1824- 1825

The Collected Letters, Volume 3


TC TO JAMES JOHNSTON; 17 June 1825; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18250617-TC-JJ-01; CL 3:337-338.


Hoddam Hill, 17th June, 1825—

My Dear Johnstone,

I have just received a letter from Haddington; of which the following is an extract:

“I have inquired about the Parish School: there is to be one; but not for a twelvemonth; the house taken for the purpose will not be ready till then. If your friend is not settled by that time, and the situation to his mind, I think there is little doubt of his getting it: for Gilbert Burns, who has most to say in the business, has promised me to support any person recommended by you. But I question if your friend would like the situation. He would only have twenty pounds of salary. To be sure there will be a tolerable house, a good garden, and the profits of his teaching besides: but still it will be no object to any one who is already well employed. Gilbert wishes a schoolmaster who will not only teach the children to read but to understand; and who will also give them ideas about religion. He bids me tell you this.”

Such is the intelligence I have got. On the whole, I think it promising; at least worth farther consideration, and inquiry. The easiest and shortest mode of getting light thrown upon it would perhaps be a journey to Haddington, and a personal investigation of the place and its capabilities. If you think so, let me know, and I will furnish you with credentials to Gilbert Burns, and insure you of a friendly reception, and a candid explanation of all you want to know. Gilbert is a person you will like and be liked by; an honest Scottish yeoman, of the true school; religious, intelligent, affectionate, unpretending. His character and his name are almost of themselves worth such a journey. He will talk to you of farming, of practical morality, of Scotland, of his brother. Tell me when you have decided, and I undertake to lose no time. It is better that the thing be settled soon; for in that case, either you have a fixed hope before you, or your hands are free to seek one. I have considerable expectations that the place may answer you; that it may prove a resting-place to the sole of your foot, and a home where you may close, or at least rest from, your perplexed wanderings, and be a “man among your fellow-men.”

Since you left us there has nothing in the slightest degree remarkable occurred among us. The out-of-doors people are busy with their turnips, or bullying with the knave Blackadder1 about his frantic demands which they have told him they do not give a rush for: the indoor community are churning butter, or reading books and “sporting on paper” as of old. I am growing better weekly; the cabbages are swelling “like broth-pots,” the beans and peas have an odour far beyond that of mille fleurs [perfume: a thousand flowers], and upwards of two hundred roses promise to greet me in a fortnight. What more could I desire?

In the neighbourhood scarcely any news. Gove Pool was here today, and told us that poor Peg Duke died yesterday, bitterly accusing Parliament2 in her last hours for the ruin of her soul and body! There is a coarse horror in this affair, a vulgar tragic that I cannot get rid of; it has clung to my thoughts ever since I heard it.

Jack and I are on the wing for Annan; he stamping to and fro, encouraging me to be done. I must conclude abruptly. Write whenever you have made up your mind. Jack's best compliments. Believe me ever,

My Dear Johnstone, / Most faithfully yours, /

Thomas Carlyle