The Collected Letters, Volume 2


TC TO JAMES JOHNSTON; 8 April 1823; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18230408-TC-JJ-01; CL 2:327-329.


3. Moray-street, 8th April, 1823.

My dear Johnston,

I received your letter yesterday; and judging that you might perhaps be in some hurry for an answer, I lose no time in sending one. With an ingenuity, for which if it were original I should take to myself no small credit, I have cut out a space in this sheet, fitted exactly for containing a five-pound Bill; and unless Fortune take some unexpected and very extraordinary caprice, the whole will be moving towards your quarters, in half an hour. You will write immediately to tell me whether it arrived safe. Immediately!

Your last letter is satisfactory on the whole: it shews us that however the Cupar business may turn out, you have it in your power to make good your footing at Broughty-ferry, by simply applying those qualifications, of which we all know you to be master. Should you continue where you are, I advise you by no means to neglect the offers you may have to begin the boarding system. It is the only plan for making money, and getting yourself settled in among the people in a firm and respectable station. Nor is the difficulty of managing such a concern nearly so great as one is apt to anticipate. It requires little more than steadfast patience, methodical arrangements, and a certain zealous regularity, qualities without which it is impossible to prosper in any situation. If you were once fairly begun, you would go on rapidly and constantly towards respectability and plenty and all the solid comforts which a man can hope for in this world. Exert yourself for this once; and the worst part of the battle against Fortune will be over.

This past winter has been for me a very hard one: I have suffered more in it than it were useful to describe at present. My health is nothing improved; indeed when all is reckoned up I ought rather to wonder that I am still alive. No matter! Spite of dyspepsia and noises and stenches and smoke and disturbance, and the ten thousand times ten thousand unutterable curses to which poor tortured flesh is heir, here I am—my prow still fronting the blast and the billows—the old tarnished standard “suffer and abstain” still streaming in the storm, and to stream there by God's blessing to the end of the hurricane! I will make the harbour yet, or go down wit[h] my hand upon the tiller: that is fixed.

Thank Heaven! we are to leave this infernal city in a month! We are going to Dunkeld or some place in the neighbourhood—where I seek not much; it will [carry me] to the open air, and that is every thing. I am going to read and study and write; perhaps to publish. Boyd the Bookseller will undertake the Wilhelm Meister of Goethe, if I like to give him a translation of it. I am writing at present; and burning as fast as I write.

There is not any new thing from Annandale: they are marrying and giving in marriage there, dying and being born, as usual. Have you heard of John Irving (Edward's brother in India)? He sunk under the climate some months ago: they are all mourning for his death. O dira fames auri!1 not even the Liver can drive men from the chase of it. If you would put me on the throne of Aurungzebe,2 I would spurn at India—for the stomach's sake; and rather be a “swinkt hedger”3 without nerves, eating porridge in my fatherland.

John is busy here and desirous to be in your thoughts: he began German the other day, and makes good progress. I was advising him this morning to go and pay you a visit before going down to Dumfriesshire, where he intends residing for the summer: he made little reply. You will write him without delay. Give us some more minute delineation of your maniere d'être [way of life], the people you associate with, the way you spend your time, the studies you follow &c &c. Duncan Church goes home very soon; Mitchell I wrote to but have not heard a word of. Murray is alive: I eat a swinish supper in his house lately with the Galloway Stot4 and others—the meat and drink good—but the talk!!!—— Macculloch knows political economy but he is fundamentally a tinker and a sow-gelder. Canaille! Canaille!—— Thomas Carlyle.