January 1829-September 1831

The Collected Letters, Volume 5


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE; 26 February 1831; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18310226-TC-JAC-01; CL 5:232-238.


Craigenputtoch, 26th Feby, 1831—

My Dear Jack,

We have had three Letters from you, only the first of which, the one that came during the snow has been answered. Whether you have yet received that Answer your last communication, that contained in the Teufelsdreck Ms. which we got safe on Wednesday, does not positively indicate: however I think it almost certain; the Letter being enclosed to Jeffrey, of whose receiving thereof we have since (thro' Mrs Montague1) had indirect evidence.

Your last Post Letter was excellent; of the kind they should all be: you cannot fancy what interest such notices, as the many there given, have for us here.2 With great pleasure I will take to writing once a fortnight: I could also contrive, without any violence to rules, to make some Hon. Member save the postage occasionally; for which purpose, among others, will you again send me C. Buller's address: to whom had I known it, I would have sent this Letter. The address has been sent down to Scotsbrig with a large bundle of your Letters, and tho' I sent for these, they have never come up again. Franks are always welcome, especially in this low state of the financial department: however one can always cram a good shilling's-worth into a sheet; and we should be poor indeed did not such a one as your last always triumphantly clear its way.

I must continue the simple annals of this colony of God's creatures for you. The Farm of Puttoch is not yet settled: however, we hear that there are “four offers for it all about the same”; so that Alick has now well nigh lost hope of it. Whither he is next to turn is not so clear a question. He and I have had various deep consultations on the subject; for I have naturally advised him to turn his thoughts altogether away, for the present, from the possibility of remaining; towards which his efforts will not avail anything. For his line of policy was this: he had privately made up his mind as to the sum he could with any show of prudence engage to pay; but having fallen behind with his last rent, he could not make a formal offer; but only lay by to see if perhaps his proposal would not be as good as any other; which now from the character of the competitors he has little expectation of its being. My feelings in the matter you may easily picture; but the business is not of them. Alick and I have treated of various schemes: nay I myself thought his intended offer (£150) a very venturous one, and am at this moment by no means sure but the cutting of such an active little fellow loose from these Desolations, and casting him into the populous world again, will not, severe as we may feel it, be a positive blessing to him. He is down to Scotsbrig this day (I walked with him to below Sandywells); partly to look after the Newby Mill (at Annan), and strike into a quite new course of activity, if he can get that Establishment which is now advertised, for any rent that seems plausible. I have often talked to him about the Miller life, and now he seems to clutch rather eagerly at it. Farming, as I read the times, is done, or nearly so; the rents are all some fifty percent too high; yet the present race of Farmers must continue: so until the agricultural capital (tools of agricultural indistry [sic]) is all consumed (in feeding pointers and the like) and the present race of farmer's ruined out, there is little hope of improvement. The Scotsbrig people are straitened enough too; so it is but ebb tide with us all: nevertheless we are still a “one and all,” and will struggle briskly on, and encourage one another. For me Alick's removing will be a mournful desolating sort of thing: but I really think that for himself it will be a benefit. He seemed much gratified with your kind note; which he has taken down to Scotsbrig with my three; where very probably at this hour (ten of the clock) the good souls may be busy reading them. What follows you shall hear duly. The Scotsbrigers were all well; our Father recovered, or nearly so, last Wednesday. It is not for want of Love that they do not write you; but simply that they hardly can: none but Jane ever takes pen in hand; and she at present is kept very busy.

As for myself, matters have brightened up in some small degree, and I am at work again. Bowring wrote by return of post a very frank warm-looking Note, wishing to have the ‘Nibelungen Article’ directly:3 I have been cobbling at it for five days incessantly, and sent it down with Alick today. I rather hope that Bowring and I may get on a little: he seems a very honest man.— I meant to send you a Letter in that parcel of his; but was quite chaced [hurried] to get it done: there is even a stock of socks here, which your unwearied mother has sent up for you in successive pairs: these I durst not well include this time lest the whole parcel (addressed to the Wr Review Bookseller) might have been charged to you, as to the larger sharer in it. The socks will come by and by.

