The Collected Letters, Volume 4


TC TO ANNA D. B. MONTAGU; 20 November 1827; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18271120-TC-ADBM-01; CL 4:279-283.


21. Comley Bank, 20th November 1827—

My Dear Madam,

It is very long since I undertook a Letter to you, on my sole strength; but in the present crisis we are glad to have recourse to any expedient; and the truth is, Jane will give me no rest till I write. She is quite melancholy, or at least fast becoming so, that she cannot hear from you; and this the more, because she feels herself to have begun the wrong, and so must want even the poor solace of complaint. Many a theory we have formed about your silence; but none of them will altogether satisfy us. The worst of them all is that perhaps you are unwell; that something unpleasant has again happened to your good tho' wayward Charles; that Mrs Procter may be ill; in short, that for some reason or other, you cannot write. I do hope, all this is mere imagination. Another whim, tho' but for moments, I have had to controvert in my little theorizing wife: she thinks you are offended ! I know you much better; and so on the whole does she. But the simple English of the whole matter is, that you must begin writing again, as you were wont in your good days, and so put an end to unprofitable conjecture by a certainty which we must always feel to be so pleasant. This is one of my vacation-days; for ever after a spell of writing, which is apt to exasperate me too much, I take perhaps half a week of entire idleness, read all manner of shallow letter-press, delve in our little patch of a garden, plunge into the Babel of “living conversation,” or recreate myself otherwise as I please, till the bilious fit has subsided, and I am again a peaceable member of society. On the present occasion I have undertaken a more useful task: in my vanity I have promised to bring a Letter from you full of new tidings and old feelings: you will not mortify me by denial?

What is become of your ill-guided wanderer? Is he still with Badams, or otherwise permanently settled?1 Pity that singing-birds were not as easy to nurse and train as common chicken! They are so infinitely finer when they prosper! This poor Boy has a spirit in him which strives beyond the Common; and alas out of the old stupid highways there is no safe travelling. I wish Charles were five-and-twenty, safe and fixed, and the man he was made to be. Did you never think more of sending him to Edinburgh; or did he never think of coming hither? The opening of the College classes for this winter again puts me in mind of it. Here he might live (in lodgings) at comparatively a trifling expence; fifty pounds, if he is thrifty, will support him even handsomely, including every charge, thro' the winter; and he may study what he pleases. Without any difficulty I could engage to superintend the whole arrangement, procure him fit teachers, and set him on the right road; and every time he pleased to visit our little cottage, I think he ought, if we forgot not our just debts, to find in it some emblem of a home. I really wish you would consider this: it is still in time, tho' now little more than so[,] two weeks of introductory lecturing being already past. I cannot prophesy; but for a youth of such a character, I might hope that the sentiment of entire freedom would bring his own conscientiousness into action, and so operate very beneficially. Employ me if you can, and have any charity left for me.2

Of your own health I am afraid to inquire. Doctors may manipulate with all gravity, and talk in as clear language as they conveniently can: but in all cases of obdurate affliction, they are little better than a broken reed. Who ever had a chronical disease from which their help delivered him[?] And yet if one must suffer, it is strange with what quietness one learns to do it. Blessed Nature! She is a kind, tho' a strict Mother: no one of her children, whose heart is wise, will she leave altogether comfortless. I myself can hope only at rare intervals that ever I shall see another healthy day; and yet I know not that I was ever much happier, not surely, at least, when I felt as if I had a frame of iron, and a heart burning and smouldering with a thousand discontents. My good wife also conducts herself like a wife, and consents to be happy beside even a sick man whom she loves. Oh what a poor and very paltry race of philosophers are they that speak of women as one hears spoken! They know not the depths of true love that dwell in those frail and noble beings; and they are punished for it, for they know not what is highest and holiest in mortal existence. Truly they deserve such women as they describe—and nothing more.

We are still bent for Craigenputtock against Whitsunday; not indeed irrevocably, but with the main current of our purposing. They are plastering and papering there for us; and we do not fear the aspects of so secluded an existence; for it will be a free one, and perhaps easier to lead with propriety than the present. True we shall be solitary, and excluded from preferment: but how much of society is better than solitude; and what fellowship hath a rational Philosopher with the dray-horses of mammon?3 A[s] for worldly preferment, it is or ought to be, moreover, among a very secondary class of my aims. The world's business is the sea we sail on; and its prizes are little very pretty glittering bubbles that flit hither and thither among the waves. But should a true sailor steer after these; or only thro' them, and towards some Loadstar that is fixed in the eternal sky?

For the rest, I have put the matter on a cast, and left the Presiding [G]en[ius to] decide. I have, by intervention, as good as offered myself to come and spend what streng[th] and life I have in teaching the little particle of Truth committed to me among my “benighted brethren” in your University. Will your people give me work, I am here; do they refuse me, God's free creation and my own soul are mine, and I will find work elsewhere, and it may be of a better sort. Thus the matter rests, and may rest for many days, or be decided to-morrow: we await the event as Attila Schmelzle's Biographer4 did, “with unspeakable composure.”

Meanwhile we like Edinburgh far better than ever we did. You must again and again thank Mr Procter for the kind and truly delightful acquaintance he has given us here in Mr Jeffrey. “He has but one fault but that one is a thumper”: O that law had never been invented, or that Francis Jeffrey had never been a lawyer! We see him but in glimpses; yet ever with new satisfaction. Truly a rare phenomenon; and among the best of that rather unhappy race, Men of Letters now extant.— What do you think too? I am an acquaintance almost a friend of—The Opium-Eater's! Poor Dequincey! He is essentially a gentle and genial little soul; only that the Liver is diseased, and the “I-ety” [egoism] is strong and both together sometimes overset his balance. Poor soul! One of the most perfect gentlemen I have ever seen; and yet here he is living in lodgings, with two of his little children (writing for bread in the paltriest of all newspapers) while his wife with other two resides in Westmoreland,—as a kind of “hostage” to his creditors! O, well might the Poet say: The Prison called Life [Life underscored twice]!— I declare I could almost have taken the poor soul into my heart, and cried (like a madman as I should have been): come hither thou good soul, and I will save thee!— To which indeed Dequincey need but have answered: Physician heal thyself!5— After all, I must be becoming more Catholic in my feelings, I suppose; or perhaps I had always a love for good people, if they would have used me with any consideration. I like John Wilson also: I could almost love him, were not the Devil in him! He is a man of genius, of a noble glowing heart, and a head teeming with the most wild and wondrous products—but—he has sold himself to the world; and Satan (in the shape of Blackwood) pays him the price monthly; and this other “Son of the Morning”6 is falling or fallen from his azure sphere!— Will you not come hither into Scotland and see these marvellous things? At the Craig we shall and must have you; but there you have only one original, or at most two. Believe me ever,

Most affectionately Your's,

T. Carlyle—

[Postscript:] My respects are not the less authentic that I am forced into this corner with them. Does Emily7 (I cannot find any Miss) still remember me? Tell Mr Procter that I have written something for his friend; and that he must write more poetry, or the ban of the Muses will follow him! I speak this in sincerity of heart.— O that Badams would write to me! The good Badams; but I know he will not.— My kindest regards to Mr Montagu: tell him I am to be a philosopher too.— Adieu!