October 1831-September 1833

The Collected Letters, Volume 6


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE; 20 December 1831; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18311220-TC-JAC-01; CL 6:67-73.


4. Ampton Street, 20th December, 1831—

My Dear Jack,

We received your Letter bearing the eternal “Roma” stamped on the back of it1 exactly eight days ago; and I can now with all deliberation address myself to the welcome task of answering. The name “Roma,” to see it standing as a still living word, looked strange to me; more especially that you should be on the strange spot it indicates: however, all places in this world are wonderful, and the world itself and we in the middle thereof are fearful and wonderful. No doubt my Letter, almost instantaneously on receipt of your Turino one despatched to Florence, is long ago in your hands: it is pity that your Posts should be so ineffectual; and a reason for our making fresh exertion to do the best with them: I will very cheerfully write every three weeks,2 if such turn out to appear the preferable method; at the same time, as there is always something perplexing in cross purposes, I think it were better to see first how long a Letter actually takes to travel, and see whether we cannot by waiting a few days more secure the pleasure not of a Letter only but of an Answer. I will not wait much longer, however; and at all events, write instantaneously when your Letter comes to hand: of that you may feel quite certain.— It was very gratifying to us to learn that all went tolerably well with you, both as Person and as Doctor: continue to wish honestly with your whole heart to act rightly, and you will not go far wrong: no other advice is needed or can be given. Also for your own behoof, continue to keep your eyes open, both on men and things; much valuable insight lies within reach of you. I have never despaired and now I feel more and more certain of one day seeing you a Man; this too in a time like ours, when such a result is of all others the hardest to realize. One has to learn the hard lesson of Martyrdom, and that he has arrived in this Earth not to receive but to give: let him be ready then “to spend and be spent”3 for the God's cause; let him, as he needs must, “set his face like a flint”4 against all Dishonesty and Indolence and Puffery and Quackery and Malice and Delusion, whereof Earth is full; and once for all flatly refuse to do the Devil's work in this which is God's Earth, let the issue be simply what it may. “I must live, Sir,” cry many; to which I answer: “No, Sir; you need not live: if your Body cannot be kept together without selling your Soul, then let the Body fall asunder and the Soul be unsold.”— “All true, Mr Carlyle; BUT”— Unhappy Cowards and Dotards! The word were: “All true, Mr Carlyle; AND”—. In brief, Jack, defy the Devil in all his figures, and spit upon him; he cannot hurt you. I meant to add that your last Letter, tho' evidently of the hurried sort, was very interesting; remember always that in men only do men take interest; chiefly in men dear to them. Go on carefully and copiously with your Journal: if you really gather any light about foreign things, it may one day be very welcome here, as surely it will be highly useful. Our Travel-books are mostly the Duds of Duds.

I have had a Letter from Alick, and yesterday one from Will Brown; and three days before one from Sister Jean at Scotsbrig: all well enough everywhere. Wull Brown, poor slut, writes about some farm he is nigh mad with offering for and getting no answer; he requests me to interfere; so I have this moment finished a Note on his behalf to a certain M.P. here, in whose hands hang the scales of his destiny—“eet-a.”5 Alick has actually got a Farm; a place called Catlinns (near Corrielaw and Sloder Hill in his native region), for which he is to pay £140 yearly: it is thought to be a tolerable and tolerably taken place; and he is proceeding with all spirit. The Clowes had offered to run shares with him: but I dissuaded all copartneries, as he had capital enough himself. He is said to be very fond of his child; he “had been making himself miserable,” he tells me, “about you and your Alps” in some snow-storm they had, early in November. I suppose (this very day),6 at all events, next Wednesday, he may be reading your Letter; for I despatched in some 48 hours, having the opportunity of a frank; and it must have met Jean's Letter on the road. From this last, which is an excellent piece throughout, I quote one sentence, exactly as it stands: “Our Mother has been healthier than usual this winter; but ‘terribly hadden [held] down wi' anxiety’: she told me the other day ‘the first geat [way] she gaed every morning was to London, then to Italy, then to Craigenputtoch, and then into Mary's, and finally began to think them at Hame were maybe no safer than the rest.’ When I asked her what she wished me to say to you, she said she had a thousand things to say if she had you here, ‘and thou may tell them, I'm very little fre' them.’ You are to pray for us all daily while separated from one another, ‘that our ways be in God's keeping.’ You are also to tell the Dr when you write, with her love, that he is to read his Bible carefully, and not to forget that God sees him in whatever land he may be.”— Our Father (to whom I wrote copiously by last frank) had been suffering a little with cold; but was now better: all other persons and interests were in the safe usual way. Let the great Giver of Good be thanked for it!

