January 1829-September 1831

The Collected Letters, Volume 5


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE; 19 October 1830; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18301019-TC-JAC-01; CL 5:172-176.


Craigenputtoch, 19th October 1830—

My Dear Jack,

I am going to write you, but nowise so short a Letter as you wrote me; tho' I too have some excuses; having already scribbled nearly twelve hours (Dumfries time) without rising; so that it is near ten o'clock, and I am tired enough. I had a commission from the whole kindred to scold you heartily for these alltoo [sic] short Letters; and to charge you with effective emphasis to mend them. In little Crow's old words, I was to ‘tell our Brother John to write us, and to tell us all he knows.’1 Much better were it could I discover the reason of your brevity, and instead of blaming you for it, remove it. Did you see with what eager affection this whole establishment, and the whole Scotsbrig one gathers round a Letter of yours; and how mortifying is our disappointment, when we open it, and find the hastiest thinnest piece of work, totally unworthy of our Brother's honest, solid, judicious Pen, and no account whatever of his situation to be got there,—doubtless you would either reform the practice, or grieve considerably that you could not. I am aware of your frequent inevitable hurry and distraction; another cause too I can see at work, and respect tho' I regret it. You are not at ease in your own mind, my dear Brother; with a noble reserve you wish to keep your troubles to yourself; yet your heart being too full of them, you have nothing else to speak about copiously or coherently. Now, dear Jack, this is both right and not right. Right not to complain needlessly; not right to forbear complaining needfully, and above all to me. To whom would you open your sorrows, the only relief man can obtain from man, if not to your Brother? Do not close up your heart against me: speak the worst; if it be necessary I will keep your letters strictly to myself, and even destroy them so soon as read. You can write so excellently: we have had some two Letters of that kind, since you left us. Believe me it is very good even for yourself to write heartily, and with consideration: I have experienced repeatedly that when I sat down to write of my affairs, and they seemed all chaotic, I have found the perplexity not a little abated when I had done. You are forced to gather up the scattered threads, to separate at least what you do know and see from what you do not; thus is the ‘ravelled sleeve’ of your purposes knit up somewhat,2 and the future plainer to you. Another reason of a quite selfish nature on my part will also have its weight with you: At this time you are one of my chief Prison-windows, almost the only one; thro' which I can look clearly into the business of the world: hast thou the heart, Jack, to shut thyself, and instead of glass to clap in old stockings?3 No: thou hast not.

In conclusion, let me entreat for no more apologies, no more promises: do it, and leave talking of doing it. Finally, dear Jack, accept this wellmeant lecture, from an elder Brother, in good part; and be not angry with me. Nay, I know your last Letter was perhaps hurried, on Mary's account, and so was not specially blameable. Above all, write, write, were it never so little! Better the poorest line, than none at all: this too we feel. And so—Amen!

We are shocked to find that the magnanimous Montague, who was to lend you money to all lengths, does not so much as pay you what he owes!4 It seems inexpressibly inconsiderate, or inexpressibly shabby. Would to Heaven, my poor Doil, I had the means of making it good! But never mind: keep a heart and a spirit; perhaps even Poverty will one day lighten her pressure on us; and, if she do not, hang her let her do the other way! Cannot a man afford to be poor, whatever a dandy can? We shall realize scot and lot [pay our dues], and more is required of no mortal, even in this age. So be not a whit ashamed, Doctor, even tho' you should find no success whatever: in all probability it will come; and if it never come, I tell thee man it is for our good. ‘Meet him with an impudent face’;5 and tho' it were but twenty pounds a year that made you ‘impudent,’ the world or the Devil himself has no farther business with you. Meanwhile I rejoice to hear of your Magazine writing; still more of that History of Medicine, which I hope will take effect: I reckon that you would make a handsome volume of it; which also might do you good otherwise. We are very anxious to know how you like your Lodgings: whether indeed you are fairly settled in them, for that does not appear from your Letter. Have you yet written to Jeffrey? I think you are wrong in declining (the Indian) Anderson's introductions:6 living here or living there, what you want is to be Known, and the more widely the better. The Andersons feel exceedingly obliged to you, and are aware already that you have nothing save your own literary efforts to live on; and they respect you the more on that account. Anderson has arrived safe at Liverpool, and is expected here in a few days; then in the course of the winter to London; where, his sister again emphatically repeats, he will make a point of seeing you. This individually is a small matter; but acted upon, as a general rule, it would become a great one. Now tell us honestly whether you have ever yet got a patient, or realized one shilling by Medicine. Also never mind if you answer, NO. Only do answer; and the first fee you have, we will all pledge you in a bumper of our best. O explain to us, Jack! Explain to us!7

