The Collected Letters, Volume 2


TC TO JAMES JOHNSTON; 25 April 1822; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18220425-TC-JJ-01; CL 2:89-91.


3. Moray-street, 25th April, 1822

My dear Johnston,

By good fortune, I this day learnt the place of your actual residence; and am thereby enabled without loss of time to submit to your consideration a piece of intelligence, and a proposal connected with it, which I have just been discussing with the worthy Dr Fleming, and which I agree with him in thinking may eventually be of service to you.

The General Assembly of the Church, and the Presbytery of Edinr acting for it, have agreed upon the propriety of devoting some portion of the “Royal Donative (£2000 per an.) for the Highlands” to the establishment of sundry effective Schools in that region; and have, in the first instance, fixed upon the village of Oban in Argyleshire as a convenient place for beginning with,—being encouraged by the advantages of the spot itself, and by the eagerly proffered concurrence of several influential persons in the neighbourhood. With this view, they have already found means to lay the plan of an institution, the chief characteristics of which are as follows. The teacher to have a free house; and £35 a-year of salary from the Church-fund, other £35 being furnished by the favourers of the project who reside in the vicinity; together with all the fees which can be collected from the scholars in the usual way. The permanent income, you see, is £70 yearly, with a house; and as the village (which was lately very thriving) contains about 1200 inhabitants and has no regular establishment for education within several miles of it; the whole emolument including school-wages and every other item will certainly exceed £100 per annum, even upon the most moderate computation. Other advantages are the cheapness of living in that quarter; the sociable kindly character of the natives; and their great inclination (so unequivocally evinced by drawing their purses) to pratronize [sic] the undertaking. They seem to intend that it shall be a kind of superior seminary; and expect, if it prosper, that the Master will get boarders in considerable numbers from the adjoining Lairds, and thus augment his stipend to a much larger sum. They expect many other things: but this is the substance of what they offer.

In return for it, they require that the Teacher (a member of the Church of course) shall be enabled to teach Latin, the elements of Greek, Arithmetic, and the other branches usual in parish schools. They also mean that he shall be said (this by way of salvo for the Donative's sake—which is purely of a religious nature; that he shall be said) to catechize the children & people now & then upon the outlines of theology. This however as I have mentioned appears to be likely to prove as nearly as possible a sinecure: Let no man therefore of a tender conscience go about to make a bug [bugaboo] of it!

Now altho' those terms seem plausible enough, and tho' they have been advertised in the Newspapers for many weeks; yet so it happened that when the trial of candidates came on (to-day if I mistake not), they turned out all to be of the most inferior qualifications; and the Examinators, the Members of the Presbytery, determined in great disappointment—not to advertise again, for that had been already tried—but to let the matter rest, till next Meeting (a fortnight hence), and in the mean time privately to make what enquiries they could; and see if possible to effect a better muster before finally deciding. This made Fleming speak to me, and now makes me apply to you.

From what I can gather, there seems every probability that you may carry this situation, in the most honourable manner, if you like to try; they spoke of reading Horace ad aperturam [on sight] as a terrible thing: and in the event of your accepting it, I certainly think it would fit you as well as any thing likely to cast up soon. It is quite permanent; has a fixed income of no inconsiderable amount, independent of all contingencies: it is respectable; holds out a kind of society which you are likely to relish; and will afford a stance for you in the world “a local habitation & a name,”1 which your own industry may increase the value of to any reasonable amount you chuse. So I certainly advise you to make application forthwith[.] The mode of applying is to address a letter to Fleming (George-square Edinr) stating your wish to be regarded as a candidate, and enclosing all the recommendations you can lay hold of (from Mr Duncan, Mr Poole,2 Edward Irving Mr Church, Mr Ritchie3 &c &c), and requesting withal to be apprised of any thing farther that may be concluded in the business. You may send the whole packet to me if you like—by any person going (within the fortnight) from Kir[k]cudbright; or by the Coach, or Carrier, or any other way. I beg of you to think of it strenuously & bestir yourself in it[.] Now, my dear Johnstone, I have set this matter before you: and I pray earnestly it may be for good. Write to me if you want farther information before entering upon it: I have told you all I know as yet; but I can ask any thing. Why have you not written long ago?— And our good Mitchell? how is he? I was struck to learn the cause of your going into Galloway: I do trust it bodes no serious evil to our friend.4 Present my affectionate condolences to him; and bid him be of courage. I will not believe that there is any serious danger. Valete [Farewell] [to both] of you! I am always

Your friend, /

T. Carlyle