January 1829-September 1831

The Collected Letters, Volume 5


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE; 17 March 1831; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18310317-TC-JAC-01; CL 5:248-252.


Craigenputtoch, 17th March, 1831

My Dear Brother,

Many thanks for your two Letters, and the candid sensible and feasible picture they give us of your affairs, which tho' not of the brightest quality, are farther than ever as I think from desperate.1

I received your Letters, along with a short one from Buller; his Reform Pamphlet,2 four Letters from Jeffrey (containing the printed Copy of his Speech),3 one from Henry Inglis (who, as you remark, seems to be growing a rather idle person, a mere Talker), two Newspapers, and the Proof sheets or rather slips of the Nibelungen. So that I have been busy enough since then. I sat till 1 o'clock this morning correcting these Proofs, with intent to carry them down to Dumfries today, along with a short Letter to you; which last, now at seven o'clock (having nerves, at present, and little talent for sleep—owing to Teufelsdreck partly) I am now in great haste writing.

Alick was to have brought up all these multifarious concerns on Wednesday, when he went down to see about his Mill: we sat watching for him till midnight, not without reproaches: but poor fellow, it turned, out next morning, that there were no tidings of the Mill to be had in Dumfries; where, however, he met with Brother Jamie, who told him he ‘had heard’ that the thing was to be settled at Annan next day (yesterday); whereupon he set off thitherward, ‘to see the end of it’; sending up his packages with this intelligence by some private hand. We pray anxiously that he may have succeeded, at all events that the matter may have been settled. It is possible he may be here today, and that I may meet him at Dumfries: in which case (if there be any sure event) I will try to throw you another word.— I am well convinced that his leaving this ungainly spot of clay, or bog, will prove go almost where he will a blessing.

As for myself I am writing Teufelk, after considerable meditation, and have even the First & Second Chapters down perfect, and think it will make a kind of Werk [book]! So no more of me.

With regard to yourself, dear Jack, I had much to say, were there room; many applauses to give you for your manful battle, and encouragements to persevere manfully. I see your scribbling situation, and how perverse almost hopeless it is: neither indeed can I greatly lament that it has so proved; you had always some such whim in you, and to follow it out farther would but have been to lose more time. I reckon, my dear Brother, that you have thrown off various follies, and are fast acquiring a new and far deeper sort of wisdom. Thank God for it, there is no other sort of good in this world! Your attitude seems to me manful, your outlook and efforts the most judicious you could adopt. Subsistence with the exercise of the noble Art you have acquired: such is your aim; in which, by persisting in it, you must and and [sic] will prosper. As for your plan of an assistant surgeonship in some regiment, I may say freely that if such a thing be come-at-able, it ought to be taken. You are also quite right about ploughing rather than taking to a mere messroom life.4 Consider earnestly, inquire on all hands about the means of getting into some such desirable situation, whether in the Army or elsewhere, make up your project into a plan; and I will cheerfully call upon the Advocate to help you; and I mistake much if he will not be ready to do all for you that we could ask him. He shows a quite special promptitude and even gladness in doing anything of that kind for me.

Neither would I have you quit Literature, which is with you another name for Wisdom, for Art, almost for Religion. Hold fast your talent that way as the most precious of your possessions: but understand ever henceforth that ‘Periodical writing’ is the death even of this. It strikes me, as I have often said, that there is a deeper quality in you, both intellectual and moral, than has yet quite disclosed itself; that you may write usefully and well: but not in this way. Let your mind grow to clearness, your ideas take root and grow till the[y] fill your whole soul: in the meanwhile, stand on the basis of your Art, which next to moral Teaching and Healing, with which it has indeed no small connexion, is simply the most like a divine Art of any that man can exercise. Let quacks continue to quack; warum nicht [why not]: and do you in preference take Honesty with bread and water, or even without it. God, as you say, will not leave those that have Faith in him: we may not have Pleasure, we do not need it, but Good we shall not fail to have.5 I say in spite of all Dandiacal Philosophers and Outer-House Sages,6 this is, was and forever will be True: Dieu me l'a donné, le Diable ne me l'ôtera pas! [God has given it to me, the Devil shall not take it from me!] So fear nothing, my dear Jack; neither be downcast; what have you to be ashamed of? Struggle toughly while life is in you: it is a good cause; the very struggle if wise is success.

I farther quite agree in your kicking that fairy-tale7 Medical History to the Devil. If you do know or get to know anything of Medical History, you will publish it by and by in quite other environment, on quite other footing. Try that New Monthly; it is an honest shift: but neither if this fail, lose heart. Above all, turn and study that project of getting a fixed medical place, were it the lowest, in honesty. I would cure men on any terms, if I had the art of curing; nay, rather than let such a faculty sleep in me, I would cure beasts.

You are right too in making departure from London one of your last shifts. But finally, dear Jack, know that it is a resource: and so, when your last five-pounds is broken in upon, turn your face hitherward, to a Brother's house and heart, who would rather see you true and wise than chancellor and emperor.— Also do not let it get into your wise head that you cause in any the smallest measure our present ‘difficulties’—about which, when rightly busy, I hardly care sixpence. We cannot in the least understand how you are guilty. Jane greets you well, and agrees with me that you are improving “very mutch!”8 And so God bless you Dear Brother, and ever keep you!

—T. Carlyle.

I have directed Heward the Westr Publisher to send you three Perfect Copies of this Nibelungen Article; which keep.

Have you any Magazine Copy of Schiller & Nimmo the Thoughts on History: get such (three) if you can.

I will write again by Buller, who asks me ‘to’.

[On cover] Mit der Mühle noch nichts! [Nothing yet about the mill!]

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