I must now give you a touch of home news [EnterSUPPER'S-READY-SIR’! Good by for five minutes.]8— I return, as you see, and recommence. First, of poor Mary: she got her pills, then a second stock, and took about thirty in all; when I bade her stop till we heard farther. That was the day before yesterday. She has yet, as I learn by innuendo, had no deliverance. The pills gave her considerable griping, headaches also, but produced little purgative effect, and brought about no return. She strove on the rig9 almost every afternoon, and rode sometimes. She now looks better than she did during the pills; says there is nothing ails her, and so forth. She eats almost no meat, as indeed she has long been wont to do; neither is she in lively spirits: but on the whole there is little difference perceptible in her from her old wont; nevertheless I am not without my anxieties. We will hope the best. She is to get Mrs Welsh's little pony on Sunday, by her own desire, and try riding. If you can advise aught farther, do it.— As for Alick he has been the busiest during these two fine weeks, and has all his crop cut (which is a good crop), and part of it in; nay it was on meal of his that I supped the other minute. I still hear the thunder of his threshing-mill; he was inning [bringing in corn from the field], and the day grew wet. Craigenputtoch is to be advertised the week after next. If a better tenant can be got, he will go; if not, not.— Of the Scotsbrig people I learn nothing specially since about the time your letter came, when Mary returned and had left them all well. I wrote our Mother a long Letter this night week: such a thing gratifies her much; for one of your Letters she will give out her eggsiller [egg-silver, money from the sale of eggs] (poor body!) with a princely beneficence.— For myself here I am leading the stillest life; musing amid the pale sunshine, or rude winds of October Tirl [shake]-the-trees, when I go walking in this almost ghastly solitude; and for the rest, writing with impetuosity. I think it not impossible that I may see you this winter in London! I mean to come whenever I can spare the money; that I may look about me again among men for a little. Here too I feel sometimes that I make progress, and get better insight. Keep your thumb on [keep quiet about] this journey, till we see how it turns. What I am writing at is the strangest of all things: begun as an Article for Fraser; then found to be too long (except it were divided into two); now sometimes looking almost, as if it would swell into a Book. A very singular piece, I assure you! It glances from Heaven to Earth & back again in a strange satirical frenzy whether fine or not remains to be seen.10 Whether Fraser will get the offer of it or not I know not; something will depend on his behaviour to what he has got already. And here indeed follows a main point of my Letter; for which however, you must turn back with me to the beginning [i.e., to the margins of the first page].

I meant: could you tell me whether Fraser has printed anything of mine in this Number of his; or guess whether there is any certainty of my getting any kind of cash from him soon.11 Twenty Pounds between this and Martinmas would make a man of me. Fear not to tell me if there is no chance for it there: I can borrow it, or raise it elsewhere. Adieu, Dear Brother! Ever Your's / T.C.

Jeffrey has my Ms. of German L. H. with him (as perhaps I told you), and is even now trying to negociate some sale of it, with some of your Booksellers. I expect to hear tomorrow.

Did you ever see a rhapsody of mine (in verse) called Peter Nimmo, and think you it would suit Fraser?12 Teufelsdreck13 (that is the title of my present Schrift [Work]) will be done (so far—50 pages) tomorrow. Is W. Fraser an M.P.— Say!

Poor David Aitken (of Minto) is gone to Italy for his asthma; he wrote us that he hoped to winter in Rome.— Say nothing of Teufelsdreck, lest it be a Book.— ‘The Doctor's Well’ is still the well14 here. Adieu! Adieu!

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