October 1831-September 1833

The Collected Letters, Volume 6


TC TO ALEXANDER CARLYLE; 4 December 1831; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18311204-TC-AC-01; CL 6:59-63.


4. Ampton Street, Mecklenburg Square, / 4th December, 1831—

My Dear Brother,

I received your Letter yesterday, with great pleasure to hear that all was well in Dumfriesshire. Let us not, in the midst of our crosses and losses, which we sometimes reckon vexatious enough, forget to be thankful for this great blessing. While so many kind friends are mercifully spared us, why should we think that the world is quite a stranger land to us, that we are homeless wayfarers there? If wayfarers and strangers, as all men are, we have at least fellow-pilgrims to cheer us by the road, such as all men have not. We hope also that we have a Guide in Heaven; to whom be all gratitude for His Goodness; to whose arrangements let us with all humility submit ourselves!

Had not you specially desired it, I should scarcely have written at present: for I am much hurried, beaten about and everyway stinted of utterance; and as for advising, almost all the light I can give you has already been more than once emitted. However, I know you will expect this Letter on Wednesday; so I take time by the right side; and without prejudice to my tomorrow's task, will not wholly disappoint you. A word of encouragement, and brotherly Good-speed shall not be wanting.

First then as to that farm of Catlinns,1 we are so far happy to hear that you have fixed upon something; and have now an outlook upon which you can considerately direct your efforts. I hope the place is taken at something like a reasonable rent, one at least that your best judgement considers promising: for that is all the length one can go, especially in a time like this. From the circumstance that the Clows2 are willing to embark with you, or altogether relieve you of the enterprise, I infer that such is actually the case. Of the situation of the Farm I have formed to myself some notion; it seems to be at a fit enough distance from our “Native,” and in a desireable enough kind of country: pretty well therefore on that side. William Grahame knows the Farm by sight, and calls it a “coldish kind of farm”; but can give me no idea of the grand question whether at the rent it is cheap or dear. For the rest, I am assured that you will do your very utmost in it; and have insight enough to find out by rigorous consideration what is the best method of procedure, and energy enough to put it diligently in practice. To it, then, with heart and hand! “Lay aside every weight”3 for the life-race you have got to run: this is properly the beginning of your separate life; resolve that wherein you have mistaken you will mistake no more, that wherein you have done right, you will do doubly so. Barren as the world is, my dear Brother, I do not think that you are specially the man to fail first in it. Nay, who knows but by and by the weary time may mend, and so your journey become a little easier. At all events, fear nothing; trust in the Higher Guidance, and walk so as to deserve it. And so God be with you, and prosper you in this and every honest enterprise; that, fortunate or not, you may grow to be a good man, and the pilgrimage thro' this shadow-land of Time lead you well into the country of Eternity: for it is to God that the one as well as the other belongs!— However, I am getting too serious; and must speak a little of matters temporal, tho' the night is Sunday's.

With regard to that Money, then, about which you so vex yourself, let me beg of you once for all to consider it, what it was from the first, as a thing finally settled, and on which nothing more is to be said. The half of the sum you have, or the whole of it, or twice as much, would do nothing permanent for me; and to you it is of importance, as a beginning of Life: therefore, my dear Brother, let me hear nothing more of it; but set yourself agoing with it, and suffer me to enjoy peaceably the small comfort that here for once I have contributed to do my Brother a little good. We will settle up all little matters in Spring; then mark the amount on some paper document, and so have finally done with it. This I must entreat you as a favour not to let me hear of again.— The second thing to be considered, that of your entering into Partnership with Robert Clow4 will therefore of itself fall to the ground. I hope, you have capital enough of your own to stock the Farm with, and begin it fairly; in which I am clear that an independent footing is the best. Robert Clow is a kind of man with whom it were good to have dealings, rather than with most others, a well-doing, prudent and honest man: nevertheless, all Partnerships I think are to be avoided, as the source of discrepancy, and things that seldom or never go smoothly on. Robert will answer excellently well, if he be so disposed, as your ploughman with fixed wages for his labour: but my advice is that in all respects you be your own master, and independent manager, and walk forward on your own legs, or you will never walk comfortably at all.— The third point, that of giving up Catlinns, and taking a smaller farm, will also, I hope, now be of itself settled. That is to say, supposing you have capital enough for your present enterprise, and think it of tolerable promise, why should you look out for another? If indeed you have not capital enough, or otherwise see that you could get a more favourable spot, then of course try for it: but this I calculate will hardly be your case. For my own share, having nothing but the vaguest conjecture to go upon, it were absurd to offer any opinion here. I should somehow have figured you as more at home, had your lot been cast in Dairlaw Hills, or Stennybeck,5 or any of those innerly, known situations: but this is a mere sentimentalism of mine, and worthy of no regard. Let me hope therefore my dear Alick that you see your way a little now; and discover that you have got into no ill-starred plight, but are about to commence progress quite under natural and hopeful circumstances. Set a brave heart to it, enter upon it with a thoughtful serious Confidence; and so as the Spaniards say, “go with God”! I think happier days are beginning for you: at all events, never quit that first of all faiths that if a man be true to himself, nothing can finally overpower him. There is properly no other loss in this world, but the loss of our wits; which indeed overtakes not a few: God grant that we be not of the number! All else shall be welcome.