I must dilate somewhat on our own concerns ‘in this noble city’: and to these, as you get the Times and Galignani,7 I shall chiefly restrict myself. Jane is unfortunately not in the best health; always sickly a little, perhaps in part owing to our miserable soft-winter weather: she is now lying opposite me on the sofa, sewing; better than she has been, and in good heart; true to me, and to the right, even to the utmost; as a good wife ought to be. George Irving, whom we discover to be a mixture of goose and weathercock, has been drawing blood from her; but, she declares, shall no longer practice his Nescience on such a subject. He has at length parted with Agnes, and the Tuckerean feud no longer distresses the world; George himself now “wearing his seven keys on himself.”8 An honourable, ardent kind of creature; out of whom however wird nichts [nothing will come]. Jane I think is recovering, and even now in a tolerable state. For myself I have had such a bout as man never had, at least I never: in getting myself stiddered [steadied, stabilized] here, and actually finishing a kind of Paper for Macvey on Hope and Schlegel; or rather on the subject they handled; for neither of the Books were beside me, and they occupy no more than two paragraphs out of some 30 pages. I called the thing “Characteristics”; and despatched it, according to engagement (with utmost difficulty) by the Saturday Mail Coach: whether Napier will have it or not is uncertain to me; but no matter, or only a secondary one, for the thing has some truth in it, and could find vent elsewhere. If I can find any opportunity (which seems doubtful, for I think there is no Envoy at Rome) I will send you a copy of it; which in any case you will see by and by. It is Teufelsdreckish; and preaches from this text: ‘The healthy know not of their health, but only the sick.’9— As to Teufelsdreck himself, hope has not yet arisen for him; nay rather certainty begins to show itself that he has no hope. Lately I took some earnest counsel with Black on the matter; was by him recommended to one Tilt10 of Fleet-street, ‘as the publishing season had begun better than was expected.’ Tilt got sight of the Book; and as I from the first could have sworn he would, returned it with compliments. I have now given it to Dilke (Cunningham's Athenaeum Dilke,11 an honest kind of creature) to look over and see what he advises: if he advise nothing, I see not that there is anything farther to be attempted here, but tie the Papers up again and take them home. A la bonne heure! [Well and good!] I have also written to Tait, who was applying to me, on other grounds, as you shall hear. We shall do what we can. Glen read the Ms. ‘with infinite satisfaction’; John Mill with fears that ‘the world would take some time to see what meaning was in it’: ‘perhaps all Eternity,’ I answered. For the rest, we have partially made up our minds here; and see the course we have to follow. Preferment there is none to be looked for; living here by Literature is either serving the Devil, or fighting against him at fearful odds; in Lecturing it is also quite clear there could no profitable audience be had as yet when every Lecturer is by nature a quack and tinkling cymbal: so what will remain but to thank God that our whinstone castle is still standing among the mountains; and return thither to work there, till we can make a new sally? We calculate on going round by Edinburgh, where some relations are perhaps to be cleared up or entered upon and then home to meditate on the many wonders we have seen, and consider what lies in them. God be thanked neither my Wife nor I [torn] or capable of being staggered by any fortune that the world can proffer. ‘From the bosom of Eternity shine for us radiant guiding stars.’12 Nay our task is essentially high and glorious and happy: God only give us strength to do it well!— Meanwhile offers in the literary Periodical way come thick enough. Three or four weeks ago Procter wrote to me that E. L. Bulwer13 had ‘some disposition’ to employ me in the New Monthly Magazine, of which he is Editor; and that it ‘would be adviseable for me to call on him’: to which proposal, of course, there could be no answer except mild silence der Inbegriff aller Harmonieen [the essence of all harmonies]. Whereupon in ten days more, the Mystagogue of the Dandiacal Body wrote to me a most bland and euphuistically-flattering Note, soliciting an interview as my ‘admirer.’ I answered that for some days I was too busy to call; but would when I had leisure,—as I yesterday did; and found him from home. I have also looked into his Magazine (since it came to him, two Months ago) and find it polished, sharp and barren; yet not altogether how [empty]: the work as of Gigmen, or rather Gig-boys, and Whig-boys, aiming blindly enough towards something higher: O[A]hndungen einer bessern Zeit [premonitions of a better time]. My business being to see all men, I will in time look towards the ‘Inspired Penman’ once more, and ascertain better what his relation to me really is: I have Articles in my head; but if Naso14 behave himself he shall have the pick of them. Some months ago (besides all this) Tom Holcroft got somebody to join him in purchasing the Old ‘Monthly,’ which he is zealously recruiting for: I gave him a scrap of some Translation from Goethe, the Proof-slips of which have arrived within this very half hour.15 Then again James Fraser, whom I called on yesterday to demand my ‘Goither Schiller & Mad: de Stael’16 back from him, expresses great earnestness that I would write, and offers me 15 guineas a sheet, and actually sends over this ‘Croker's Boswell’ at my heels.17 Last and greatest, Tait of Edinr (as I hinted) says that he is just starting, or thinking to do it, a radical or mystico-radical Magazine, and earnestly desires &c &c I myself have been studying as you partly know, whether a mystico-radical school could not be brought together here, and a Publication begun as their organ: I write to Tait in some measure to that effect; and think probably for the present he will—do nothing. Die Zeit bringt Rosen [Time brings roses].— Thus you see, boy, there is abundance of work, and I, as was said, am in working tune.— For the rest, I continue to see plenty of people: the Bullers are all here (except Arthur) but I have yet seen only Charles (for it is but two days that the old people are near us) and like him well. Glen is here three times a week; a true Orson, who will one day be a Valentine.18 He sends kindest regards to you; is a true man; has actually begun German—last night. Arbuckle whom we like much and hope well of, has been out looking at Banbury & Alesbury; is very cheerful since, and will certainly settle in one or the other of these towns (with his Brother) in a few days. Jane is for knitting him a purse: he inquires after you with an air of real affection. W. Graham is gone back to Glasgow: he has lost the Amern Consulship; but not his good humour: a Letter from you (“Care of Fleming & Hope Glasgow”) would be welcome. I also ferretted out the Spectator Douglas,19 he was here in return yesterday: the old fellow, full of radicalism logic and coarse manners; yet with a solid kind of heart; ever turns an iron face towards Destiny. E. Irving's inspired tongues still continue, and will likely throw him out of his Chapel: however, not quite out of his wits; he will rather at worst turn a Don Quixote; mad only on one side.— O that I had three sheets, and four and twenty hours! I have been often interrupted; once by Mrs Austin (here for the first time, her husband having been long ill); then by Allen,20 who sends you his love. I must conclude, dear Brother. Geh mit Gott [God be with you]! Amen! Ever yours heartily

T. Carlyle

The Advocate is quite well again, was here last night, and comes very often; regularly inquires for you— That paragraph21 was a hoax (as another like it was) put in by his enemies. My sole regret is that I cannot yet pay him his £60; which by God's blessing will not always be the case[.] Badams has not been here for a month: his wife was here one day, and reported him as well; still busy, busy—with the mint and what not: Tom. Holcroft says it was you who saved his life. I fear he still walks in but a kind of middle region. The Cholera continues in the North of England: nobody speaks of it here; the terror of it is a good deal worn off: Typhus fever seems to me a far worse epidemic, and our Board of Health is a Board of Asses-heads. The Reform Bill again in motion, calling itself loudly prosperous[.]22

[JWC's postscript:]

Dear John there is only room to send you my love and blessing—another time we will do better23 and as I hope to get well soon I may have more cheering matter to communicate than at present when life is all sicklied over with the pale cast of stomach.24 I am glad to hear you get on so well— Bless you your affectionate

Jane Carlyle

[TC's second postscript:]

I dine this night in the Temple with one Hayward whom I met at Grey's and a heap of Anglo-Germans they are mostly Cantabs I believe. Adieu dear Brother

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