The Collected Letters, Volume 1


TC TO ALEXANDER CARLYLE; 9 November 1821; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18211109-TC-AC-01; CL 1:390-392.


Edinr9th November 1821—

My dear Alick,

Here am I arrived in safety once more, and down at the old trade of scribbling my adventures and feelings on paper to occupy my ever trusty friends with and gratify my own garrulity at the same time. There is nothing like room at present (for Garthwaite1 leaves us in an hour) to tell you all my “travel's history”:2 I must content myself with a sketch.

After parting with you on Wednesday evening,3 James4 and I soon proceeded to bed in a neighbouring house connected with our inn. I say to bed, for to sleep was not so speedy a matter. The hundred thousand thoughts that occupied me, could not perhaps have driven away the dewy God:5 but a more vulgar cause, the old one, aggravated too by my comarade's sonorous breathing, proved more effectual. James did not light potatoe-shaws on that occasion; the sound of his nostrils was more like the far-off noise of two men (Ha' and Wullie Robison for instance) sawing knotty timber—a small faint jingling music, with here and there a harsher, louder, quicker note—when some one of the many snuff-valves which line our friend's promontory were unluckily closed. This held me doing for a time; but at length I got asleep, and might have made a reasonable job of it, had not the waiter come to rouse us at five o'clock, with intelligence that the Coach was getting ready, and we must rise or get the worst places in it. We arose accordingly, and after many delays got fairly seated and under way; I on the roof behind the driver; James inside with a comfortable allotment of five companions. He told me every stage, that, he was stewed, braked, boiled, and so forth—by which he meant only that he was greatly squeezed, and kept in hot, foul air. For myself I got on well. The dreadnought defended me from all cold in the beautiful morning; the fine scenery of Nithsdale revealed itself as the sun rose; and I had plenty of occupation in surveying it and asking after it. There was company too in abundance. A drunken Cattle-dealer attracted my first notice. He had been in the Police-office all night; and when they shouldered him up, no place seemed to him so convenient, as the place right behind my back, where he could both be screened from cold, and enjoy my shoulder as a pillow. I told him twice, that absolutely no price he could offer would induce me to let him lie there one minute, and so he must needs remove. The second telling was more emphatic than the first: it sent him to the hinder end; and I heard no more of him, except the loudest words of his blubbering mystification, and a few passionate petitions addressed to all and sundry, for a morsel of tobacco. He went away altogether at Thornhill. Two sprightlier personages were a young Glasgow literary & commercial adventurer named Clelland, with his acquaintance and mine the far-famed 'Squire Esbie,6 both of whom got planted near me; and we talked small talk together copiously whenever we felt so inclined. Sir Thomas Kirkpatrick7 and five small characters sat behind and talked or yawned as seemed convenient. In this wise we pushed along at an easy rate thro' the wild moors of Durisdeer and Crawfurd, to the fair of Biggar—where we dined on ginger-bread, and finally to Edinburgh, in which city we arrived two hours after the appointed time, namely, about eight o'clock. I had felt no cold but on the contrary great enjoyment till near the end. Mrs Robertson was ready with open arms to receive James and me; and both of us still continue with her. I secured about seven hours' sleep—till my old friend the waterseller's tin-horn aroused me; and tho' somewhat stiff and confused, I feel in no bad order. Another night of sound repose will put me where I was.

There appears to have been nothing spoiling during my absence—except partially that the printer has been rather anxious about the stuff I was writing. The teaching they spoke of was an absurd busine[ss] I could not have undertaken, and would not tho' I could have it. I have not seen into lodgings yet or indeed done any thing except got up my box for the purpose of acco[m]modating the printers with their material. I design to continue here for a day or two—at least till tomorrow—that I may have time to look out for a suitable place to deposit myself in. Johnstone does not depart till Saturday at three o'clock; but we have two beds, and he serves to keep me in talk. You may direct the box to Mrs R's 16. Carnegie-street, as usual: I will leave my address with her, at any rate. I wish it fitted me to stay with her altogether; but I must have quietness and fresh air, if possible.— Brewster and Waugh (the Bookseller) and all the rest, I intend to see in due course—that is to say, when I am settled.— Thus, my dear Alick, have I expounded all my goings to you,—at greater length than I purposed, for I love to talk to you on those points, and to see, with the mind's eye,8 all the expectant group of anxious faces gathered round my poor sheet while you recite it for the general good. My blessing be upon them all! It is the lot of life to meet and then to part; but I trust there are many joyful meetings in store for us yet, and a bright meeting yonder, where the word To part has no place in speech.— I have only now to ask if you delivered all my trinkets to the wee things, the bonnet to Mary, the umbrella to Mag, and his own to each generally. If not, see to rectify it forthwith. You will write of course, long and largely, next week: I shall then be able to tell you more. I need scarcely add how sincerely

I remain, / My dear Alick, / Your affectionate brother, /

Thos Carlyle

(Tell my Mother to make a good strong dish of tea, whenever she thinks of me, and specially when she reads this.)