The Collected Letters, Volume 4


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE; 25 August 1828; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18280825-TC-JAC-01; CL 4:396-401.


Craigenputtoch, Dumfries, 25th August, 1828—

My Dear Brother Jack,

I write to you at present in no ordinary anxiety; impelled to do so by my own feelings and the importunity of almost every friend you have. It is near four months since I had a Letter from you!1 Surely you that were wont to be so punctual a correspondent must have fallen into some strange perplexity that we do not hear of you. More especially even as there was a money affair to be looked after, if any such poor stimulus had been needed for your writing. About three days before Whitsunday, and the day after receiving your last letter I sent off an order to London; and have some months ago received the following document: “London, 27 May 1828. Received, for Baron von Eichthal, Twenty Pounds, to be accounted for on demand. (For Ransom and Co) W. Tomlin [underscored twice].” By your Letter to Alick, which arrived here about the end of June, it appeared that you had not at that time received this sum; tho' I wrote at large some ten days after coming hither, and specified that transaction among others. What on Earth can have befallen? For you tell Alick that you would answer any letter of mine, as if that other letter to him had not been sent. Every post-day these five weeks we have been waiting with more or less eagerness; which of late has amounted to a really painful solicitude. Heaven grant that it be only some fit of business or indolence or indecision! Alick and I hide our anxieties; but you may guess how our Mother is feeling. My only comfort is that had you been seriously sick, or otherwise in distress, the Baron would have written to me. And my only resource is to write to yourself, ignorant as I am of your present movements, and even abode (for by this time perhaps you are travelling again); and to beg of you for the love of Heaven, wherever you may be, provided it be in a civilized country where a sheet of paper or even a banana-leaf is to be had by purchase begging or theft, to let us have news of you without loss of one moment. This is the sum total of my petition, and indeed the gist of this whole Letter. I would not exaggerate painful possibilities; nay many a time our unbelieving imaginations have been belied, as we hope they will still be this time: but twelve hundred miles, you will observe, is a long distance; and misfortune lies in wait for all the sons of Adam. Heaven grant our Doctor were safe home among us, and curing disease on his native soil! It is our Mother's prayer, and every one of us joins in it.

You spoke of some parcel of Books coming from Munich; and sometimes it strikes me that you may have written by these, and calculated on their arriving, not after many months, but after a few weeks. I wish I had known in time to bid you send them “to the Address of Mr F. L. Horbig [I think]2 Bookseller in Leipzig; he is our (Black Young and Young's) Agent; and will forward it with other things to us by Post.” I had told these people of it, and also of a probable Article from you for their Review:3 but on this last, I suppose, they have not reckoned. The truth is, as you see, your whole history has of late become involved to us in inscrutable mystery. By this we expected to have known that you were almost on your return to us; for your summer classes must have terminated before now: and in Alick's last letter, you talk of “liking to spend another year in Germany, if you had the means.”4 O Jack! thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad.5

But not to trouble you with any more of these regrets and sorrows, let me try if I can find any word of news to tell you; of which necessary you too must be getting somewhat short. Heaven be praised, I have still comfortable tidings to send you of all your friends at both homes: Jemmy was here this week (Saturday, Sunday, and went on Monday); carting down the half of a fierce Bull, now no longer mischievous, but beneficent, not assaulting husbandmen, but nourishing them with other than babes' meat: and from Jemmy we heard nothing but good. Little Jean and I, moreover, were at Scotsbrig some three weeks ago, for a few days: our Mother seemed to be even rather better than her wont; and all the rest about as well. Of other persons I spoke with none but Grahame, and had a short note from Ben Nelson wherein he inquired minutely after you. Rachel Ritchie is married, and to Jock of Relief.6 “What the Deevil,” as Sandy Corrie7 said, “was the use of her keeping a man carrying cuddifuls [gutter-fuls: underscored twice] of water all summer from the Brantith well, to cure a swelling, and she in that state,” namely far gone in the family way? The laughter and the spite and malice were considerable there; for the world is the world, in Middlebie as in London. Farther, poor Wull Tait8 was killed in the head of Scotsbrig ground, by the rushing in of a quarry-brow [quarry-edge]. He called to his neighbour to run; but was too old and stiff to run himself, and so sank in the flood of rubbish, and died that afternoon. Thus does Fate play its pranks; and everywhere there is Comedy and stern Tragedy if there be men. The Scotsbrig moor was as grim an arena for poor Wull, as Trafalgar for Nelson, or Lützen for Adolphus; and the Spirit of the Universe equally beheld it; and in His eye it was of equal moment.

I have heavy news of your old friend Duncan Church; which tho' long since commissioned to tell you, I still hesitate to send, for they are still in some measure uncertain, that is, undecided. One night about five weeks ago, returning late from Templand with Jane, I found a Letter which had lingered a fortnight by the road, from Church of Kirkchrist: it bade me tell you that Duncan had taken a bad cold, which being neglected had grown into an inflammation of the lungs; that his mother had gone up to London to watch over him; but that the best watching and utmost efforts of medical skill had been in vain; and the Father “trembled for the next letter, having scarcely a ray of hope.” I wrote back next day, making the most earnest inquiries; and received for answer next week a letter which seemed to indicate that no very decided change, indeed no change at all for the better, had taken place; except indeed what I could infer from the fact that poor Duncan still lingered in life. Every day since then I have looked for intelligence: but none having come, I conclude that nothing decisive has yet happened; and often hope the best: I send you the sad circumstance as I had it myself. Poor Duncan! He was a worthy lad; and, I will still trust, ma[y] be spared to do good and see good on the Earth.

