The Collected Letters, Volume 2


TC TO ALEXANDER CARLYLE; 22 February 1822; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18220222-TC-AC-01; CL 2:52-55.


3. Moray-street, 22nd Feby 1822.

My dear Alick,

I have this moment looked over your very friendly and amusing letter. It bears no resemblance at all to what the wicked jester Shandy calls “a plain”;1 but resembles rather a fine variegated champaign country, in which are both hills and vallies with a due proportion of wood and water and every thing else requisite to diversify and embellish the scene. Do not expect me to repay you in kind, at present: I am hurried to an extreme degree, the porter is to be back in an hour, and there is a little round fat man (Galloway the Philomath)2 beside me, whom I am too happy to have got fixed for a while to a mathematical problem, which has quenched his chattering somewhat. He means well to me, and has become very civil at length; so I cannot rightly put him out. Situated thus I can only scribble hurriedly and without connection. You will be content if possible.

I return thanks again, within my heart, to the great Giver of all good, for the continued welfare of all those who are so justly dear to me. We never think how wretched we might be, if only a few particulars in our destiny were altered. If any of us were sick, were dead—! What are all the light evils of this Earth, so long as we are all together to comfort & stand by each other! With health and true friends and an honest mind, let no man complain.

I participate in your anxieties about your future destiny, & cordially sympathize with a sentiment so natural. You speak too little to me on this subject; afraid, I suppose, of encroaching on my thoughts, occupied enough, as you think, with my own fortunes. It is not the case, however; I often think of you as connected with the past, and often strive to figure out what will be our mutual relation in the time to come. You should write me very copiously on this point: I may be able to give you advice, perhaps assistance, and at least fellow-feeling. Tell me about it particularly next time. It is surely galling to a young active mind to look forward to such a fate as sometimes overtakes the improvident or unfortunate cultivator of the soil in our days. To become a Dick of the Grange,3 for example!— But beyond all doubt you have no such thing to fear; you are at present discharging a sacred duty; and you have every reason to look forward to a comfortable termination of it. A hundred or two hundred pounds would stock you a neat snug little farm if times were better, and none who knows your habits and talents would have the smallest doubt about repayment. Who is to advance me 200 pence? you ask. Whoever of us has it, I answer; and till then, we are all alike. Circumstances seem to render it conceivable that I, your obliged and not ungrateful brother, may have such a sum in my own possession, ere a year or two elapse; and I here make the promise—not rashly, for I have thought of it fifty times—to let you have the use of it, whenever you think fit. This is, to be sure, selling the chickens while the hen is hatching; and in this light, it looks rather foolish: but you know it is honestly meant; and the hope it points to is not quite chimerical. And granting that it should utterly evaporate—are you not still a hardy free-minded Scotsman, with habits of diligence and frugality known even to few Scotsmen, ready to front the world whatever way it offers itself—and to gather an honest livelihood, from any point of the compass, where a livelihood is to be found? I say therefore, fear nothing! You, nor [any] of us, will never be a snool [mean-spirited person]; we have not the blood of snools in our bodies. Nor shall you ever seriously meditate crossing the great Salt Pool to plant yourself in the Yankeeland. That is a miserable fate for any one, at best; never dream of it. Could you banish yourself from all that is interesting to your mind, forget the history, the glorious institutions, the noble principles of old Scotland, that you might eat a better dinner perhaps (which you care little for), or drink more rum (which you care nought for) as a great pursy [purse-proud] Yankee? Never! my boy—you will never think of it. Scotland has borne us all hitherto; we are all Scots to the very heart; and the same bleak but free and independent soil will I hope receive us all into its bosom at last.

But I must drop this subject—for my sheet is next to done. Write about it, next opportunity— Why should you keep your anxieties from me? Which of mine do I keep from you?— I have little room or little materials for filling [the] room [that is left] with news. I am in pretty good health; and going on with the Bullers who continue to do well. I am engaged to be with them for 6 months any way—the wage £100. They (Brewster & others) are wanting the book, I spoke of translating; and the two boys are reading high in Greek—wherein I am greatly rusted. Thus I am very busy, and shall be busier—but business is life to me—if not excessive, and even excess in it is better than indolence. Waugh is alive here, but without means; and still in high spirits. He wants to borrow, and cannot find a lender: I am sorry for him heartily. As to the hash Will of Breckonhill,4 and the other sma' trash of Annandale, I never see them or hear a word about them.— Write me fully and tell me all the news. How is Bogside? What is our Father saying? Tell me all. Nothing that you can write concerning Home, can fail of being interesting to me. Tell Will Smith,5 I have no time for his epistle at present, but will attend to it duly. I wish you saw it—how bright!— I remain,

Your affe bror. /

Th: Carlyle