The Collected Letters, Volume 2


TC TO JAMES CARLYLE, THE ELDER; 16 October 1822; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18221016-TC-JCE-01; CL 2:173-175.


3. Moray-street, 16th October 1822—

My dear Father,

On coming out of my temporary abode in India-street, I was met to-day about noon, by the good Jack, holding in his hands a letter, on which I was happy to recognize your well-known handwriting. By the aid of my “learning” and other faculties, I succeeded without difficulty not only in “making out” the epistle, but also in deriving great pleasure from the task of doing so. We next proceeded to a Book-shop, and procured the work you asked for,—along with some Bibles for the other branches of the family, and two small memorials, the one for Jane the other for Jenny. I am now down writing with all the speed I can, hoping to make out a letter for you, before the hour of my departure arrive; and careful rather of the quantity than the quality of what I say—which I know is your principle also.

I am very sorry to hear of Alick's bad success in the matter of horse-buying—the more so, as I conceived that a long experience in the dishonesties of Jockies had fortified him against imposition from that knavish set of people. I trust however that before this time, he is returned with a satisfactory adjustment of all difficulties; and enriched in caution far beyond what he is impoverished in money. After all, to mistake at times is the common lot of mankind; and Alick has committed fewer errors than most people so circumstanced would have done.

It is melancholy to reflect on the prospect which these times hold out to many industrious people, particularly to the farmer situated as you describe him to be. It seems clear that ere long an effectual change must be made generally in the terms which bind that useful class of the community to their landlords, or a universal ruin of our agriculture will be the inevitable result. For an individual, there is plainly no remedy as things stand, but a patient endurance of what so many must endure along with him, and a rigid determination like yours to make the best of what is at best but a bad concern. We have all reason to be thankful, that if you cannot stand the pressure of these ill times, there are few or none that can hope to stand it.

But I am fast filling up my allotted space, with reflexions which you yourself have made a hundred times; instead of giving you some details about myself, which I know you greatly prefer. Happily my duty on this head may be soon discharged. I am still in the same state of comfort which I described myself to be enjoying last time I wrote. The people are very agreeable and kind to me; the pupils go on at a reasonable rate in their studies: in short all is very nearly as it should be. I have sometimes a day of languor and bilious disquietude; but in that respect also I am improving; and a strict attention to the results of former experience is generally sufficient to guard against any considerable inconvenience. I have not lost half a nights sleep since I returned to Edinr.

All this is very pleasant in the mean time; and may continue to be so, for a good while to come: yet I should be a very stupid person if I set my ultimate hopes upon it, and did not look beyond the period of its termination to a fresh scene of exertions and wants, which it behoves me at present to be making every effort to provide against. Accordingly, my chief desire now is that I were fairly engaged in the execution of some enterprize which might present a likelihood of being permanently and substantially useful to me. I am trying all that in me lies to fix upon some literary undertaking of the sort referred to; and I expect to find no complete rest—indeed I wish to find none— until I am fairly overhead in the composition of some valuable Book; a project which I have talked about till I am ashamed, and shall therefore say no more concerning at this time.

Jack's presence here I find to be very agreeable to me. He is a[s] quiet diligent friendly [a] soul as ever broke bread: it is pleasa[nt to] me to [find] his broad placid face looking forth good will to me, when I return from the days exertions. I think he has a good chance to fall into teaching in Edinr; and get himself qualified for earning his bread in some independent and respectable station; a purpose which he himself is anxious even more than enough to accomplish. Of his final success I have no doubt.

There is nothing in the shape of news that I can send you from our City at present: the place seems very quiet, and what little stir there does exist in it very rarely comes the length of my abode. In Edinr properly so called I do not appear, once in the fortnight. My path from India-street and to it supplies me with bodily exercise sufficient; and it leads me away by a succession of clean well-paved streets up the very back of the New Town, where I feel too happy to escape the noise and smoke of the old black Harlot, ever to give myself much trouble about what is passing within her precincts.

While I was writing—about five minutes ago, the Carrier Geordie1 came to say or rather to try to say that he could not take up the box to-day. I sent my Mother's spectacles along with him, and a pair of shoes which must be returned to Shaw at Dumfries, being uselessly little. If he can make a bigger pair and stronger he may send them. Jack is going up with the books—which you will distribute according to the addresses with my most affectionate compliments to the several owners, all of whom I would gladly have written to had my time in any measure allowed me. I must now conclude my scrawling, with the hope to hear from you soon and more at large—having no subject nearer my heart than the welfare of one and all of you. I am ever

My dear Father, / Your affectionate Son, /

Thomas Carlyle—