The Collected Letters, Volume 4


TC TO ALEXANDER CARLYLE; 16 January 1826; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18260116-TC-AC-01; CL 4:14-17.


Edinr 16th January 1826—

My Dear Alick,

I have just received a letter from Haddington, enclosing one from Mrs Crichton to Miss Welsh on the subject of Shawbrae, which has put me into no little astonishment and embarrassment. It runs as follows: (13th Janry)

“Last Sunday my Husband gave me your Letter with strict charges not to delay carrying a message to you, and to say that only very constant business had prevented his writing to you himself. The message is that to the last day of taking offers, he had been on the look-out for your Friend; but that no such person had appeared. Of course nothing could be done or said: but I am sure there was more than a chance of your letter having been a good introduction.”

Now what in all the wide world of art and nature are we to make of this? Did you not publickly give him in the offer in my Father's name? Has the man lost it, or does he mean to sham by this appearance of mistake? The latter I can hardly think; for it were a trick unworthy of a Bewcastle horse-couper.1 Jane Welsh is in despair at the business; and professes her entire readiness to do any thing that I shall bid her in this affair. To her I shall write to-morrow by the earliest post; instructing her to explain to Mrs Crichton (who as ill luck would have it is gone out of Town, neither I nor I fear Jane knows whither for a week) that an offer most certainly was made and a good one too. The Major, she says, is not to be back for a month; in which case perhaps some good may still be done. I think I never was more irritated in my life than at this piece of misunderstanding. We must haste, haste to see if we can remedy it, while time still is.

Can you by any manner of means learn Major Crichton or Lord Montagu's2 address in London? If not, it might almost be worth while to gallop off to Dabton and seek it, and send him off without delay some such letter as the following.

Mainhill Ecclefechan &c Janry 1826—


I have just had a letter from Miss Welsh of Haddington on the subject of the farm of Shawbrae containing an extract of one from Your Lady to the following effect:

(13th Janry) “Last Sunday my Husband gave me your Letter with &c &c [copying all the rest of it to the word] good introduction”—[and marking the sides of it as I have done].3

There must be some unaccountable mistake in this matter; for to a certainty my Son did make offer to you in my name for this farm of Shawbrae at Dumfries on Wednesday the —th of December, the public day appointed for taking in offers. The rent proposed by me was £ 230 (for the lands which you intended to constitute the future farm of Shawbrae together with the lands of Lower Bogside at present occupied by Mr Hunter); and you yourself had the goodness to specify on the margin of the paper which he signed, the particular pieces of ground which he had in view.

If this document is lost, may I hope that you will be so obliging as to consider the present letter in the light of an equivalent for it, that so the recommendation of my kind friend, and your kind attention to it may not be utterly lost.

With much respect, I remain, Sir &c

James Carlyle—

Some such letter as this would still have the force of an offer; and to me it seems quite possible that nothing whatever may have been determined about the matter yet. But I am appointed to dine with Brewster, and the last moment of my time is run. Heaven keep us all! and help us out of this and every difficulty! I am coming in a few days! I will write to you before then, and you will now get a paper regularly every Saturday. My Heart's Love to our Mother and all about the two Hills. Believe me ever My dear Alick

Your affe Brother /

Thomas Carlyle

P.S. 10 o'clock. I left this letter with Jack, for him to fill with an epistle to our Mother; which the judicious Jack has not done; but on the con[trary] has gone out, and left me to manage the affair as I think proper myself. P[er]haps it is as well after all.— On maturely thinking of this matter, I cannot but believe that there is no sham in it, and that you will get the farm, provided your offer reach London in time. Unless the decision is arrived when you get this, I would therefore counsel you to write off to him (Crichton) at all hazards, without the loss of a moment. The Major may still have your offer for Shawbrae among his papers, but it has never struck him that you were the party recommended by Miss Welsh. Perhaps he may discover this at London; perhaps not. There is not an instant to be lost in setting the matter in a clear light. As I said, I will write to Haddington tomorrow; and do you write off to Crichton some such letter as I have composed for you; and if you are expeditious, the thing may still be well. I fear you will be able to make little sense of this, certainly the most confused and burbled epistle that ever I wrote in this world. I have been hurried and perplexed in the writing of it as never man on Earth was, and have sent it off in the most pressing haste, that all we can do in this affair may be done.

As to my own concerns, they go on well enough. The printing has commenced and proceeds apace: I am still at a loss for books; but they have sent off to Germany in quest of some, and I hope they will be here in time. I fixed my bargin in writing with Tait to-day: he is a Turk in grain this Tait; but I have him fettered by black and white. So soon as I have got books and other implements collected, I purpose to go home, and carry on the printing and writing as I did the other year. I will write to you when to expect me: it may be next week, perhaps even earlier; but things are in a state of uncertainty as yet. When is the Carrier coming out? Write by post, if he is not coming directly; and let me know the instant any thing definite occurs about this farm, at all events. Write soon, whether any thing occurs or not— Ever yours.

Leslie the Professor, whom I saw the other day was speaking of a German Nobleman that wanted some one like me to go to Munich and teach him English literature and science. I said I was ready to hear the Nobleman talk on the subject; but I expect to hear no farther tell of it, and at any rate have no mind to go.