January 1829-September 1831

The Collected Letters, Volume 5


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE; 6 June 1831; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18310606-TC-JAC-01; CL 5:281-286.


Craigenputtoch, 6th June, 1831—

My Dear Brother,

It must be frankly admitted that your last Letter1 is no dud, but a real Letter, distinct, considerate, full to the very brim. So should all Letters, be in such a case as ours; do what we may, now that it is so long since we have talked together, there must much remain obscure. My blessings on a full Letter! It has so friendly a look: were the news it brings never so bad, you have at worst real affectionate sorrow; without mixture of selfish irritation,—as if you were reading your sentence of death in the form of a riddle. Do often likewise, if you love me.

There remains a considerable arrear of news here, which I must now bring up, briefly. It appears, in my dislike of ‘vain repititions’ [sic]2 I have gone too far, and never once stated that Alick was to stay, and look after his crop, here[.] He is now tenant of our Peat-house; which ‘with his own hand’ (as Irving marked the Presentation Copies) he has brushed up into a very tolerable cottage, with two windows, plastered brace [chimney-piece], wooden-floor ceiling; wherein he calculates on passing the summer well enough ‘for lodgings.’ Poor Alick! Tho' fortunate beyond expectation in the Roup of his stock and so forth, he finds himself to have lost upwards of £300 since he came hither, that is, at the rate of some £80 a year, beyond his whole labour bodily and spiritual! We all think it extremely fortunate that he has now finally done with farming Craigenputtoch; for which enterprise he is evidently not adapted. There is still something like £400 left him, with which he will be enabled to stock Dairlaw Hills, or some other farm, next year (as we hope), and try the trade again where he understands it better. He busies himself in the mean time scrubbing up his mansion, gathering peats, and so on: I think, he has got more wit since he came hither, which indeed is beyond all other getting. He has a considerable ingenuity and activity of character; great warmth and even mercy of heart, with all his ‘dibble of a temper’;3 will surely learn more precision of calculation; and (with better times also) do better. His Wife Jenny seems to answer him exactly, is very fond of him; with her and children she may bring, he will feel a man among men, and shift his way, I hope, not unsuccessfully.— By way of postscript I must add here that his losses in stock are not yet done: poor ‘Jolly’ (the Nag Drumwhirn) died two days ago, of inflammation of the lungs. Harry is the only soniped we now have; and grazes with two Cows in our field, a universal favourite.

Jemmy was up at the roup (Monday before Whitsunday), and brought all manner of handsome tidings from Scotsbrig; where indeed Jane and I had been, as we prophecied to you, some ten days before, and found everything better than we expected. Mary was settled in her Cottage (close to the Scotsbrig door), and had it all clean and whitened; and looked quiet and contented, rocking her child; Austen [sic] gives great satisfaction as a Farm-labourer and otherwise: so that, on this side, things were better than could have been expected. Our Mother was kind and spirited as usual; consulted much about you; looked back also with warm but not miserable tears: she was as well as I have seen her for a long time. Our Father also was stirring about, exceedingly emphatic; but they seemed to have more the way of him. Jean and Jenny have rushed up into womanhood. ‘Such be the changes fleeting Time procureth.’ However, all the premises were whitened, cheerful; and the good people seemed as happy in them, as perhaps the lot of this Earth often allows. Of you I still told our Mother there was no ultimate fear: me too she seemed willing to part with for London or elsewhere, seeing there was little more good for me here.

As to ourselves we live the stillest of lives; except that once at Scotsbrig I have not been from home since January. The place has grown positively a beauty since you first saw it; I would desire nothing better could I fly away with the whole premises, and set them down somewhere about Highgate or Pimilico; and there find work. So still, so pure are the air, the foliage, the herbage and everything round us, one might (if Arcadianly given) almost fancy that the yellow buttercups were Asphodel, and the whole scene a portion of Hades—some outskirt of the Elysian portion. We have a dry warm summer, and the very perfection of solitude,—which however is nowise synonymous with Rest. I am dressed again in grey (stuff), and wear your hair-cap, which Jane has retrimmed, and now admires.— What is more to the purpose, I am daily busy with Teufelsdreck, which I calculate on finishing early next month. But like James Brown, ‘I write dreadfully slow.’ It will be one of the strangest volumes ever offered to the English world, whether worth anything is another question. At all events, I determine to finish it, and bring it up to London in my pocket during this very session of Parlt (if I can); and there look round me also, whether there is any habitation fit for me. To spend no other winter, at least not the next, in Craigenputtoch is what we have resolved on: if my honest industry will support me anywhere else. I must move, in fact; for I am getting quite entangled. The loss of time here (in a pecuniary point of view) is incalculable: thus Napier, tho it is said he hears my Paper well spoken of, has never either paid me, or sent the smallest notice about a new undertaking. In London, I should strive to ascertain if I could not be my own Editor. Two or three sufficient Mystics (such will ere long be in Britain) might do wonders.

