1824- 1825

The Collected Letters, Volume 3


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE; 10 February 1825; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18250210-TC-JAC-01; CL 3:276-280.


Pentonville, 10th Feby 1825—

My dear Jack,

I have at length found a vacant evening; and I gladly set about discharging a duty, which is gratifying in itself, and the neglect of which has caused some uneasiness to both of us. Your letter came to hand duly, as I stated in the Newspaper, but an unbroken series of petty occupations made it ever since next to impossible for me to answer it. When I tell you that I have had a nasty blubbering cold (till within three days), that I have been publishing books, paying visits, changing my abode, consulting doctors, and in almost daily expectation of leaving Town, you will find no difficulty in excusing me.

That unhappy Life of Schiller should have been in Edinburgh ere now: it was fixed for publication about ten days ago; when lo! to consummate the long series of delays, the poor Engraver (whom I had recommended out of brotherly charity) discovered that the portrait was not right, and could not be properly perfected within a fortnight! My first idea was to shoot him thro' the head, and burn the sheets of the work. My second thought was more rational: I made them stitch me up ten copies of the book, with the portrait as it was, to give in presents to my friends here; I settled with them for the price, which is now paid (£87: 10), and took their solemn promise that they would send the work to Edinr the moment it was ready. Oliver & Boyd are to be their agents: I think you may expect to receive 15 copies thro' them in about ten days from this date. Of these 15 copies you will send two to Haddington, and one to Dr Brewster (and one to Dr Tongleg) without delay: the rest you can let lie beside you, till I see you or send you farther word.

I rejoice with all my heart that this silly affair is now off my hands. The aspect of the Book pleases me indifferently well; and I doubt not it will by and by meet with the degree of patronage which it deserves and lays claim to. That the Bibliopolists themselves are satisfied with it I infer from the fact of their having made me a second offer on similar or rather on more advantageous principles for a Life of Voltaire, which I told them I had some thoughts of writing. They propose to let me have the work printed in Edinburgh, if I incline; and to give me £100 for the first edition of it, and another £100 for every subsequent edition. I have yet given them no answer; nor do I mean to accede to their terms about subsequent editions; designing rather to keep these for my own exclusive advantage, and myself profit by the labour of my mind, rather than give it up to the rapacity of rascal booksellers. However I will keep this offer in my eye, as considerably better than none; and ultimately accept of it, if no preferable one occur. My favourite scheme is still Schiller's Works, or rather a series of translations from the German;1 an enterprise which might employ me long and usefully to myself and the English public. I design therefore to let this Schiller's Life have taken wind in Edinr, before appearing there in person, that it may be at hand to refer to in all cases: about the time of its arrival, I will despatch a second letter to Brewster, and together he and I will stir the waters. I think there is no fear whatever that something reasonable may be done. For my own share I feel very easy as to the result. At the same time I think I should prefer Edinr as a place of publication to London; for as I mean to take up my abode somewhere in the North, it is highly necessary that I form some connexions there with literary men and literary traders, and this seems to be the most rational mode of effecting it. We shall see.

With regard to my future residence, my own projects seem to tally very accurately with your advice. I have written to Alick to see if he can find us a sort of farm with a reasonable house attached to it: I will furnish two apartments in it; take my Mother and him over to it (at least till Mainhill is abandoned or set on some new footing); thou shalt stay with us in summer; I will ride and delve and write: we must all try to cultivate civility and rational demeanour to ourselves and one another; and there I feel persuaded we might live in great profit and comfort together. I feel that I must have a house of my own; and this seems the best method of attaining it. The worst thing for me in the plan is the want of intellectual society which it implies. But I shall be in the midst of hearts that love me, which is the best item in all society; and with thee for a scholar and companion I cannot be alone even in intellectual matters. I think the scheme has a fair enough aspect at present; much better than the scheme of taking pupils, which would meet with difficulties in the actual state of matters; and would certainly as you observe be unfavourable for the great object of all my plans, the complete reestablishment of my health. There is nothing on Earth like liberty: let us enjoy it while we may!

