January 1829-September 1831

The Collected Letters, Volume 5


TC TO HENRY INGLIS; 23 August 1830; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18300823-TC-HI-01; CL 5:148-150.


Craigenputtoch, 23d August, / —1830—

I guessed by the outside colour of your Letter what had befallen.1 Change is the lot of the living; ever till that last, greatest Change, which conducts us all into Rest. You will find yourself in a new situation, where new duties, to a Mother, to a family of which you are now the head, aught [sic] to suppress unavailing regrets. ‘The end of man is an Action not a Thought.’2

I suffered nothing from the want of those Books; which I almost feel ashamed to have asked for, tho' by accident, at such a time. I am, as you see, clearing out my premises, having as it were done with History, Literary or Political, for the present: I believe your list is here in full tale; if I have forgotten any, tell me and I will search it out for you.

That remarkable History of German Literature, doubtless to the great joy of all my friends, is done for the present: nevertheless it is not to be printed, till after an unknown period; but to lie quietly in my drawer; the Publishers and Editor having sunk the concern between them, at least left it in a state too hopeless for me; so I have withdrawn and left the unhappy people at sixes and sevens.3 Nay the able Editor informs me he is going into Parliament for a Kentish Borough!4 One thing alone am I thankful for: that I have done with that most accursed task; and am not bound ever to undertake the like again while I live.

You will be welcomed here, in September, I can promise you in what Mr Irving calls ‘our choicest mood.’5 Pray let us know when you think of coming, and we will take all measures to forward you. We have one remarkably stupid man, two horses, one of them your namesake6 of unparalleled worth; a cart, a gig, and a wheelbarrow; all of which shall be at your service. A few cigars also are still in store here; and shag-tobaac with clean pipes ad libitum.

You are not to accuse your Fate that it drives you away from Literature. Not by Printing-ink alone does man live. Literature, as followed at present, is but a species of Brewing or Cookery, and as I judge, the basest species, for the Cooks use poison, and vend it by telling innumerable lies. A Life of Wisdom, which is man's sole blessedness, can in no trade, in no country, and no time, except by his own consent, be withheld from him. Believe this, and lay it deeply to heart, and live and walk in the faith of it; and you are above the world. I beg of you also, as indeed Time will teach you, not to disparage [the cra]ft that gains you bread and outward furthera[nce. W]hat is all work but a drudgery, no labour for the present joyous but grievous? Here are two little fellows at this moment visible from my window; they are all over-splashed with lime on their outward man, and have an immaterial infinite soul within them; yet will they keep white-washing till sunset, for twenty-pence each and their fill of bacon and potatoes. Nature is hourly reading us the richest lessons of Philosophy.

Fear not therefore that any friend will disesteem you for relinquishing what you cannot overtake. If you cannot write wisdom and nobleness of mind, act it then at all times, which is infinitely better. But the truth is it is neither chiefly by the reading of Books nor by the writing of them, that one grows wise in this world: but above all other things [by he]artily loving Wisdom and setting his whole n[ature swift]ly to seek it, in what course soever his fortune may lead him to follow. So, I tell you again, you know not what is to come out of you. Be earnest, ever diligent; ‘do the duty you see clearly at hand, and new light will arise from it to show you the next’:7 this is our only rule, and none that follows it well, will miss the true goal.

Now, write to tell us when you can come; and in the mean time, think of us as of friends and hearty well-wishers. And so all good be with you!

T. Carlyle—