October 1831-September 1833

The Collected Letters, Volume 6


TC TO ALEXANDER CARLYLE; 14 January 1832; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18320114-TC-AC-01; CL 6:89-93.


4. Ampton Street, Gray's Inn Road, / London, Saturday 14th January 1832—

My Dear Alick,

There is a frank going to Templand, and tho' I am in doubt whether it will carry another sheet, I cannot but determine to try: we will weigh it before it go over to the Advocate's; if under weight, you will get this on Wednesday; if not, I will contrive some other way of transmitting it to you soon. In either case, my own feeling will be gratified; I shall have done what I could to afford you a pleasure.

Several weeks ago I sent you a little Note for the Dumfries Post-Office: this I think you must have got, tho' no answer has yet reached me. The present will be the third Letter for which you are now in my debt. I am getting very desirous to hear from you; what you are doing, and forbearing; how you get on with the preparatives for Catlinns, what you think of it, and of your outlooks generally; how we are likely to find you when we return in Spring. Often does the picture of that lone mansion in the Dunscore wold come before me here; it has a strange almost unearthly character, as it comes before me standing in the lone Night in the wintry Moor, with the tumult of London raging around me, who was once your fellow hermit, and am soon to be a still more solitary hermit. I am wae to think that this, like all other earthly arrangements, is now drawing to its close; we shall wander no more along the Glaisters Hill:1 it is the ugliest of hills, and none of us saw cheerfulness on the face of it, or anything but toil and vexation: nevertheless now when it is all past, how can we be other than sad? Alas, we ourselves are quickly passing; a little while, and no place that now knows us shall know us any more at all forever! Let us strive to obtain a “continuing City”2; for such, by God's goodness, there yet is; appointed for the just man; who (in some to us wholly mysterious way, yet surely as aught is sure) “shall dwell forever with God.” Were it not for some faith in this, I see not how one could endure the tossing and toils of the world: but with this, while it holds steady before us, the very sorrows of our present dream of life, for it is but a dream, are blessings for us. Let us never lament, then; let us stand to it, like brave men; expecting no reward in this world, wishing for none; feeling that to serve our heavenly Taskmaster3 is itself the richest of all rewards.

On the whole, however, I cannot lament that the Puttoch Establishment is broken up. It was one that could hardly ever have come to good; nay had there not been considerable goodness of behaviour on more than one side, it might easily have become a world's wonder. Thank God, none of us accuses the other that he made him miserable! We all did tolerably well; what we suffered has been suffered, and leaves no sting behind it. Neither will I vex myself with the sour prospect which the wilderness now holds out for me, all alone there: I shall have work to do; I shall try to work more steadily than I was wont, and run off more frequently to have a little talk with my Friends in the distance: Often I hope to surprise you at the Catlinns, and smoke a friendly pipe at your hearth. Be a wise man, dear Brother: there is no other want one has in this mad world. Moderate every unruly feeling, of what sort soever in you; quicken every honest faculty of Order, of Diligence; this is what I call resisting the Devil; even in these days, if resisted he must and will flee from us. I can preach only in generals, for I know not what the specialties are: and so here, with a hope and prayer that all may be well, I will terminate my sermon for this time.

