January 1829-September 1831

The Collected Letters, Volume 5


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE; 19 December 1830; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18301219-TC-JAC-01; CL 5:198-204.


Craigenputtoch, 19th December, 1830—

My Dear Jack,

I take the longest sheet in my possession to answer your short Letter,1 both because the answer is nearly due, and that we may the sooner have another, wherein perhaps more specific tidings will be granted us, and that long-looked-for ‘next time’ will actually arrive. We have indeed, taking one thing with another, small right to complain of you as a Correspondent: only that your fidelity and punctuality in one particular causes the greater desire of it in another, and the frustrated possibility of great enjoyment awakens unthankfulness with little. Did you understand rightly with what feelings we open a sheet from you, it would not be ‘near six’ that you would sit down to write, but at some much more deliberate hour.

Let me satisfy you first touching Mary. She is at Scotsbrig; her husband2 officiating there as farm-labourer, instead of John Lockhart, whom they found means to discharge. It is our Mother's doing; warmly opposed by sister Jean, and by all here; partly indifferent to the other parties: but our Mother turned a deaf ear to all reasoning on the subject, or rather listened to it, and then went and did otherwise. I left her, on the Friday after I wrote to you last, apparently convinced and quieted: but next night she took to ‘wandering about the house’; had Jemmy despatched to Moffat on Sunday, and next day back with a horse-and-cart, which landed them both bag and baggage at Scotsbrig door. There is a talk there about fitting up some of the office-houses as a separate dwelling for them: but we think here that nothing of that sort will actually be done soon; and in the meanwhile we must even leave them in that ungainly position; regretting to see all our sagacious contrivances and heroic determinations as good as thrown away. I am vexed at my mother, yet it is only her weakness of purpose, or perhaps rather undue strength of affection, that we can blame. I have not written to her yet, and shall not soon I fear muster heart to visit Scotsbrig under these circumstances; which however there is no altering.— Jemmy who was here since, with Robert Clow, reports that the rest of the household are well; as indeed we heard again on Monday last, when Alick's herdboy was down there—bringing him a cartwheel, and us a supply of oatmeal and chickens.

Alick3 has his wife here, calls her ‘my love,’ sometimes even ‘my angel’ with his own peculiar accent, and seems to get on perfectly well. Jenny herself is the naivest of women, a good figure, and at working a very Penelope. On the whole, here in our moorland Patmos we are not without cause to be grateful: this very night, we have fine black frost, a vehement fire is blazing (with peats logs and large coals) at my left hand (for it is in the Drawing-room that we abide for these few days), and on the opposite side thereof sits my wife sewing; I owe no man almost anything, and have the prospect of being allowed to live unmolested in God's Earth a little longer, there to till and sow according to ability that richest of all fields Future Time: Mein Ackerist die Zeit [Time is my seed-field].4 ‘What wanteth man that I have not / Within my own Four walls?’5

To give you a few more particulars. We have only one servant this winter: ‘Betty’, an oldish coughing woman, but seemingly a ‘chosen one’ of her sex, so quiet is she, so orderly, and takes such charge of Master and Missus, of cow, pig and pony. The place is all dry and gravelly, swept and garnished, even to Cobbett's taste, about doors;6 windtight, watertight, warm and smokeless within. The ‘big beast’ is labouring for her bread at Templand this winter: but Harry runs in the Gig (which I myself can now trim and harness) like a very lion, and I give him ‘swine-meal,’ which is his plumpudding and calepash and calepee,7 nightly by deputy, and on those great Gig-occasions for two days previously ‘with my own hand.’8 We were at Templand but on Wednesday last; and with lamps burning (halfpenny tallow candles!) overtook MacKnight, scarcely past ‘the Milton,’ and snatched our Letters from him.— ‘By the bye,’ I ought here to admit that your Newspaper has been a day too late, the last two times; owing to no neglect of mine, but to the mischance that none went hence to Church, and that I had no man to send down; which mischance however I have taken the best measures I could to guard against hencefort[h]. Again, by another bye, I may say that we are not tired of the Examiner, which we think the cleverest of all Radicals; but will nevertheless cheerfully fall in with any new arrangement you like better: the Spectator we generally see, about midweek, thro' Frazer; it is better than it was, and immeasurably copious, yet still stupid enough. Besides is it not twice as dear as the Examiner, or any other single Paper? But as I said, whatever way will please you better. On the whole you are a true blessing to us for Newspapers; never once a failure, and ever and anon some supernumerary, which were it weeks old is alw[a]ys greedily devoured by us. We get no talk here, and are quite insatiable in the Newspaper way. William Graham, who rode with me to Ecclefechan that night the Parcel went off, expressed a similar gratitude towards you; indeed he seemed gladder of those old Papers than if you had given him as many guineas: your Letter also was very precious to him; and if he had not answered it, sad secret cares, as I guessed, were the only reason. Poor Graham is on no bed of roses, so far as matters economic go: but he does not open himself, and I have not the face to break in upon his citadel, having no comfort to give if I were there. And now adding only that Waugh9 is still a laggard, and applied to me lately for ‘a loan of ten pounds’ (umsonst! umsonst! [in vain! in vain!]) and directions how to study German, I quit the province of news and private gossip: after which paullo majora canamus [Let us sing in a somewhat loftier strain].10

