October 1831-September 1833

The Collected Letters, Volume 6


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE; 2 July 1832; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18320702-TC-JAC-01; CL 6:181-187.


Craigenputtoch, Dumfries, 2nd July, 1832—

My Dear Brother,

I went out last night, after a hard day's work, to enjoy the twilight on our Moor-road; a woman came in sight, and I thought she must have a letter from you; as accordingly she had, for tho' she passed without giving it me, I found it lying on the table at my return!1 A happy arrival; for I had been hypochondriacal a little on your account: alas, how much more may you be so, when I had waited just six weeks, you four months! Really, this business of Foreign mails is the most vexatious of its sort: I have written either four or five times without once reaching you, and the last two Letters have taken up my whole first page explaining what was sent, and how. Which latter thing I will not do again; but explain merely that all was directed to Mr Burrell's care at Florence, except the last, which went by post towards Naples, above five weeks ago. I bethink me too that most of the other things were consigned to the Foreign Office; but then thro' William Fraser's hands, who I fear has proved again ‘unfortunate’; so I will try the Advocate with this; and make him do it with emphasis. Would that it were in your hands: for I see you are given to thoughtfulness, and what melancholy possibilities have you! Meanwhile, let us write on: there is nothing else for it. Accordingly, this night (tho' busier than I almost ever was, being hunted by Editors) I have shoved my long sheets aside, and give you another earliest chance. Nay, I have done a good task too (four pages, since six in the morning); so need not grumble, tho' bilious enough. I am writing a long paper for the F. Quarterly Review on Goethe's Works.

First, then, dear Brother, understand that nothing has gone amiss: we are all well, and where we were. I heard from Scotsbrig a week ago (and wrote since), and all was right on that side too. Our Mother was here with us for a fortnight, not quite three weeks ago, and I took her down in the Gig; by Alick's too, in whose Catlinns House and Farm we found all prosperous. He was making a Gate when we came up the brae, but soon threw down his axes, in delight to see us. It is thought he has not changed for the worse, and may do well in the Water of Milk; which he looks like doing, for there is a great improvement in him, and increase not only of gravity but of earnest sense and courage. His little girl is a queer gleg [alert] crowing creature; whom he takes much delight in. Jamie too and the sisters are doing well, and seem to go on judiciously enough together; the farm rather doing well, and a proper enough spirit seeming to pervade all of them. Our good Mother is very serious, almost sad (as she may well be); yet not unhealthy, not altogether heavy of heart: she has her trust on what cannot die. All seem impressed with the necessity of bearing her burden, so far as they may, and I doubt not she feels this. One bright moment she shall have, the night after tomorrow (or next morning rather), when she gets your Letter, the unusual delay of which I accounted for to her by what proved to be the truth, your waiting for news from me. And so much for Annandale; where you see there are, as our Mother piously says, many mercies still allotted us.

As to Craigenputtoch, it is, as formerly, the scene of scribble-scribbling. Jane is in a weakly way still, but I think clearly gathering strength. Her Life beside me constantly writing here is but a dull one: however, she seems to desire no other; has, in many things, pronounced the word Entsagen [Renunciation], and looks with a brave if with no joyful heart into the present and the future. She manages all things: poultry, flowers, bread-loaves; keeps a house still like a bandbox: then reads; or works (as at present) on some Translation from Goethe. I tell her many times there is much for her to do, if she were trained to it: her whole Sex to deliver from the bondage to Frivolity Dollhood and Imbecillity into the freedom of Valour and Womanhood. Our piano is quite out of tune, and little better than a stocking-frame; this is an evil not remediable just yet, so we must want music. We have a Boy-servant named M'Whir, a brisk, wise little fellow, who can scour knives, weed carrot-beds, yoke gigs, trim saddle-horses, go errands, and cart coals: a very factotum of a Boy,—at the rate of one sovereign per semestre. He brings the horses round every favourable morning (Alick and Jamie got me a noble ‘grey mare’ at Longtown) and Jane and I go off riding, for which we have now two roads the Glaisters Hill one being re-made and smoothed, and a Bridge just about built over the Orr.2 Our weather, in these mornings, would hardly do discredit to Italy itself. Furthermore, a huge stack of the blackest Peats was built up for us (by Peter Austin) last week; M'Whir has cleaned the Garden (full of roses now), has hewed down innumerable nettle- and dock -weeds in the ‘new wood’ (where some of the trees are quite high), and is busy this day weeding the ‘hedge’ and the walk. We have had no visits but one of a day from John Welsh of Liverpool, who seemed happy and fished in the Orr. I have work enough, respect more than I deserve; am not without Thoughts from time to time: and so we play our part. Of my Writings this is the list: one often mentioned on Samuel Johnson (a copy of which was sent, but I fear will not reach you), which you will one day read with a little pleasure; a Trauerrede [Funeral oration], also often mentioned, on the Death of Goethe, printed in Bulwer's Magazine, never (yet) paid for, or seen by me in print; a speculative-radical Discussion of some ‘Corn-Law Rhymes’ (bold enough, yet with an innocent smile on its countenance) of which I corrected the Proof (24 pages) the week before last, for Napier; finally this thing I am now at the 30th page of on Goethe's Works, a barocque [sic] incongruous concern, which I am principally anxious to get done with.3 James Fraser is again willing to employ me (tho' at that double rate), the people having praised Johnson. With the Editorial world, in these mad times, I stand at present on quite tolerable footing. I mean to be in Edinburgh some time before very long, and keep matters going. Here too let me mention that I am at no loss for money myself, and have safely received your remittance of £100,4 and written to Alick that I will bring it down with me next time, or send it sooner; to Jeffrey I will write a fit message on the same subject tomorrow, and hope next time I write to give you a satisfactory account of my whole Stewardship. All friends were touched with a kind of wae [sorrowful] joy to see as I said ‘The colour of Jack's money,’ after so many misventures and foiled struggles. Poor Jack will be himself again, in spite of all that; and make the world stand about, stiff as it is, and make a little (straight) pathkin for him. Fear it not. You are already free of debt, and in that the miserablest of all millstones is rolled from off you. I too expect to pay the Advocate his money (perhaps along with yours), then I too shall owe no man anything. Anti-gigmanism is the fixed unalterable Athanasian creed5 of this house; Jane is almost stronger in it (and in Anti-fine-ladyism) than myself: so while the fingers will wag, and the head and heart are uncracked, why should we care? The world is a thing that a man must learn to despise and even to neglect before he can learn to reverence it, and work in it and for it.

