The Collected Letters, Volume 2


TC TO JAMES JOHNSTON; 8 July 1823; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18230708-TC-JJ-01; CL 2:394-396.


Kinnaird House, 8th July, 1823.

My dear Johnston,

The appearance of this letter will cause you some surprise, and the contents of it some more. I purpose seeing you in three days! The Bullers and I have entered into arrangements, whereby I am to have a month's vacation; I set out on the evening of next Friday, and the following forenoon I expect, if all suit rightly, to be in Broughty-ferry. You will therefore hold forthwith a council of ways and means; take your Landlady to task, and see if it be in her power to furnish me with a perfectly quiet dormitory for two successive nights, and if so you have nothing farther to do but sit quietly in your place till I arrive by the earliest Steamboat from Perth on Saturday morning. If otherwise, or if you cannot be at home, or have any lawful excuse, let me know instantly, and I shall proceed towards Edinr without deflecting from my course, and thence to Annandale, where I shall expect to see you before returning. Mark only that you have not a minute to lose, if you would forbid my approaches: I set out on Friday, and if you miss a single post, I come down to Broughty-ferry, and “witness only huge dismay.”1 Write to me therefore if I must not come—the very moment you have done reading this. verbum sapieenti [a word to the wise]!2 I need add no more on that point.

This departure is speedier than I anticipated. I have been myself impelled to hasten it by the very infirm state of my outward man, which I hope to get improved when I have nothing else to attend to in our native country. My health has been quite capricious, since I came hither; I have hardly slept soundly two nights in succession, I grew vexed and desperate, there were symptoms of approaching coma. Had you see what choice spirits I was in! There is not such another stumulus3 in nature as bile. Now however I am growing better and duller. Sort out all your stock of domestic intelligence to be set before me cut and dry when I arrive; you will find me a very patient and not uninterested hearer. I have somewhat to tell you and much to learn.

With the prospect of communicating verbally with you, for the space of six and thirty hours, so soon, it were worse than useless to detain you at present. Allow me therefore to lay by my quill-stump, having first subscribed myself with it,

Most sincerely your's, /

Thomas Carlyle.

Here is a cooplet or two from Goethe to fill up the sheet. The subject is Italy; the singer Mignon, a poor little girl stolen from wealth and splendour in that country while yet almost an infant, and carried by rope-dancers into Germany, where she thus expresseth her vague recollections of that magnificent region, about which her thoughts are ever occupied tho' she cannot name it, being a young child of very few words. Mignon singeth to Wilhelm and playeth on the cithern:

Knowst thou the land where the fresh citrons bloom,
And the gold-orange glows in the deep thicket's gloom?
Where a wind ever soft from the blue heaven blows
And the groves are of laurel and myrtle and rose?
Knowst thou it?
Thither! O Thither
My dearest and kindest with thee would I go.
Knowst thou the house with its porch-columns tall?
With its glittering chambers and stately hall?
Where the figures of marble look on me so mild As if thinking:
“Why thus did they use thee poor child!”
Knowst thou it?
Thither! O Thither
My guide and my guardian with thee would I go.
Knowst thou the mountain, its cloud-covered arch
Where the mules among mist o'er the wild torrent march?
In the clefts of it dragons lie coil'd with their brood;
The rent crag rushes down, and above it the flood.
Knowst thou it?
Thither! O Thither
Our way leadeth: Father, O come let us go!
Andw M'Nay4