The Collected Letters, Volume 2


TC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE; 10 June 1823; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18230610-TC-MAC-01; CL 2:372-375.


Kinnaird House 10th June, 1823.

My dear Mother,

Knowing that you always like to hear of me, and having a vacant hour this evening I gladly set myself to get ready a small letter for you, which the Post may take down to-morrow on his return to Dunkeld, which he leaves for us the one day, and goes back to the next. I also want very much to hear from home, and this letter may operate as a spur on the diligence of my beloved and valuable correspondents at Mainhill. There is a small blank made in the sheet—for a purpose which you will notice. I beg of you to accept the little picture which fills it, without any murmuring: it is a poor testimonial of the grateful love I should ever bear you. If I hope to get the moderate command of money in the course of my life's operations, I long for it chiefly, that I may testify to those dear to me what affection I entertain for them. In the mean time we ought to be thankful that we have never known what it was to be in fear of want, but have always had wherewith to gratify one another by these little acts of kindness, which are worth more than millions unblest by a true feeling between the giver and receiver. You must buy yourself any little odd thing you want; and think I enjoy it along with you if it add to your comfort. I do indeed enjoy it with you: I should be a dog if I did not. I am grateful to you for kindness and true affection such as no other heart will ever feel for me: I am proud of my Mother, tho' she is neither rich nor learned; if ever I forget to love and reverence her, I must cease to be a creature myself worth remembering. Often, my dear Mother, in solitary pensive moments does it come across me like the cold shadow of death, that we two must part in the course of time! I shudder at this thought; and find no refuge except in humbly trusting that the Great God will surely appoint us a meeting in that far country towards which we are tending. May He bless you forever, My good Mother! and keep up in your heart those sublime hopes which at present serve as a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night to guide your footsteps thro' the wilderness of life.1 We are in His hands: He will not utterly forsake us; let us trust in Him.

I have no news of myself to send you, except what are good. The Boys are going on very fairly with me, they are excellent creatures in the main. With the rest of the family I am on the best footing; we talk together cheerfully whenever we meet; they shew themselves anxious to promote my comfort by every rational arrangement; when with them I forget that there is any difference in our worldly rank. They have their wealth and birth and connections and accomplishments to brag of; I too have my little stock of vanities within my[sel]f, and taking up but a small space of the ground on which w[e live,] I feel no fears about defending the rights of that against all deadly. My [health] was scarcely so good as you saw it, for some days after I arrived. The air is pure as may be, and I am quiet as when at home; but I did not sleep well for some nights, and began to fear I was again going down the hill. On considering what the matter might be, it struck me that it perhaps was my dining so late (at 5 o'clock) and fasting so long before dinner. This idea was no sooner started than converted into activity: a new regulation took place instantly; and now, except on Sabbath-days, when from choice I eat with the family, my meals are served up in a very comfortable manner, at the hours I myself selected. The Boys and I are up at Breakfast a little before nine; we begin work half an hour after it, continuing till one; then I go out and walk or smoke or amuse myself till half past two, when dinner is waiting for me in the parlour; after which teaching recommences till near five; and then I am free as air for the night. I go into my own room and do whatsoever seemeth me good; I go out of it and walk or sometimes ride upon Charlies horse; and Denovan the smart whisking and very trustworthy Butler has a dish of tea standing ready for me at seven. I made him get a pound of the chinese weed for my own special behoof, to eke out the rather scanty dole of Missus; he keeps it in his own archives, and now the tea is as good to the full “as ought in Ecclefechan,” or near it. By this means, I have brought myself round again, and so long as moderately healthy, I feel perfectly comfortable. I like the arrangement also because I get more time to myself and am less restricted in my movements. I have begun translating the German work2 which Jack knows of: I am busy, I shall be healthy, and in the mean time I am as comfortable as I could hope to be. Now, My dear Mother, I have given you a full account of all my goings on: it is but fair that I should ask a similar one of yours. I do not hurry you for letters, knowing how you are situated; but Jack and Sandy must absolutely bestir themselves. Let them take a long sheet the very day after this arrives, and fill it between them. The lazy villains! What are they thinking of? One of my earliest letters shall be to my [worthy] father; to whom in the meantime my kindest [love. Rem]ember me as a Brother to all the rest, great an[d small.] I am ever, Your affe son,

Th: Carlyle.

[In margin:] I will tell them all about the country which is very lovely, and the natives who are not so, next time I write. For the present I am out to walk for half an hour before bedtime by the Tay side in the beautiful gloaming. Good night to all.

The Newspaper came two days ago, and glad was I to see it. I read it over from beginning to end; not even the advertisements escaped me. Tell them not to send it off before Friday: it would not come a minute sooner for their hurry; the post comes only on alternate days, and I get the news at Sabbath-noon[.] Tell Jack I hope he proceeds rapidly with his translations, and that I still regard him as my own true-hearted Doil. Alick must become a great speculator in husbandry merchandise in his day and generation. He is “a gay intelligent fallow” already as the woman thought him. Jack & he must fill a sheet brimfull between them, as soon as possibly they can.

Tell my Father that the farmers are all starving her[e].3 Give my best respects to Burnswark—not the fine hill, but the still finer man.4