1824- 1825

The Collected Letters, Volume 3


TC TO ALEXANDER CARLYLE; 21 February 1824; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18240221-TC-AC-01; CL 3:33-35.


Edinr, Saturday—Afternoon [21 February 1824]—

My dear Alick,

I write to you in the greatest haste; the Carrier's affair having been as usual mismanaged. His box I did not hear of till two o'clock: and after dining and unpacking my articles, I have come up to Jack's room, where I now sit writing. Jack is gone out (to dine, they said; tho' where I cannot guess) and is not to be in again till late. The Waffler or whoever it was that brought the box, charged 1/4 for it; so that I suppose he will need no farther pay. He hurries me extremely with his movements: so I must write to you most incoherently; but better so, than not at all.

I need not tell you how glad I am to learn of your welfare: it is a blessing we have long enjoyed; but for which we can never be thankful enough. It often strikes me to the heart to think that one day this state of things must alter, and some of us be sent to “that undiscovered Country, from whose bourne no traveller returns”;1 leaving for the rest a gap in the circle which can never more be filled! But it is very useless to vex one'self with the foretaste of evils which will be bitter enough when they arrive. Let us hope that the date may be distant, the blow soft, and the reunion speedy! I wonder what has put me on this serious sermonising vein. I must leave it.

Your letter is full of rugged ingenuity: but there is only one point in it, which I can find any leisure to discuss—writing in this style, at full gallop, and in another's house. I al[l]ude to the question of my homecoming. Often, often does this come thro' my own head: I long to revisit Mainhill, as if healing lay there for my afflicted carcass, and of course afflicted mind. My lodgings in Moray-street are I think of the best description, quiet, cleanly and orderly. Yet I am not in health: I do not reckon myself better, some times almost worse, than I was in the highlands. “Sleep! Sleep! O gentle sleep!”2—I do not, I cannot get enough of it. I am in consequence obliged to take drugs almost every day, and the result of this is easy enough to discover. I ask myself often what I am doing in this accursed place, which for many years has been to me the scene of woes, greater than the heart of man has formed an image of. The answer is, I am printing a book, and must hold at it for a while; but that when it is done—Quick, March! is the word. In truth, I believe, part of the secret is I am or rather was working too hard. Half the book is yet to translate: I set about doing sixteen pages of it per-day; did thus much for three days, and then felt unutterably sick and downcast. I have since been contented with nine.

In fact I believe the best plan for me will be to go on with the business leisurely; and see if I can get home to work at it[.] Riding two hours per day on Bardolph would do more for me than all the drugs in nature. The Doctor Bell I called on one day, and found just going out. I promised to call again. He said he understood I was quite well!! “Well!!!” I told him in our fathers tone. I believe him to be a consummate ass: the first morning I can get up in time, I design to go and settle with him and pay him off entirely. His mercury seems to have done me a considerable quantity of mischief; and as for the giving up of my dearest tobacco, I cannot find that it has produced in me the very smallest improvement.

You will think me very miserable, when you read this letter. But no: I am not miserable at all; only today, I am rather worse than usual; and this is after dinner. If I had a little health, there is nothing I have reason to care for the want of. Even as it is, I contrive in general to get along very reasonably. Jack comes down to me every night: we have a talk and a walk: we correct the Printer's sheets together, and are very happy. He is a kind faithful slut of a fellow. I have twice or thrice been mentioning to him my purpose of going home; but he does not seem to approve it. On the whole, I can yet say nothing definite on the subject. Next week I have to see Brewster and settle accounts with him; I shall then make investigations about the possibility of printing and living at Mainhill. I know it is possible enough: but what the extent of sacrifice is I do not know. If I grow any worse, or even no better, I will write to you in about a week, appointing to meet you.

Now my dear Alick, you must pardon all this confusion and obscurity; for I write in the most extreme hurlyburly of mind and now it is grown [too] dark to mend the matter. Write to me by the post if I delay writing home too long: it is far better than by the carrier, especially so uncertain a genius as Farries.

Thank my dear kind Mother for the eggs and cakes: I know not how I shall consume them they are so many. The eggs here are on the point of rottenness, so I had given them up. I meant to write to my Mother. But alas! it is close dark before I have finished this: and I have not yet written one line of my translation! Give my heart's love to Father and Mother and every soul about Mainhill. God bless you all forever! I am your true Brother

Th: Carlyle

The Marting[a]le3 is here, and shall be sent home, the first opportunity.