The Collected Letters, Volume 4


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE; 10 October 1828; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18281010-TC-JAC-01; CL 4:411-416.


Craigenputtoch, 10th[?] October, 1828—

My Dear Brother,

We have received both your Letters, the last about a week ago; and studied them, as you may suppose, with no ordinary interest. Two or three days ago, I made them up into a parcel, and sent them down to Scotsbrig, with William Graham, who was here visiting us, when the Vienna despatch arrived. I would have written sooner, indeed immediately: but ever since, there has been a constant flood of visiting passing over us; the Jeffreys' only left us last Friday. Meanwhile, dear Doctor, do you in future above all other epistolary sins, avoid as the peccatum mortale [deadly sin] ever again throwing us into such a quandary by silence. Write, at least, if you will not come home to us; write duly and without any delay; if you would not have your Mother set out herself in search of you.

We have all a very mixed feeling, I think, with regard to your Austrian pilgrimage. It seems to be the unanimous opinion that you should have turned your face homewards, when the resources of Munich were exhausted: what you specially want, or how you mean to better your fortune, in that stupid Sybarite Metropolis is not clear to any of us. However, my dear Jack, we will not argue about this: one comfortable feature of the business is that you have now heartily taken the management of your destiny into your own hands, and feel yourself a free agent, responsible to no one; which, after all, is the only wholesome state for any man to be in. My distinct persuasion is that you should continue to travel, till that maggot is fully cleared out of your head, and in no danger of ever stirring there again. For unless the whole world is a mistake to me, you will by and by discover that ‘God's Earth’ is everywhere very much the same, in most points; that true Knowledge grows not here or there in external Space, but everywhere in the Mind of a thinking man.1 Meanwhile, I need not remind you that for all purposes of living by English Literature, surely England itself is the fittest scene. Would you not translate, think you, more comfortably in your Brother's or your Father's house, than there, in the Alter Vorstadt, some fifteen hundred miles from your printing-office? O Jack! thou art a queer man, yes a very queer man! Nevertheless, my poor truehearted, tho' misguided Doil, let no word of mine discourage thee. Know always that when you want a lodging in Germany, you have three homes in Scotland; the warmest nook of which will always be your own. Furthermore, despise the weak vanity, which leads you to be ashamed of returning poor. Our last shilling will ever be at your command to bring you home with; this you already know: and if the expense has already been too great, depend upon it, Jack, Britain and the exercise of your Profession are the only way of making it good again. I could say much, much on this subject; but I restrain myself. In truth, I am very wae, at this hour, to think of my Brother ‘looking out on the Glacis,’2 at the End of Europe, with such plans and means as those of his are. Why does he not come home to his own land? Why are those fine faculties so long unoccupied, still training never trained, by which not only a money fortune, but something worth twenty money fortunes might be made, would he use them wisely?— But enough, and more than enough! In one word, understand that the means of coming home, and the warmest of welcomes there (poor or rich), will always await your asking; at the same time, walk by your own best light in this matter; and God ever keep you, my Brother, in these far countries, and (as they seem to us) wild projects!

We long much, of course, to hear all manner of details about your new situation. Do send us word of the minutes sort, for our curiosity on all hands is extreme. Not indeed about Vienna and the Danube, the Stephansthurm [Stephen's Tower] or the Strudel und Wirbel [Whirlpool and Maelstrom]; but about our own Brother who is living there. Indeed in the name of all parties, I have to request that you would tell us about yourself and yourself only, at least till the main matters become clear to us. Graphic as your descriptions are, we grudged not a little that mere geography and topography should occupy a line of your sheet, when so much concerning our own Doctor remained untold. Remember, Jack, that there is for the present but one interesting object for us in Germany: the wilful wayfarer. Nothing is of consequence to us but what he has to do with; and all that he has to do with, were it but the hour when he rises, or the Réstauration where he dines, cannot fail to interest us. But I must expostulate no longer: so here endeth the Litany, and next commenceth the Discourse.

Duncan Church3 is dead! I had a letter from his Father four days ago, announcing that mournful event; on which I forbear to express my feelings, or farther to excite your own. He died in London, on the first of October, unexpectedly, and seemingly without pain; his Mother says he had eaten his dinner with better appetite than usual; and shortly afterwards, a blood-vessel burst, and in a few hours the sad scene was at an end. I suppose, the inflammation had subsided into consumption, and so the poor Youth had been snatched away. O God! it is a fearful world this we live in; a film spread over bottomless abysses, into which no eye has pierced! Frank Dixon also, I fear, is dying. Mag saw him the other week in Dumfries: he was worn to a thread; seemed to think that it was now nearly all over with him. He had been living all summer in lodgings at Dumfries; ‘for,’ said he, ‘they are tired of me at Belcathill.’ I wrote to him next day inviting him hither (he was gone to Moffat), but have not since heard of him.— Let us leave these funereal scenes.

