1824- 1825

The Collected Letters, Volume 3


TC TO ALEXANDER CARLYLE; 10 February 1824; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18240210-TC-AC-01; CL 3:29-33.


1. Moray-street, 10th Feby 1823 [1824]—

My dear Brother,

I yesterday for the first time got a sight of your letter; and, you see, I am not slow in answering the friendly solicitude which it breathes, by the return most agreeable to you, a prompt account of my history since I wrote last. This will be no difficult task. My days and my nights were full of Schiller to the exclusion of almost every other subject, till near the end of last week, when after the most obstinate efforts on my part the third and last portion of it was concluded and sealed up, an event which gave more pleasure than any that had happened to me for a month. This third Part is a very long-winded story, nearly as long as both the other two: I am longing very much to get it sent off, and printed and completely despatched from my thoughts. It has cost me some labour: if I find nothing better to do, I will enlarge it, brush it up, and have it printed as a separate Book.

After the completion of this notable undertaking, little remained for me but to make ready and go down to Edinr, whither the elder part of the Buller family had gone about ten days before. The younkers and I lived in great harmony tho' rather in a hugger-mugger style of accommodation, our only servant being a boy of seventeen, as awkward as a cub, and who I think must have impoverished Mrs B. considerably by his breakages of china and glass-ware. It had been settled that I was to remain till Friday-night last; then to set out for Edinr, and have two months of my own to get Meister printed in. Accordingly on Friday-night, one of the wettest ever seen, I sallied forth about 8 o'clock in the gig beside Arthur, who had been preferred so far as to have the driving of me thro' the tempest down to Dunkeld. On arriving there, we found an ancient, bullet-headed, smoke-dried, sharp-tempered personage, the Perth Post, waiting with his gig to take me fifteen miles farther. I was muffled up in clothes like an Egyptian mummy, had on a thick great-coat and an umbrella; so did not greatly mind the wind and rain, but reached Perth between midnight and one in the morning, without much inconvenience. A coach or rather many coaches start from this place for Edinr, at seven in the morning. Of course, I got next to no repose: a rascal above me alarmed the whole establishment about four in the morning with a noise like the “taking of Sebastian,”1 and I did not fall asleep again till near six, when my own turn came. We had no bad ride to Edinr, I myself having all the inside to lie and lounge in without interruption from any living thing. One of the first persons I met in Edinr was the broad substantial truthful Jack, coming down to inquire for letters from me. After dinner and much talk, we went out to look for rooms. O that it might please the Upper Powers never never more in this or any other world to set me out again on such an enterprise! My heart grows black as midnight when I think of all the mean torments I have undergone in that matter, since first I became a sickly, a captious and a discontented wanderer on the face of the earth. We met with royal specimens yesterday! Some were palpable bawdy-houses, some had landladies the very image of Martha Calvert,2 all were dreary, squalid, untenantable, the very look of them enough to make one take a passage in the mail that very night. At length by great good luck, we heard of the people here, and found a room in their house combining the unspeakable advantages of quietness and fresh air, and known neighbourhood. Martin of Kirkcaldy3 and others of our acquaintance lodged in it last year. I took it very readily, tho' the rent was 10 / aweek, and the room is not so good as Wilkie's which both Jack and I had the use of for 9 /. But what is money to the unspeakable horrors of sluttishness and noise and vulgar base debauchery? Last night I had a sleep of eight hours; which I would not exchange for gold. To-day, I am still feckless and dispirited, but infinitely better than I was: another day will quite reinstate me.