As for ourselves at Craigenputtoch we are still struggling, as men must ever strugg[le] with the perversities of existence; but in as manful a manner as we can. It has been judged best to build another house, where Alick and his Agriculture may go on apart altogether from this establishment. Accordingly four walls do actually now stand, fronting the east, exactly at right angles to the direction of the Barn, in front of the Millshed, and on the spot where the stackyard used to be.9 Stumpie Cottage has been taken down to help to build it and cover it. Weeks ago the place should have been inhabited: but torrents of rain, and of ill-luck have kept us back, and the Slater only came yesterday. We reckon nevertheless that it must get finished at last, and be a very fair kind of house. Mary and Alick are to keep it, and we two shall live here; much more commodiously for all parties. Mary has been at Dumfries all summer; but is here for these some days manipulating wool, and is to return back “for good” next week, as our harvest is commencing. In this mansion itself we have had a battle like that of St George and the Dragon; neither are we yet conquerors. Smoke and wet and Chaos! The first we have subdued, the last two we are subduing. May the Lord keep all Christian men from flitting! As to Literature, which also is breadmaking, I have done nothing, since whitsunday, but a shortish paper on Heyne for the Foreign Review, which will appear in No. 4.10 A long Article on Goethe is just publishing in No. 3,11 which has been (for want of cash, I believe) exceedingly delayed. And at this very date, I am very busy, and third part done, with a “fair full and free” Essay on Burns for the Edinburgh Review;12 a Life of that Poet having appeared by Lockhart. None can say how bilious I am and am like to be. But I have begun to ride daily on Larry, and so Jeffrey shall have his Article at the appointed time. That wonderful little man is expected here very soon with Weib und Kind [wife and child]! He takes no little interest in us; writes often, and half hates half loves me with the utmost sincerity. Nay he even offers me in the coolest lightest manner the use of his purse, and evidently rather wishes I would use it. Proh Deûm atque hominum fidem [Ah, faithful to God and man]!13 This from a Scotchman and a Lawyer!— Jane is in considerable trepidation, getting the house fully equipped for these august visiters. Surely I think she will succeed: nay already we are very smart. Here is a drawingroom with Goethe's picture14 in it, and a piano, and the finest papering on the walls; and I write even now, behind it, in my own little Library (once Alick's bedroom and sitting-room); out of which truly I can see nothing but a barnroof, tree-tops, an empty hay-cart, and under it perhaps a stagnant midden-cock with hens, overfed, or else dazed with wet and starvation; but within which I may see a clear fire (of peats and Sanquhar coals), with my desks and books and every accoutrement I need in the fairest order.15 Shame befal me, if I ought to complain, except it be of my own stupidity and pusillanimity! Unhappily we still want a front-door road, and the lawn is mostly a quagmire, however harvest will end. Several weeks ago I had a long letter from Goethe, inclosing another from Dr Eckermann his Secretary full of commendations and congratulations about my criticism of his Helena. I ought to have written long ago, but cannot and must not till I have done with Burns. If you pass within any manageable distance of Weimar, you will surely wait upon this sage man. Seriously I venerate such a person considerably more, not only than any King or Emperor but than any man that handles never so expertly the tools of Kings and Emperors. Sein Excellenz already knows you by name, and will welcome you in his “choicest mood.”16 By the by, can you get us a Lithograph of Schiller, anything like this of Goethe? But I must not enter on commissions, my paper being as it is. Did you hear of the horrible accident at Kirkcaldy: Irving was going to preach there, and the kirk fell and killed eight and twenty persons. “What thinkst a he means,” said my Father, “gawn up and down the country tevelling [raging] and screaching like a wild bear?” Heaven only knows completely. Walter Welsh wonders they do not “lay him up” [imprison him].17 Now Jack, for God's sake write instantaneously; and so I add no more. Your Brother,

T. Carlyle.

[In margins:] There has been some farther whisper about the London Professorship. Basil Montagu advises me to become a candidate; for he “knows that they are at a loss for one.” No wonder they are: Dugald Stewart is dead, and British Philosophy with him. I have declined candidating any more there; but said that if they wanted me, let them speak and I would listen, and answer. There, probably it will at length continue lying. I will go anywhither, and care not tho' I go nowhither. Have you heard of the new “King's College”?18 It is a thing got up by the Church Nobility and Gentry Commonality and Rascality and Public in general about London; by way of counteracting Radicalism and Infidelity. Southey is said to be busy in it, and Duke Wellington, and Bishops this and that. Heaven prosper and comfort them one and all!

Make my compliments to Lichtenthaler, and thank him for his humourous and good-humoured Letter;19 of which sort I should be proud to get more.

Waugh is said to be practising at Annan; but it is above a year since I saw him. Frank Dixon was seen at Dumfries, but sicklier than ever, the other day. People all harvesting; and the wettest and warmest summer known for long. Wheat is understood to be somewhat spoiled; rest good.

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