The Collected Letters, Volume 4


TC TO ALEXANDER CARLYLE; 29 March 1827; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18270329-TC-AC-01; CL 4:197-202.


21. Comley Bank, 29th March, 1827—

My Dear Alick,

It is long that I have partly been owing you a letter; and last time when Farries was here with his eggs and hen, we had so short an allowance of time, that except two short little notes to my more immediate creditors (which with one from Jane to Mag, and a small cubical junk of some less intellectual substance, I hope you properly received), I could not afford my valued husbandman a single word. It was the less necessary, as Jack was proceeding homewards, or rather had arrived at home, and so could communicate to you all our ordinary news, as well as some other schemes of ours, which required your more special deliberation. I am now to write to you farther on the same subject.

We have had a letter from the Hunts1 in London since Jack left us; and this of a much less promising texture than its predecessor; for the people now talk of risks, and great sales that will be necessary to “cover their outlay,” and seem to indicate that for six months at least they would not only not wish to “undertake,” as they call it, but also not even to make a formal bargain of any sort. This, I have written to them, will by no means answer me, who desire to put pen to paper forthwith; and accordingly, I have stated that I would wait other ten days before coming to any conclusion; but that, if within this period, it was not settled at least that there was to be a bargain betwixt us, I should hold myself no longer bound to them, but at liberty to accept or reject any future offer of theirs, as they were at liberty to make or withhold it. Next week, about Friday or Saturday, I expect to hear from them again, or to infer by their silence that nothing, for the present at least, is to come of their speculation; which latter result I cannot but reckon as probable as any other.

Thus then so far as aid could come from Covent-Garden, our notable project of deliverance from city imprisonment, into mountain freedom, were at a stand-still, or perhaps as good as overset; and the hope of cultivating the Craig O' Putto2 must be left to other hands. But there has come help from another quarter; and we are now at liberty to deliberate that scheme [on] more certain grounds. Jane's Mother whom Jack must have met journeying towards us at Noblehouse, not only warmly approves of our project, but has also offered to procure for us (which she can do without much difficulty) the funds necessary for starting it under fair auspices. The present Tenant, it appears, has paid no rent, and is like to pay little for some time; neither has there any Tack [lease] been signed in regard to the place; so that his hold on it is extremely slender. Let us now consider, therefore, what is to be done.

For my own part and “the goodwife's,” we are very strongly bent indeed upon the scheme. Town-life, tho' it is without many of its annoyances here, is still extremely little to my mind; and many a time do I regret the liberty and safe seclusion which the country affords one, and many attainable forms of it; nay which I had attained not so long ago on the top of Repentance Hill, tyrannical Squirelets, and unjust stewards to the contrary notwithstanding. Indeed it seems plain enough that I have very little chance of ever getting completely well here; and tho' I bear a hand, and try to stave off the Devil as I best may, and sometimes not without considerable success, my whole hopes and wishes point to a life in the country as the only scene where I might by and by get delivered from disease, and so have room for my strength, any little fraction of strength that I have. Craigenputtock is wild enough; but the house could be brushed up and rendered water-tight, and elegantly furnished (with the ware we have here), and for the land itself much might be done. At all events, it is the country, and our own, which latter point in itself might overbalance twenty others. As for Jane, I think there is little fear that her tolerance would be less than mine: in good sooth, she is a true wife, and would murmur at no scene or fortune which she shared along with me.

Now the next thing is for you, Alick, to ask yourself, whether you could think of pitching your tent there, and durst undertake the tenanting of that stern moor beside us? If you answered Yes, there were nothing to hinder us from beginning to calculate the details of our enterprize forthwith; nay, for aught I know, it might not be impossible for you to take possession of the place the very first Whitsunday, and so have it all ready for us the next! Of the terms we could live together on, I shall say nothing: you recollect the Hill, and how quietly and amicably all was managed there, without ever a jarring word; a result in which many times since, I have had reason to admire your prudence and tolerant conduct, often much wiser than we fully gave it credit for being. All the farm-produce that we would need, horse-keep and hen-keep &c &c would be easy to manage. If you continued single, you might live with us, and the kitchen and back-parlour would be your own sphere and domain; or if you thought of wedding (in which, however, I need not tell you, it is good to look before you leap), you might have a house of your own, either the one at the road, or some other that we might contrive for you nearer the offices. Jane and R———3 could live near each other, I do believe, on a very comfortable footing. And then we should so improve those bogs, and clear out those plantations, and form hedgerows and cabbage-gardens, and live under the shadow of our own beech-trees, and none to put us in fear!

