The Collected Letters, Volume 27


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE ; 14 February 1852; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18520214-TC-JAC-01; CL 27: 42-44


Chelsea, 14 feby, 1852—

My dear Brother,

Thanks again for all your trouble about Craigenputtoch, which I hope is now nearly over, and will turn to good account. Our new tenant seems very eligible every way, and you have put all things on such a footing as promises perfectly well. I think I have seen T. Bell once, at poor Miss Currie's funeral:1 a smart young fellow, and come of a good kind of people.— Jane tells me the kitchen-table or dresser does not belong to us, but was handsomely purchased for money down by the late John M'Queen;2 and that, indeed, except the grates, she can recollect nothing of furniture belonging to us but a miserable old cobweb of a painted-fir Book-case, which I remember very well, which must be standing somewhere about the house, and which Mr Bell is welcome to the gift of, if it can be of any use to him. This is the one item, it appears; and this will not be a difficult one to settle. And so we will wish them well into their new place when Whitsunday comes; and rejoice that poor old Puttoch is to have light kindled in it again, and to look civilized when one goes to see it. Surely I am much obliged to Jamie and you; and you have managed everything for me to perfection.

It is grave news, but we must not call it sad since it is natural and necessary, this of young Jamie's3 going out to seek a trade for himself in the world. Poor fellow he will have his battle to fight, as all have; but I hope he carries with him a clear head and an honest heart, adequate to bring him thro' the enterprise without ultimate failure, or want of what victory is needful in the end!—

Of course I would cheerfully write to Adamson, or do whatever I honestly could for him; but it will be good to understand first what the lye of the matter really is, and whether there is any reasonable chance of prospering on that side. I did not know even that Adamson was still a Lawyer and kept Clerks, but taking that to be the case, wd it not be proper, first of all, to ascertain a little (whh could be done by James Aitken or otherwise, in a quiet way) whether Adamson has, or is near having, or is likely soon to have, any vacancy in his Law-Office? He cannot make a vacancy if there is none. Or wd you wish him to be asked to look out among the other Dumfries lawyers for a vacancy in Jamie's favour?— Then, secondly, what is the practical state of Jamie's qualifications? Is his penmanship (which of course wd daily improve) good enough? Is not some elementary scantling of Latin considered a kind of requisite? &c &c If these points are satisfactory, and Adamson has anything to give, be sure I will write at once, and zealously (so far as my rights can go) solicit him for Jamie's and all our sakes.

What Rt Calvert4 offers at Manchester is very dim to me, and “6 / a week” at starting is certainly poor wages: nevertheless I confess I have more hope of that, altogether, than of the Lawyer scheme in Dumfries. It is apparently some kind of introduction towards Clerkship and regular concern with Commerce and its businesses, so far as the youth's faculties and behaviour give encouragement? That, I think, in these days, is a far manlier outlook than Scotch Law in a stagnant little County-Town full of all kinds of bad habits, and of idleness which is the mother of all. Jamie might be more sad and grave, for a while, under the big smoke-canopy of Manchester; but he might find good connexions and companionships there, if he looked well out for them, more readily than in Dumfries: he might attend evening-classes at the Mechanics-Institute Schools (which I think are good), learn French and much that would be useful to him in his business and otherwise: in short there is clearly a much more generous field open for a young man of good energies and intentions than in the other case;—and it strikes me Mr Calvert ought to be inquired of farther as to this matter: what his own capabilities and purposes towards his Nephew are or are like to be, and what those of the world (so far as Mr C. can advise) are like to be.— And, in the meanwhile, wd it not be good, if Jamie have decided on following some such line of life, and is not yet certain what or where, that he went instantly to some kind of schooling again, and employed every moment of his time in gaining needful knowledge (penmanship, French, Geography, a little Latin &c &c, as you could advise) till all that were settled whether for Dumfries, for Manchr, or whithersoever else. He must remember that only by running with his whole pith, and putting off no moment, is there a chance of victory in this race;—that for an “easy life,” working with his hands and muscles will be mere child's play (strange as it may seem) to what lies ahead of a man in this other course at present!— — — In short, I am quite in the dark as to what is the eligiblest for Jamie; whom I do not know, properly, at all, but take to be a very honest and sensible lad; and certainly commend for deciding to do something. I write down, in great haste, what occurs to me: and, for the rest, need not say that I am ready to help in any thing where I visibly can. I confess I bend most towards Manchester, and have small brow of Dumfries in any form. Also that if there is likely to be any delay in getting a decision, Jamie ought to employ it zealously in additional schooling. This is all at present.

I sent my Mother a Burns (3d vol) the other day, of which I think she will not get much good. It can be given to Brother Jamie who used to have a taste for Burns,—this and the other two volumes, if they are still to the fore, and my Mother has no other use for them. Good old Mother, I am very thankful to hear of her favourable state:—the good weather is now coming, which will do good to us all.— — I had a Letter from Neuberg5 yesterday; but it is a mere List of Books (loyally meant, and good but not important) on Fredk the Great: another like it, by way of Supplement, is promised: Fredk is getting quite a waste subject with me,—

wozu, wozu [why, why]?— My love to my good Mother and to all the rest. Ever yours

T. Carlyle