The Collected Letters, Volume 4


TC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE; 26 January 1828; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18280126-TC-MAC-01; CL 4:308-311.


Comley Bank, 27th [26] January, 1828—

My Dear Mother,

I wrote yesterday on the Newspaper that you should have a letter “in a day”; and now with the first leisure of morning, breakfast and other etceteras being over, I set about fulfilling my promise. It is the more necessary this week for me to be punctual, as no farther newspaper for the present can come from me; the Dumfries Courier being henceforth discontinued, and no successor to it yet provided. Gordon has just found to his cost that M'Diarmid charges him in full for that poor rag of a sheet, certainly among the worst published in our generation; and as we think 7½d far too high a price for the article, notice has been sent off, that it is not to come. It is chiefly for your sake and mine that I regret this alteration; for doubtless it was pleasant to us both that such a quiet messenger should pass weekly between us: but I will just write more diligently; and if no new Paper offer itself for the same purpose, endeavour to make good the deficiency. Fear not, my dear Mother, that you shall ever want news of me, while my right hand has not forgot its cunning!1 Besides Jane is fast becoming a tolerable writer, and will be able in time to divide the pleasant task with me, when I chance to be busy.

You will easily conceive with what satisfaction we received your letter on the appointed morning. Thank sister Mag in the name of us all for that prompt and truly charitable service; and say, in the old fashion, that on a fit occasion “we will do as much for her.” The Letter was clearly written in haste, and with a pen far from the best: but had it been composed by an Oxford Doctor and transcribed by Butterworth & Sons,2 it could have been no better to us. Encourage and exhort, and if need be command her to do the like in future, often and habitually. Many an anxious speculation did we send after our pilgrim-Mother, during her abode at Hawick, while the East wind was blowing with so snell [piercing, biting] a breath, and a storm evidently masking [threatening] in the atmosphere. More especially when it actually burst forth, that very morning you were bound to travel in! Let us all be thankful that the Expedition has terminated peaceably, without broken hearts or bones, and you have seen us in our Edinburgh cottage, and can hope to see us still again and again and again, in other cottages or mansions, the welcomest of visiters, as you ought to be, wheresoever the kind sun shines on us.

I mentioned that Jack's letter had arrived. It was dated the day before new-years-day, and brought good tidings of the Doctor's entire prosperity. He is dissecting, and operating, and speculating, and dining with boundless alacrity. The Baron is delighted with him, and even me and you; for he has read with great contentment of heart that “able article” in the Edinr Review, and when Jack told him of your purpose to send him a Bible that he might be instructed in the Truth, Jack says, “he was not pleased that I had not brought it.” I have certain commissions to execute here for the “Government-Counsellor”; for which I wait, otherwise I should already have answered our Doctor. He says, he has written to Sandy too; but he seems to look my way for his chief answer. Poor Doctor! Honest, unsuspecting, all-knowing, nothing-doing Engineer of Trailbow! I firmly believe this expedition will do him more good than any year of training he has ever had. Doubt not a good sufficient man will yet come of him, for so much and more is in him.

As to myself, I think I have been stronger rather than otherwise since you went away; indeed much stronger for the last week; tho' still I am sorry to admit, till within the last three days, far idler than I should have been, or wished to be. However, I have at last got very near beginning to write; and then I shall be busy enough with a vengeance. I have two papers to finish, one for each of my two Reviews, the Edinburgh and the London,3 before I can hope to see you. The first no. of the latter publication came to me yesternight (with the Article on that mad German4 in it); and the man, I know, is anxious for another “supply” as soon as possible. From the complexion of Alick's letter (he seems to have got the great-coat, in right time, after all) I can gather that little good is to be done at Craigenputtock by my going thither for a month or so at any rate; so that this arrangement of circumstances answers just as well as another.

Meanwhile I am as diligent as possible storming the battlements of St. Andrews University, for the Professorship in which I have actually, eight days ago, declared myself formally a candidate! This was after all due investigation, conducted by Jeffrey and others; from which if I could gather no fixed hope of m[y] succeeding, it [see]med at least that there was no fixed determination against me; that I might try, without censure; nay, in my circumstances, ought to try. I [ac]cordingly wrote off to St. Andrews; and next day, to all the four winds in quest of recommendations. To Goethe, to Irving, to Buller, to Brewster &c &c. These same recommendations are now beginning to come in upon me: I had one from Brewster5 two days ago (with the offer of farther help); and this morning, came a decent testificatory letter from Buller, and a most majestic certificate in three pages from Edward Irving. The good orator speaks as from the heart; and truly says, as he has ever done, that he thinks me a most worthy man; not forgetting to mention among my other advantages the “prayers of religious parents”; a blessing which if I speak less of it I hope I do not feel less than he.6 On the whole it is a splendid affair this of his; and being tempered by the recommendation of John Leslie a professed infidel and scoffer, may do me much good. Before the end of next week, I expect to have all my testimonials sent off; and there the matter may for a long time rest; the period of the Election being still unfixed, tho' I hope it may take place before Whitsunday rather than after.—Of my hopes and calculations as to success I can say nothing; being myself able to form no judgement. I am taught to believe that if merit gain it, I shall gain; which is a proud belief, and ought to render failure a matter of comparative indifference to me; more especially as, like the weather in Cowthwaite's calculations,7 I can do “owther way.” I often care not sixpence whether I get it or no. But we shall see: if it is laid out for me, it will come; if not, not.

I have left scarce a fraction of room for many little odd matters that I had to speak of. Your waffler is so uncertain a person, that we never once looked for him, and shall not, till we see his porter at the door. At any rate we got a stock of eggs from Templand; which, tho preserved professedly, are threatening to spoil. Is my Father better, and did the gloves go on? I hope Mag (or what is to hinder Jamie?) will write a word or two soon.— I have left a little space for Jane (the younger) to write a particle of her mind in. To me she seems to be doing very well: her stocking is (at length) completed; she now writes a copy daily, says a lesson in French &c &c; and promises in all things to be useful and comfortable both to herself and to us. Within her heart I doubt she regrets the loud sociality of Scotsbrig, and now and then contrasts with it our very quiet existence: yet she gives no symptom of melancholy, and takes lightly to her occupation, which indeed is the grand cure for melancholy whether in young or old.— But I must have done, as the time and the paper are nearly so[.]

Make them write, my dear Mother, if you can; and write half a line yourself! If not, I will write myself: and know as ever that your best wishes are with us. My love to all from Jenny upwards!—

I am ever your affectionate Son—

Thomas Carlyle—

My dear mother I promised, on your leaving Comleybank to write you a lette[r] which I will do by the first opportunity; when I shall tell you about all my little concerns: but in the mean time I may assure of my welfare. I felt very solitary after you you [sic] went away but I was glad to hear of your safe arrival at home for the we[a]ther was very bad. I am much [better] now than I was when you were here; as I have got something to do you will not believe me if I say that I am writing every day so I must refer you to another time. I had many kind words to say to Mag, Jen[n]y & Jemmy but there is no room here give my love to my Father and all the rest. And believe me ever your affect daughter.

Jane Carlyle.8