I have little to tell you of myself; but that little happily not evil. I am but in a dwamish [faint], weakly way here (so far as spiritual health goes), quite out of sorts for writing; and have had a most miserable feckless [spiritless] kind of struggle to get under way with writing. People come in upon me, and all that; then I have no privacy, as I was wont at Puttoch, there to lash myself into a heat: here I must even hobble along spavined as I am. However I persevere, thro' good weather and thro' bad. The thing I am writing is a sort of second Signs of the Times;6 I expect it will perhaps be in the next Number of the Edinburgh: and I hope to have done with it, this day two weeks, when one gladdish man there will be in this city. I shall meddle with nothing more till I have a better workshop. As to Lecturing, the encouragement is small I find; and nothing could be prudently ventured in that way as yet: none but quacks have ever been known to lecture here; so the whole thing has an unpromising aspect to all I speak of it with. In other respects my outlooks are exactly what they were: into Vacuity, into Nothingness. However, I am not without some Faith; some Faith in myself (be God ever thanked for it!); neither does it seem as if this world could be quite dead for me, but I had a thing or two to do there. I believe I could speak too; and shall perhaps one day actually try it; but not till I see what the meaning of it is.— I am again among the Booksellers with my Manuscript: but have yet got nothing fixed; not even my first refusal. You shall hear about it when anything occurs. These are ungainly times; and must be worse, for the like of me, before they can be better. Forward! Forward! Not the quantity of Pleasure we have had, but the quantity of Victory we have gained, of Labour we have overcome: that is the happiness of Life. Let us on, then, in God's name!— I am close on the end of my sheet, dear Brother, and had innumerable things to say. Would I had a frank; but there is none within my reach.— Jane has not been very strong, with colds and what not; but is now better; and ever assiduous, clear and faithful, a very precious little Wifie; any other woman might have gone mad beside me. She likes London, and all my bits of friends, tho some of them are not of the greatest sort of characters; and this City, especially in these months, is damp, raw-frosty and reeky beyond measure. Your very nostrils are filled with soot.— Give our truest wishes to Jenny; be glad and thankful and cheerful towards the little Stranger; and all good and happy!

Ever your affectionate Brother /

T. Carlyle.

Irving has not come near me this month, and I dare not visit his home which is more a Bedlam than a home. He is raging away, and not out of danger, as we evidently see, of landing in the strait waistcoat. God forbid it; turn it otherwise! You will see in the Newspaper by and by that his Congregation are splitting on the point; and it is calculated that in a short time he will be turned out of his Church: this is hardly doubtful. What next is to follow? Unless new light be given him: Field preaching &c &c will follow; and then—

You did well to send word to Scotsbrig: do not neglect it on this occasion either. Say that we are looking for a Letter thence; anxious to hear; that nevertheless I will write again, if anything occur.

Some wretches are “burking” poor stragglers here: three miscreants are to be hanged for that crime tomorrow-morning.7

This is my birth-night; my thirty-sixth! May the worst of our days be over;8 at all events the foolishest!

The cholera begins to be disregarded here, at least the panic is subsiding. There is nothing from Jack; perhaps nothing to be expected for some ten days yet, or more. Write soon, and make the Scotsbrigers write—Monday-Afternoon. My Manuscript, as I expected, refused!9 I make other trials, and care not a rush. I saw by the last Courier that you had been in Lockerby; so did not send it.