January 1829-September 1831

The Collected Letters, Volume 5


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE; 5 January 1830; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18300105-TC-JAC-01; CL 5:53-57.


Craigenputtoch, 5th January 1830—

My Dear Jack,

Here is one of your old large München sheets, on which I am about scribbling you a long Letter: there seems to be but one of the sort remaining, so in future you must be contented with less. Your welcome tidings, which we had greatly longed for, found us in our usual state of health: the Letter had been too late for that Wednesday's post; the Newspaper was in right time. It amused us all not a little; none of us had ever chanced to read one “Life in London”1 before; and truly such a concern may boast itself unparalleled in this Earth; one more of the many oddities that characterise this dear little Island of ours from all other Lands. I rather rejoice in it, as a broad fearless unhesitating manifestation of the rohe Naturmensch [rough son of nature], mostly extinct elsewhere; in which ‘natural man,’ brutish tho' he be very often, there is at least no obtruncation, or castration, or other artifical defect of part; but all is there that Nature gave him, in esse, or in posse [in actual or potential existence]; and nothing that is true and worthy has yet become desperate in him.— By the way, the moment you are settled, you must look out for some London Paper, and have it sent to us: Fraser is very irregular, so that there is no certainty in him, and one loses all the satisfaction of the thing. That Spectator will do, if you can get no better; but for ourselves we prefer the Examiner, if the time will answer. We saw two Numbers of the Standard, and liked it nowise exceedingly.

But to run over into Warwickshire: What is becoming of your project, or rather two projects? I hope the snow has now melted, so that you can stir about, and make inquiry; for, as I judge, you will have no great peace or pleasure till the matter is decided. At this distance, in my total ignorance of the whole circumstances, I can give no kind of advice: Liecester [sic] is considerably the larger town; and, except for Leamington, would offer a wider arena than Warwick: this is all that I can see, and truly it is very little, and of very little significance; for I believe with some confidence that in Warwick itself, where also are all your English Friends, you would make for yourself arena enough. Of Leicester I know next to nothing; it is to me only a fat English borough, without any character, except what it may derive from Foxhunting vicinities, and the buckskin breeches of Melton Mowbray.2 Think well for yourself, dear Jack; and take counsel with your kind Badams: and let us hear instantly what you have resolved on.

We now return to poor Dumfriesshire. We were all very sad to see you shoot off that night from your old natural nest; and for some hypochondriacal days, one could not help feeling as if one had lost a Brother. To me, it was more loss perhaps than to any other; for plain reasons. However, that is not the natural view of it: Jack and I have not lost each other, and will never do so foolish a thing in this world; or the next either if we can help it: the instant I hear of your being settled, I shall rather think I have found you. For you especially the world is all an “unopened oyster”:3 neither have I done yet, sad sprawling as I have had: but there is somewhat lies in me, and before me; and so we shall hope to live yet, and see good in the land of the living. ‘Courage, Brother! Be honest, and times will mend.’

We have heard nothing from Scotsbrig, and only infer from their silence that nothing special has happened. I have written twice to our Mother; once with a brave grey cloak that Mrs Welsh sent her, for new-year's gift. She was very anxious about you, as is her wont; you must not fail to send her word. Our Father also was rather disconsolate that night you went off: I found him sitting with outspread palms, by the kitchen-fire, when I returned, and whimpering something about ‘being the means of bringing so many creatures of the human kind into the world, and how none of them had ever done anything that was wrong before man.’ He is not at all well, I think; and more in mind than in body: he has not yet learned to be old, and the time is now come when that must be learned; he has failed very much within the last three years. But Summer will come, and bring him spirits again.

You remember James Bell of Townfoot's coming into Farries' that night, to take leave of you with the rest.4 He is dead and buried, above a fortnight ago! We heard only the meagrest account; that he ‘had died in a moment;’ I suppose, by apoplexy, or epilepsy; for he had before experienced shocks of that kind. Poor James Bell! But our tragedies are not done yet. Rob Clerk of Craigenvey our next neighbour here had been drinking at Minnyhive, perhaps that very day you were departing: he tumbled off his chair with a groan, gave ‘a snort or two’ on the floor, and was by his companions reckoned to be dead-drunk. At their convenient leisure, they hoisted him, and his Boy, also drunk, into the cart, which ‘Johnnie M'caw's Lassie’ (happily sober) drove home under cloud of night to his Aunt: Rob ‘spoke none, moved none’; and his Aunt carried him in on her back, and laid him on the bed and after hours of sedulous ministering, discovered him to be dead! Rob was once a man that could have ‘turned markets’ with his own purse, and he would not ‘taste’ in those days.5 But he failed in trade, twice; since then has led a strange ‘wet and dry’ existence; drunk in all corners of Britain from Sussex to Sutherland; and so has found his end at length. Is it not a wild world this? Who made it? Who governs it? Who gets good of it? Without Faith, I think a man were forced to be an Atheist.

But we ourselves have our sorrows here at present. I said, your Letter found us all in health; but this does not leave us so. Poor Jane had killed one [of] her geese, and the whole establishment was to dine here gemüthlichst [in the most comfortable fashion], on Newyears [day]; but alas, on Monday gone-a week she took a violent sore-throat, and is at this moment close confined to bed. For two days we were really alarmed about her; Elliott sat booted and spurred, in readiness to ride for a Doctor to Dumfries: however, at length we only sent him for soda-powders, and other little medicines, and Mrs Welsh was both Nurse and Doctor. I myself have now taken up these characters; Mrs W. having gone off (by constraint) today; and I write here in momentary expectation of a little knock, which summons me up to some duty. [The knock has actually come, and I am here again!]6 However, she is now very considerably better, and I hope in a few days to see her well. The rest of us are in our usual way; better rather than worse. We are much more comfortable since we got Elliott; and I have zealously begun riding every day. Alick and I mended the skylight with our own hands, and have altogether cured the kitchen-smoke. Elliott is paving the backyard; brings us roaring fires of coals; and is to go down with this Letter tonight among his other services. Lord make us thankful; for we have much to be thankful.— ‘Little Jean’ came up with us from Scotsbrig, staid here in still cheerfulness, and could not get away for snow till last Thursday. I sent down your Letter, and word of the Newspaper, and that probably you were eating Christmas dinners, and as merry as any of us. We expect a Letter perhaps tomorrow, perhaps [next] week.—Good be with you! My dear Jack. I a[m] your Brother— T. Carlyle.

I have read your Anim. Magnetism,7 and think it among the best in the Number; worthy indeed of a far better place. I durst bet, the Blacks have not paid you yet: they are among the worst payers in existence. They tell me to ‘wait till Mr Fraser return from France.’ I have some thoughts of well nigh cutting them. When your next Article is ready, it will soon find a market; meanwhile make the jews pay you. Would they stay unpaid?— I just last night got a package of those German-History Books; a huge package for which I have waited four weeks, and now it is scarcely of any value to me! Nevertheless I will collect Books somewhere, and write that thing, and then— I will come and see Jack! That is a strange story of Andrew Anderson,8 and the ‘baying he could love!’9 We have mentioned it to no one. Surely the man is distraught. Be sure to write soon, and with composed minuteness. Good night, dear Jack!

Goethe's Parcel is off; but lies frost-bound at Leith! Since Saturday, we have a slow but beautiful thaw. Kind love to the noble Badams; and to his lady also, whom I will believe to be worthy of him. Ask him where Tom the pigeon is? &c &c