Of external persons or news we hear or see little. Mrs Strachey sent an apologetic little Letter to Jane6 the other week: she was just leaving Shooter's Hill, and about settling in Devonshire, I think, at Torquay. She is earnest, sad, but not broken or dispirited. From John Mill I had a kind sheet of news and speculations:7 he was in the habit of visiting Glen (of whom my theory agreed with his), and would continue it, so long as the practice gave the passive party pleasure. Poor Glen! His Mother (Corson tells us here) took to drinking, and broke his Father's heart: who knows what perversion of structure from such misarrangement may have passed over to their son. Mrs. Austin wrote lately that Goethe's last words were Macht die Fensterladen auf, damit ich mehr Licht bekomme [Open the shutters so that I may have more light]! Glorious man! Happy man! I never think of him but with reverence and pride. Jeremy Bentham is dead, and made his body be lectured over in some of their anatomical schools by Southwood Smith, I think.8 You have likely seen this in the papers; also that Sir Walter Scott lies struck with apoplexy, deprived of consciousness, and expected inevitably to die,—at a Hotel in Jermyn Street! He has a son and daughter there too; and dies in an inn: I could almost cry for it.9 O all-devouring Time! O unfathomable Eternity!— Edward Irving is out of his Chapel, and seems to be preaching often in the fields. He has rented Owen's huge ugly Bazaar (they say) in Grey's Inn Road, at 7 guineas a week, and lectures there every morning: Owen the Atheist, and Irving the Gift-of Tongueist time about [by turns]: it is a mad world.10 Who our poor friend's audience are I hear not: it is said, many even of his women have given in. Some of his adherents seem to come before the Police occasionally, when they gather crowds on the street. His Father, worthy old Gavin, was taken away, a few days ago, from sight of these perversities: his decease was mentioned in the last Dumfries Courier.— Electioneering goes on here; in which I take no interest, more than in a better or worse terrier-fight: Reform-Bill-ing is the universal business, not mine. This then ought to satisfy thee, O Doctor, in regard to the item of news.

I will now say a word on Neapolitan matters, and venture on another half-sheet. It agreed with my conjecture that Lady Clare will be for retaining you another year: I think also that, in such case, it will be decidedly your advantage to comply. That recluse speculative life is, no doubt, not the natural one for you: yet that too has its profitableness, if you turn it to profit; and, in any case, the money you earn will be of essential help. We shall all be anxious to know how the business settles itself; but study, as you are doing, to be in utrumque paratus [ready for either event].11 I have not, and have never had, any doubt about your clear ability to do a faithful man's part, in this world, were you once clearly determined on it: with money or without it, a man can never be nonplussed. Meanwhile, it were well to be meditating, with earnest practical sense, on what your future procedure is to be: we hope, you will come over, in the first-place, whenever you return to Britain (ach! wann? [oh! when?]), and see us all here; that we may participate in your schemes, and do our utmost, were it only by good wishes, to forward you therein, Froher Muth in festem Sinn [cheerful courage in a firm mind]!12

I wholly understand your internal contentions, at this period; struggling, Verwerfen [discarding] and Aufnehmen [picking up] that you have. It is a heavy [wei]gh[t] on the shoulders of every true man, specially at this epoch of the world[.] [It is] by Action, however, that we learn, and attain Certainty. The time for [this] with you is coming; be ready for it. You have my deepest Sympathy in thes[e] spiritual trials: nevertheless I see them to be necessary; not till now have you decidedly looked to me as if you were about becoming a man, and finding a manful basis for yourself. I have better hope than ever that it will turn for good.

Your descriptions of the abgeschlossene Gesellschaft [closed society] are very interesting: give us more of them; more and more. When you eat, when you sleep and wake, and all that you do, and how you do it. Your Miss (I forget her name);13 her Ladyship; all that is about you has become important.— I wish you safe back from Vesuvius; tho' I suppose there is no danger. Write all these things down in your Notebook: if it seem worthy, you can make a printed Book of it, one day. Paper and ink should not be spared.— But, alas, here is the wrong-side of my Paper again. All this last half-sheet is the work of a new afternoon (this Tuesday, the 3d); for, last night, the cry of “Supper” came; and I was too wearied to begin again. Today I have not prospered so well with my writing (being worn out, and heavy, and the day very electric): moreover, I have to write Jeffrey his Letter, and our Mother one;14 all before resuming my task, and finishing it.— Heaven grant, my dear Jack, this Letter may soon find you! I declare myself quite sorry for the disappointments the anxieties you must suffer. I will write again whenever any Letter comes: sooner if there be a call; or if the Letter linger too long. Jane sends you her sisterly affection: we hope to see you one day again within these Brother's walls, and take sweet and sour counsel together[.] Alas! when is it to be? However let us not grow impatient. Keep up your heart, my dear Brother; show yourself a valiant man, worthy of the name you bear (for you too bear the name of a brave man); worthy of yourself. Trust in me, love me. God forever bless you!— Your affectionate, T. Carlyle—

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