January 1829-September 1831

The Collected Letters, Volume 5


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE; 21 August 1830; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18300821-TC-JAC-01; CL 5:141-146.


Craigenputtoch, 21st August, 1830—

My Dear Jack,

In returning from Scotsbrig this day week, whither I had gone on the Thursday before, I found your Letter lying safe for me at Dumfries; and in spite of its valuable enclosure, only bearing single postage.1 That last circumstance was an error on the part of his Majesty which it did not strike me in the least to rectify. We hear that Providence is a rich provider; and truly in my own case I may thankfully say so: many are the times when some seasonable supply, in time of need, has arrived, where it was not in the least looked for. I was not by any means quite out of money, when your Bank-paper came to hand; but I saw clearly the likelihood or rather necessity of such an event; which now by this ‘seasonable interposition’ is put off to a safer distance. Pity that poor fellows should hang so much on cash! But it is the general lot; and whether it be ten pounds or ten thousand that would relieve us, the case is all the same, and the tie that binds us equally mean. If I had money to carry me up and down the world in search of good men, and fellow labourers, with whom to hold communion and heat myself into clearer activity, I should think myself happier: but in the mean time I have myself here, for better or worse; and who knows but my imprisonment in these moors, sulkily as I may sometimes take it, is really for my good. If I have any right strength, it will; if not, then what is the matter whether I sink or swim. O that I had but a little real wisdom; then would all things work beautifully together for best ends! Meanwhile this Dunscore Patmos2 is simply the place, where of all others in the known world I can live cheapest; which in the case of a man living by Literature, with little saleable talent, and who would very fain not prove a Liar and Scoundrel, this is a momentous point. So let us abide here, and work, or at least rest and be thankful.

Your Indian intelligence was felt to be highly obliging by the Andersons; the state of the insurance at Lloyds was in my view a decisive circumstance, indicative of good hope. Do not neglect to inform the worthy people, whose anxiety you can hardly overrate, by your very earliest possibility.3

As to my own concerns, I am happy to tell you that if this Lit. Hist. is not finished it is now at least concluded. On Tuesday last, I had a very short note from Captain or rather Curate Gleig,4 which had been twice requested from him; stating that he ‘found the Publishers averse,’ chiefly on ‘the score of terms’ (which terms I had never hinted at); and indicating that he himself was averse, chiefly on the score of size, as ‘one volume would have suited the Library’ better. Farther it appeared from this Note, that the Reverend Editor was in all human probability, a cold-hearted, shabbyish, dandy Parson and Lieutenant, who being disappointed that I would not work for him at low wages and any kind of work, wished to have nothing more to do with me; in which implied wish I could not but heartily tho' sorrowfully coincide. So that nothing remains for you but to send me back that ill-starred Manuscript, as soon as you can; that I may consign it to its ultimate destination. Perhaps Mr W. Fraser may know some Government Clerk who can procure him a frank: if not make it into a parcel with any other Books and additions you may have to send, and transmit it hither by the Mail-coach. One volume of Schlegel on the Drama,5 which you left long ago with George Irving may be put in, as an item. It will carry a few more Books &c; within what weight I do not exactly know; however, all except the very bulkiest have cost the same sum here. If James Fraser is printing Schiller, or wishes to print it and pay for it, by all means let him do so: I only wanted the Paper that I might so dispose of it here; thinking that in such circumstances it was like to fall asleep and for long or for ever remain useless to me. As for the Tale ‘Cruthers and Johnson,’ call it, dearest Jack, whatsoever thou wilt, correct it and curtail or expand it, and schalte und walte [do as you please] in all respects with it, so thou canst turn it into an honest tho' otherwise useless penny; only let no mortal know that I wrote it, and do all thou canst to have the whole thing speedily and everlastingly forgotten.6 Finally, dear Jack, assure William Fraser that I feel no shadow of spleen against him; but a true sentiment of friendliness, and regret at all the trouble he has had; which facts indeed, for they are facts, I will personally state to him, so soon (tell him) as by aid of the Hythe people a Letter can come free; for otherwise the postage is too dear for such a message.7 And for your own private satisfaction, understand that I am positively glad this intolerable business is done nay glad almost that it is done in this way rather than another. What part of the Ms. I can split into Review Articles I will serve in that way, for the present; leaving the whole Narrative, which is now completed down to Luther, to serve as a kind of Introduction to my various Essays on German Literature; in the compass of which Essays (had I one or two more, for example Luther, Lessing, Herder) there already lies the best History of German Literature that I can easily write:8 and so were there a flourishing, prophetic, and circumspective Essay appended by way of Conclusion, we had a very fair Geschichte [History], or at least Zur Geschichte [sketch of a History], all lying cut and dry; which can be published any time it is wanted; if not in my lifetime, then in some other's till which consummation it will lie here eating no bread[.] And so for all things, my Brother, let us be thankful! I will work no more in ‘Libraries,’ or if I can help it, in compilation; but if my writing cannot be sold, it shall at least have been written out of my own heart. Also henceforth I will endeavour to be my own Editor; having now arrived at the years for it. Nay, in the Devil's name, have I not a Kailgarden here, that will grow potatoes and onions? The highest of men have often not had so much.

