The Collected Letters, Volume 2


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE; 20 October 1823; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18231020-TC-JAC-01; CL 2:453-457.


Kinnaird House, 20th October, 1823—

My dear Jack,

Upon this last surviving sheet of large paper, I sit down to write the last letter you are likely to receive from me for some time at Mainhill. I would have written sooner; for your late epistle, like all of them pleased me and comforted me, and the task of replying to it was at once a duty and a pleasure; but ever since it came to hand I have scarcely been two days together in the same place; and this evening tho' a late [hour] is the very earliest opportunity I could find for so pleasing an employment. You are a good fellow, Jack, with all your drawbacks; it is no small consolation for me, both in regard to the present and the future, that I have you for a Brother.1 Nothing strengthens the other ties of friendship so permanently and binds them so closely as the tie of blood; a brother, when one respects his character and could love it for its own sake, is a treasure which money cannot purchase, which nature gives and every true man would reckon among her dearest gifts. I have been a very woful genius for several years; darkened and distressed in spirit by continual pain and sorrows of various weighty kinds, my conduct in various relations has been most pitifully discharged; to you in particular, I have often been too harsh in words when my heart was true enough to your interests: yet I look forward with some hope into the future for days when both our hearts being more at ease, and our employments and situations more suitable to our wishes and deserts, our intercourse will become more warm and joyful in form without becoming less true in substance. As it is, depressed by many chagrins, in the midst of discomfort and much painful destitution, we are richer than thousands of flourishing persons in the world as the world estimates prosperity. We have glorious anticipations before us; and with the realizing of them or without it, we have both some tried friends to share either fortune with us. Let us never complain, then; but stick all true to one another, as I have said a thousand times, and dread nothing that can befal us.

