The Collected Letters, Volume 2


TC TO ALEXANDER CARLYLE; 2 June 1822; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18220602-TC-AC-01; CL 2:122-124.


3. Moray-street, 2nd June 1822—

My dear Brother,

After exhausting my stock of hypotheses to account for the Carrier's long delay—supposing that he was sick or dead or drunk or in jail—that Bobby1 had grown spavined &c &c; I was agreeably surprised this morning by the arrival of a tall able-bodied Porter bringing evidence that Farries was still manting [stammering], and my friends at Mainhill as well & kind as ever. I have since been teaching, bathing &c; and two hours, which are now at my own disposal, I gladly devote to sending you my news. The box, at least one as good, I have already sent back long ago, by the Moluimbo Porter in the morning.

You make a great work about the little Junius, my brave & proud young man: it cost me nothing, being given me by the fat bookseller Boyd;2 it was worth to me nothing; and I thought it might not be quite useless to you—that is all. The list of books3 you send me I shall be most prompt to purchase on the easiest terms possible, and I mean to set about the needful inquiries directly. Knox you will find in the Box, I b[r]ought in many weeks ago. There is one of the works mentioned in your list, which I cannot make out; “Raleys” Shipwreck it seems to be, and Raley4 is a man I never heard of. Write it more distinctly next-time, or give Jack in charge to transmit the name from Annan if he send me a letter sooner.

I would not have you be in anxiety about the state of your intellectual culture: I assure you it seems to me to proceed at a most respectable rate; and as to the reading of books, I may remind you how little that of itself will perfect any man; how much is to be learned by daily observation, and solitary reflection, which no book can give us; how much more valuable is the strong good sense of a true man, the minute & ever-present knowledge of his duties in every emergency, and the firm purpose to act accordingly—than all the mere learning which School or College ever taught. I have no doubt you will find abundant time to read, if you improve it all; you have within a year or two already mastered the elements of correct composition and general knowledge—can now write a letter well, and understand the outlines of history & literature; you have men around you to study—a heart within you & a world without to survey; and your natural talents for doing all this are good. Be of good cheer then, boy; go on discharging your duties in the same diligent manful manner you have done hitherto—improve your faculties as you have opportunity; and be sure of acting at a future day that honourable part in life, which your rational ambition makes you wish to act.— But I am preaching, when I should be telling: let me cease for once!

I have gone on enjoying very considerable improvement of health, since I wrote last. The weather may be called delightful at present; Sun shining, small breeze blowing, ground green as leeks. My windows “look to the Forth,”5—which I do not see however, tho' I used to hear its hoarse and everlasting voice in winter winds—and I get a view nightly of the Sunset. It is very grand to witness the great red fiery disk, sinking like a giant to sleep, among his crimson curtains of cloud— with the Fife & Ochil hills for his bedstead! I often look at him till I could almost break forth into tears, if it would serve—or into some kind of poetical singing, if I could [sin]g any. To return to prose, the good weather [and the] sea-bathing, and the eight miles I have to walk daily are doing my poor shattered carcase no small service: in a year at this rate, I might be as well as you.

I am also very busy, which is another great thing. That lubber Translation is proceeding at an easy tho' irregular rate; then I read some for the “Civil Wars”—which alas! are still like birds in the shell—and may be I dread for many months. The Bullers consume a good portion of every day not by any means unpleasantly. They are very clever good-hearted Callants [youngsters]; and like me very well. I never count firmly on engaging with the family, and—which is the fine way—I can go on whether or not. I have few or no companions that I value much here; one or two decent fellows Murray, Galloway the Philomath (who has now become indeed long been exceedingly civil), and one or two of the like sort, beat up my quarters on a Saturday perhaps. They are inoffensive characters, & I feel their goodwill; but have no time to bestow on them. The unhappy Waugh is still in the city: he expects his Doctors Degree very soon,6 and to be free at last: Heaven grant he were so! tho' I see not how it can come to pass. He is as nearly cracked as any young person I ever saw. One might upbraid his obdurate stupidity & indiscretion—but his present state of inquietude would shut the mouth of a savage.

I have now only to desire a long letter as soon as you possibly can; to send my Compliments & Love to all Mainhill; & to assure my good Alick, that I remain,

His affectionate Brother, /

T. Carlyle—