The Collected Letters, Volume 1


TC TO THOMAS MURRAY; 2 October 1821; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18211002-TC-TM-01; CL 1:384-386.


Mainhill, 2nd October 1821—

My dear Murray,

Mr Johnstone (your old Friend Clint's nephew) having it in view to set out for Edinburgh tomorrow, and offering very frankly to take charge of any letters from me, I have seized the pen with purpose to scribble you a few lines—on the old subject—nothing; and thereby at once to comply with your desire, and gratify my own garrulous propensities, which still exist in their pristine vigour, tho' in this quarter they have but indifferent scope for exercise. Philosophers maintain that life should be filled up with action and speculation blended in due proportions: I have been forking sheaves all day—which in all conscience is action enough, and as this letter will doubtless contain much speculation of as valuable and heroic a cast, I flatter myself you will say of me, that, for one twenty-four hours at least, omne tuli punctum.1

You recollect what a fidget I was in to get home, when we parted; I anticipate your surprise when you learn that since my return I have been totally idle. I came home from Galloway, with no fruit of my expedition, but mingled recollections of pleasures sullied and friends vexed by my disquietude; and to look at my proceedings subsequently, you would think I was a second Columbus that had brought back—not a morsel of Broughton's copper—but news of a fresh Continent, and had nothing henceforth to do but rest under the shadow of his laurels. Cela ne se tiendra pas [That won't hold water]: it will not. I must compile that trash for their Cyclopedia, tho' it were ten times stupider and I ten times sicker; I must have it off my hands; and then bestir myself, ardua ardens [eager for difficulties], for something greater;—if I would not die the most disagreeable of all deaths, the death of Jenkin's Hen, who perished as historians say, not from want of food or shelter or any earthly convenience, but merely because she was tired of living—her heart was sated, and smitten with the tedium vitae [weariness of life]. I pity the poor fowl, and must study to avoid her fate. But of this hereafter.

How do the Gallovidian sages prosper under your hands?2 I hope the book is at last getting into types, any way. I saw Mr Duncan—tho' not on the day I expected: but I had no opportunity of mentioning your affair with M'Diarmid. At any rate, I understand Mr D. has no concern now with the printing establishment; so the Scrapman3 is all you have to care for—and for him a very little care will serve. Some printer's Devil or creature of that species, I believe, is going to publish poems at the Courier office: and the paper intended for you may thus come in stead another way.— I hear not a word of Stewart Lewis4 or his correspondence. If you seriously meditated writing some memorial of the poor castaway in any of your publications, I believe much of his correspondence might still be gleaned in this quarter: but except for a definite object of that kind, one cannot well be inquiring after it. Lewis I think is quite as worthy a subject as Dermody or Boyce:5 if I were unemployed and had a turn that way I might— But what does it profit?

A few days ago I received a parcel from your exalted Bibliopolist. He gave me a proof-sheet of that wretched article,6 accompanied with a very civil note, and a copy of somebody's translation of Faustus by Goethe—“for criticism.” Will you call on Waugh,7 and tell him in your very politest manner, that I received the parcel duly, and am much obliged by his attentiveness and so forth: it will satisfy him as to the fate of Faust, that it has reached me at least. The Doctor8 has done some good by retrenching and less evil than I expected: he has only made two pieces of sheer nonsense in the whole paper— All this of course (except the message) most emphatically under the rose[.] You will ask me, when I am coming to Town? I cannot say: perhaps in three weeks; but I am recovering here, and in no hurry. Write to me if you can.

I am always, / Your sincere friend, /

Thos Carlyle.

Give that note to Mitchell—if you can find him—if not, burn it. My kindest compliments to the Wigto[w]n people when you have an opportunity. T.C.