October 1831-September 1833

The Collected Letters, Volume 6


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE; 22 May 1832; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18320522-TC-JAC-01; CL 6:156-163.


Craigenputtoch, Dumfries, 22nd May, 1832—

My dear Brother,

I was very thankful to hear of your continued welfare at Naples, by the Letter of the 30th April, which our Neighbours here brought us up from Dunscore on Sunday Evening. I take Tuesday, the very next opportunity of answering it.— There is, as usual, a huge mass of Postage concerns to rectify in the first place; for our Correspondence, unhappily flies out not with one thread meeting another thread, but with a whole ravelled fringe of threads meeting (or missing) another ravelled fringe. Let us be thankful, as you say, that there is any post. As to your Letters they seem all to have come: one to me at London, which followed me hither, four or five weeks ago; then our Mother's; then this last. So far well: but with my Letters to you again, it is quite unwell; and I must again write you a long empty waybill, with the sad doubt whether one item of it may yet have come to hand. First, a copy of the Review Article Characteristics, sent off in February by one Stratford Wallis1 an English Painter, to be left with Mr Burrell2 or Lady Clare at Florence, about the beginning of April; there was no Note or word with it, only the address written on the fly-leaf: so, if it be wholly lost, the difference will be trifling. Secondly a Letter perhaps about the 12th of March, directed in the same way to Florence; and forwarded by Willm Fraser thro' the Foreign Office: he told me he had sent it off. Thirdly a Copy of the Fraser's-Magazine Article Croker's Johnson, inclosed by me, with a short Note, under a Cover also directed to the Care of Mr Burrell, and consigned to Fraser who assured me he would send it off instantly by the Foreign Office: it made a weighty-looking Letter, but the private part of it was trifling, written in great haste, perhaps on the 24th of March the day before we left London: if it too be lost, the loss will be insignificant. Fourthly, a Letter despatched from this place, some three weeks ago; likewise under cover to Fraser, who was to inform me if he did not send it off,—as was also stipulated with regard to the Johnson Packet; in neither of which cases has he written. Fifthly and lastly this even now begun Letter, which I determine on sending by the Post, auf gut Gluck [taking a chance]; as it seems to carry from you, quite regularly in a period of some twenty days, why should it not carry to you, in three days more? Allow three days for their cholera fumigations: poor devils, if they had all as little need of fumigating!— But on the whole is it not sad that I must occupy a third part of your whole Letter with writing about writing! And doing so the second time; for all this was punctually written down in my last Letter too! But we will be patient, and hope. Meanwhile blame not your Roman vicegarent: I sent nothing to Rome; nothing anywhither, but what is here mentioned. Also the cream of all the news I sent was simply “nothing singular; much about our usual way, thank you.” Happily this is still the essence of what I write: could I but shoot it thro' space, and reassure your heart from its anxieties!

