The Collected Letters, Volume 2


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE; 5 July 1822; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18220705-TC-JAC-01; CL 2:145-147.


3. Moray-street, 5th July 1822.

My dear Jack,

I learned from the Jurist1 this morning, that some Benson or other, being in the mind of setting out for Annan to-morrow morning, would easily consent to take down any letter directed to that quarter; and I in consequence determined to scrawl a few lines for your perusal, and deliver them in the evening to the care of that small man of Law; a purpose which I am now happily executing.

Your parcel arrived by the Penny-post on Monday-night: and gratified I was to see the pains you had been at in serving me. The manuscript was all made right, with great ease, before bed-time; and is at this instant in the act of being set up, as they call it; so that you may look for a printed copy, by almost the first opportunity. It was all very good & serviceable: it does you credit in my eyes, as a proof of your diligent & successful attention to the art of composition; and gains you favour in another even more gratifying respect, as a proof of your readiness to engage in any task likely to ease or benefit your much-obliged Brother. I am now within 40 pages of the end, and expect soon to relinquish and have concluded the long labour, which has occupied me much, tho not unprofitably or disagreeably.

Edward Irving & W. Graham came in upon me last night, while sipping my tea with Dr Fleming & the rest. Edward is gone out to Haddington to-day, and proposes setting off towards London on Wednesday next. He told me of some conversation he had had with you, touching your embracing some profession; and also of his having recommended Medicine as the most promising line of life on which you could enter. I have frequently meditated on this subject myself; and certainly it is of vital importance for you to consider it deeply, now that you are about to quite your pedagogic situation at Annan, and to enter upon the acquisition of those accomplishments which are to gain a livelihood & respectability for you during the rest of your days. I can tell you from experience that it is a sad thing for a man to have his bread to gain in the miscellaneous fashion which circumstances have in some degree forced me into; and I cannot help seeing that with half the expence, and one tenth of the labour which I have incurred, I might at this time have been enjoying the comforts of some solid and fixed establishment in one of the regular departments of exertion, had I been lucky enough to have entered upon any one of them. It is true, no doubt, that by diligence and good talents a man may pick out a kind of peculiar path by his own ingenuity in this world; but still this is so precarious an enterprise that I would counsel no one to embark in it without a strict necessity compelling him. If you think you could relish the study & practice of Medicine, I make no doubts of your ability to excel in it; and for the necessary qualification—I bid you be in no pain whatever. It shall go harder with me than it looks to do, if you be not made fully able to attend all their classes here, without interruption on any pecuniary score; and for the diligence & intellect required in the business—you have already shewn all these qualities in sufficient abundance to put me to peace on that head. Upon the whole, I wish you would turn this matter calmly over in your mind with all due attention, and write to me about it as soon as you can come—not to any conclusion—but simply to any tangible deliverance on it. If your mind leads you to relish the project, you can partly be putting it in execution, the first winter you come hither; you might attend to Anatomy & Chemistry at the same time that you were perfecting your greek and natural philosophy: for observe, if you shall undertake the project, it is not a common Tom Bogs or Parli[a]ment2 that I will have you become; but a medical savant at length, bringing to bear upon his own science the mind of a man improved by literature and science in general, and looking forward to respectability in life not merely because of a mechanical skill in his own particular trade, but also because of a general refinement of character, and a superiority both of intellectual and moral deportment. I beg you will think of this, with all solidity, as soon as possible.

If you go to Mainhill to-morrow, you will get large news of me, arrived two days before, by way of Farries: you will also find your Book V of Legendre which I took care to enclose among the letters for home. There is no change in my situation since that period. I am going along in the old style, my life marked by no incident worth remembering, but happy on the whole, and peaceful & diligent in one way or another.

I saw Frank Dickson of Bermuda this morning: he is come home in the most frightful state of biliousness; lean & yellow, and almost utterly desperate. I am truly sorry for the poor fellow, tho' he felt small sorrow for me of old when I was in that way. I advised him to go southward, fast as coaches could carry him.— Waugh is here too, tho' I endeavour to see him as seldom as possible. He is one of the most unfortunate not to say contemptible slives3 that lives on the face of our Planet. He has got some money now, however; and for two months or so he will be happy, come of it what may. He is to be M.D. in time; but there is little luck in store for him I fear: his talents are only mediocre, and his inactivity is nearly a maximum—the Jurist wishes to hear from you, talks about “unaccountable” and so forth; but you do well not to consume any portion of your useful time with such small deer4 as he. Give my kindest affection to our Father & Mother and all them of Mainhill. I am always your's

Thomas Carlyle—