October 1831-September 1833

The Collected Letters, Volume 6


TC TO ALEXANDER CARLYLE; 15 October 1831; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18311015-TC-AC-01; CL 6:15-19.


4. Ampton Street, Mecklenburg Square / London, 15th October 1831—

My Dear Brother,

Had our Lord Advocate been in a franking condition of late, or even had I certainly known where you were, that the charge of a Post-letter might with any profit be inflicted on you, I should have written to tell you of our welfare and inquire after yours. As it is, you must be content with this late notice: I am uncertain still whether the poor Advocate (who is very sick) can be personally applied to for a frank: however, one way or another, I will try to get it done. There is a Letter for M'Diarmid about our change of Address: he will put your Letter into the Post-office; and so I hope by your own or M'Knight's1 industry, this will get into your hands on Wednesday.

To get thro' with what can be called business on this occasion, let me first discuss this barbarous Smith's Account2 which you find inclosed here. What you are to do with it will presently (if your own recollection be good) reveal itself. Did you not fully settle with the Smith, for yourself and for me, about a week before Martinmas last year? I remember the man's coming up (it was while our Father was there); I remember also paying you some money on his account (I think some £2 or so); and perfectly understanding myself to be free of the whole concern when I first rode down with Harry after Bretton left us. Jane says, my things and yours were all paid in a lump, and she does not think we ever got any receipt: but most probably (for I believe you keep such things) you may still have one. This is my very strong presumption of the matter; and was, till I saw this strange Account, my quite clear Conviction. So, I think it will still turn out to stand.

But on the other hand, consider whether it was not till Whitsunday merely that you settled at last Martinmas? I imagine, it could hardly be so: for you remember we paid him some £3 in the preceding spring,—that horrid wet Wednesday you and I drove down to Dumfries together.

On the whole, dear Alick, this is all the light I can throw on the matter; and I must just request you to get at the bottom of it yourself, and see to get it settled; hoping it may be one of the last burbles [troubles] we may ever have to unravel in that altogether burbly Dunscore concern.— I must also request you to pay the Dumfries Postmaster sixpence for me, and mark it against me: he I think it must have been that paid so much for a Letter which was forwarded hither; pray ask him and, and [sic] settle with him. And now having done with business, I will talk or tattle with you to the end of the sheet.

You are already aware that Jane arrived safe here; that we have got into new Lodgings, which I may now mention are very quiet and comfortable. My health continues much what it used to be at Craigenputtoch, tolerable enough: the only real ground of complaint is, that I can yet get on with no work. My whole affairs are so scattered hither and thither, the whole environment is so strange: however, I must gird myself up resolutely, and begin “new bode new play.”3 I have two or three Essays on the anvil for Napier's Review; and will be thro' them one way or another. My poor Book, as you have perhaps heard, cannot be printed at present; for this plain reason, all Bookselling is at an end, till once this Reform Bill of theirs be passed. So, after duly vexatious trial, I have locked up my Manuscript here beside me; and mean to let it lie at least till next month before making any farther attempt. So influential even on me are the follies of the noodle Legislators, with their prorogations and their stuff,—all which, it is to be hoped, will one day find their true place and value.

Meanwhile we have plenty of people to see and study: the Montagues, the Irvings, Badamses, Jeffreys; as well as sundry new acquaintances, the number of which must considerably enlarge as the Town gets peopled again in November. A few evenings ago, I saw a Brother of Gustave's4 the French Saint Simonian: a very intelligent youth, no Saint Simonian, but a general seeker after Light; whom I forwarded with some introductions to Edinburgh, whither he was bound, with purpose to see us more at large when he returned. There a[re] various profitable persons here, of whom I shall tell you more, when I have seen into them better.— Of place or promotion, I think, there is little chance for me in London, or anywhere: however, I am still disposed to believe that I ought to lift up my voice among this benighted multitude, in the way of lecturing or otherwise; and may very probably do it, if no better may be, had I ascertained the ground a little better.— A Letter has come this moment inviting me to dine next week with the Editor of the Examiner,5 whom I am rather ambitious to know. I will tell you about him, if he be worth telling about.

Jack went off on Tuesday gone a week, in rather high spirits; wrote me from Dover that he had met his Countess, found all right, and was to sail on Thursday Morning: he would get to Paris about Saturday Night last; so that I shall look for a Letter from him some time next week: he calculated on continuing there for a fortnight or better; I introduced him to the St. Simonians, and otherwise he would have enough to busy himself with. Thrift and fearless rigorous Truth, these were the two precepts I strove to inculcate on him: the latter he had already got pretty well (which so few do) into the way of practicing. We all augur good from his journey, and think it will be the beginning of permanent benefit to him. As a man he is much improved since he left home; and wants little to make him, as I imagine, a most promising Physician. A handsome middle-sized family Bible, a present for you, he left with us; having long kept it for an opportunity: it now graces our mantel-piece; we shall study to take care of it.

Touching Politics I will not trouble you with a word. All is quiet here, but full of apprehension. If they do not get along quickly (which may be doubted) with their new creation of Peers,6 there will be tumult in the land; but perhaps not here first. It is said there is to be a Convention of Reform Delegates congregated here ere long: if it seem needful, very probably I think there may.7 Poor country! Millions in it nigh starving; and for help of them, Talk, Talk, and nothing but Talk!

Now, however, I nestle down out of infinite Space, into one little corner there of; and try to picture for myself some image of your being at the solitary Craig. I hope you and Jenny and your little Jane Welsh8 are all thriving there; and doing whatsoever you feel to be worthy and best, wh[ich] is the only true blessedness. O my dear Brother, keep a watch [on your] footsteps: man walks on the very brink of unfathomable abysses always; if he swerve but a little to the right hand or left, he sinks and is swallowed forever! The good God has hitherto preserved us all in some measure: let us while we live front the world as honest men and as wise, be the rest how it may.

I observed the Dairlaw Hills ad[v]ertised in this weeks Courier.9 Doubtless you are on the outlook after it; and will study to do what is proper. I cannot advise you, or I would. One thing I must long for: to see you once more fixed with a home and employment; now that you have a family, it is doubly important for you, and may be doubly profitable. I trust the little Daughter whom Heaven has sent you may form the beginning of a new epoch in your Life. There is much good in you, and about you: do you faithfully study to bring it out purer and purer. Be humble and meek; we are all too proud, and Pride truly is of the Devil.— I shall be very anxious to know what you do with Dairlaw Hills: the neighbourhood to Scotsbrig is a great recommendation: farming truly is a bad trade; but which trade is better? A man must fight thro' it.

I know not well what to do about your Newspapers. Last week I sent them both to Scotsbrig, the Examiner directed to you; they had been charged strictly to forward them from Scotsbrig, as I thought they had the best opportunity[.] Or would you like to take charge of forwarding the Examiner every Sunday? Tell me, and it shall be as you settle. For, observe, you must take a long (long)10 sheet, and deliberately write us down all your comings and goings. Do this quickly, and consider that it is your duty, and a thing we look for.— If you have any communication with Scotsbrig, say that I will send them word when I get word of Jack. Now write, as I bid you. Jane, who is sewing beside me (it is candle light) sends her best love to you and all your household. Remember us to Betty,11 and to Jane Welsh. Be good, and all good be with you! Farewell, dear Brother!

—T. Carlyle—