The Collected Letters, Volume 2


TC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE; 14 November 1822; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18221114-TC-MAC-01; CL 2:202-204.


3. Moray-street, 14th Nov 1822—

My dear Mother,

I did not get you a single line written last opportunity; and nothing is more natural than that I should attempt to remedy the failure by writing to you now that another occurs. I scribbled a long sheet to Alick last night; and as I have an hour of my own, before going to wait on Dr Brewster (by appointment), I propose to employ it in giving you all my news. If the frank would have carried treble I should have epistolized my Father also, and thus have discharged the sum total of my debts at once. He shall be served next time.

You have not sent me a line since I went away. I am not surprised at this, knowing how you are circumstanced; but it keeps me very much in the dark with regard to your situation & proceedings. I can only hope that you are in the usual state of health and spirits, fighting as formerly against the inconveniences of your present life, and brightening all its dreariness by the hopes of a better. There is nothing else that can keep the happiest of us in a state of peace—worth calling by the name of peace; and with this “anchor of the soul both sure and steadfast”1 the unhappiest man alive is to be envied. You think I am a very thoughtless character, careless of Eternity and taken up with the vain concerns of Time alone. Depend upon it, my dear Mother, you misjudge me. These thoughts are rooted in every reflecting mind—in mine perhaps more deeply than in many that make more noise about them: and of all the qualities that I love in you, there is none I so much love as that heroic feeling of devotion which elevates you so much above the meanness of ordinary persons in your situation, which gives to the humble circumstances of your lot a dignity unborrowed of earthly grandeur as well as far superior to the highest state of it, and which ornaments a mind untrained in worldly education and accomplishment with sentiments after which mere literature and philosophy with all their pretensions would forever strive in vain. The dress of our opinions, as I have often told you, may be different, because our modes of life have been different; but fundamentally our sentiments are completely the same. We should tolerate each other therefore in this world, where all is weak and obscure; trusting meanwhile that we shall comprehend all things more perfectly in that clearer land where faith is changed into vision—where the dim tho' fervid longings of our minds from this their dark prison-house are changed for a richness of actual grandeur beyond what the most ardent imagination has ventured to conceive. Long may these hopes be yours, my dear Mother! whoever entertains them is richer than kings.

I must turn, however, to humbler subjects. Alick will tell you that I am recovering my health, and going on well. This beneficial result is likely to be accelerated by a new arrangement, which adds to my comfort in various other respects. The young Bullers are gone to College a few days ago, and I do not go near them till two o'clock in the afternoon. By this means I not only secure a competent space of time for my own studies, but find also that my stomach troubles me a good deal less after breakfast than it used to do, when I had a long hurried walk to take before it. I now go out and stroll along the Newhaven road for a quarter of an hour between eight and nine o'clock at my leisure, then come and eat my egg and drink my dish of tea in peace and quietness, then read or write till one, then walk about slowly for an hour, and at two present myself in India-street in good heart, comparatively speaking, and ready to go thro' my duties with alacrity. They are of an easy and brief sort: I dine at half-past three with a small and very civil youth (little Reginald2—contracted into Reggy), and have generally done with the whole against six. I find Jack sitting immersed in study when I return: he cooks the tea for us; and we afterwards devote ourselves to business till between eleven and twelve. Scarcely a soul interrupts us thro' the week, for we live far from the habitations of the Craft, and so command our time for our own purposes. I never was much more comfortable all my days. I would not have believed Peden3 himself if he had predicted that it would be so twelve months ago.

The socks and shirts, which your kind care provided for me, I have tried and found to suit exactly. I am now rich in such articles. Did Sandy remit the shoes to Shaw? I wish he would ascertain whether the body means to make another pair; and if so, would give directions to have them made considerably stronger and almost half an inch longer. They may be sent to Ecclefechan or directly hither when ever they are ready. The first pair fitted me well, but the next I was obliged to give to Jack: the boot-feet are also just the thing—if not rather too big; but a shoe which pinches is worse than none. Will you also tell Alick to look out for the Review in which Faust is and send it; or Faust by itself if the paper is any way clean. It is of little consequence any way. Jack also wants “Playfairs Outlines of Natural Philosophy”4 both the volumes of which Alick will find at home, and send by the first chance.— I must now finish, My good Mother, for the hour is come and the paper is at an end. Give my brotherly love to all the younkers [youngsters] about home, to each by name. Why do they never write? Will you not write? I am ever affectionately—your son— (thy son!!!) [son underscored twice] Th: Carlyle—