The Collected Letters, Volume 2


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE; 10 May 1823; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18230510-TC-JAC-01; CL 2:351-353.


3. Moray-street, Saturday-night [10 and 11 May 1823].

My dear Jack,

You have yet hardly finished the last longwinded epistle; and behold you are reading another of the same manufacture. “The mind of man” as Will Smith1 would say, must guide itself by circumstances; and as these circumstances operate independently of its volitions, said mind is reduced to a deplorable state of uncertainty, and often in looking into the future, can hardly see beyond its nose. Hence irresolution, change of purpose, baffling of hopes, and twenty other fruits or seeds of weakness and chagrin. Hence among the rest, the scribbling of this present letter.

I told you that the Bullers were going forth of the city, on thursday, and that I was to be left behind them for a few days. It now appears that these few days may in all probability be protracted into above a week; for the furniture is all to pack and settle at Kinnaird-house, and the Bullers in such things are a very helpless colony. This is the first “independent circumstance.” Another is the progress these accursed Painters are making. This afternoon, I had lain down to refresh my wearied kyerkage [carcass] with a few drops from the ambrosial horn of Sleep, having got but a stinted quantity the three preceding nights; and at my awakening in the dreary wet twilight, the first thing that saluted my astonished senses was a smell of pigment enough to destroy a moderate ox. I started up, and found that the rascals had besmeared all the passage, and the outside of my door, some portion of their filthy labour even shewing itself thro' the crevices within. Portioner Wilkie2 was wringing his old withered meags [hands], not knowing what to do; the wretched men had told him that they must be over all the house next tuesday. The Portioner is one of the weakest souls ever stamped with the features of humanity. It is vain to calculate on his resistance: if a gruff-looking fellow were to come in daily for a week, and tell Wilkie with a stern voice that he insisted on his (the Portioner's) dying against a certain day, Wilkie would begin to relent about Thursday, and before Saturday he would yield without a struggle to his fate. A sucking child might lead him. So it is vain to think of his protection; and tho' I maintained stoutly that if I found the stinking lubbers within my apartment, I would heave their pots over the window, and give themselves a very abrupt dismissal; yet I foresee that it will be difficult and unpleasant to hold out against them till the end; and my survey of the “rooms to let,” which I made to-day on other accounts, is very uninviting. Therefore, Jack, behold how I have decided. That I must gather up my tackle, set my affairs in order, and—start for Mainhill! This I hope to do about Wednesday-morning. To-morrow I shall speak to Buller on the subject; on Monday, I must pack and stow, and settle the nine hundred and ninety nine thousand nine hundred and ninety nine concerns that I have at present lying about me in the height of confusion. Three nights more, I will manfully endure the bellowing of that watchman, the gulravishing [rowdiness] of these “top needle-women Mr. Carleil”—to whom I perceive Satan has given a (short) respite; and by the middle of the week I shall be sleeping under my Father's roof, with no watch—or needle-man or woman to disturb me any more. Jack will meet me with the pony at the “place eight miles below Moffatt.”

The purpose of my present writing is not so much to forewarn my kind friends of this pleasant event, as to have you on the look-out for more precise information— But stay! It is already past eleven o'clock, and you cannot have this letter earlier than Tuesday-night. Therefore it is vain to look for “more precise information”—or for any more information [at all.] Well [then] I will conclude for this time, and keep this by me till [I] can give you certain notice. I could scribble till the sun rose: but the paper is limited; so I withdraw and bid heartily a good night to you and all about Mainhill. May our meeting be soon and joyful!

Thomas Carlyle—

11th 6. P.M.

I have seen Buller and got leave of absence on Wednesday-morning: But alas! on examing the Coach-office people, I find the Mail does not pass thro' Moffat on that day; so on meditating the matter all the way down the walk, I have come to the conclusion that I cannot start till Thursday. On Thursday, however, the universal Pan will mount his fleet steed after breakfast, and set forth at a canny [slow] pace to be at the spot of meeting an hour or so before the time the Coach usually reaches it. I shall take out my seal to-night in order to avoid all chance of mistakes. The loss of this day somewhat grieves me for I have very few to stay; I must return that day week. Nevertheless I will come merrily, for I want to see you all, and I cannot abide the thought of loitering here amid stench and confusion and insomnolence, without any thing to do. To-morrow I shall order your French and English novels, and try to bring them with me. Then what pack-packing! But I will gird up my loins and go thro' it manfully. Tell my Mother to have tha kittle boailing, on Thursday evening about the fifth hour. I will not drink above three quarts of it—or thereby.

Richmond says Waugh3 is deranged: “the symptoms were very bad.” Richmond is himself next door to derangement; a greater clatter breathes not.

Tell all the world at Mainhill that I am coming.

Always Your's, /

T. Carlyle