1824- 1825

The Collected Letters, Volume 3


TC TO JAMES JOHNSTON; 4 August 1825; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18250804-TC-JJ-01; CL 3:363-366.


Hoddam Hill, Thursday-morning [4 August 1825].

My dear Johnstone,

I write to you in great haste, but thinking it better so than to delay longer, lest I mar your preparations for the journey to Haddington: I rejoiced to hear that you contemplated pursuing this project: I conceive there can be little doubt of your obtaining the place, if after all examination you like it, and I still think it may be made to meet your wishes of a comfortable settlement in life as accurately as any that is likely for a long while to occur. At all events there is nothing like an ocular inspection. Take your testimonials in your pocket; proceed to Edinburgh; any afternoon at 3 and at 4 o'clock you will find a vehicle starting from the High-street, opposite the ruins of the Tron Church,1 for Haddington; step into it; Grant's Braes2 is but a short mile distant from your inn. You will like Gilbert and he will like you. My other friends are gone from Haddington at present, or I should gladly have introduced you to them.

Many thanks for your long letter. Next time, I hope to write you an answer in a ratio nearer to equality than this. Saving the needful, it contains nothing.

I never was so lazy and utterly idle in my life as I have been this whole summer. My health, I believe, is still recovering, and that consoles me. I visit no man woman or child of this region; but dawdle on from day to day, my left hand scarcely knowing what my right hand doth. It is a Castle of Indolence that I inhabit; “the general pulse of life” may be standing still,3 or flying like a Congreve rocket4 for aught I know or care about it. Soft you a while! The day of reckoning will come round!— Your friends here are all well; the corn is growing, the stots are waxing, the porridge-pots are boiling in Annandale as they were wont. Jack studies botany, and pesters me with valerians and Lionstooths, and mugworts stinking and fresh: he desires to be kindly present[ed] to you; So do they all; so do I more than any of them; being always as of old,

My dear Johnstone, / Most S[incerely y]our's, /

Thomas Carlyle—(Turn over)

You will write the moment you return from Haddington, if not before? Do, for certain.— My “Translations” are proceeding with the speed of a twelve-horse waggon. Proh pudor [for shame]— Seal that letter before you deliver it.

[In margins:] Mrs Irving5 is in Kirk[c]aldy: go and see her.6


Broughty Ferry 3 Sep. 1825

My dear Carlyle

I received your letter with the inclosed addressed to Mr Burns, which I had the pleasure of delivering to him about three weeks ago. I reached Edinburgh about mid-day; took the coach at three oclock, and arrived in Haddington about seven. I took tea at the inn and bespoke a bed. I then went to Grant's Braes, and knocked at the door, upon which, a clean, genteel, spare, intellectual looking figure presented himself. I speak to Mr Burns I presume; yes, at your service; at the same time stretching out his hand to receive mine, without preface apology, or explanation on either side. I was showed into the parlour, where I gave him your letter, upon reading which, he presented me to Mrs Burns, who was closing a letter at the table, as a friend of Mr Carlyle. Mrs Burn[s]'s look and manner gave me the idea of a douce, honest, kind, motherly woman. We got into conversation immediately; in the course of which, the rest of the family who had been out walking, dropt in one and two at a time; and in less than three quarters of an hour, I found myself as much at home as if I had been a part of the family. I had barely left myself day light sufficient to light me into Haddington when I rose to take my leave, with a request that Mr Burn's would grant me half an hour's farther conversation sation [sic] in the morning: but it seemed to have been already settled by one and all, that I should not leave Grant's Braes that night. You will easily conceive that it was no difficult matter to persuade me to exchange the dull sojourn at an inn for the lively conversation of an agreeable and intelligent family. I have rarely met a family whose minds were more attuned to mine. Our ideas seemed to run as smoothly together as if if [sic] they had been accustomed to mingle for years. Popular education, a subje[c]t upon which Gilbert seems fond of talking, and upon which too he has certainly formed very rational notions, was discussed at considerable length. Then we had his son from Edinburgh, a kind, rattling, talking young man, who introduced topics connected with general literature and whig politics, with which he seemed to be a little overrun. East Lothian farming and farmers, and a variety of other subjects, occupied us till supper-time: after which I retired, accompanied by Mr John, to my bed room, where we sat talking about Edinburgh, its literature, literary characters, and institutions, till a late hour. The next day happened unluckily to be Gilbert's rent day. I saw less of him therefore than I could have wished: His son however accompanied me to Haddington, and introduced me to the two clergymen, both Dumfries-shire men, the one tall and slovenly, the other short and brisk as a bee—both I believed inclined to be favourable to me with regard to the school. I had shewed my certificates of character and qualifications to Gilbert Burns, with which he expressed himself highly satisfied. I did not think of producing them to the clergymen, which Mr B. told me afterwards was an omission, as he had written particularly about them in a note which he gave me to each of these Gentlemen. We then took a view of the house which has been purchased for the “noisy mansion” and domicile of the parish teacher. The house is really a good one, not more than ten years old, Double, with two stories, ashler front, and iron railing before, and a walled garden, containing more than the fourth of a scotch acre in the rear. The situation is quiet and retired, as there is no thorough fare before, and the back part looks into the open country. Gilbert says the salary is not yet fixed, but he believes it will be the maximum, with the benefit of any augmentation that may take place. The lower flat is to be fitted up for the school room: and so sanguine are they of the success of the institution, that they talk of making arrangements for an assistant. The upper flat, consisting [of] four or five apartments, I forget which, is to accommodate [the] teacher. Their arrangements cannot be completed before the spring. Mr Burns and the two clergymen wish to have the teacher chosen, not so much by comparative trial, as by his certificates. I think I may depend on the suffrage of Gilbert; indeed he was pleased to say that he wondered that with such testimonials I should think of looking after such a place. I took the coach at 4 oclock, drank tea with Mitchel[l], whom I found still in Edinburgh busy with his Geography, slept at Newhaven, Breakfasted with Mrs Irving, at her fathers and return[e]d home in the evening, from one of the most pleasant trips I have had for many years. Gilbert Burns is to write to me as soon as they are prepared for advertising. Pardon this matter of fact epistle[.] Give my kindest love to your father and mother[,] John, and all the family: write as soon as you can find time

Yours Sincerely

James Johnston