I have invited Gustave d'Eichthal, who requests a meeting with me in London, to come hither. I am very anxious to see their Publications, and hope M'Knight will get hold of them tomorrow. The ‘Globe seven nos. weekly’ (for that is the sense I put on your wax-covered superscription) would be a great delight here; but I know no method of sending it post, unless you had Government franks: send it out monthly with Fraser's Magazine parcel (include also the Magazines &c) and see that nothing be lost. You must have one of Goethe's Letters, I think; keep it also safe. You did not mention whether Bowring had sent three copies of the Nibelungen; one of them is for Germany, goes with the Seal: also (if possible) the Fraser's Schiller &c[.] Have you got this and the other Fraserean duds? Also can you get a separ[a]ted copy of the English Iphigenie? I want it for Weimar; and if no separate one is to be had must send Taylor's whole Book.—4 By the way, Fraser, I think, has still a little Paper of mine, “Goethe, Schiller and Madame de Staël”:5 request him to return it if it does not suit.——I expected to hear from Fraser about the seal:6 I am ‘quite sure’ the end of July will be dangerously late; and reckon so far as I can yet see that the Package ought to go by Hamburg, where it will be punctually and even thankfully forwarded free of cost. Say to him, I think if he have Eleven subscribers, it were better to compute each at 2 guineas, and order a Seal to that value, forthwith. Too late will be quite fatal.

Hundreds of other things I had to say, my dear Brother, from this side of the house; but must turn now for a moment to yours. What can I advise you? Almost nothing. It is infinitely easier to discover that all your schemes are questionable, than to set you on any hopeful one. It appears to me that you have no heartiness in the busi[ness] of medicine, and would incline to give it up. I lament this (if it be so); for I again declare that to me it seems among the noblest of all human employments: but unless it so seem to you, that of course says nothing. Tell me, however, have you any other outlook? I think not: for with regard to Literature, surely your own Experience has loudly enough declared that by it you cannot live. Flatter not yourself about the disadvantage of ‘writing from hand to mouth’: did not Irving once tell you that, except by Periodicals, money could not be got at all? Here am I writing most deliberately for the last six months; and I know not in the least whether I shall ever even gain the price of my paper. Neither, I think, can you write any truly good Medical Book, till you yourself have tried Medicine. In short, my dear Brother, it would almost give me pleasure to hear that you had quite thrown up writing—for the next five years. At all events, in this I am perfectly decided: You ought to borrow no sixpence upon anything like Literature. I feel this deeply and clearly. Your sole chance that I can see is to form some rational plan of getting employment in your Profession (or anything else, if you dislike that), such a plan as will convince Jeffrey that you have a clear chance of success from it (so far as that you can live), by aid of any reasonable sum,—which sum to borrow from him. You speak of large sums necessary in the country? How is this? I have known men set up in the country with £50; and £200 I think were no bad beginning in many places. But above all my dear Brother, make up your mind to something (for you are quite miserable till then), and stick firmly by it. God grant you light, and courage and patience! Do not think me intolerant: I feel for you thro' my whole heart, and pity you and mourn for you. Make a bold effort and a bold sacrifice, and you must get thro' it. Write soon and fully. God be with you my dear Brother, now and always!—Your affectionate,

T. Carlyle

I am to send you a parcel by a Lieutenant Barker (from Sanquhar, a friend of Jane's, bound for India)7 whom also I will give a Note or Letter for you. You will find him a perfectly amiable man; he was here the other day, and can explain to you this and that. The main part of the Parcel will be Books for Germany. They are to leave Dumfries 8 days hence, and will be with you in some week[s] more.

Your Newspaper has been sent irregularly of late: I try das äusserste [the utmost] to mend it. But the Minister has been sick and not preaching; so we are all at sixes and sevens. Willm Corson is Licenciate, and quite a Bonarges—and great goose, I fear.8— The Andersons have left Stroquhan; and the Indian John Anderson is tenant living there.

Es gibt Mittel gegen ALLES—ALLES.— Wer nicht anspannt dem kann man nicht vorspannen. [There are remedies against everything—everything. He who does not brace up cannot be aided.]— Decide for Employment; for Medicine, were it only as Apothecary's Assistant! I really think, I would. Cast off ‘Literature’: it is wholly a bite [hoax].

My kind love to Badams: is he well again?

I saw Ben Nelson the other week at Dumfries, looking kind as ever, and rather greyer: he inquired kindly for you.— George Johnston I learned is in Liverpool (15. Brownlow Hill), and making a kind of existence out there. His Cheshire scheme did not seem practicable when he came in contact with it.

[JWC's postscript:] My dear John heartily should I wish you good speed if I but saw you fairly started. Meanwhile were it not better “Courage Brother times will mend.” For you I hope and for all of us. God be with you.

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