The Collected Letters, Volume 2


TC TO JOHN FERGUSSON; 11 February 1822; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18220211-TC-JOFE-01; CL 2:33-36.


Edinr, 3. Moray-street, Leith-Walk. / Wilkie's Lodgings, 11th Feby 1822—

My dear Fergusson,

Your letter reached me some time ago; and the intelligence it brought afforded no small satisfaction. I rejoiced to learn that after all your inquietudes and wanderings, you had at last found some kind of resting-place—a substantial occupation capable of employing your faculties and yielding you those accommodations and comforts, which steady exertion and honest principles should always secure for a man in the world, but which one has often such struggling and toiling before one can arrive at. Your new establishment looks well in many respects: I hope to hear that you are prospering in it more and more daily, getting scholar upon scholar, friend upon friend, till finally you obtain a permanent habitation, a good wife to rule it, and so become in all points a settled denizen of this Earth.

I would have written sooner, but I wished to have some intelligence to send you, worthy of crossing the two Friths; and I found none. Apparently I might have waited till the end of time, had I persisted in this resolution: by good fortune (for myself at least) I have changed it; and tho' devoid of interesting matter, and dull as a bat in December, I am scribbling without any hinderance from those obstacles. There is nothing new under the Sun, Solomon said:1 and in fact one gets partly to believe Solomon at last. The outward forms of occurences are infinite in variety, there substantial qualities are few and uniform. Event succeeds event, as heir to heir; but no living man except the editors of Newspapers can command sufficient gaiety of heart to record their changes. I see scarcely any one here, but some few stragglers of the servum pecus [slavish herd],2 briefly and far between; so I know not how the world is wagging3 more than if I dwelt in the ring of Saturn. Only I hear at times some persons jangling about the “Agricultural distresses” and Joseph Hume,4 much as they are jangling everywhere on those topics, and here and there a man of sure information giving notice that M'Culloch5 has resigned his connection with the Scotsman, and is getting well or ill forward with his lectures on Political Economy—delivered to a select audience of ten; that the last Scotch Novel is worse than the first; that Lord Byrons tragedies are very comical; that the late Edinburgh Review is getting even duller than the former; and that in fact mankind seem hastening to a final consummation of stupidity—from which great quiet and contentedness of mind may fairly be expected to arise, both to individuals and the public at large.

From the contemplation of things in general, to that of things in particular, the transition is easy: and the change (can any change?) will not displease you. His Reverence of the Royal Jug6 has at length got a parish—that of Castleton in the South! He was upon “the Dukes List, ” a thing which I find is little less celebrated upon earth, than the zodiac or the galaxy is in the heavens. Joy to him of the many tumblers! I expect to hear that he will kill one whole ox, and give it to the Preaching world of this city—with at least a tun of Glen Livet [whisky] punch. James Brown7 is one of twenty unsuccessful candidates; Nichol8 is another. Peace be to all these clergy!

Have you heard of Edward Irving, a member of a worthier class. He was down at London lately; is come back for a season; and has the offer of going to the Hatton-Garden Chapel in the metropolis, under the most flattering auspices. He was popular among the Englishes to an extreme. Nay more—he has just received another call. They want him in New York, to take charge of the late Dr Mason's congregation, the first Presbyterian establishment in [Am]erica, with a salary of £1000.9 There is for you! On the whole Irving deserves it all and more. I believe him to be about the best man in the Scottish Church, both for head and heart. I have not heard whether he means to go across the ocean: I hope & partly expect, not.

For myself, I am still “grinding in the mill.” I enjoy better health than I did last year, that is (thanks to the fresh air of this place!) I am no longer kept in a state of nervousness, which would drive any man of common obstinacy to insanity or something worse[.] I wonder at the blindness of theologians: they have never assigned the Devil a bilious stomach, or sent him to Carnegie-street to hear men announcing the sale of water by tin-horns. I am a good deal recovered now, however. By degrees too I am becoming reconciled to my fate—contented either to effect something notable, or sink ere long into the placid bed of rest—where “neither cauld nor care” shall more afflict me. I have good hopes still; and am at least fifty times happier than I was. There is a tutorship which I have as it were in my offer. I owe it to Irving's journey to London. The terms are £200 a-year. I have undertaken it till July in the interim, when the parents are to arrive. The boys are with Dr Fleming at present: and I am busy providing Planche and Mathiae & Sophocles10 and so forth—to begin the strenuous revisal of my Greek. I do not dislike the boys or the employment greatly: so it may succeed perhaps.

Now, my dear Fergusson, can you excuse this frantic epistle which I have written in a state of headache approaching to coma? If so, reply to it immediately, and you shall have a better. What is the nature of your status? Of your burghers? Your companions? Your duties? Your every thing? It is midnight, and I am sleepy. Excuse me, I have need of it, tho' I remain as before, Your sincere friend, and serious here, Thomas Carlyle—