In a few days you will be setting out for Edinr, well-grounded in materia medica and other elementary branches of your profession, which this winter you will have leave to study under better auspices. I commit you, in the mean while, to your own direction without any fear, or any caution—save that you do not pursue the business over earnestly, and so incapacitate yourself for future and greater efforts. If your health be spared to you, I feel confident that you will outstrip every one of your competitors that I have any knowledge of. True honest perseverance, Jack, is the thing that makes a man, and nothing else can make him. Friends and patronage and so forth will do nothing without this; and with it, all these things may be dispensed with. You have a stout rugged judgement, a clear head and a true determined heart; there is no fear of you. As to the arrangements of your study and economy in Edinr, as I have observed already, they must for the present campaign be left to your own discretion. In regard to the first, you will follow Medicine with rigorous fidelity as the future means of subsistence; and the spare time you have (for much will still remain) you can devote to general reading, the German and Latin and Greek languages, composition, perhaps attending “the Logical,”2 and above all to bodily and mental recreation. In regard to the second, I do not know whether you think of living with a companion or by yourself; tho' I rather presume the latter will be your determination, as being perhaps more favourable for study, tho' less comfortable in other respects. If not, perhaps Archy Little3 were he so minded would be a more suitable fellow-lodger for you than Duncan Church.4 You can think of this, and decide on your own authority—just as you shall judge most pleasant for you, paying no regard to any considerations of expence and the like, for I should reckon it the meanest penury to injure one's comfort and progress for a whole winter out of reluctance to part with another pound note or two. On the same principle, I beg of you, and command you if that be necessary, to take up with no obscure uncleanly and unwholesome quarters, but to provide yourself with a comfortable a quiet and well-aired apartment, whatever be the cost. I should think Salisbury street or some of these places might suit, if you are determined to be near the College: only investigate the landlady and the neighbourhood well before deciding. You can proceed to Mrs Robertson's 35. Bristo-street, the night you arrive, and she will accommodate you for the evening: but her rooms, I should fear, would be too noisy, tho' she is the best landlady I ever had. She will give you a Quarterly Review which I left there. Lastly, Jack, you must take the dreadnought about you and travel in the Coach. This for certain. Walking is the most horrid undertaking in the world; it is not once to be thought of. If you have money enough to bring you out with, do not apply to Alick for any of his store; write to me, and I will send you a draught for plenty. You will need clothes, books &c &c[.] You will have to pay me fifty-fold yet; so of course I lend with all the willingness of a Hebrew usurer. Has James Johnstone written to you, inviting you to Broughty Ferry? It is a jaunt which you might very easily accomplish (after being settled in your room) during the Sacrament week.5 James will give you welcome with both hands. He is one of the kindest fellows, almost the very kindest in the way of hospitality I ever saw. There is nothing to hinder you from visiting the place; and if it gave you no trouble, I think it would do you good. He talks of taking you [to] Perth in a steamboat, and doing many other pleasant things. All this I can speak of from personal authority; for I staid from Monday night till Thursday morning last with Johnstone. I had gone thither to meet Edward Irving and his spouse, tho' I did not effect this object till I returned to Dunkeld. Such ten days of galloping and wandering about! First the Bullers wished to take me with them to Loch Ketterin [Katrine]; but I hearing of Irving's movements would go no farther with them than Loch Tay, from which fine spot I returned on Saturday gone a week, amid the wettest weather I ever saw in my life. Poor Bardolph and I were wet to the bone: yet neither of us took any harm, and we (like Curly and Jock) started again on Monday; lost our way among the stupid roads of Strathmore in Angus, could get no insight from the more stupid boors of the place, and did not reach the Targer's hospitable domicile till half past eight in the evening. I passed the foot of Dunsinan[e] and Macbeth's hill about nightfall, a few minutes after I had seen the great broad luminary as I looked over my shoulder setting behind the crescent-shaped peak of one of the far off Grampian Mountains. O[n Thurs]day I returned by a more convenient route, dined with a parson (one Irving from Galloway, whom I knew6) in the moors of Angus; and at evening found the great Irving from Hattongarden, whom I also knew, sitting with his homely wife in Fishers inn at Dunkeld. The Bullers had returned that same day—themselves and horses nearly dead with jading and fatigue: but I abode with Irving at his inn, taking up my horse on Friday morning, and returning back; till Saturday, when the whole three of us proceeded up the country in a chaise, called here at Kinnaird in the greatest style, went on to Loch Tay, and spent the night in Kenmore inn. After hearing sermon next day, they rolled me down six miles in their chaise to Aberfeldy, where I parted with them, and about two miles farther on fell in with the Postman leading up Bardolph to meet me, which I forthwith mounted, and so reached home by five o'clock. Irvings wife is dead ugly, otherwise a very decent serviceable person. He himself is the same man as ever, only his mind seems churned into a foam by the late agitations and is yielding a plentiful scum of vanities and harmless affectations. The hair of his head is like Nebuchadnezzar's when taken in from grass:7 he puckers up his face into various seamy peaks, rolls his eyes, and puffs like a blast-furnace; talking abundantly a flood of things, the body of which is nonsense, but intermingled with sparkles of curious thinking, and tinctured with his usual flow of warm-hearted generosity and honest affection. We talked and debated, and the time went pleasantly along. He was for me up to London with him, for three months in summer, to see the world, that so I might begin writing in good earnest. I said nay—the offer being incompatible at present with my other engagements, and at any rate savouring too much of patronage to suit my taste. He is a kind good man with many great qualities, but with absurdities of almost equal magnitude. He meditates things in which he must evidently fail; but being what he is, he must always retain a high place in the estimation of a certain portion of the public. He and his beloved are returning to Annan in a week or two, where they purpose to make some stay. I shall always wish him well: as men go, I know of no one like him.8

“Schiller's life and writings” is printed in the last No. of the London Magazine.9 The Editor sent me a letter full of that “essential oil” (flattery), and desiring to have the remainder of the piece without delay. Goethe is in consequence suspended: I begin Schiller Part II. to-morrow, if I can. Whenever I am done with it I will be down with you in Edinr to settle about many things which you have to do for me in winter, and see how you are coming on. This, I take it, will be about the middle of November. You must write me before you leave Mainhill, and immediately after arriving in Edinr. Tell Sandy how much I am obliged by his short epistle, and how honestly I mean to answer it. Is our worthy kind-hearted Mother well? Tell her that I long to see her hand on paper, as I know that her thoughts are always with me. My Father I have been indebted to for many weeks: scores shall soon be cleared between us. Give my heart's love to all the family great and little at Mainhill: I turn to them in all my tenderest moods: I pray the Great Father to bless them all! Adieu my dear Jack! I am ever

Your affe Brother,

T. Carlyle.

Tuesday-evening. 21st. I forgot to speak about my health; from which you will justly infer that not much ails it. I was trashed [fatigued] somewhat by my wanderings, but two nights of good sleep have restored me to my wonted pitch. Tell Alick not to abate in his trading: I will write to him about it very soon[.] Send me word about my Mother. Again, Good night! The post is just coming. Tell Alick that Bardolph must not leave me till spring. The beast is not fatter, but made of good stuff, and a true horse. Johnstone has given up Cupar; without a trial: he does not well know what he will turn to. You will likely see him soon.