The Collected Letters, Volume 2


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE; 30 January 1822; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18220130-TC-JAC-01; CL 2:23-26.


3. Moray-street, 30th January 1822—

My dear Jack,

The Carrier came in today, and found me in such a bustle, that tho' I scrawled off a letter for Home, and delivered it to him, I fear they will be able to make neither “top tail nor root out of it”:1 and I sit down, now more at ease, to give you some regular picture of affairs, in the faith that you will carry it up to Mainhill on Saturday, and so contrive to eke out some tolerable conception of my “Whereabout and How” among you. I am going to charge you with postage; but we cannot help it; you must just submit.

In the first place of all, then, you will thank my Mother again and again for her kindness in sending materials out to me in the box, and good wishes in the letter. I will answer, as I may, in due season. Take up some tea and other such traffic with you—for my sake as well as your own.— In the second place, I would have you tell Polewarth2 that his epistle (which I have just read over a second time) is very smart, and contains just two small errors: “thankful’ and “whither” in place of “whether.” I can see that he has studied Cobbett to some purpose: I hope he will reap the full fruit of his diligence in time. The “old watch” I got duly, and find very serviceable: it goes well, tho' somewhat nimbly. If there is any thing to pay Robie or others connected with it; some of you will stand good: the article is worth fifty of the old one, which indeed was worth very little—if any thing.

In the third place (for I love to be methodical) say that I am continuing to enjoy moderate health, and I think to improve in that respect. It was worth many pounds to me—if pain were valued by pounds—that I left that devoted city, and planted myself here sub Dio [in the open air], if I may speak so. The infernal vapours, the neverceasing crash of men and horses,—and other machinery, even noisier tho' inanimate—would have demolished me at last, I am almost certain. In Moray-street, I am about as well off for air and quiet as you are, if not better. I get some good sleep almost every night—after tossing and sprawling for a while. But lying awake is mere nothing now to what it was, when I used to recline so placidly beside you in Bitty's.3 Those were brave nights, Jack! I shall never forget some such nights, if I were to live for a century or two. But the nerves are greatly recovered now; and the stomach itself, I care far less for. It will follow so good an example any way, I hope, in time.

You of course know all the outs and ins, up to a certain date, of this tutoring business. I shall try to explain the bearing of it, as it actually stands. I said something of it to Sandy, if memory does not mislead: but I had just eaten my dinner then, and was in a condition approximate to that of the seven sleepers: I was also hurried to an extreme degree; and so talked stupidity I suppose. “I will now speak clear”—as Majocchi4 said. Here beginneth the second head of Method—on Thursday—The boys arrived about a week ago, and are to continue some six months at board in the house of one Dr Fleming,5 a clergyman, till their parents arrive. I have entered upon duty, but in a desultory way, and expecting farther advice from London. I have offered to take the matter upon trial for a month or two at any rate; and then, if it answer, to commence business regularly, and with the regular salary—£200, and an allowance in the interim instead of board. Mr Buller, the father, wished some abatement in this period of uncertainty. I proffered leaving the payment at his own discretion, for the two months; and having no farther uncertainty at all. The “Memorandum” in which I stated this together with some other considerations necessary to be impressed upon the man, is now in his possession. It was written with as much emphasis as I could contrive to unite with respectfulness; Irving also has spoken magnificently of me:6 so that if I enter the family at all, I need expect no supercilious or uncomfortable treatment there: and I still consider the office as lying at my own option, that is, depending on the character of the young men themselves and my suitableness to it. This latter point I have naturally been doing my utmost to determine during the last week: and tho', of course, I have not quite succeeded in badomming7 the fellows yet, I am rather inclined to hope they will do. Both are of superior talents, and much classical instruction: they have few positively bad qualities that I can see, and considerable good nature. Levity and inattention are the prevailing faults; and in the elder boy they will be rather difficult to surmount: however I have no fear that he or any one connected with him will ever get the length of despising me, and I imagine that patient management on my part will bring about the desired result. A short time will try; and I will tell you regularly how it goes on. They take up all my day—at least the better part of it—at present; from ten o'clock till about one, and from six to nearly eight. If I undertake finally, I shall need to make a fierce push at Greek. But a man will do much for such advantages.

Now, Jack, I have told you all that can be told about this thing. If it prosper, we may all be the better for it. You, certainly, need be under no apprehensions about your education—there will be cash enough to fit you out royally. Indeed you need not fear tho' it were again the nothing it was four weeks ago. You will almost for certain get teaching next winter: and if not—I have a pen still, and a stout heart belonging to myself. So be of good cheer, my jolly boy; let not thy winnow-cloth picture aught sinister in the future.8 Mind not the ineptiae [stupidities] of the midge Duncan, or the down-looks of Biggar and the burghers of Annan. Stick to Ben (to whom my best compliments), keep working cannily as “doth the little busy bee”9—and let the Earth wag as it will. Observe I expect a long letter very soon—by the post; it comes soonest and sureliest. Describe every thing to me—sans peur et sans souci [in a fearless, carefree way]. What matters what you write to me? I am,

Your Brother, /

Thomas Carlyle

From the top of page 3d is written to-night (thursday); so you have the latest news. I am for the Post-office now. So Bon soir, Jack!

Johnson's Tour will do excellently well to read—or some of Swift's works if you like humour: did you ever see his Tale of a Tub or Gulliver? What think you of Rasselas or the Lives of the Poets? Do you ever make an onslaught upon poetry? There is Pope and Dryden and all the moderns—which people read independently of (see next page) their merits—to talk about them. There are also plays out of number from Shakespear, the greatest of geniuses down to Cumberland10 very far from the greatest. There is much good to be got of (see next p.) reading such things—they improve the style, and fill the imagination with fine objects and the heart sometimes with bold feelings. Read to amuse yourself as well as to learn; and be not diligent over much— (This is all).