The Collected Letters, Volume 1


TC TO ALEXANDER CARLYLE; 6 June 1821; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18210606-TC-AC-01; CL 1:361-363.


Edinr, 6th June, 1821—

My dear Alick,

Your letter came most opportunely to relieve my anxieties on your account, and also to employ two hours of otherwise unprofitable time in answering it. I swallowed a huge dose of Epsom salt (horrible drug!), which has freed me from some qualms, indeed; but rendered me as weak for the time—it was yesterday when I did the deed—as any man need well be. So if not in writing to you, I must have spent the afternoon in vague dreaming,—stretched upon three chairs, and wrapped carefully up in Grahame's impenetrable dreadnought cloak. If the boy had come a little earlier, it had been better: but three o'clock seems to be his favourite hour.

I sighed to learn the fate of poor old Rose. She was a good beast in her day; but beasts are mortal as well as men; and like Cato's son, our Rose “has done her duty.”1 She has seen you thro' the seed-time;—which, if I may judge from personal experience here, must have been a task more than usually heavy. We have had such weather! Ever since may began, a Whirlblast and a Drench, a Whirlblast and a Drench, have been our sad vicissitudes. Yesterday was a day of darkness; but it set the wind into the West—where I solemnly pray it may continue as long as—possible. Those easterly breezes, with their fine freights (of icy vapour, sand, straw, dung &c, here) are certainly the most entertaining weather one can well fall in with. If you be indigestive and nervous at the time,—it is quite surprising.

No wish has arisen within me more constantly and fervently for the last half-year, than the wish for a return of sound, vig[or]ous health. I tell you, my boy, all the evils of life are as the small dust of the balance to a diseased stomach. Rejoice that your chosen occupation, with all its many toils and difficulties, will ever preserve you free from such miserable experience. It is not the pain of those capricious organs; that were little: but the irresistible depression, the gloomy overclouding of the soul, which they inevitably engender, is truly frightful—at least to a Solitary it is frightful. Upon this dreadful property of bowel disorders it is, however, that I mainly ground my expectation of a final recovery. The external pain has not abated very decidedly; but my spirits have not been so good for many years, as during the last month or two. Therefore I do trust by bathing, and walking, and every kind of attention—once more to taste the feelings of a whole man. If it were but so!—I would not give a straw for all the earth—except those I liked.

No doubt it is the Salt which speaketh here—partly—for in very deed I am getting better. Dr Brewster maintained that I had been in the country to recover so ruddy a check, when he saw me a while ago. I am stronger, too, in my general mood. Therefore I pray you to have Dumple fitly caparisoned against the month of August; for this genial warning shall not be lost, undoubtedly; and I shall ri[de] on that formidable steed—if I were home—from morning unto night. The wandering Jew himself shall not be a more restless character.

Irving was with me lately, during the General Assembly time. The man could not have been kinder to me, had he been a brother. He would needs take me to East Lothian with him for a day or two, to ‘see the world.’2 We went accordingly; and tho' that wretched stomach was full of gall—so that I could neither sleep nor eat to perfection— I was happy as a lark in may. We returned last thursday [May 31]. I can say little about their husbandry—tho' I often thought had you been there what fine questions you would have put: but for the people—I saw the finest sample in the world. There was Gilbert Burns, brother of that immortal ploughman, ‘that walked in glory on the mountain-side, behind his team’;3 there was4— But no sheet (much less this) can be enough for them. I came back so full of joy, that I have done nothing since but dream of it— Tomorrow I must up and study—for man lives not by dreaming alone.— The poor paper you see is over with it: but if the Harlot5 make his promise good, I shall have another dash at you soon.— Hoping that our Father & Mother and all the rest are well & happy, I remain as usual,

My dear Alick, / Your's truly, /

T. Carlyle