The Collected Letters, Volume 4


TC TO ALEXANDER CARLYLE; 23 October 1827; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18271023-TC-AC-01; CL 4:264-268.


Edinr, 23d October 1827—

My Dear Alick,

I hope you got the Newspaper last Wednesday; and understood by it all that a long letter could have told you, namely that I had nothing to tell. This Tuesday again, according to promise I write, and with greater heart, as well as more at large; for I have now really something to say. Of myself indeed still very little; but something of our wayfaring Doctor; concerning whom in these windy times, it is in truth rather satisfactory to know that he [is] off the German ocean with whole lungs, and fairly footing the hard Earth once more. We got a letter from Rotterdam on Saturday morning; written only the Tuesday before, and apparently in as great a hurry, as it had travelled in, round by London; where also some generous “Mr Bright”1 or other, a Senator entirely unknown to me, had been at the trouble to frank it.

The Doctor, it would seem, had rather a perverse passage; now windbound, now becalmed, now blown with a speed somewhat alarming: but in the end, he had reached the Dutch coast without accident, the day before he finished his letter (Monday week); and was on Tuesday purposing to set forth on foot, with his companion Laing, to Leyden and the Hague, at one of which places he expected steamboats, or trackboats, or trowse [a flat-bottomed boat], or some rivercraft or other, to take him on to Cologne. I calculate that by this time he must be about Bonn on the Rhine, where he had a parcel of letters to deliver, and was likely to wait for a day or two. Poor Doctor! I must write to him without delay, that a letter may be lying to welcome him at Munich, when he arrives. He seems, for the mean time, in good spirits, and like to enjoy his land journey better than his sea one. He sends kindest remembrances to you and every one. I daresay I have taken a millstone from my Mother's neck by the letter I wrote off to her instantly; and which, as I compute, she must have got yesterday morning. Heaven send the gausie Doctor back to us, were it but to chop logic as in old days!

Now as to myself, I believe I may say with Attila Schmelzle that “the Professorship is taking another turn”; and that Brougham is for the present little more favourable to me than Schabacker was to that courageous Army-chaplain.2 Jeffrey did not write to me till the end of last week; and then in no very definite terms; complaining that he had still nothing decided to say. Brougham, it appears, was very shy on that matter; could not be brought to any open speech on it at all; and seemed determined till he had seen more of me to keep his mind to himself. He is gone to London two weeks ago; so that my notion of seeing him at Penrith is scattered to the winds. By Jeffrey's direction, I sent Brougham the other day a copy of the Paper I have just been writing for the Edinr Review; from which if he chooses to look he may gather some more light about me: but my own private opinion of this matter is, that for the present at least nothing more will come of it.3 Indeed Jeffrey says that Brougham's purpose seemed to be, not to appoint any Moral Philosophy Professor at all, at this time, but stick by other departments of a more practical description, till the Establishment should have settled into firmer union, and be able to stand metaphysical discussions. I think it likely myself that this may be the way of it; in which case, I may hear nothing more of the affair for many months. At all events, my name and character are now in some degree before these people, and if they want aught with me, they know my address; if they want nothing, then there is no harm done, for I am not so much as a candidate for any of their offices, having as yet only been talked of by private friends. On the whole I am still of my old mind: I really know not whether such a thing would do me good or the contrary. But Jeffrey I believe is now returned, and I am to go and see him the first dry day: if he have aught more to tell me, you shall hear of it forthwith; and in the mean time, you see, there is nothing more to be said. I believe the business is getting known here, and perhaps with you also: of course you need not spr[ead] it; but truly it could do me little ill, were it published at all t[he] market-crosses in Scotland, and at the Pier and Shore of Leith to boot.

I know not that ever weather-witch was more out than I that fatal morning,4 when I predicted that it “was not going to be so bad a day after all.” A worse day, I think, has seldom appeared in this century. I hope it did not melt you altogether into water; but that you reached Scotsbrig and afterwards Craigenputtock not only in a solid but also in a safe state. Surely if you have not in your stooks, this weather will try you; for I think there was never worse for such a purpose. Today we have a perfect deluge, the Leith water “flowing like a vera Sey [underscored twice]”; and the only hope, that now certainly it must have rained itself out. I long to hear that you are all going on rightly at the Craig; your stooks under thatch, your Highlander[s] arrived in safety and liking their pasture; and all but the reek [smoke] as it was when I left you.

I rather think you will have to write to me soon: for I would fain know about our Father and his Rheumatism; and I hardly think there is any one at Scotsbrig that will write me a syllable, let matters go as they will. You will also have much to tell me of your own; at least if that visit5 to the Craig took place, which you were speaking of!— As to my visit thither, it must now be postponed into a distance of several weeks. I have a Paper6 (about the Germans again!) to write for that London Review; which I began only yesterday, and must as usual hurry to be done with; and then another long one,7 I expect, for the Edinr R. which I have yet to study as well as write.— However if you want me particularly to come sooner, say so, and I will come. Only I think it were better to be getting on as far as possible before I come; and afterwards moreover I shall have more time. Write to me as soon as you can find a spare hour; and tell me every thing that is going on, or like to go: the plastering, the roadmaking &c &c.

I am writing with the stump of an Eagle's quill, which is as hard as potmetal; so that I declare my thumb is aching as if it had the gout. Besides I am stupid as an owl.8 But I would not let the post go, knowing by experience the nature of much disappointment. Are you into the new kitchen yet; and in Heaven's name does it reek? How is Mary prospering; and dare the creature from [sic: front] the storms of winter up in these wild Dunscore Moors? Be very good to her; and assure her of my true affection; and that I will drink tea repeatedly at the Craig before the winter solstice. But I have done. Write soon, and believe me always Your Brother— T. Carlyle—

We got a Firkin and a cheese from Scotsbrig, but no letter. I think it was your hand on the Firkin? The Butter is “highly superior.” Tell Mary that we have not given hers up; being great eaters (at least I) of butter; but may readily enough make a run upon her (peatreek notwithstanding) when this is done. Our potatoes are bad. Have you got any newspaper yet? Get one by all means for the long nights of winter, and plenty of Books.— When do you get servants, or have you already engaged them? Jane is not well yet, tho' not seriously ill: she is sitting reading here; and sends her best regards. I must off to the post-office now—so once more, dear Alick, I give you goodnight!