October 1831-September 1833

The Collected Letters, Volume 6


TC TO ALEXANDER CARLYLE; 12 August 1832; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18320812-TC-AC-01; CL 6:200-201.


Craigenputtock, 12th August 1832.

My dear Brother—

I am just in the bustle of setting out to avoid the dirty “Gunnerbodies”;1 and having many things to prepare and adjust, cannot write you more than a line. We had determined on a drive to Kirkchrist;2 Jane to go with me, if she could: I wrote the people to that effect; and now Jane not being able to go with me, I must go myself,—most reluctantly, now when it has come to the point! Indeed, I think I would willingly give a couple of guineas, had I liberty to stay quietly at home, and follow my affairs. These wretched Devil's-servants of Gunners! However, I shall try to get round them another year. Meanwhile, this journey, as in spite of all my reluctance I inwardly feel, will do me good. …3

I have not been idle, at least not at ease, since we parted; yet the quantity of work done is very small. I have packed off two little (mostly translated) pieces for Magazine Fraser; this is all I have yet got quit of. Another thing or two are on the anvil; but in a very rough state. I must not look Annandale in the face till I have done at least one of them. You will hear before then. I have now and then enough ado to keep myself stiffly at work: as you know well, however, there is no other course for one in this lone Desert; where if a man did not work, he might so easily run mad. When vapours of solitude, and longings after the cheerful face of my fellow-man are gathering round me, I dash them off, and the first lusty swing of Industry scatters them away, as Cock-crowing does spectres of the Night. Let not a living man complain! His little Life is given him for the sake of an Eternity: let him stand to it honestly; all else is quite unimportant to him. This time fifty years, as I have often said to myself, the question will not be, Wert thou joyful or sorrowful? but, Wert thou true or wert thou false? Was thy little task faithfully done, or faithlessly? So we will move along; and fear no man, and no devil—but the one within us, which also we will to the last war with.

I believe myself to be getting yearly by some hardly perceptible degree stronger in health, both inward and outward: perhaps, one day, I may triumph over long disease, and be myself again! Still I know, healthy or sick, conquering or conquered, the Son of Adam has no blessedness to look for but honest toil (which will never be joyous but grievous): let him toil at the thing beside him, and bless Heaven that he has hands and a head!—

I have written more than I purposed; and time presses: it is nine o'clock, and I have to be off in the morning about six (to breakfast with Skirving4), and much is yet to arrange.— Jane has in general been very fast improving since you saw her, tho' she complains at present.— I had Peter Austin & Son cutting trees one afternoon: they got some four score I suppose; out of which you may choose when you come. Peter says, they should be peeled: will you instruct the Boy about it, and tell him what sort of tool to get, and where to get it: I suppose some old chisel or the like; but there is nothing of the sort here.— I hope you have got the Bogs well cleared, and that we shall find you among innumerable Corny Stooks.5 Is the House settled about; is there anything to be done in it?— Tell our dear Mother that I will write to her, most probably on Wednesday week: they can ask then at lea[s]t. Tell me when you saw them last. Our united best wishes to Jenny and little Janekin. I remain ever, My dear Alick—— Your affectionate——

T. Carlyle—