I desire you to consider all this matter with your calmest judgement, and if you are inclined to engage with it, say: Done! Yet let not my eagerness sway you, for I can only estimate for myself; and on you would lie a responsibility, which I cannot pretend to direct you in. I confess, however, I am very fond of it; and not the smallest of my reasons is that in this manner the whole of us might still be kept together. From all that I have learned there seems to be a fair opening for our Body-curer in Dumfries; nay I think he has a good chance to succeed, if he tried it rightly; and then do but think how pleasant to be all planted down within sight of each other; our Father and Mother and all that we cared for in the world, within a half-day's journey!

As I am only scheming this business after off, I cannot propose to you any definite arrangements; not till I have first heard your general feeling, and whether you think it feasible or not. You might cast up in your mind what sum it would take to put you down there, in addition to the stock you have already (for repairing of the house, and settling our plenishing in it, I have reckoned about £100); what rent, deducting pony-grass &c &c; and above all, whether you would care to let the Lady-wells stand for this season, and take as a grass-farm, to “keep your stock together,” those “excellent pasturages” at the Craig O' Putto. In the latter case, as perhaps in any case, it would be better for me to come down, and settle all by word of mouth. You will write to me frankly and at large, as soon as you possibly can.

I think I must buy a Scotsman for our good Doctor tomorrow, and send it [to] him, fo[r I] am told there is a sort of criticism of the German Romance in it.4 Thank the honest soul for his handsome letter, which I received on demand on Sunday-night, and read with no little satisfaction. We often speak of him here; and his gawsy [plump] face is missed about the hearth, I really think, by both of us. Tell the Doctor not to despond; but to mind his books, and see above all that no stoppage in his mill take place, till things are once settled, and himself put upon his legs. Bid him also write to me: if you are too busy, he may also convey your sentiments.

Of my Mother, I must not begin to talk: I am sure she will rejoice in this prospect of having me near her, and drinking tea and consuming tobacco-smoke beside me, as in times gone. Tell her that I am not ill at present, and shall certainly one way or other get completely well. I have not abandoned the Book, which has long ago been christened “Wotton Reinfred”; only these Hunt people have knocked me sadly ajar, ever since they started their scheme, and poor Reinfred has been living not growing for the last three weeks. Nevertheless, I spend my forenoon's, till two o'clock over him; and Jane reads my writing, when I have gone out to walk; and you will be happy to learn, always “approves of the Essay.” If these Hunts do not give me their Translation, I expect to have Wotton in print before quitting Edinr; and that will be as well or better.

Of news here I can tell you no word or whisper: indeed, it is very rarely that I see any news-gathering creature; many days I speak with no living thing, except those within my own four walls. The Atlas Newspaper, tell Jack, is not come yet; but I hope to have it to send you ere long. I suspect John Gordon's5 letter must have been misdirected.— The people are sowing here; this day they had some twenty sacks in the field before our door. Their wheat looks very blae [dark-colored]; indeed the weather is tempestuous; and the west wind howls fiercely, and brings rain and hail. The Pentlands to-day are all powdered again.— How are you sowing or ploughing? What does your wheat look like? What is going on among you? How do things in general look? More especially I ask Jack; and expect his answer without undue delay, that is in three days or thereby. I have little fear of his loitering; for my Mother is at his elbow. Ask him if he sent back the Great-coat and umbrella? And then when you have frightened him (for not longer than a minute) say, it is likely, for I received them safe next night.— But I must end. Will you remember me to Mag, Jamie, Mary, Jane, Jenny by name; to my Father and the rest: consider these things I have talked of; write soon a free answer, and believe me ever My Dear Alick—

Your affectionate Brother—

Thomas Carlyle—

Poor Jane is very ill with toothache, which she got for the first time last week; nevertheless she sends you and all her love and best wishes. Except this, we are all (foreign and domestic) going on quite well. Mrs Welsh is sewing me night-shirts at my hand.

I have got the newspaper I talked of, which indeed is not worth one doit, when I have it. However it will come tomorrow.— Tell my Mother not to send us any more eggs or hens till we write: the eggs are not scarce here at present, and in the meanwhile we have a large stock from Templand. Write as soon as possible.— Friday Evening—

[Added by JWC:] Meditate all this in the profoundest silence; if our scheme get wind before the time the man will be “guy ill to deal wi'.”6