We are well pleased with your sketches of Naples, with its noisy, empty inmates, its Lazzaroni [beggars] by profession, or only by practice without profession: there is much to be seen, thought of, and remembered in such a scene. Something it is to stand with your own actual feet on a spot distinguished in some particular beyond all others on our Planet. We are also contented with the appearance of your domestic position; and would fain see farther into it, and form a more coherent complete picture of it. Your noble Patient seems to suffer more than we anticipated; a certain real pity for her forlorn fortune, so gorgeous outwardly, within so desolate, comes over me: one would fancy it no despicable task to struggle towards rectifying a Life wherein are such capabilities of good. But, alas, how little can be done! Therein, as in so many other cases, must the Patient minister unto herself.3 He whom Experience has not taught innumerable hard lessons will be wretched at the bottom of Fortune's Cornucopia; and some are so dull at taking up! On the whole, the higher classes of modern Europe, especially of actual England, are here objects of compassion. Be thou compassionate, patiently faithful: leave no means untried, work for thy wages; and it will be well with thee.— Those Herzensergiessungen eines Einsamen [Effusions of a lonely person] which the late Letters abound in, are not singular to me; the spirit that dwells in them is such as I can heartily approve of. It is an earnest mind seeking some place of rest for itself, struggling to get its foot off the quicksand, and fixed on the rock. The only thing I regret or fear is that there should be so much occupation of the mind upon itself. Turn outward; attempt not (the impossibility) to “Know thyself,” but solely to “Know what thou canst work at.”4 This last is a possible knowledge for every creature, and the only profitable one: neither is there any way of attaining it, except trial, the attempt to work. Attempt honestly, the result even if unsuccessful will be infinitely instructive. I can see too, my dear Brother, that you have a great want in your present otherwise so prosperous condition: you have not anything like enough to do. I daresay many a poor riding Apothecary with five times your labour and the fifth part of your income is happier.5 Nevertheless stand to it tightly; every time brings its duty. If your Lady require your services another year, you will have as much money as will set you up handsomely wherever you like to try, and then all things lie before you: meanwhile are you not enjoying the inexpressible deliverance of paying off your debts, and inwardly resolving that no earthly influence will ever again lead you into such bondage?6 It is in this way, if in no other, that “your present state connects itself with your future,” a most favourable and essential connexion. For the rest, as I have said some hundreds of times, it seems to me the most insignificant consideration of all, whether you set yourself down to exercise that noble faculty of Healing, in London or elsewhere, among the higher ranks: or among the lower: among God's immortal creatures, groaning under the fardles of a weary life; it will not fail to be; and if honest, your Doctorship must in any and all situations be a martyrdom; not a working for wages, which latter exist only for the bond Drudge, not for the free Doer. Think of all this, as you are wont; but think of it rather with a practical intent: all speculation is beginningless and endless. Do not let yourself into Grübeln [brooding], even in your present state of partial inaction. I well, infinitely too well, know what Grüblen is: a wretched sink of Darkness, Pain, a paralytic Fascination; cover it up; that is to say, neglect it for some outward piece of Action: go resolutely forward, you will not heed the precipices that gape on the right hand of you, and on the left. In Naples, for example, is there not much that you can do? I speak not of sight-seeing: doubtless you have been or will be at Virgil's Tomb, their Dog-Grotto, Vesuvius, Herculaneum, and what not; and have your eyes open, and your pen going: but there is much more than all this to be seen. There are men at Naples, and their way of Life, their practice in all things, medical, moral, legislative, artistic, economic. Is there no “Count Manso” now, living in your Parthenope?7 Alas, I fear, none! Nevertheless you actually should not be so solitary:8 scrape a talking acquaintance with any one, rather than with none. Some foolish Abbate, or Signor, or even Cicerone might tell you about many things. See to form some practical notion and theorem of the matter; and do not come home (as Alick's mad serving-man said) “with my finger in my mouth, and two men both alike gleg (Klug) [intelligent, quickly perceptive] waiting for me.” Salvator Rosa's9 haunts are close by you: also you must not fail to bring [m]e some authentic intelligence of the wondrous Masaniello;10 gather whatsover you can of him; the village where he dwelt and fished is not far from you. Finally, dear Brother, “be alive” (as my Shrewsbury Coachman told a Methodist Parson): be alive; all is included in that. We will hope to meet you at your return, a man filled with new knowledge, useful and ornamental; and ready then to begin his Mastership with manly effect, his Apprenticeship being honourably concluded.— I remark only fa[r]ther that your anxiety to send that money is an excellent omen in my eyes: I will take good care of the cash when it comes to hand, and dispose of it punctually; and think, it is the first fruits of a Brother's Endeavour, which is henceforth to go on prospering; of which the securing his own Freedom and civil Independence is to be but a small tho' a fundamental and preliminary result. And so God keep you, and me; and make us all helpful and honourable to one another, and “not ashamed to live” (as a voice11 we have often heard was wont to pray), “nor afraid to die.” Amen.

I sent you all the Scotsbrig news in my last letter. I have been there since; only last week, and found them all struggling along, much as of old. Our dear Mother holds out well; is in fair health; not more dispirited than almost any one would be under her bereavement; and peaceful, with a high trust in the great Guide of all. We expect her here in about a week, with Alick, who is bringing me up the Cart, with some sort of Horse he was to buy for me. I was over at his Farm too (which is named Catlinns); a mile from the junction of Corrie and Milk, towards Lockerbie: it is a large mass of rough farm, with some considerable space of good land in it; somewhat bare, and the houses &c in bad order: but is thought to be cheap, by judges. He is toiling at it very hard, looks lean, but otherwise hearty; diligent and prudent. Jenny has given him a queer lively little girl,12 which he is very fond of.— We settled everything at Scotsbrig; the Departed had left it all ready for settlement. Your name or mine (as I had myself requested) is not mentioned in his Will: it was all between my Mother and the other Five. Each had to claim some perhaps £120 (each of the five; our Mother has the Houses with some £28 yearly, during life);13 they are to pay Austin his share when he likes, and the rest continue together, under a clear arrangement with Jamie, as yet extending only to a year. I think they will be able to go on as heretofore: they are not unreasonable; only young; and our Mother is with them. Your letter had given them all great pleasure; their affection is true as steel.

