrupt my literary operations, and it might eventually procure me a home, a hearth-stone of my own—which of course I desiderate not a little. And if it go to the winds, as better things have gone before it: what need is there to “whine, put finger i' the eye and sob”8 as if all were hopeless? Give me a sound body, and a free conscience; and I fear nothing.

My dear boy, I said I was stupid; and now I have proved it. You must send me more of your meditations—on religion or love—or whatever the subject is: I like them well.— I am always,

Your affectionate Brother, /

Thomas Carlyle

Is not Jack a lazy dog? And where is Mag now?9 Voiceless as the Mainhill pump—she gives no symptom of remembering me. Tell the infatuated creature that I am alive and wish her happy. Bid James & Mary try their hands at an epistle; and give my love to the little topbranches of the family, Jane & Jenny—