The Collected Letters, Volume 1


TC TO JOHN FERGUSSON; 4 October 1821; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18211004-TC-JOFE-01; CL 1:388-389.


Mainhill, 4th October 1821—

My dear Fergusson,

I have only two or three minutes which I can devote to you at present, being on the wing for Annan: but I cannot altogether let slip the opportunity, afforded me by Mr Johnstone's journey, of inquiring after your fortune, and assuring you that I take the same interest in it as I have always taken. I could not possibly see you the day before my departure; a thousand things occurred to prevent me: but I left a message for you with Galloway,1 which I hoped might have proved the means of eliciting a letter from you to enliven my rustication,—especially as I understood that the Kirk[c]aldy affair was to be settled very speedily. I am not much surprised, however, that I have been disappointed. You have had other tow to tease,2 I suppose, than scribbling to me. Like Virgil's Romans you have been acting not recording actions. Excudent alii.3— What is this other place which you have been provided with?4 I heard of it not an hour ago, and very vaguely. I trust it is something infinitely preferable to “teaching the Latin in its purity” at Kirkcaldy, which task I understand you have done wisely to decline. I wish you would tell me about it very soon: and that whether you tell me or not, it may turn out to be a field in which you can contentedly labour, and enjoy the just fruit of your labour. What more can a man desire?

For myself, I have been breathing constantly since my return—as you may conjecture, but doing little else. Dyspepsia is certainly the queen of human ills— No more of her.— I was in Galloway for a week or so seeking the picturesque. I found it sometimes; but what did it avail? Since my return, I have ridden and run, and slept and waked, and weltered along the stream of Time as best I might. There are two or three hundred things lying for me to write and manage: I had rather face the Enemy than touch one of them[.] So when I shall come to Edinr, or how, or what I shall do there or enjoy or suffer—is to be found only in the Sybilline Book or some such record—to me it is unknown and unimportant.— I got Goethe's head—I mean his portrait—the other night, and looked at it for many hours. I have an immense love for the man, you know: if skilled in metrical composit[ion I] would have indited some sonnet on [the oc]casion—but having no turn that way [the] sonnet must lie drowned in the abysses of the brain—with many as worthless things. I would travel above fifty miles on foot to see Goethe. Ach! Sie finden sich nicht, die Seele[n] [Oh! true souls do not find one another]—

I pray that you may not have left Edinr till the end of this month—in which case I [sha]ll most probably meet you. Write to me if [possible]. I am always,

Your sincere friend, /

Thos Carlyle

(My compliments to Galloway)