The Collected Letters, Volume 10


TC TO ALEXANDER CARLYLE ; 10 January 1838; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18380110-TC-AC-01; CL 10: 3-6


Chelsea, 10th January, 1838—

My dear Brother,

We received very thankfully your kind, quaint and cheery Letter, recording your establishment in the new way of life at Ecclefechan. It was doubly welcome, as we had got no news of you, of any distinctness, till it came. You seem to be doing as well as one could expect for the time. “There is a dub [puddle] at the end of every town,” says the Proverb, “and a loch at the end of this.”1 In fact one great doctrine everywhere inculcated among men is this, The necessity of cheerful perseverance. The brawest [finest] new coat we get from the tailor sits not easy at first. We must wear it a while, and then it begins to be easy. I like very well the humour you seem to be in. Joyfulness of hope cannot well be looked for at our time of life, and after so many bitter mistakes; it is enough if one can compose himself, and with quiet diligence endeavour to make his task do for him.— Well; you must just persevere there, studying in all ways what will really advance your undertaking, not much disappointed if you see little fruit for a while; by and by you will begin to see fruit. Nay, it seems, your profits already do about suffice to meet your household outlay: this, I think, is great work. It is few trades that will do as much for a man in these days. I have seen many men's trades, including those of statesmen, orators and high-famed persons; and it seems to me the longer I live, the trades of all men look more and more alike: the happiest of all men I think is he who can keep himself the quietest. Be of good cheer then, my dear Brother; and go heartily along there, thinking your task as good as any task, so it be followed faithfully. I will hope to find you quietly progressive when I come back to Annandale; not making any shine, for that is not necessary to the son of Adam, nor good for him; but jogging along, in more and more tranquility of mind, making day and way somewhat alike, among your bairns and other blessings; growing always the quieter the older you grow. One of the chief things I look towards in increasing age is that of getting quieter. Allan Cunningham tells me “a man never gets healthy till he is five-and-forty”!2 That surely is rare news.

Jack, twice over, in his Letters, has insisted much on the necessity of your applying yourself to penmanship in your leisure hours. I report his counsel; and really think it will be worth your while. The main thing you have to aim at is getting to write fast, and with ease. You have the elements already of a very sufficient hand: throw it out, I would say; you will find yourself get along better and better. There is nothing else in the world but practice, continued practice, that will teach any one to write. Jamie Aitken has got himself a capital hand, you see. Rob Hanning even is pointing that way. Go and do likewise! One of the usefullest helps, I may add, is to have a good pen. Can you make a pen to your mind? Try that withal.— Why man, if you had a free flowing hand, and were perfectly sicker [sure] in the spelling, who knows what all you might write! I have seen a man with less natural wit, do—I will not say what.

The only other thing I will say about Ecclefechan at present, is to hope that the poor little Bairn whom I remember well is not coughing any more. Get flannel for her and the rest, poor little objects; keep them warm, and be kind to them; they will be a blessing to you yet. Jane I find is a speller; that is right: she is a cleverish lass, or I am mistaken. Tom also must arouse his somewhat sleepy faculty;—or on the whole, he is perhaps just as wise to keep himself quiet for the present. To them and their Mother and all of you, we send our best new-year; and pray, as poor Irving used to do, “May the worst of our years be past.”3

As to London and me, there is little stirring since I wrote last. I persist in my old determination to be at rest. I will be a quieter man, tho' all the Devils should tempt me otherwise. This I fancy is the main conquest I have made after all; and a great conquest I do find it to be. For the rest, things all go successfully enough. I hear some inklings of a second edition of the Book; a thing which I suppose will come, tho' one cannot well say when, for our Fraser will now have money to pay.4 Before this time twelvemonth, we will say. Did I mention to you last time how Fraser and I were on terms about reprinting my Review Articles &c in a collected form? Well: after some meditation. I demanded £50 a volume from him; he, poor soul, one of the cowardliest of men, durst not say Yes, durst hardly say No; looked very miserable; he has since then fallen sick, and so the matter hangs.5 My own fixed resolution is that I will either be paid, or have the blessedness of lying idle at least. Of that alternative no man can hinder me. But observe, with regard to those same “Articles,” an American just now applies to me, thro' Miss Martineau, for a List of them that he may get them published there! It will be “profitable,” he says; which Miss M. assures me, means 500 dollars: “he is a wealthy young Lawyer, of great worth,” who makes the proposal. Be this as it may, I have sent the man a List of my writings (with a correction or two); and think the chance is I shall really have the satisfaction of sending you a Copy by and by—from Yankeeland first.6 It is all right and more; I used to think they might print these things perhaps after my death; but this is a better proposal than that.— By the bye, a man in the Times Newspaper, for the last ten days, is writing diligently a series of Papers called “Old England”7 extravagantly in my manner; so that several friends actually thought it was I! I did not see them till last night; and had a loud laugh over them then. It is that dog Thackeray (my Reviewer in the Times; you remember the Potter Knowe8); he, I am persuaded, and no other: I take it as a help and compliment in these circumstances; and bid it welcome so far as it will go.— There are to be Lectures; but Heaven as yet knows on what.9

But see the bottom of the sheet! We have the sternest frost since three days ago, after weather of a brightness and mildness equal to Italy. We must take it as it comes. Jane keeps wonderfully well, does not cough at all; she is writing here to Mary,10 and bids me send her kind love by this conveyance too. I inclose you my last letter from Manchester; which gives all the news I have of Jack yet: I have had a Newspaper with strokes from him since, nothing more. He is well seemingly. I end here.

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