The Collected Letters, Volume 2


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE; 23 June 1822; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18220623-TC-JAC-01; CL 2:134-138.


3. Moray-street, 23d June 1822.

My dear Jack,

I must either borrow a few minutes from the Sunday, in order to send you my news, or I am like to find no other time for doing it. And after all I am not sure that this employment is much worse than the one I was last engaged in. Physically speaking, at least, it is much better; and morally, if we only view the life that now is. Three quarters of an hour ago, I was mewed up in Lady Yester's Church, frying with heat, and subject to the genial influence of fifteen hundred pairs of Lungs all exhaling their invigorating products against me; while for compensation I had the intellectual refreshment of hearing a black lean scarecrow of a Probationer illustrate & prove like Euclid himself “that all conditions of life have their own peculiar sorrows,” a truth which most likely none of his audience ever dreamt of before. And here—I am sitting under the shadow of my own roof, with the windows all up, a calm shower pattering around me; my dinner swallowed, and the pen in my hand to scribble whatsoever comes uppermost, for the behoof of one who cares for all that concerns me. “Judge ye!”

The parcel arrived by the Carrier last Wednesday; but I had no moment of time to answer it. I hope you have not paid Guyon any thing; for catching time by the forelock, his Porter had made Mrs Wilkie pay the whole charge from Annan inclusive before I had come home. And here, I cannot but remind you to lay it down as a principle, never to pay any Carrier except for what he delivers you: this saves all mistakes of that sort; which I trust have been avoided in this instance independently of it.

Your letter was exceedingly gratifying to me; I only regretted that you should allow me the pleasure of reading such a letter from you so very seldom. It were surely no impossible matter to sit down, once a fortnight or so, and write whatever you think or are engaged about—whatever is filling up your existence, be it great or little. I am sure you would attempt more frequently, if you knew how welcome your letters are to me; particularly those which like the last appear dictated so unassumingly from the heart, and which give one so graphical and naive a description of your little Burgh, and all the small characters which move about it, and whose paths intersect your own. Upon the whole, however, I do admit, you have written very manfully last year; and I would not for the world that your letters to me should become a burden to you: let them be, as they have been hitherto, a solace & resting-spot for the tired & too solitary mind: only remember that they never fail to yield another party as much enjoyment as they yield yourself, and that so you are managing a joint concern in preparing or not preparing them.

But alas even this largest of sheets will not stand such work as I am now getting into! I must draw bridle in time. And to come to business at once—I wish to say something definite to you about that Translation [of the Legendre book], and yet I hardly know what to say. At all events it will be impossible for me to get the copy and correct it & have you transcribe it again, before it goes to press. The people are beginning the Notes at this very period; and the first part of the Trigonometry will be wanted in two weeks at farthest—particularly as I was stirring them up a few days ago, and forcing them to change their trot into a kind of canter. I believe they have now six men working close at it. So that, you observe, this sending the ms. and resending it is out of the question; yet if you can insure yourself by any means of having the part already finished here before this day fortnight, it would of course be a considerable ease to me; and I should wait for it very gladly. Later than this, however, I dare not fix; lest your labour be in vain—as the last leaf or two of Book V. was, having come just twelve hours behind its time. As to the correctness, and so forth—I again repeat it was all well. In your Definitions and other places where you had done your best, I made scarcely any alteration whatever; and even the most crabbed passages I could easily have put to rights, if I had revised the ms. before it went to Press. As it was, the whole additional labour of correction did not detain me two hours; and now Book V looks as well as any part of the volume. I regret that I could not send you the Proof-sheet & the Press-sheet that you might see the difference: if ever our Ecclefn Carriers come to life again, I will certainly send them. But in this ms., if you send any, I shall request you to write the lines pretty widely apart (never minding how ill they are written); and by this means, I shall find it very easy to look over the whole before it is printed, and so to make it quite immaculate. These leaves you have sent me, look like the very thing I assure you; just copy them over again introducing what corrections you think fit; and the formulas, except when they are long—(as at page 347, which will come within your jurisdiction)—in which case I have a notable expedient: I tear out the leaf itself, and stick it to my paper with sealing-wax, whereby I am enabled often to get on like clockwork thro' the most cramp passages.— Your “piriger” is certainly very hard to understand—turn the p upside down & try it [“diriger” written in margin]. I usually say “we have” or “put” or “suppose” or “make” before the sign =, tho' not quite invariably—& Legendre's “1°, 2°” I translate by “First., Secondly.”—write the lines widish however; and I shall manage it all.

Now my good brother Jack, it were very barbarous to keep thee toiling so, if it were interfering with any duty however slight. I entreat & command thee therefore if thou have any thing to do else, not to mind this; for really I can manage it excellently myself (yesterday I got thro' above 20 pages of Notes—and was tired to the bone); just write to me, and I shall go thro' it like drift. You must write any way, to let me know what is doing— Observe also that even if you do go on to copy proceed not a line farther than the bottom of page 352— “grandeur (magnitude in all cases) des arcs a et b.” I shall begin with the next line myself, about the end of this week.

Bad luck to this Legendre! He has consumed all my paper, & I had a thousand things to say. When you write (some day this week), say simply “I will do it” or “thou [underscored twice] shall do it!”—and then go into other matters. I long to hear about all your studyings & transactions. Do you ever see Ben now? His French journal I have never seen or heard of: but most likely it will be a rag—got up by two or three French Schoolmasters about London—once valets or travelling-tutors, now “literary gentlemen of the first respectability.”— You do well to read Gillies;1 but as for Hallam,2 you may safely let him rest—he is heavy as clay—and you would relish him little or profit by him little till after reading Gibbon and various others. Washington Irving has a new Book “Bracebridge-hall” which is very good. You ought to read all Scott's Novels at odd hours—and Byron's poetry—and Shakespear—and Pope—and the like. These things are of the very highest value.

You ask about my coming home in August: but this must depend on other wills than mine. The Bullers are not arrived yet, tho soon expected; and if we engage with each other, I fear I shall hardly get down. They do speak of going to Moffat-wells3 for a time; in which case, I could easily mount the Beast & be at home some Saturday-afternoon: but all this is very uncertain. I think we shall make a bargain; the boys like me very well, and seem to be indeed very pleasant creatures—the eldest very clever. I have no doubt I shall be very contented (if I go there) in their house: my present duties are a pleasure rather than any thing else. As to health—I am getting better steadily; the bathing does me good; I am busied over the head; and I have not been happier for many a year. The Book of course is on the shelf for a time—but it will come down!—of course you will make all arrangements in due time for leaving Annan: I anticipate great pleasure from having you beside me, next winter. Even living with the Bullers, I may see you daily.— Write soon; and tell me every thing about the Mainhill friends—to whom my warmest love. I am always Your affecte brother.

Th: Carlyle—

Tell me pointedly whether you have got a pair of jain trowsers. These which some kind friend has sent me, are too late, for I was already provided; besides they fit me very ill, so I shall make you a present of them—if you have none, with many thanks (and full payment) to the Benefactor that attended so carefully to my wishes in providing them. Tell me clearly next time, and I will send them.

It is thundering a little, & raining much; but I hope it will be fair weather by the time my tea is over, and I hear Little Wilkie jingling with it even now. The small Jurist (poor messin!) comes little near me now; and wants little when he does come, except that I would not throw him out at the window. Waugh is alive.