The Collected Letters, Volume 4


TC TO ALEXANDER CARLYLE; 11 September 1827; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18270911-TC-AC-01; CL 4:255-258.


21. Comley Bank, Tuesday Evening [11 September 1827]—

My Dear Alick,

Had it not been for the Doctor's intimation of your imperative need to hear from me, I should surely not have written tonight; for never man was busier than I at present; worn to an entire scraping with sleeplessness and scribbling and a thousand half-vexations, halfwelcome calls upon me. You will be satisfied with a word or two.

With regard to the cunceiling1 of these two upper rooms, it is not to be done on all the four sides, for in that case the bedhead would not get close to the wall; nor on only one side, for that would be very ugly; but on two sides; the front, where it is natural, and the back which must be made to correspond with it. Our uncle described it well enough as meant to “die away into a kind of oval thing.[”] This I hope you will understand sufficiently; and herewith ends the main purport and bearing of my letter.

Within the last ten days I have received no fewer than three letters from the Doctor; so fierce and manifold are his resolutions at present that he is forced to fly to and fro with inconceivable rapidity. I wish I could commission you to bid him come along in Heaven's name, and the sooner the better; for College classes begin in Munich with the month of October; and I daresay the poor Doctor will be as nearly as possible deranged in mind till he get thither. But on your seeing him I must not depend; and so shall write to himself, one of these days, perhaps tomorrow. I cannot but anticipate great good to the Doctor from this journey, if the honest soul have luck: at all events, he may come back with his humour out, cured of his whim of foreign illumination, and set himself down to practice the cure of diseases like another honest Christian graduate.

I suppose he has mentioned to you that I had thoughts of starting as Candidate for one of the London Professorships. This must be kept among ourselves as much as may be; for it seems nearly certain that I shall actually make a trial; tho' the thing as yet is full of perplexity. Rhetoric, the class I once thought of applying for, has (I now find) as yet no existence; and I hang for the present divided between English Literature and Moral Philosophy, with a considerable leaning towards the latter. I wait for advice from Edward Irving and Henry Duncan of Ruthwell, to both of whom I have written (Duncan's letter goes with yours), and both of whom know much more of the details than I do.2 For one or other of these classes, it is almost certain that I shall become a competitor. Jeffrey whom I have talked with at large of the matter seems to augur rather favourably of my success in Moral Philosophy: both Jane and I dined with him at a country place of his called Craigcrook last night, and had a really pleasant five hours of it in such fine society. Jeffrey evidently has a high opinion of me, and even seems to like me well; tho' he thinks I am a little extravagant or so; or as he calls it “too German.” We shall see what comes of this; it is all to be settled in November.

If I go to London, the mansion of Craigenputtock and its silent moors are likely to see much less of us; only at most, some two months yearly. On this, however, it were very rash to calculate at present; for that I shall not go is certainly by much the likelier issue of the business: indeed the good and evil are of the two are so very nearly balanced, that I really care very little whether I go or not: on healthier days, I am clear for going, and teaching all the Earth to be wise; but again on bilious days I care not one straw what becomes of it; for I think that in the wilderness of Craigenputtock I should be stronger in body, and I feel that the thing which lies in me will be spoken out, go whither I may. Surely, surely, it were good for a man to have some anchorage deeper than the quicksands of this world; for these drift to and fro so as to baffle all conjecture! We will leave the issue, as should ever be done, with the higher powers.

Meanwhile you do well to get forward with that House of the Moor; and glad am I that the ticklish part of it has been got so softly over. It will be a home for us at least in all weathers, and a kind of grim stronghold betide what may. I long to hear how it is all going on; how your crop stands these rough winds, what hay you have collected, how your peats have proved, and all other etceteras. Jean,3 I suppose, is with you by this time, and as I suppose farther heartily satisfied with the Pleasures of Solitude, which thereabouts can be so plentifully commanded.4 My best love to her, and hopes of seeing her here ere long.

Jack among his other mighty enterprizes has been writing to me of a probable change in your situation also. What state of forwardness the arrangements are in he does not state to me; but it would appear that things wear a promising aspect. On this point, my dear Brother, if your own views are clear, I have nothing to do but to wish you from the bottom of my heart all prosperity in your untried state, which with a woman whom I so much regard, I cannot but consider as in many points of view an encouraging and hopeful one. You cannot always live as you have done, a wayfarer, and half homeless man: there is a time, when a hearth of one's own becomes an indispensable necessary. Certainly it is a highly serious step, and an almost fearful thing to think that there is no return! But what can be thought is thought already, I daresay in your case. So be of steadfast resolve; mean honestly and there is no fear! Other arrangements between you and me will in some respects be easier than they were: I doubt not all will be well. God grant it may!

Jack speaks of your coming in October by Langholm,5 and bringing Jean and our Mother with you. Do! Do! Our good Mother must see Edinr, and when can she do it so well? Of course you will warn us duly. Write if you have any leisure tho' there should be “nothing” to say. Good night, my dear Brother! I am Ever Yours— T. Carlyle—

[JWC's postscript:] My dear Jane. You must not think me a promisebreaker because I did not write in three weeks— You know we had arranged the matter of purposed writing about the night before I left Scotsbrig; and so that promise seemed no longer to hold good. Are you still in as high heart about coming to Edinr? and are the poochies6 all extirpated? and have you given over saying a's gan? I should like to have an answer in the affirmative to all these questions. You are to come with Alick now, it seems, instead of with the Dr who indeed in his present fever of mind is scarcely to be entrusted with the charge of any thing so precious. See that you get ready in time then and [bring] your Mother with you and love me always