In the mean time I am making preparations for departing from the Wen, which I meant to have quitted some days ago. I propose travelling by Birmingham; both for the purpose of resting by the way, and also of taking farther counsel with Badams on the subject of drugs and regimen. Badams is returning to Town (where I saw him the other day) to-morrow; I must consult him, and in part be regulated by his movements. I think it very likely that I shall be in Birmingham next Monday. I may stay there for a day or two; in another week I may be at Mainhill; in less than a month, I expect to see you in Salisbury-street!

Irving wanted to have “a week of talk” with me; and I was at last prevailed upon, that I might accommodate Thomas Dickson who has succeeded me, to quit my lodgings, and conclude my London visit in Myddelton Terrace. I have been here since Saturday night. They are all off dining in the Country to-night; and I am sole lord of the Mansion. Irving and I are kinder than ever: adversity will teach him some wholesome lessons, and he has a true heart with all its errors. The people about him are of that sort de quibus melius siletur [about whom it is better to be silent]: I respect him and feel a sympathy for him

He is not the only friend I have in London. Excluding the Montagues who are babblers, and Badams who is a Gascon [braggart] in some points, there is Mrs Strachey[, who] likes me, and would gladly see me happy. She and I are to correspond in the [future.] I will shew you a beautiful gold pencil which the good lady gave me by way [o]f gage d'amitié [token of friendship] the other night. It is poor to judge of people's worth merely by their treatment of us: but I think, abstracting from this, Mrs S. is about the most sincere and truth-loving woman I have ever met with. She and Mrs Buller have a plan also for helping you. They would get you a Doctor's place in the India Company's service (which I believe is in their power), or a Surgeonship in an India vessel, which for a voyage or two might do you good; or in short any thing within their reach that might seem to you advantageous. Mrs Strachey talked of it to me the other night. I said that as to Doctorships or any permanent settlement for you in India, it was a thing I could not consent to: you bade fair to be a man of some mark in your day, and your profession would support you at home; you were also like to prove what was best of all a truly honest man, and I could not afford to lose the support which I calculated on from your unfailing brotherhood and sympathy in our journey thro life; but as to the Surgeonship I had heard you speak of it as desirable, and you and I would take counsel about it, and in due time let them know. Study like a true man, my good Jack, and there is no fear of the result!

I have occupied this letter altogether with myself and my own concerns; but I know you will not like it the less on that account. The truth is I am unutterably confused at present; and but that I regret every moment of your anxiety I should not have written at all till I came home and felt myself at ease. Nothing here is as it should be. The paper is half gray; I am more billus than usual; I am in a strange house; and the pen I scribble with is so unmanageably bad that I am actually using the back of it! Jack will excuse every thing. To-morrow or next day, I mean to send off my trunk to your care by a Leith smack. If you do not hear from me again in a fortnight, write to me at Mainhill. Most probably you will hear. By that time I expect the Copies of Schiller will be in your possession. Send me all your cares and joys; for I participate in them all. Think of me in your darkest hours as of a Brother that can never fail you.— You may read Wallenstein whenever you like. Tell me what else you are reading. I wish I had three sheets that I could fill for you at present: but soon we shall fill fifty sheets with talk.— Lately I met Will Bogs and John his brother in the Strand. They were well-dressed, but so evidently rascals that I declined giving them my address. Let us be honest men whatever betide us!— Write, unless I write! I already long to hear of you. I am ever your affectionate Brother,

Th: Carlyle

[In margins:] I have heard no word from Oldham (whither I wrote), and so shall not turn aside to see George Johnstone. As to poor James, the Targer, no whisper of his existence has reached me since I parted with him here. I saw Coleridge for the last time yesterday: he is an inspired ass. Procter is Barry Cornwall, one of the mob of singers here, married to a daughter of Mrs Montague. A silly man.

I shall perhaps go by Liverpool, and see old Morley my Teacher in Annan.2 I understand there is a steam boat, which however I do not relish very much. Adieu! My paper is running over!—