The Collected Letters, Volume 4


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE; 10 June 1828; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18280610-TC-JAC-01; CL 4:378-383.


Craigenputtoch, Dumfries, 10th June, 1828—

My Dear Jack,

We received your much-longed-for Letter1 two days before leaving Edinburgh; in a scene of such chaotic uproar as I had never witnessed, and do earnestly hope I shall never witness again. For the house was full of mats and deal-boxes and straw and pack thread; and there was a wrapping and a stitching, and a hammering and tumbling; and Alick and Jamie came with six carts to take away our goods; and all things were wrenched from their old fixtures, and dispersed and scattered asunder, or united only by a common element of dust and noise. What would the sack of a city be, when the dismantling of a house is such! From all Packers and Carpenters, and Flittings by night or day, Good Lord deliver us!

I have waited here, above two weeks, in the vain hope that some calmness would supervene: but Painters and Joiners still desecrate every corner of our dwelling; and I write in the middle of confusion worse confounded, as better than not writing at all. We have arrived at Craigenputtoch, and found much done, but still much to do; we must still ride and run with carts and saddle-horses to Dumfries every second day, and rejoice when we return if the course of events have left us a bed to sleep on. However, by the strength of men's heads and arms, a mighty improvement is and will be accomplished; and one day as we calculate a quiet home must stand dry and clear for us amid this wilderness; and the Philosopher will hoe his potatoes, in peace, on his own soil, and none to make him afraid. Had we come hither out of whim, one might have sickened and grown melancholy over such an outlook: but we came in search only of health with food and raiment, at least of the latter two without it; and will not start at straws. Away then with Unmuth und Verdruss [vexation and ill-humor]! Man is born unto trouble, unto toil, as the sparks fly upwards: let him toil therefore, as his hest is, and make no noise about the matter. Is the day wearisome; dusty and full of midges, that the galled limbs are like to fail?

Ein guter Abend kommt heran
Wenn ich den Ganzen Tag gethan.2

Next evening after the arrival of your Letter, I wrote to Messrs Black Young and Young, Booksellers, London (of the Foreign Review), directing them to pay twenty out of forty pounds, which they had ordered me to draw on them for, into the hands of Messrs Ranson and Co to be repaid to the Baron von Eichthal at Munich. I wrote two letters3 on the subject, and endeavoured to impress them with the necessity of speed and punctuality; so that as they are men of business, I can hope that the money may have reached you almost by this time; at all events, that you will be able to inform me of its safe arrival when you answer the present Letter. I told the Blacks also that perhaps you might send a little packet of Books by Frankfort a. Mayn to their care; which if you have not already sent them off otherwise will probably be the best plan, now that I am away from Leith and its customhouse, which at any rate is said to be the most villainous establishment of its kind in the British Empire. I told the Blacks farther that along with this parcel might probably come an Article for their Foreign Review. I meant the Article on Animal Magnetism: this you will direct: “W. Fraser Esqr 64. Pall Mall, London”; and mention to him simply that you are my brother, and this Paper is for him; supposing, let us understand, that the Paper is there and ready, which it must be confessed is a proviso that may be “doubted.” However, if you cannot get it forward, do not take the matter to heart: the wells of thought will flow better in the Doctor's head some future day; at least “Naiter and Airt working together” will make them flow, or I am no Prophet. The grand thing at present is the want of money; but this we shall try to front some other way. I sent these Booksellers a long Paper on Goethe for their next, still unprinted Number; the Forty Pounds was for an Essay on his Helena. I meant to send them another piece (on the Life of Heyne) for this Number: but where is the cunning that could write a Paper here, in the middle of uncreated Night?— But I am getting very sick, and must leave you till after dinner, and go stick some rows of peas which are already flourishing in our “new Garden.”

——Alas, Jack! There is no sticking of peas for me at this hour, the cutting-tools being all in active operation elsewhere; so I sit down to talk with you again, still impransus [without eating], tho' better in health than I was an hour ago. Indeed, I have been on the whole in considerably better health ever since I came hither, and found my red-chestnut Irish Doctor (tho' ill-saddled) waiting for me in his stall. By degrees I do think I shall grow as sound as another man; and then when the German Doctor is settled within sight of me at Dumfries, and we see him twice a-week, and all is fixed on its own footing, will not times be brighter than they have ever been with us! One blessing we have always to be thankful for: unity and brotherly love, which makes us tho' a struggling still a united family. And are we not all spared together in this wonderful Existence, still to hope as we struggle? Let us ever be grateful to the Giver of all Good; and struggle onward with good heart in the path He directs. Some traces of our presence may also be left behind us in this pilgrimage of Life; some grains added to the great pyramid of human Endeavour: what more has man to wish for?

