The Collected Letters, Volume 1


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE; 11 December 1821; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18211211-TC-JAC-01; CL 1:407-409.


Edinr, 11th December 1821—

My dear Jack,

I fear you have this night undergone a considerable disappointment. Your most lively and cheering epistle1 came to hand in the afternoon of Saturday; and I had no sooner devoured its contents, than I proceeded into the city to execute the commission which it contained. Returning with the Abbé Tardy2 in my pocket, I forthwith set myself to scribble you a very long-winded letter; and having finished three quarto pages and a half in this sort, it only remained for me to travel southward again to the Grass-market,3 that I might entrust the parcel to our trusty Lemuadromus [ghostly messenger from a Spartan race-course] Guyon, vulgarly denominated Gavin the Carrier of Annan. Alas! I had calculated wrong; Guyon was away; and I came thoughtfully back, determined since no better might be, to reserve the Dictionary with the attendant epistle for a more suitable opportunity; and in the mean while to despatch you intelligence by the Post, that no uneasiness might ensue. The first part of my resolution has been punctually adhered to, and you shall have the packet (Tell Ben) whenever Garthwaite appears: the second part I am even now executing—thus late, because I am a negligent dog, and a number of trifling matters acted on me & aggravated my sloth. I need not particularize them: you are a good soul and will forgive me.

My dear Jack, I send many a thought southward to you. Often in the mind's eye you appear seated at your mahogany tippet,4 with the various accoutrements of a solitary student, labouring in secret at the task, which (fear it not, my boy!) will yet be rewarded openly. Few such quiet things in Nature have so much of the sublime in them as the spectacle of a poor but honourable-minded youth, with discouragement all around him but never-dying hope within his heart, forging, as it were, the armour with which he is destined to resist and overcome the hydras of this world and conquer for himself in due time, a habitation among the sunny fields of life. Like every other virtue, this effort may almost be called its own reward, even tho' success should never crown it. How poor, how beggar-poor, compared with this, is the vulgar, rioting, dandyish, punch-drinking, oyster-eating existence often led by your borough Procurator, or embryo Provost! Truly, Jack, you have chosen the better part: and as your brother I rejoice to see you persevere in it. Only remember that there is another extreme in which you may err almost as fatally, tho' not so basely; and take warning while there is yet time to shun it. You know what I allude to; and also that I have a sad right to be anxious on that score. Go often out,—to Ben your friend every night, and talk long with him; visit Mainhill almost every Saturday; and let nothing sit heavy on your heart without communicating it. Solitary grief is worst of all. Tell me every thing. Am not I your Mentor? And could I help liking you, even tho' Nature had not made us brothers? There is no hurry whatever: long before next winter you will be well qualified to make a figure in Edinr—where by the blessing of Heaven you shall not again fail of presenting yourself. So fear no weather, Jack: Fortune favours the brave; and the integer vitae (as Horace will have told you) scelerisque purus non eget Mauris jaculis neque arcu5—nor any thing else in fact—utterly.

I perused, with deep interest and pleasure, your graphic account of the style, in which our Father received the spectacles.6 It is a cheap way of purchasing pleasure to make those that love us happy at so small an expense. Go up with my kind and heartfelt wishes to all of them, Mother & Father, Alick and all, next saturday. Say I am greatly behindhand with them in the matter of writing, tho' not in affection: but I shall do exploits henceforth in that line. I am going to live in the South7 to-morrow, where they may send me boxes of cakes and letters by the dozen, and get replies in proportion. This fluctuation of lodgings will surprise you: but I trust the present change will be the last. This Sherlock's room (in which I now write) was entrusted almost solely to the care of a servant, and proved so noisy that, when I went to sleep, it seemed as if I had lain down to take sweet rest in the centre of a fulling-mill. Besides she began to talk about my smoking, forsooth, and modestly requested me to give it up, for it spoiled the room. Whereupon I instantly calmed her heart, by professing my extreme willingness to evacuate the room for ever and a day. This happened about dusk; and an hour ago, I hired a fine place in College-street no. 5, of one Mrs Cusine (with whom Dobie and George Little's8 boys stay—much to their mind) for 8/ per week: and as all seems right, I expect to continue there[.] In other respects I am well; moderately healthy (far better than usual) and one way with another very happy—at least for a time. I began a kind of specimen of Legendre to-day—which they want to print and fin[d] the costs of all the work thereby. I shall make good labour of it—two she[et]s per week, easily. In the interim, Faustus—and (ni fata retent9 [unless the fates prevent]—which they shall not) my own book! I have every motive which man can have for exertion. Farewell!

Always your brother /

Thomas Carlyle

[In margin:] You must not prove false to your promise of writing often, often. I will reply most regularly. The address is: Cusine's Lodgings 5. College-street.— I wish I had five sheets or six to fill—instead of one—but est modus in rebus10—so Adieu!