Too much of your sheet is already filled with my own concerns. At Scotsbrig, as I must tell you, matters wore a more tolerable aspect than I anticipated. Our Mother was as well as usual, rather better, having been out at Haymaking; our Father was still weak and somewhat dispirited; but, as far as I could see, he had no disease working on him, save loss of appetite, and the general feebleness belonging to those years he has now arrived at. He sits most of the day, reading miscellaneously enough; wanders sometimes among the labourers, or even does little jobs himself. He seemed much quieter and better-tempered. They were all wondering affectionately ‘what was to become of poor Jack’: I reassured them, read your last Letter, and prophecied as I ever do that it would all be well.— In returning, I looked over the Churchyard wall for a moment; the grave had got long grass, and was lying there mute and still. I think of it almost daily, almost momently, I might say; and now nearly without pain. Is not she too with God, even as we are? It is all well.

On your Newspaper stands (illegally) written Brief Morgen [letter tomorrow]; the reason of which was that Jane and Mary were for Templand this morning; but Alick detained them, writing a Letter thither, till they determined to put it off till night, and so you get both paper and epistle together. He was writing, as we had all agreed on, that he could not keep this Farm any longer than Whitsunday; finding it a ruinous concern. Let Mrs Welsh arrange the rest herself. Alick knows not well what he is to turn him to: other farms might be had; especially, there is one (Stennybeck beside Scotsbrig) that will be open at Whitsunday come a year, for which he would have a preference and might still find capital: but this, as you see, does not answer in respect of time; and in general it seems but a ticklish business taking farms at present. Poor outlook there is that way, nothing but loss and embarrassment on all hands: nay I often calculate that the land is all let some thirty per cent too high, and that before it can be reduced, the whole existing race of farmers must be ruined, that is, the whole agricultural tools (which are Capital) broken in pieces and burnt in the Landlord's fire—to warm his pointers with. Ach Gott [Oh Lord]! the time is sick and out of joint:9 the perversities and misarrangements moral and physical of this best of all stages of Society are rising to a head; and one day, see it who may, the whole concern will be blown up to Heaven and fall thence to Tartarus, and a new and fairer era will rise in its room. Since the time of Nero and Jesus Christ there is no record of such embarrassments, and crying, or (what is still worse) silent abominations. But the day, as we said, will come; for God is still in Heaven, whether Henry Brougham and Jeremiah Bentham10 know it or not; and the Gig and Gigmania11 must rot, or start into thousand shivers, and bury itself in the ditch, that Man may have clear roadway towards the goal whither thro all ages he is tending. Fiat! Fiat! [Let it be done!]

Scarcely a scrap of this huge sheet remains for queries about poor Jack himself. Tell us whether Montague and you have yet fixed on a room: did we once hear of that, and of your fairly laying hand to the plough, we should fear nothing. Or otherwise, send us a History of one of your days, from rising till bedtime; this would throw light on much that is dark for us. At all events, Courage! Courage! What have we to look for but toil and trouble; what drivellers are we to whimper when it comes, and not front it, and triumph over it. God forever bless you, dear Brother! Heartily your's,

T. Carlyle

Make my kindest compliments to my old Friend your Landlord; whose like, take him for all in all, I have not yet looked upon.12 Tell him that none more honestly desires his welfare.— O were I but joined to such a man! Would the Scotch Kirk but expel him, and his own better genius lead him far away from all Apocalypses and prophetic and theologic chimeras, utterly unworthy of such a head, to see the world as it here lies visible and is, that we might fight together, for God's true cause, even to the death! With one such man I feel as if I could defy the Earth.13 But patience! patience! I shall find one, perhaps.

John Gordon, who has been sick with sore throat &c for five weeks, writes me yesterday; making among other things especial and affectionate inquiry about you. I still like Gordon, tho' he is very lazy[.]

I desire you to present my affectionate remembrances to Mrs Montague: tell me how she is, and what relation you have to one another. Also to the Procters, especially to the Lady, recommend me. What of Badam's parliamenteering? Nothing!

It is a sad year for Sheepfarmers: poor W. Graham was said to be very dull, but I did not see him. He had got a Newspaper from you. The Scotsbrig people are greatly obliged by your old Couriers. To us also your punctuality deserves all praise, and is indeed great comfort.

We have Masons whitewashing here, in the finest sunshine, and are to be all very gay soon. Our man and Alicks are leading peats to their respective stacks. Alick's hay is in stacks, and good[.]

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