January-October 1859

The Collected Letters, Volume 35


TC TO DAVID LAING ; 6 February 1859; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18590206-TC-DL-01; CL 35: 20-21


Chelsea, 6 feby, 1859

My dear Sir,

About four weeks ago, not sooner, the fine new Book Memoirs of the Master of Sinclair1 whh Mr Macknight2 had been so kind as announce a good while before, was safely handed in to me; and I read it straight way, with a great deal of pleasure and thankfulness,—meaning to express the same to you with the least possible delay. That surely was the minimum of what could be expected of me, in the case! I am very blameable to have delayed so long: but if you saw how I am held to the grindstone here, by the ugliest job man ever had, and by a great many botherations over and above, I think you could hardly have the heart to condemn me without speedy absolution after!—

I found the Master a most excellent fellow to keep company with in print; and truly it is many a day since I have read a Book with so much entertainment,—or been able to read so ill-written a Book at all. Nothing can excel the tortuous verbosity, iteration, perversity, of the Master's way of describing that matter and the people acting in it: but it is notable with what a degree of glowing distinctness he lodges it, every feature of it, in our mind at last,—having had it so in his own, and being a man of real force and talent. I found great pleasure in him;—and wish much you, or somebody competent, would annotate him judiciously: give dates especially (day by day, that is terribly wanted), explain who and what (in outline) these bankrupt Lords3 &c &c are. I find the thing to be not only a Picture, but a Bit of Sculpture (so vivid is it), were the dark places cleared up. Potentially a “bit of Sculpture”; potentially, that is all: to make it really such wd be a harder job!—

There are several errors of the press, as you doubtless know: the worst I noticed was in p. 45, “placed armes,”—instead of “place d'armes.4

Accept my kind thanks and regards, sincere tho’ late; and please, to Mr Macknight too, with the fit apologies from me! I am always

Yours very truly

T. Carlyle