The Collected Letters, Volume 4


JWC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE; 13 September 1827; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18270913-JWC-JAC-01; CL 4:258-261.


[13 September 1827]

My dear John

Sir Thomas is just excessively busy with his review, and so has commissioned me to write in his stead; cautioning me at the same time, to go to work in a business-like style, without any attempt at cleverness whatever. So you will understand how it is come to pass if my letter prove unusually dull.

In the first place, then, you are to come away in Gods name; for the sooner you get to your wits end the better. Mr Sawers was here the other day and is still desirous you should go with him; while your Brother, and Mr Aitken whom he was consulting, think the other plan the best. You may get from Leith to Munich, Mr A thinks, and see all that is worth seeing by the way for somewhere about ten pounds: and truly, from the account he gave us, there are many fine things to be seen, museums and collections of pictures &c at which your heart will leap for Joy. But all this you will hear of when you come. N. B. there is no cowpox matter to be had even at Gloucester: so the physician of the Infirmary writes in answer to your Brother's letter.1

Your Mother and Jane we will expect along with Alick; who is perhaps as safe an escort for them as you could be, in your present fever of anticipation. Poor Jane! she is seeing the world all of a sudden. What will the creature make of herself at Craigenputtock? I hope the[y] took her garters from her and every thing in the shape of hemp or steel.

Further, I am to thank you for your two letters, and inform you how it stands with the professorship. Well! he consulted Jeffrey on the project, who seemed willing to help him to all lengths; tho' he did not hold out any great likelihood of success. For this reason, he was a sectarian in taste, nay, might even be called a heretic; and this, not merely affectedly, “to excite a sensation” but with all his heart and soul: he doubted therefore whether the patrons of the University either would or ought to appoint such a person to such a charge.2 In reply, Sir Thomas used all manner of arguments to show him, that there really was no sectarianism or heresy in the case; that he was merely more open to light than others of his craft and that in short the Patrons of the University would do excellently well to make him Professor of Rhetoric. In his heart little Jeffrey seemed much of the same opinion; he gave him a letter to Leonard Horner, master of ceremonies to the University and repeated his offer of recommendation to all lengths. Away went our Knight, then, to the said Leonard Horner, for the purpose of getting from him such information as was required. But Mr Horner was dining out—the next day he dined out again—and the next he was only come at by the most fatiguing perseverance (You will recollect that Sir Thomas was all the while head and ears in his review, and that Mr Leonard Horner has a fancy to live in Lauriston Place!)3 And what do you think was Mr Horner's information after all this labour and waste of time? Why—that there was no professorship of Rhetoric thought of. Here was an unfor[e]seen-impediment which there seemed little hope of overcoming! We should have been quite at a stand; if it had not happened oddily enough that he received your letter on the way, showing that Dr Chalmer's appointment to the moral philosophy chair was at least no such sure matter as Edward Irving said. And then the mention of David Welsh!4 Who might not enter the lists with him? Certainly Thomas Carlyle might and will— Accordingly he wrote again to Edward Irving, begging him to bestir himself and investigate the business more narrowly; to Dr Duncan he also wrote an explanation of his views and requested his advice in the pursuance of them. And Jeffrey with whom we dined the same day, was made duly acquainted with this new aspect of the affair. He seems to augur fully better of the enterprise in this shape than in the other; so that we now only wait the answer to these two letters to set about storming the moral philosophy chair with all our forces. What will be the upshot of all this Heaven only knows. [I am] not very sanguine of success, indeed I am not sure that success is to be greatly wished. If he had health it would be the most desirable situation; but he has not health and would this be a way to recover it? God help us!— I need scarcely warn you to keep the whole prospect secret.—

Edward Irvings book5 out of the Spanish came last night and also a copy for his father with a great bundle of preliminary discourses “to be distributed among his kindred and addressed to them with his own hand” [last four words underscored twice]6— These you may say to George if you see him will be sent by the Annan Carrier.

The Case of butter from Craigenputtock arrived on Tuesday[;] it would be very good if it were not for that never to-be-forgotten peat reek. Give my kind regards to Mary and best thanks[.] How did she like the lamb fair?

Alison7 is in extacy at the prospect of seeing you partly out of disinterested love, and partly because she has a silent hope you may do her good. The poor Girl has been very ill for several months, so ill that she has at last unwillingly resolved to leave us at the term. I will not soon find a servant that will suit me as well. I have hired Ellen in her place, whose eye is now quite well— My Mother and Aunt are still occupying Miss Sherriff's house8—but the[y] purpose leaving the end of next week when my Aunt will be strong enough for the journey— Remember me in most affectionate manner to all at Scotsbrig[.] I hope Mag is continuing better— Your Mother will certainly come hither in October. You must make her promise as she is a Christian woman before you part from her—hoping to see you forthwith I am always dear John your affectionate although thoughtless but penitent Sister Jane Welsh[.]

[TC's postscript:] Sawers says you need bring nothing but stockings and a hat; the rest being all procurable at Munich on fully cheaper terms. Shall we see you in a few days, or hear of you first? Aitken9 will give you all information about the journey; and some money also I may be able to afford you. Come therefore quickly. Is my father better? Assure him of my sympathy and best affection. Our Mother will come then? See it be so! Kind love to all!

You are to bring Jane's parasol with you which is wanted here in these sunny days. The harvest is almost over; all got in in the first order.