August-December 1842

The Collected Letters, Volume 15


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE ; 25 November 1842; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18421125-TC-JAC-01; CL 15: 202-204


Chelsea, 25 Novr, 1842—

My dear Brother,

It is one of the absurdest blunders; a thing to laugh at even in thinking of! Here is the true Potatoe-Quixote; read it, and light your cigar with it, that there be no more mistakes.1

Who the George Johnstone you had found near Gloucester could be? That was my first agonizing inquiry. For the Liverpool George Johnstone was diligently practising medicine about the foot of Brownlow Hill when I last heard of him. But the tenor of your description leaves no doubt that this is actually he;—and very curious it is! George has always something of a crick in the head of him; and had here ventured on a very questionable experiment. Poor fellow, I suppose he remembered the happy sunny days at Axletreewell, when the sky and Earth were all cheerful without and young truant or schoolboy heart was all cheerful within; and it had always hung in his mind that Farming was of all things the best! But he has a spice of real honest sense in him, a tenacity as of withes, above all; and will not founder in the “Glarry [Muddy] Road” there. I am very glad to hear of a Prattler, which will be a considerable resource for them; right glad too to hear of old Mrs Johnstone, and noble filial piety still at work. Pray do go back again if it be within reach; and say all manner of kind things on my part to the good George and his good Mother.2 The memory of them both is uneffaceable to me; girt with all manner of other memories, far, how far away! Wish them in my name heartily well,—and the “female Billy Little”3 too!—

My writing goes on so so, but does go on. Last night I took to reading a new Volume of Varnhagen,4 which you may recollect I have had for several months: it is right capital reading; a set of Vandyke Portraits, in the first style of excellence some of them! It is deplorable to fly to Pickwick and Harry Lorrequer, and the crackling of thorns under the pot,5 when such writing as Varnhagen's might be produced.

A person called Dasent, an Oxford graduate, as I have learned since, whom I saw long since as a Boy at Sterling's, and who is now tutor in the English Ambassador's at Stockholm had sent me a Translation of the Younger Edda from the Norse; rough as Russian hemp, very strange, and not without value, tho' full of affectation: nay I erschrack [was startled] on finding, on a blank leaf, after I had finished, that the good youth had dedicated “To Thomas Carlyle”!6 I do not expect that it will carry me beyond computed centuries, that Dedication.

Gambardella is off in Liverpool, on a painting expedition; where one of his “Naked Figures” had excited speculation in a discerning public. There is talk of his painting John Welsh himself; the daughters are in hopes to succeed with Papa! Gambardella has actually done here some Portraits that astonish me,—far beyond any I have seen lately. The beaver has a building faculty in him, tho' not developed into intellect!— Adieu dear Brother. The Sun is sinking I ought to have been out, hours ago.

Yours ever affectionately

T. Carlyle