1824- 1825

The Collected Letters, Volume 3


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE; 1 December 1825; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18251201-TC-JAC-01; CL 3:420-424.


Hoddam Hill, 1st December 1825—

My Dear Jack,

I grieve to think of the weary waiting which you must have commenced six and thirty hours ago, and must at all events continue for other six and thirty to no purpose. The fault lies not with us: your parcel has not been above twenty minutes in my hand at this present date! I had Larry saddled on Sunday morning, and set out for Annan; my Father, who was here that day and belated for Church, with our Mother and the rest waiting anxiously for my return with farther news from you. The adepose Doctor was not to be met with or heard of: but I found the sturdy Gavin with his chin new-mown leaning on a house corner meditatively; and he assured me that he had no parcel either for me or Dr Waugh, none absolutely on his word of verity! The false treacherous Turk! Alick went down again today, to get his watch and sell oats; and it then appeared that Waugh had got a parcel from you, but not till yesterday about noon! From all which it results: 1° that Carriers are a portion, on the wrong side, of that Mixture1 which our “Mother” well knows to be the material of all Earthly things; 2° that I must write to you instantaneously to counterwork their influence as far as possible; 3° that I must ride to Ecclefechan by sunrise tomorrow morning (if the sun rise at all, which from the present sleet and howling storm seems dubious) or my writing will not reach you till Monday.

We waited long and anxiously for your first letter;2 and heartily condoled with you on the sorry cheer which your journey afforded. My own experience of these things teaches me how heavily they fall upon a wearied and dispirited wight, whose heart is sore enough at parting from his quiet moorings, without the aid of physical and other pettifogging distresses to increase his grief. I hope by this time it is pretty well forgotten; that you are settling to your tasks, and getting free of that dreary home-sickness which never fails to torment one for the first week after one's again venturing among strangers. You say nothing of your lodgings: do you find them answer? Our kind anxious mother has been harping frequently about a cold you had at your departure; I have assured her “on the best grounds,” that it must be gone long ago: yet tell us so, if you can, next time you write.

For some days after you left me I felt quite harried and disconsolate; a dreary loneliness took possession of me go where I would. Time and diligence in business have now somewhat reconciled me; and I look upon your absence with a mild regret, and the hope of soon meeting you again. These separations tho' painful are not useless: they teach us to prize duly what the daily presence of makes trivial in our eyes; if we had our friends always we should never know how much we loved them. Continue to trust me, my good Jack, as of old; for tho' distempers and the most despicable distresses make me choleric and frequently unreasonable, I love you truly, and have no dearer wish than to see you prospering beside me. I lament to think that my power of aiding you should be so limited; but to the utmost extent of my ability you need not be invited to command me. Between us, we shall manage it! Of this allow yourself no doubt. It was pity among other things that you went away so ill supplied with cash; I know it makes one sad in hours of hypochondria to have so little in the strongbox; but if this stock should verge to decline before my coming, as in all probability it will, write for more with yen impident face,3 and it shall not fail to be sent.

Of our proceedings here since your departure the history may soon be told. Conceive the three most quiescent weeks of your experience in Hoddam Hill, and write ditto ditto as the account of these. At my return from convoying you, I found Mrs Irving and Gavin4 of Bogside waiting here; they had come to take farewell of you, and missed their purpose by a few minutes. Since that night we have had no visitor, or event worth notice even here. Alick feeds his stall-cattle and pokes about doing odd jobs throughout the day, and at night comes and reads beside me. My Mother and I have our private cup of tea as usual: she spins and fights about; Jenny and the new maid are here (a strapping grimy mettlesome quean); and Jane is absent at Mainhill. Jenny was brought over by our Mother for her health; for she was getting billus at Mainhill. She now seems to be quite well; and all the rest of us are if anywise changed since you saw us, changed to the better.

For myself I have gone along with exemplary industry for several weeks; translating daily my appointed task; walking and smoking at intervals, and turning neither to the right hand nor the left, as if I were a scribbling smoking sleeping and dyspeptical automaton. I am thro' Mute Love and Libussa in Musäus: yesterday morning I began Melechsala, which will conclude my doings with that scornful gentleman; unless I think of adding the Treasure-digger to my list, a contingency depending somewhat on the operations of Messrs Tait and their consigners. My health is better rather than worse, tho' I ride very little, having substituted walking in its stead; unless for journeys that render it worth while to button on the mudboots, an enterprise of some pith and moment. I go every morning to the neighbourhood of the Clayhouses Tollbar or some such distance; take another stroll before dinner; perhaps a third after it, and by supper time, my task has insensibly come to a conclusion.

As to the period of my coming to Edinburgh, I can still say nothing definite. I would fain have these books in my hands before starting with the Printers; and Tait writes shilly-shally-wise about their coming; so that I can scarcely understand what to make of it. I wish you would ask him what books he has sent for to London, that I may know what to expect in the best possible view of the case. Goethe's Meister I believe I could borrow: a few pounds of money will procure all the rest. When I have done with Musäus, I shall most probably begin Undine; and after that I shall be obliged to come northward without further calculation. That may perhaps be in about a month. I am loth, I confess, to set my head into the reeky den again; being comparatively well here, and having little hope of being so there. Yet what must be must be; and after all, it is better that it should be so. We must arrange our lodgings somehow so that we be in a house: you can be inquiring in the interim.

I had almost forgot your question about the farm. There is still no ray of light thrown upon it, and no step taken in it. Today Alick spoke to Farish of Annan (Blackadder's successor), who informed him that “the General” had been speaking with him on the subject, but had not then determined what to do, “whether to let the place again, or keep it in his own hand”; however he would see him again before next Thursday, and then be able to say more. Thus it stands: it would not surprise me, tho' we staid here after all. Blessed are they that are in utrumque parati [prepared for either event]!

I have filled your sheet, and much yet remains to be said. You will write almost immediately, or rather altogether so; for we have yet heard no deliberate account of you; neither can this be called a deliberate account of us, considering my hurry (I finished my task before beginning) and the quality of my materials physical as well as intellectual. This is Alick's paper, brought from Annan: I rather think I shall never write another letter on it.— Tell me all that you are doing and feeling, what heart you are in, how your time is divided, and all things else that can be inquired about you. Think that you write to a Brother, and to friends who cannot feel indifferent to you. Is your thesis fixed upon, and any steps whatever taken in it? What classes are you attending? What company have you? Give my complt to Mitchell, Murray, Crone, Church, and tell me how they are all getting on. There is an interest other than intrinsic in their history to me. Is Lockhart for certain Editor of the Q.R.? Is he to live in London? Has Dr Brewster published his mineralogy book with Tait? Is Allan Cunningham's novelle5 out yet?— My Mother is cowering before the fire, smoking, and sends you her kindest wishes and prayers, and bids me ask if you gang to the Kirk? The kindest affection of us all is with you. Good night, my dear Jack, write soon and minutely, and believe me—ever thy true Brother,

T. Carlyle—

I have ordered them to rouse me tomorrow morning for the postoffice unless there be a fall. Tonight it is a hurricane of drift and sleet,— as perilous a night as you would wish for. Tomorrow, nous verrons [we shall see].