I have yet done nothing in regard to your Homöpathie,11 am most ready to do anything, but can scarcely advise what. Will you have me write to the man,12 offering such an Article from you, to see what he says? If so, tell me, and I will do it. I would most probably have stirred that way in the matter already; only that I have not yet heard anything about his proceedings in regard to that History, and meant to regulate my future conduct towards him partly by his conduct therein. He is a coarse hog of a man, but not ill-meaning perhaps, and for the present may be useful. It is possible every week that I may hear something from him: but do you write on the supposition of my not having heard, and then direct me what to do. If you have determined on trying the Article, or feel at least that you could do it agreeably, then mention to me what length &c you think of, what Books you would specially require, and any other descriptive particular: I will send off a letter to Cochrane, and bid him write direct to you, that no time be lost.— What of your Medical History? I see your Article13 advertised in last Fraser, but nothing of mine, so that I am still far in your debt. They may print up what they have got, before I send more. Poor W.14 I doubt has but a secondary finger in the pie; otherwise I know he is heartily good to me. Hang them! I have a Book in me that will cause ears to tingle; and one day out it must and will issue. Jack too has another talent, other talents: in the valley of the shadow of Magazine Editors we shall not always linger. Courage! Not Hope, for she was always a liar, but Courage! Courage!— For myself I am to write Napier a shortish Paper on Taylor's Survey of German Poetry, which work I expect on Wednesday: this will occupy for three weeks complete.15 I have translated Saint-Simon's Nouveau Christianisme,16 a heterodox Pamphlet (about 40 Review pages), which I mean soon to send you. I have prefixed a very short introduction; and you may try whether any pamphlet-printing Bookseller (some Socinian, or Anti-Church, or quite indifferent character) will give you the matter of five pounds for the copyright thereof, or will give nothing whatever, which also will be a decision. It contains several strange ideas, not without a large spice of truth; is ill-written, but easily read, and deserves a reading. Tell me whether you think it will be worth risking 6 shillings on, and in the affirmative, off!— Alas! the Paper too is done, and we were not half fertig! Gott mit Dir! [finished! God be with you!].

T. Carlyle

Never fight hurrying those foolish Proof-sheets: they will do, any time in January; it is the other Books I care most for. If you can ascertain where the sheets are, and that they are, no more for the present is wanted.— Our Mother had given Alick orders to tell me that I was to send you my thick socks, till she found time to make two other pairs: Alick neglected, so they are still here, but shall come with Saint-Simon.

Jeffrey has not written since his advancement; indeed I was two Letters in his debt till only a week ago, so that there is not time yet. We want to hear what he will say. In the House, I doubt he will NOT prosper, his health is too weak, and even his voice.17

The Scotch Tories you see have all turned tail, and over all the North there is one cry: Reform! Unhappy souls! that they should not even have attained thus much, which is but the beginning! I am for a radical inward Reform.

I have bought me a broad-crowned Highland Cap, which is very warm; and got the old Russia Leather Boots clogged! They are dreadfully heavy (having been wrong done), but quite water-tight.—

Do you know William Gray18 in London? Is he worth knowing?

Nancy Grier19 is married—to some sort of Mason, said to be a worthy kind of man: it was the week before Alick's wedding.

John Gordon20 is struggling hard for “a certain Desk Secretaryship,” which we hope he will get.

Best regards to the Montagues—and to Badams— vale et me ama! [farewell and love me!]21

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