The Collected Letters, Volume 2


TC TO JAMES JOHNSTON; 8 April 1822; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18220408-TC-JJ-01; CL 2:83-85.


3. Moray-street, 8th April, 1822.

My dear Johnstone,

I have an hour before my hand at present, and a free conveyance to Annan; which advantages tempt me to break in upon your quietude, tho' I have not yet had the pleasure of getting any positive precept, much less an example, from yourself for doing so. I heard of your safe arrival in Annandale, and also of the melancholy state in which you would find the family at Bogside. It is natural for you to feel sorrow at the loss of one worthy friend,1 and at the desolation into which that loss must have plunged another. I hope, however, that you do not find Bogside less a home than formerly, but that on the contrary your presence there is doubly acceptable in this time of trial. I desire you to present my affectionate condolences to Mrs Irving, and to express my hope that her loss is not unattended with some of those inward consolations, which in the end will make it “great gain.” George Irving was a true man; his modest part has been played honourably, and I trust he now inherits his reward.

Edward from Glasgow is here at this time. I was vexed to learn from him that no prospects open for you at Leeds2—or elsewhere as we could have wished. He is very diligent, however, and anxious to serve you, and I have no doubt will ultimately succeed in serving you. The school in the neighbourhood of Dundee is not yet finally settled: Edward had a note on the subject to-day, and will hear farther when he returns to the West—letting you know, of course, in due season. The director of it, Erskine, is a very worthy person, I understand—author of a book on the “Evidences,”3 which you may have seen. If nothing better turn up, I think you should embrace the offer; and should it even fail of becoming a definite proposal, I apprehend you have not the smallest cause to fear that some as eligible situation will not present itself very shortly. I entreat you not to despond of your prospects in Scotland: you have indeed laboured hard and to little purpose—if weight of purse were the only thing to be looked at; but if you compare yourself with many who cut a better figure in the world, and set your knowledge against their finery—you will find little reason to repine. There cannot be a doubt of your acquiring all you aim at, in due time. And let me again beg of you never to think of America any more: it would greive me to the very heart to think that a person of your worth and attainments should as it were banish himself from his “fatherland,” when so small a modicum of accommodation would make him content. You really must drop the idea entirely. You have some true friends here, and you have sympathies and recollections and tastes which cannot be gratified elsewhere. All that makes life desirable for you lies here: all that you hope for in America will undoubtedly be added if you lose not patience & perseverance.

My own history since you left Edinr has undergone no change. I am still fighting with Δυσπεψεια 4 [dyspepsia]—the most horrible of all beings real or allegorical—compared with whom the three Furies are the meekest creatures in the world. If I were a Manichean, not an orthodox Presbyterian, I would personify the Evil principle under this shape, and erect temples to the goddess, ornamented with gall-bladders, pill-boxes, clyster-bags and all the paraphernalia of indigestion. There is nothing like it in Nature. I am also endeavouring to ferment some literary projects; but whether they are ever destined to be completely brewed seems rather doubtful. I have gone no farther than reading as yet. Something touching the period of the Commonwealth in England is my object: but the whole is still rudis indigestaque moles.5

I wrote to Mitchell the other day, tho' when I shall get any answer, the Fates only know. Make my respects to him if you go to Galloway. Remember me also with much respect & gratitude to the kind family of Hitchill: it is possible I may been up their q[uarter]s on the banks of the “black water o'Dee”—in process of time. I [know] I ought in duty to have written a letter to Mr Duncan of Ruthwell ere this: you will tell him how it fares with me, and that I wish to hold a place in his remembrance.

Nothing is talked of here at present, but the Duel, that in which Sir A. Boswell lost his life.6 People generally seem to think he merited his fate, tho' it was severe. I hope with many others that it may prove a “Beacon”7 to warn men from such despicable practices as those which have proved fatal to this individual. He was the son of Johnson's Bozzie, and a man of very pleasing conversation, so that people regret him more than they wou[l]d do a worthier man.

You must write to me at great length by the very first opportunity. Have you begun the Nova Scotian sketches? I do advise you to try it fairly and forthwith. It will keep your mind from fretting in the interim; which is one great point, if it did nothing more. Describe to me all your manner of life and conversation. I must conclude this outline of my own—for the time is done. Adieu, My dear Johnston!

I am your old friend, /

Thomas Carlyle