Of ourselves here there is not much new to be said. Jane seemed to grow very greatly better whenever we set foot on her native heath;14 is now not so well again, yet better than in London. I have written two things: a short Funeral Oration on Goethe; it is for Bulwer's Magazine of June (the New Monthly), and pleases the Lady much better than me: then a Paper on certain Corn Law Rhymes for Napier, of some 25 pages; still lying here, but to go off forthwith. I am now beginning a far more extensive Essay on Goethe for the Foreign Q. Review.15 I am apt to be rather stupid; but do the best I can. Venerable, dear Goethe! But we will not speak a word here.— Our Puttoch Establishment is much like what it was: duller a little, since Alick went; but also quieter. Our new Neighbours have nothing to do with us; except little kind offices of business; articulate speech I hear little; no wiser man than William Corson16 visits me; my sole comfort and remedy is Work! Work! Rather an unnatural state; but not to be altered for the present. With many blessings too: a kind, truehearted wife, with whom a true man may share any fortune; fresh air, food and raiment fit for one. The place is even a beautiful place, in its kind; and may serve for a workshop, as well as another. Let us work, then; and be thankful. I expect (after an awful struggle)17 to have this Paper done, before I write again—perhaps. (Turn back) Now excuse my dulness, dear John; Write soon; Love me always; and may God bless you! T. Carlyle.

Of the extraneous friends I had written largely in the last Letter; have heard nothing since. Irving, I think, must be thrown out of his Chapel[.] The London Presbytery had formally condemned him; and in the Police Reports we see a notice of some follower of his being taken up for preaching in the streets, the ‘Revd Gentleman’ himself being represented as holding ‘great field days’ about Islington and the Suburbs.18— Dow of Irongray19 is on his trial; and must this year or next, be ousted.— Of W. Graham, except that he was at Glasgow, and still in the service of that Nott, and well, I got no tidings.

From Edinr nothing: indeed, I have yet hardly written thither. The Badamses, Arbuckle &c were specified last time: B & his Wife as removed into London; Arbuckle as seen in Liverpool: both going on as you can figure. B. sends no word hither of the visit he talked of, and was heartily invited to.— I will describe Puttoch better next time: we are to have a “Boy” for running errands &c; I am in no want of money, and can expect to get along tolerably enough. I have work in abundance.

The Whig Mi[ni]stry is all out and gone to the Devil, Reform Bill and all: the Newspapers will tell you enough.20 For us here it is little more than a matter of amusement. “Wha'ivur's King I'se be soobject.”21 The country is all in a shriek; but will soon compose itself, when it finds that things are—just where they were. Incapable Dilettantes, and Capable Knaves: which is worse?

We have heard of Jeffrey only once, and very briefly. For him I rejoice in this revolution of the wheel.

I think it would be the Bedford Sq: Montague22 that was married, tho' I did not see it. Glen lives “3. Southampton Row,” and will be glad to hear from you. A man one knows not what to think of: still problematical whether his violence will ever become Force; in all matters practical he is the blindest grown up man I ever saw. Eyes turned wholly inward!

Send me the address written out in full: this linsey-wolsey Italian-English is evidently wrong. Your letter goes on to Scotsbrig tonight. Jane is just off with it (and with this) to M'Knight's on Harry. Adieu! All good be with you, dear Brother!

[JWC's postscript:]

My Husband says “I have written the dullest letter Do take the pen and interline it with something lively”! But alas! dear Brother I have dined—on a peppery pie! and judge whether what he requires be possible. Console toi [Console yourself]. I will write you a long letter someday and all out of my own head as the children say. In the mean time believe my affection and heartiest good wishes are with you now and always. You[r] Sister— Jane W C

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