The Collected Letters, Volume 1


TC TO ALEXANDER CARLYLE; 19 December 1821; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18211219-TC-AC-01; CL 1:414-416.


Edinr, Cusine's Lodging's, 5. College-street / 19th December, 1821.

My dear Alick,

I learned to-day, almost by accident, that Garthwaite was in Town; and I gladly devote the hour of leisure between dinner and dusk, to clap you down in black and white some partial account of my walk and conversation here, since I wrote last. I have just consumed a solid dinner of beef-steak; and I slept too little last night: so however dull you expect me to be I am sure to prove duller. But what is dulness or sprightliness, when one is writing to a brother? Mere nothing.

I came over into this room just a week ago: I believe it [will] do. The place is open, but in the centre of the town, and thus not so well-aired; it is also enlivened by the sound of ten thousand carts and coaches—which, however, do me very little ill; nor is it any of the warmest up-putting. Still it is an elegant large apartment; and the people are very decent seemingly: so it will do I believe, for the winter. Cusine (poor soul!) has been fleeced to the bare back by Irish students and the like going off with unpaid scores; so she intends leaving Edinr at Whitsunday: I shall then go back to Robertson, who purposes taking a good house, in some pleasant part of the city, and will be very glad to receive me. Now let us hope, My dear Alick, that this most pitiful of all subjects, the subject of room-taking, with which I have so long deafened your friendly ear, may henceforth sleep—till doomsday, if it might be; but for one twelvemonth any way!

Within a few days, I have set fairly to work, and am proceeding lustily; not in the whimpering, wavering, feeble, hobbling style I used; but stoutly as a man cutting rice [rise, brushwood] would wish to do. I rise between seven and eight; if I have got good sleep—well; if not—well; I then seize my pen and write till the unfortunate people have cooked me a morsel of lukewarm tea for breakfast; and afterwards proceed leisurely to Great King-street in the back of the New Town, where I teach a very sparing portion of Mathematics to two young women and one young man—quiet stupid people, with whom I spend my time till ten. Next comes a Captain of the Sea, one Anderson in George-street, not rude and boisterous like the Element he has been used to, but shrill & smooth-spoken; who gasps and burrs and repeats Euclid to me 'till eleven. On returning home I resume the pen and write till after two; then a walk till three; then dinner and dozing or walking or reading silly stuff or scribbling it (as now) till five, when I go to hear Peter [Patrick] Swan overhaul his lessons; and come back after six to write or read or do whatever I incline. This is a laborious life, but such a one as suits me, and I desingn [design] persisting in it. Nothing in the world gives such scope to discontent as idleness, no matter whether forced or voluntary: a man had better be darning stockings than doing nothing. It is also profitable as well as happy. I calculate on making a small penny this winter; of which my need is not small, as things are, and would have been indispensable, if Thrift had not lent me her aid sometimes. The work at which I am writing is Legendre, the Translation I spoke of. It is a canny job; I could earn five guineas in the week at it, if I were well. I restrict myself to three—working four hours each day. The evenings I design to devote to original composition, if I could but gather myself. I must do something—or die, whichever I like better. As to the latter, I have nae wull o't [no inclination toward it], as Curly said, at all.

In this systematic division of my time, I find myself greatly impeded by the want of a proper Chronometer: they have no Clock in the house; and I often feel the want of one. Is the old watch at home still alive? If so, send it me. Or have you sold her, which were as well? In that case, try if by hook or by crook, you can get me any thing to measure time with, & send it out by Farries immediately. I care not if it were twin brother to a potatoe-plum in appearance, so it will but wag, and tell me how the hour goes. I beg of you to mind this, for you cannot conceive how I am straitened for the want of the article.

Certainly this sheet has gone away by magic! I had a thousand things to ask about Cobbett, and Mainhill with its ever dear inhabitants, and Annandale, and Farries of Stonylee (is the poor man shot?)— And see! the game is done!— You will write a full sheet next time, will you not?

Your brother, /

Thos Carlyle.

Give my Mother that note carefully. She may send the cheese, when the box goes out, if she like. Make pens, for my many silent correspondents, beside you: surely they have none.