I have got leave of the Bullers for three months, two of which it was understood, I should devote to the translating and printing of the German Novel, and the third to seeing you all at Mainhill, instead of August; after which I was to join them in London, thenceforth proceeding to the burgh of Looe in Cornwall, and establishing myself permanently there as the Tutor of their eldest son. This plan I feel inclined to to [sic] break thro' in some respects. With regard to the Book, I have not yet seen Oliver & Boyd; but I feel inclined to suppose that the printing of it might proceed without interruption, tho' I were at Mainhill, the sheets being sent me by the Post. In case therefore I find myself uncomfortable in this lodging or wearied of the city, it seems very likely that I may make some arrangement of that kind, and call upon you to “come up with your two able horses”4 sooner than you anticipate. I long much to be home: I have known no approach to health since I left it. I think I could sit in the room with my fire and desk, and work with the greatest alacrity. I could also have Dolph to ride on, and all you kind souls to talk with: I should be very happy. In a week or two I shall be able to tell you more.

With regard to our ulterior proceedings about this farm, it is needless to attempt discussing the subject minutely on paper, when we have the near prospect of discussing it so much better by word of mouth. The[re] seems to be little danger that we s[hall] be able to fall on some scheme of a suitable sort. The sole object which I need is a little modicum of health; with that I can undertake to earn my bread in the most independent manner. You have strength and experience, I have capital; we are true to one another: doubt not we shall be able to make it out. I declare I often wonder that you have not grown altogether tired of me, and my weak whimsical sufferings, as to you it is not unnatural that they should seem. You have stood faithful to me long: the worst is now past; let us not despair of the issue, or faint when the goal is in view. On the whole I am not averse to go to Cornwall, at least for a time, and if I had a suitable place of abode. T[he] people [here have] behaved well to me: they have all along treated me with the greatest [con]sideration; of late, they even seem to have some glimmer of affection for [me]. My small authorial labours have elevated me [in] their esteem; and it says not a [little] for people such as they are to value intellectual [w]orth at a higher rate than any other. [If] Mrs B. to her other gifts added the indispensible one of being a good housewife, one might live very happily beside her. Buller I have all a[long] esteemed a very unadulterated specimen of an English gentleman: he is truly honest to the very heart. If I have recovered, as I expect to do at Mainhill, I shall feel no objection to go forth and see them and London both at once. Tell my dear and over-anxious mother, that going to Cornwall is as easy as going to Waterbeck,5 for any danger there is in it: the people also are good sober Christians, and will use me no way but well. Tomorrow I am to see Buller, and he will tell me more distinctly what they are minded to do. Mrs B. I saw to-day; she was very sickly, having wanted sleep &c ever since she left Kinnaird; but she was very kind and pleasant. They return to Kinnaird in three or four days, and stay there till the beginning of April.

I have been so busy telling you these small but not to you indifferent matters that I have never had time to thank you for the very spirited and pleasing account you gave us of all that was going on about you. Jack and I were not a little amused, and I felt more than mere amusement at the operations of our little sisters and the sedate austere “Mr Carlyle” at the Post-office.6 Dear little things! I will see them all repaid yet. As for Mr C. I love him for his innate honesty, and vigour of mind, as well as no small promise of talent more strictly intellectual. Is he still at school? Tell him to improve the passing hour, and let me find him incalculably improved at my return. Tell the three small children to write to me by the carrier, and I will answer. Is Mag still in the old way? I never hear a whisper of her; tho she is often in my thoughts.— What on earth, as you say, can have tempted the infatuated Dominie7 to wed in such a manner? I could not or cannot yet understand how any mortal should have thought of such a match. But it is he not us that has to pay the piper: so heaven speed him in this new voyage he is making. I would not stand in his shoes for infinite sums. I liked your criticism on Cobbett very well: so far as I have examined the work, you seemed to have formed a perfectly accurate view of it. He overdoes every thing: yet much may be learned from his shrewd practical experience. I long to get another letter from you, detailing all that you are doing or about to do. Never wait for Farries unless his time exactly suits your own. The post is always open, and your letters are never dear at three times the postage. But I must away to Jack who is waiting for me at the other side of the city. My kindest love to Father and Mother, both of whom I purpose writing to. How is my Mother? Tell me pointedly. Tell the “child of misfortune”8 that I send him my compliments, and shall be happy to hear that he is settled. Adieu, My dear Alick! Ever your's

Thos Carlyle—