Cochrane also sends down a much humbler Letter;4 and requests to have the “Paper on Reineke de Fos.” It is a poor shred of some ten pages; which he shall have. He wants me to write on Hutten;5 we shall see. By the way, if you still thought of that Homöpathie,6 I could now write to him more safely: however he seems to have almost no power of getting Books.— Lastly the Proofs of Napier's Article on Taylor have come, no syllable altered;7 and with considerable jubilee from N.— Have you yet heard any word of your Paper? I hope and pray that the worthy Editorial Gentleman may accept it: there is no such Periodical for you, if you can come on in it.

Till Wednesday I am busy with preparing Reineke and various little et-ceteras; after which I purpose seriously inclining heart and hand to the finishing of Teufk—if indeed he be finishable! How could you remember Irving's criticism so well? Tell him that it was quite like himself; he said all that was friendly, flattering and encouraging, yet with the right faults kindly indicated: a true picture, painted couleur de rose [in a rosy light]. I will make the attempt! And now dear Jack, on this last fraction of the letter, a word about you. Sorry am I to see your supplies running so low; and so little outlook for bettering them. Yet what advice to give you? I have said a thousand times, when you could not believe me, that the trade of Literature was worse as a trade than that of honest Street Sweeping; that I knew not how a man without some degree of prostitution could live by it—unless indeed he we[re] situated like me, and could live on potatoes-and-point if need were. As indeed need has been, is, and will be with better than me.— If the Angels have any Humour I am sure they laughed heartily today (as I myself have repeatedly done) to see Alick setting off with Twelve pence of copper, a long roll like a pencase, the whole disposable capital of both our households. I realized six, he six, so he was enabled to go. I was for keeping three, but he looked wistfully, and I gave him them with loud laughter. (He had borrowed all our money, and did not get payments last Wednesday, but surely will on Monday).

I could also prove that a life of Scribbling is among the worst conceivable for cultivating Thought, what is noblest and the only noble thing in us: your ideas never get root, cannot be sown but are ground down from day to day. O that I heard of any Medicine for your practicing—were it only on the lower animals! However, Patience! Courage! the time is coming. Meanwhile by far your best outlook were with the Ed Review, if you succeed. Of the Med. Hist. I could speak warmly, were it not for the uncertainty of the scheme, I mean of their undertaking it.— I can ask Jeffrey to do anything for you that is right, and he will do it cheerfully. But I dare not promise that any Bookseller would undertake almost any translation from the German, they all say that none such has paid. Or perhaps could you do some good in some other way or ways with Longman? Think of it, and I will without reluctance ask the Advocate to promote any fair scheme; anything that you could ask of him. Finally, dear Jack, keep a stout heart. I think I notice in you a considerable improvement since you left us, a far more manly bearing. Never despond. If you see no feasible method, of even fairly attempting to get professional employment in London, why then I think I would leave London. Do not fall into straits, do not involve yourself in debt: come out of it; come hither, share our provisions such as the good God gives us, our roof, our welcome; and we will consider what way you are next to try it. Above all hide nothing from me: I will hide it from the Scotsbrg people whenever you bid me. And so God bless you dear Brother! Fear nothing but behaving unwisely!

T. Carlyle

Did you know a wretched old woman called Esther at Carstamon?8 She died two days ago, Jane nursing her—quite forsaken of all kindred, yet with the spirit of a heroine.

I was extremely interested and amused with Buller & the Saint-Simonians. I could not do more than fancy the possibility that my ‘Gustave d'Eichthal’ had any relation to your Baron. Poor Baron! I was truly sorry to hear of his decease: I had hoped one day to see him.

William Graham is not at Burnswark, and understood to be—in the Abbey! Worthy Graham! the stroke that he once talked of long hanging over him has fallen now. Could I learn his address I would write to him.

Satis jam [Enough for now]!9 I have spoiled my best pen making it small, yet the paper is done. Word about the Stracheys and all!

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