So long a space has elapsed since our last Letter, that considerable store of news must have accumulated in the interim, did I know rightly where to find, and how to arrange them. Of the Craig o'Putto I cannot yet rightly speak till we have seen what adjustment matters will assume. Hitherto, to say truth, all prospers as well as we could have hoped: the house stands heightened, and white with roughcast; a tight hewn porch in front, and canns on the chimney-heads; and within, it seems all firm and sound; during summer as we calculate, it will dry, and the smoke we have reason to believe (tho the grates are not yet all come) is now pretty well subdued: so that on this side, some satisfaction is to be looked for. We appear also to have been rather lucky in our servants. An active maid came with us from Edinr; a dairy-woman, also of good omen, comes to us tomorrow from Thornhill; and a thoroughgoing out-of-doors good-humoured slut of a byre-woman was retained after half a year's previous trial. Then we have two sufficient farming men; and a bonnetted stripling, skilful in sheep, from this glen. Alick himself is an active little fellow, as ever bent him; and tho' careworn, is diligent hearty and compliant: he lives in his little room, which is still but half-furnished like the rest of the house; yet peculiarly favoured in the blessing of a grate. Mary has been visiting at Scotsbrig, and is now learning to sew at Dumfries: she resides for the present with her Aunt Jenny, but speaks of making some other arrangement with some Bonairick Cousin, who also would fain be perfect in needlework. Jane (the lesser) has taken her place here, and furnishes butter and afterings (jibbings) for tea, tho' we are still in terrible want of a cheeseboard, and by the blessing of Heaven shall get one tomorrow afternoon. Jane (the greater) is surveying all things, proving all that she may hold fast what is good: she watches over her joiners and painters with an eye like any hawk's, from which nothing crooked, unplumb, or otherwise irregular can hide itself a moment. And then to crown our felicity, we have—two fowls hatching in the wood—a duck with twelve eggs, and a hen with (if I mistake not) eleven; from which, for they are properly fed and cared for, great things are expected. Nay it was but three nights ago that we slew a Highland Stot, and salted him in barrel; and his puddings even now adorn the kitchen-ceiling!

At Scotsbrig I have not been; but Mag was here when we arrived, and Jamie was here yesterday, and is to return for Kelton-hill in two weeks; and Scotsbrig was all pretty much as it should be; and your Letter had been duly received, and all good wishes were as usual sent to you daily, in thought or word. Grahame also, it appeared, had got his Letter, and was well contented therewith. And now, adding only that “Johnnie Macaw,” surely the dirtiest man in Nature, paid Jane a complimentary visit the other day, and that we and the Parish together are actually gravelling that mile of road, I must conclude my summary of country news.

From Edinr, or other peopled quarters of the world, I have yet heard nothing. We left Edward Irving there, preaching like a Bo[a]nerges,4 with (as Henry Inglis very naively remarked) “the town quite divided about him, one party thinking that he was quite mad, another that he was an entire humbug.” For my own share I would not be intolerant of any so worthy man; but I cannot help thinking that if Irving is on the road to truth, it is no straight one. We had a visit from him, and positively there does seem a touch of extreme exaltation in him: I do not think he will go altogether mad, yet what else he will do I cannot so well conjecture. Cant and Enthusiasm are strangely commingled in him: he preaches in steamboats and all open places, wears clothes of an antique cut (his waistcoat has flaps or tails midway down the thigh), and in place of ordinary salutation bids “the Lord bless you.” I hear some faint rumour of his outheroding Herod5 since we left the North, but we have not yet got one newspaper, and know nothing positive. So “the Lawrt bless him!” for the present; and if you pass thro' London on your return, you are engaged to go and see him, and I think he said, abide with him, or tarry with him on your way.— The last two nights we spent in Edinburgh were spent—where think you? In the house of Francis Jeffrey; surely one of the kindest little men, I have ever in my life met with. He and his household (wife and daughter) have positively engaged to come and pay us a visit here this very summer! I am to write him an article on Burns, as well as one on Tasso: but alas! alas! all writing is yet far from my hand. Walter Scott I did not see, because he was in London; nor hear of, perhaps because he was a busy or uncourteous man; so I left his Goethe-medals to be given him by Jeffrey. Lockhart had written a kind of Life of Burns,6 and men in general were making another uproar about Burns: it is this Book (a trivial enough one) which I am to pretend reviewing. Farther, except continued abuse of Leigh Hunt for his Lord Byron and some of his Contemporaries, there seemed no news in “The Literary world,” or rather Universe, for was there ever such a world as it has grown?

And now, Jack, allow me to ask thee one plain question? When is thy broad face to be turned homewards, and how? Specify, specify; for all and sundry are inquiring. Has Herr von Lichtenthaler got his Letter, and written another to Oxford? Did you see Becker? He is gone to Italy as a sort of travelling Physician. What says Schelling, what does the Doctor now think of him? I shall want many books, if I have any cash: a Conversationslexicon7 I must have at almost all rates: But of these things you will hear in due time. We expect your Letter by return of Post, you understand for time enough has been lost already. Be steady and active and of good cheer, my dear Doctor; and come home and live beside us, and let us all be as happy as we can. I am ever your true Brother

T. Carlyle.

—Best regards to the Baron.—

[Postscript, by Alexander Carlyle:]

My dear Brother,

Tho' I have not had it in my pow[e]r to answer your kind and clever epistle, which I am scarcely able to peruse even at this date without crying, you are not to imagin[e] that I have ceased to care for you or often to think of you both by day and night in the far distant land of strangers. I need hardly add for I have much to add had I but time and opportunity, that we are all of us wear[y]ing exceedingly to see you safe at home again. When are we to look for you? Would to Heaven you were safe at home again. Dare I venture to ask you to write to me again. I will repay you in clatter when you are home

A Carlyle

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