Of your own relations I am still [God be thanked for it!]4 enabled to send you favourable tidings. All of us are well: still fighting our way, with the old measure of strength, courage and success. Our day too will come: we have been long spared. I myself am in better rather than in worse health than usual; have been rather busy for some time; and am again purposing to begin scribbling. This October season always makes me pensive, sometimes absolutely melancholy: however, melancholy itself is not a miserable state. The Paper on Burns is finished; and I suppose will appear in December; being too late for this present Number. The Proof-sheets of it are even now in the house, and corrected. Jeffrey had clipt the first portion of it all into shreds (partly by my permission), simple because it was too long. My first feeling was of indignation, and to demand the whole back again, that it might lie in my drawer and worm-eat, rather than come before the world in that horrid souterkin5 shape; the body of a quadruped with the head of a bird; a man shortened by cutting out his thighs, and fixing the Knee-pans on the hips! However, I determined to do nothing for three days; and now by replacing and readjusting many parts of the first sixteen pages (there are three sheets in all; and the last two were not meddled with) I have once more put the thing into a kind of publishable state; and mean to send it back, with a private persuasion that probably I shall not soon write another for that quarter. Nevertheless, I will keep friends with the man; for he really has extraordinary worth, and likes me, at least heartily wishes me well. We had three such days of him last week! Wife and child and lapdog and maid were here with him; and the storm vainly howled without, and the glar [mud] vainly gaped for us (we are making a road to the front door; and the poor Duke was forced to dismount from his carriage at some of the yetts [gates]); for we had roaring fires within and the brightest talk, enough and to spare! It was a fairy time: but you shall hear of it all by word of mouth. Robert Welsh had also been here with a Sister. Then came William Grahame (who still loves you truly), and Dobie the Preacher, and a threat, which ended as such, from John Gordon at Kirkcudbright. It seemed as if the whole world had at once broken loose on us; according to the old adage: ‘It never rains but it pours.’ However, it is all done now, and the quietest and I hope busiest winter lies before us. Alick is in his new house, which promises, were it rightly swept and garnished, to be a first-rate cottage; Mary is with him, and Jane also lives there for the present: we are all in harmony, and have tea together at least every Sunday-night. Mary and Jane have just left us after that very business: Alick was not with them; for we calculate that tonight he must be in the precincts of Falkirk, to buy his winter-stock tomorrow. So soon as I get Larry back, I am for Scotsbrig; where however, we heard two days ago that they are all well. After that, I resume my writing (as I have al[r]eady done my reading) for the Foreign Review. Black, by the bye, informs me that he has got your Letter: but not being at all in the way of publishing in that kind, ‘will answer it when he has spoken to Longman.’ Have you yet heard from him? Fraser also, the Editor, inquires earnestly the other day for your ‘Article of German Medicine’: why do you not rather write this than plague yourself with Translations? ‘Cannot do it’? Who wrote the Thesis on Insanity?6 O Jack, Jack, no labour for the present is joyous but grievous. It seems to me that here (supposing you home safely) were a rationa[l] hope of making a little money, and farther it seems to me, almost the only rational one. But my sheet is done, and I must send you my blessing, not my advice.— We expect Ben Nelson here, on his wool-gathering: he often and affectionately inquires after you. Did you learn that Ben Nicholson7 had died, suddenly, some months ago?—George Irving is returned from Paris, and at Annan; whither bound I know not. Dr Waugh, I believe, is there also; becoming a perfect skite [a disagreeable, offensive person].— Goethe has sent me another Lieferung of his works, with a kind and rather sad letter, all in black for the Duke of Weimar.8 I said that probably you would see him in winter or spring: he will welcome you in his choicest mood.— Adieu my own dear Jack! with all thy faults I love thee, and am ever thy true Brother

T. Carlyle

[In margins:] A man M'vitie has burn[t] Bogs's Maut Kill [Malt Kiln] at Ecclefechan the other day, and is now in Dumfries gaol for it. He had bought the place, and was for distilling in it; but thought his the shorter process—(it was insured.)

John Gordon has been travelling over the Shetlands with his Principal, and is idle-disposed and kindly.

‘Professor Williams’ has lost both his situations, by grasping at a third! One Sheepshank is Rector in his stead, and Williams once more a Welsh Parson.9 Mitchell is said to be well.

Our skylight still lets in. Teufel [the Devil: Teufel underscored twice]!

Did you not talk of a book-parcel from the Baron? Where is it? or was it never sent away? Can you bring a stock of real old newspapers, and street-advertisements home with you!

What is become of your Reise eines Deutschen [Journey of a German],10 which I rejoiced to think you were about reviewing? Write anything you please, in reason, for that Foreign Review, and they will be glad to accept it. They are too anxious to get right stuff, their rival jostles them so much. Write, therefore

Ireland engrosses all politicians here: it seems to be on the eve of some strange convulsion; pray Heaven it be not for mere blood and massacre! It is thought that ‘Emancipation’ will be granted them bu the Duke of Wellington.11 [We] had ‘a rantin kirn’ [harvest home celebrated with music and dancing] here [not] long ago. Jamie, the Corsons &c, and laughing forever!

[Postscript by JWC:] Dear Doctor—It was only yesterday that we had the nicest suet-dumpling at dinner (a suet-dumpling in the shape of a heart! which must be admitted by all men to have been a grace beyond the reach of art) and I could not help thinking of thee Doctor and how much better you would have been here, assisting at the eating of it and then unfolding thy mighty genius as of old, in floods of eloquence; than sitting “looking from you” at that vile glacis[.] Gird up thy loins man! and come home to us! and another dumpling shall not be wanting. a dumpling as big as the moon12 to celebrate the wanderer's return! God bless thee Jack and cure this rage for travelling, which is the only thing that prevents your being an ornament to society in every direction.13 Ever thy affectionate sister

Jane Welsh

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