The Collected Letters, Volume 13


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE ; 15 August 1841; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18410815-TC-JAC-01; CL 13: 214-216


Newby, Annan, 15 August, 1841.

My dear Brother,

Having half an hour to myself at present, I will write you again, tho' it is but two days since my last sheet went off. It is the brightest, stillest Sunday; Isabella and Jane have gone out I know not whither; Ellen returns from Annan Kirk, with the false tidings, “There is no Post today, Sir”!— The last intolerable volume of my Balzac Lis dans la vallée is finished, and nothing farther of the Littérature du désespoir [Literature of Desperation]1 yet begun. The faint murmur of the declining Tide, and the chatter of many sea-birds are all the sounds I hear in this garret: over the sands Skiddaw, or rather the ghost of Skiddaw clad in mists and sunshine, is all I see.

… Yesterday thro' the dim dewy evening Isabella and I drove to Scotsbrig, by Hoddam Brig and the Howes. It is all like a kind of vision of Hades, this country, to me; especially when it sinks all grey, like a formless blot; future and past alike nothing, or an unintelligible something! The truth is, I myself, in these weeks, make no debate whatever against the great exterior NOT-I; there is nothing but passivity, idleness and Balzac Literature in me: perhaps it is good so; I shall get to working, to asserting of my self, by and by. Never have I been idler than here since I can remember. If my health do not improve a little, it is very hard! I see nobody, will let nobody see me. ‘It is not to be a Lion,’ Jane says, ‘but to be a Tiger.’2

… Did I ever tell you that John Johnstone (the Minister's Son), lately Minister at Glasgow, wrote to me since I came hither, for a recommendation or certificate for America, whither he was just bound, and has now, I suppose, sailed? I gave him the Certificate instantly. Poor John: the last account I got of him he was receiving “massive silver snuff-boxes,” now he is on his travels, an aged disappointed man.3 Poor Kenny, with his execution too!4 Poor everybody,—for, in fact, it is an ugly kind of time this, and in a world that is seldom altogether beautiful. Rich only are they who can make some sort of manful head against such a world!—

We leave this place tomorrow week. … Adieu, dear Brother. Love me while you can.— Ever yours, / T. Carlyle.