Our plans here are getting a little more fixed: I can now give you some faint foreshadow of them. I pride myself that I have never gone half a foot out of my road in search of what are called “prospects”: it is yet and has always been clear to me that I was one whom Promotion was least of all likely to visit. Thank Heaven I know my trade: it is to write truth while I can be kept alive by so doing, and to die writing it when I can no longer be kept alive. So feeling, I look upon all mortals with the friendliest humour; let Kings and Chancellors fight their own battle and all speed to them: let the Devil go his way, and I will go mine. Therefore, after settling my Author-business in London, I will not stay an hour, “waiting at the pool,”4 as some advise me. Now with the Author-business it stands better than we could have expected. My Book, I think, cannot be printed at this time: here is so much certain, and therefore beneficial. Nothing is like to be stirred in till after their Reform Bill; and that may be kept for months yet: too long for us to wait. On the other hand, strangely enough, a new outlook opens: I have well nigh made a bargain with one Dr Lardner (a steady enough Editorial character) for publishing my old History of German Literature;5 in which you know I was so sadly disappointed two years ago. He is to give me fair wages for it, considering all things (£300 for two volumes); and I am to be ready with it about next November. Here is “a job of paving to serve me over the storm”:6 I mean to collect Books for it, and come home and set to work. Nay on all hands more work than I can do streams in on me; Editors of Magazines are urgent enough: my Paper in the Edinr Review7 is printed, I believe, and will be out in a day or two: I am about fastening upon another on Samuel Johnson (to be given to the Editor that behaves himself best);8 then I have some other little trifles: the whole of which will keep me busy till March; by which time I calculate the Books (for the History) may be come to hand: so that we can start for Edinburgh; there see Napier &c, and settle what is to be settled, and so in a week or two more return to Puttoch and our old friends! This is a sketch of our nearest future. The present is nowise very disagreeable to me: on the contrary, there is much in it to give me pleasure and encouragement. Except a little fit of cold, now gone, I have had no worse health than usual: neither, tho' I have found no man in London that could teach me, have I wanted instruction; the very sight of this huge city is instructive and impressive: my raike [raik: journey] hither is perhaps far from lost. I have also great reason to be gratified with my reception here: I am no Lion, not at all; yet a select few seem to respect me very heartily, these are mostly persons who have got instruction from me, and heave [sic: have] learned to love me: no other way of it could please me so well. I also feel totally above the reptile world of Authors here; wholly careless what they do or leave undone; and conscious enough of a possibility to stand in the heaven, while they are crawling in the mud. Let me thank God for it; starvation were a cheap price for such a blessing! On the whole, the world stands related to me very much as I could wish it: I find myself respected by all whose judgement I respect; feared and wondered at by a much greater number; despised, at least openly, by no one. With incessant long-continued exertion, there is much possible for me; I may become a Preacher of the Truth, and so deliver my message in this Earth, the highest that can be entrusted to man.— I write all this; because I know well, you love me, and heartily, as a Brother and Scholar, wish me good speed.

I should now send you some sort of news of what is going on hereabouts; but I have neither time nor space left: at all events there is nothing special astir. People are quite tired of talking about Reform: some 60 Peers are to be created, it is said, and the Bill will pass; and perhaps trade may permanently revive a little; for a time, it almost certainly will. I see great quantities of people here; about whom more when we meet. Do you remember the Schoolmaster Douglas of Inverkeithing?9 I am not certain whether ever he came about Kirkcaldy while you were there. I saw him yesterday, for the second time: he is quite white-headed; otherwise hale and hearty, a fierce radical; works for the Spectator Newspaper.10 The Bullers are here, and very kind: Charles is a promising lad; I gave him my Ms11 Book to read, of which he seemed very proud. Poor Mr Strachey died very suddenly, about two weeks ago: I have not yet seen his amiable widow, whom I sympathize with much. The Cholera seems spreading towards you, not us: let us hope it may not visit any of our walks: at all events, why whimper and tremble? We have but once to die.— Jack rather lingers in writing: I am getting a little impatient; but know that the Posts are very irregular in Italy, so keep myself in quiet. The Scotsbrig Newspaper came today with an “all well”; for which I am very thankful: Tell them to write; and do you also write; for I have been long without news.

[Will you look in the Library (at Puttoch) and in an upper shelf you will find a long row of little red volumes in German called Goethe's Werke.12 There are near 40 of them: but somewhere (I think between the 20 and the 30) there are five volumes wanting: will you specially ascertain which five: that we may get them supplied while here. They are all numbered on the back, so you will have no difficulty.— Alas! Jane tells me they are all locked up: so nothing can be done! We must just have patience.]— I must now have done, my dear Alick: send me all your news; be diligent in business, fervent in spirit.13 Be kind to little Jane Welsh and her Mother; let us find you all in order at our return. Jane who has long been weakly is now decidedly growing strong again: she sends you all her love.— Irving it is said is to lose his Church; but a certain Banker, Drummond one of his Disciples talks of buying it back again. Edward will not go quite mad, but is already very near it.— Adieu, Dear Brother! Be wise, and true and always love me.—

Your affectionate Brother— /

T. Carlyle.