January 1829-September 1831

The Collected Letters, Volume 5


TC TO HENRY INGLIS; 15 June 1830; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18300615-TC-HI-01; CL 5:113-116.


Craigenputtoch, 15th June, 1830—

My Dear Sir,

I have been very remiss in my duties towards you of late: those friendly assiduities of yours to do me service certainly deserved some more prompt acknowledgement. If I did not acknowledge them in words, the reason was nowise that I did not feel them, but rather the natural laziness of the human mind, fond of the passive far more than of the active voice in all practical verbs; combined with the natural reluctance to write merely ‘Thank you heartily,’ over three whole pages. Nay farther, I had an almost shameful purpose to trouble you again, in the Book way, as you will see, and could not make up my mind about the proper items of the commission. At last, however, I do write, and beg you to understand that your kindness was not altogether thrown away; not even such part of it as testified your zeal rather than your success.

Franz Horn's four volumes were and will be very valuable to me, and shall be duly cared for, and returned when their part is played. As for that Ship of Fools and Reineke the Fox, I were but a fool myself could I not get thro' the business without them. Man, as you have sometimes heard hinted, is a creature that adapts means to ends; also, as a certain dyspeptic tailor of my acquaintance was wont to say, ‘There are no limits to the mind of man.’ Wherefore we will let those precious volumes lie quietly among their cobwebs; thanking you and Moir for your kind importunity, and nowise resenting the stout Docter's adherence to his regulation; for his willingness to oblige me has been often shown; and indeed as matters now stand, so considerable have been my resources and power of contrivance, I would not give much above sixpence to have those two identical Books I was then in such a rage for lying here quietly at my hand.

But now let me specify that other Book commission, and so have done with these matters for once. I am told, Luthers Works are in the College Library; most probably Walch's Edition1 in some five-and-twenty Quartos, of which the last but one contains his Life, which Life if you could procure me, I should like well to see it. Understand, however, that here too I have other resources; and will not on any account put you to the trouble of dancing attendance on Library Clerks and such small deer; but only require this favour of you in case it quite suit your convenience. If so, you might also append Lessing's Leben (by his Brother)2 if it is to be had in the Advocates, as, I doubt, it is not, and Lessing's Geist (by Schlegel)3 which I know is there. But if difficulties lie in the way, as I said, you are not to stir in the matter at all; but only in place of sending in these Tomes to Mr Aitken, to be so kind as direct him to forward for me what Books or other ware he has, directly after the London Magazines of this month arrive, if indeed they have not already arrived. And herewith for the present I let you loose, and myself loose, from all commercial and economical concerns, whether librarian or other, and will write three words de omnibus rebus et quibusdam aliis [about everything and something else], as straight from the heart as may be.

And first can you tell me what is become of your friend Moir lately? He was wont to give me frequent signs of his existence and kindness, but with the Northern Circuit he was whisked away into remote regions, and I have seen or heard no more of him. Secondly, which is more to the purpose, can you tell me what has become of your friend Henry Inglis, who also promised to come hither, but never comes, seldom writes, and then only on business and in a hurry? Has he forgot the ‘lodge in some vast wilderness,’4 with Spunkie (vulgo Stumpie), the Laird's Craig, and so forth; or is he afraid of lions in wait for him by the way? Seriously, if you cannot let us see your face, and tell us all by the fireside, you ought to write far more copiously, so long as it is not a burden to you. I have set my heart on seeing you ‘one and somewhat,’ simply on this ground that Nature's aims should not be frustrated but promoted: neither am I ignorant of the many impediments that obstruct your path in that direction; to forward, to encourage you in which steep path would be a real pleasure to me. Alas! I myself want forwarding[,] wa[nt] companionship: it is sad to look all around, and see myself alone, alone: but never mind! is not the Pole-star there (when clouds [do] not eclipse it), and the whole Heavenly host, to guide one thro' the desart? Nay better days are coming, and the true worshipper will not always pilgrim towards his Temple without fellow-worshippers of his own time and land. Utilitaria shall die, it has been written in the book of Doom; Dilettantism, in spite of all its able Editors, that play with the Highest as if it were a toy, and the Galaxies and Eternities a thing ‘well got up,’ must be burnt, like a rag as it is, into tinder, whereby contemplative men shall light their pipes, and in quite another mood ‘think and smoke tobacco.’5 These things I, not ‘blown on by the spirit of Prophecy,’6 take upon me to predict with perfect confidence, and so go on my way the more quietly. Whether it happen in ten years or in a hundred is no business of mine, who have quite other business, but of the Higher Powers who regulate all that, better than even I could do.

But allow me to descend about a thousand leagues at once, and inquire after the immortal Reddie and his Duel; Peter Nimmo also, on whom I have a Poem, written for you (to be sent by the first free conveyance);7 and if you can possibly learn whether the far-famed Willison Glass (of the Cowgate, Poet, and perhaps Laureate) is alive yea or no? Willison, when I saw him fifteen years ago, was a little, greasy, red-snouted, blear-eyed, drunken, deaf individual; and sang in the Anacreontic or Pindaric fashion: but I fear Clotho has cut his valuable thread.8

O, I am bleared, and half-blind (with sore eyes), and thirsty, and choleric, and all that is bad and unhappy; but still in hopes of eye-water and tea, and a cure for the whole evils of existence; and with or without cure,

Always (with all seriousness) / My dear Sir, / Your true Friend, /

Thomas Carlyle.