October 1831-September 1833

The Collected Letters, Volume 6


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE; 31 August 1832; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18320831-TC-JAC-01; CL 6:215-223.


Craigenputtoch, Dumfries, 31st August 1832—

My Dear Brother,

We received your Letter1 on the 22nd; with great satisfaction to learn that you were still well. I write now to be sure of anticipating your departure from Naples; this will probably be my last Letter you will get there. It seems to me also, if you were once settled at Rome, it will be better to give up this overlapping method of Correspondence; and, at the cost of hearing from each other somewhat less frequently, take the common plan of Letter and Answer: there is a certain confused perplexity of thought inseparable from our present practice; and as the Post seems now to do its duty pretty well, if we insist on answering the very day we hear, there may still be a Letter once in the five weeks; which till better times we should put up with. I will follow the directions of your next Letter, whatever they may be, if possible: but I warn you now to make ready for the new arrangement. Your Letters I see are all opened and re-sealed before they arrive: but it makes little difference, since such is the will of the Potentates, poor fellows; we have no Carbonari secrets to treat of; and are quite willing to let any biped or quadruped reign in Italy or out of it so long as he can. Write in your smallest hand, and be very biographical. The last Letter is on to Scotsbrig; and they are reading it perhaps this day.

All is well here, in its old course. My Article-works are all published and away from me; the Goethe, which was the last of them, went off in a printed shape to Catlinns on Wednesday. A certain “De Romanis” is said to sell the F. Q. Review at Rome; but I suppose you will find him blank: the thing can wait; it is a poor fragmentary thing; some of it was put into Teufelsdreck's mouth, and I had a letter from London since asking where Teufelsdreck's great work (Die Kleider) [The Clothes] was to be fallen in with!2 Did I say that the Corn Law Rhymes was printed without the slightest mutilation? So far well: I have now written to Napier to pay me for it, and with the proceeds mean forthwith to clear scores with the Advocate, and sign myself Nemini debens [indebted to no one]. This is one fruit [which] springs from my Labours, and why should I calculate on any other? There are two little Translations of mine off to Fraser; the Mährchen with a commentary; a shorter Piece named Novelle: F. is very complaisant with me; whether he accept or reject these trifles is left with himself. I am a little curious to know what that Florence Parcelkin is; probably Johnson's Biography: I have sent Fraser a hint about his misfortunes, and mean to say more by and by. My next task is a very tedious one, an essay on Diderot, as a preliminary for which I have 25 octavo volumes to read, and only some 8 of them done yet: it will serve me till the end of September, and be worth next to nothing when done. I have engaged for it, and must accomplish it. For the rest, be under no fear lest I overwork myself. Alas, quite the other danger is to be dreaded. I do not neglect walking, riding (as for instance this morning); besides the air here is quite specially bracing and good; I have had a kind of fixed persuasion of late that I was one day to get quite well again, or nearly so; some day, that is, between this and the Greek Calends. Indeed, on the whole, I am full of a sentiment which I name “desperate hope,” and have long been getting fuller: we shall see what will come of it.3 Meanwhile, in my Imprisonment here whether for Life or not, I have bethought me that I ought to get infinitely more reading than I have now means of; and will get it, one way or other, tho' the Dumfries Libraries I have been prying into the rules and state of as yet yield nothing.4 A very large mass of Magazines, Reviews, and such like I have consumed, like smoke, within the last month: gaining, I think, no knowledge, except of the no-knowledge of the writing world. Books produce a strange effect on me here, I swallow them with such unpausing impetuosity, from early morning to late night, and get altogether filled and intoxicated with them. A little talk were wholesome dissipation for me: but it is not to be had; and one can do without it.5 My Janekin, if no great speaker, is the best of listeners; and what she does say is in general real speech and not chatter.

On Monday the 13th of this month, apprehending, with reason, an inroad of Grouse-killers I fled about six in the morning (as it had been previously arranged) into Galloway. I breakfasted with Skirving of Croys, rode thro' Castle-Douglas with its withered “Reform-jubilee” Triumphal Arch (most villages have had such); and about two o'clock was in the parlour of Kirkchrist. The Churches were in high spirits to see me; I remembered with a kind of shudder that it was nine years since you and I went thither on my last previous visit. The old people are hardly changed; look healthy and prosperous; all was trim about them, flourishing crops, and the hope of Harvest just about to begin realizing itself. Great change in the younger parties: two female infants become rather interesting young ladies; John, whom I remembered in bib and tucker shot up to six feet and more, a talking, prompt rather promising young man, intended for the factor line. I could not but reflect, as I have done more than once of late, how small a proportion of mere intellect will serve a man's turn, if all the rest be right: John Church, as I said, promises well; James, at Calcutta, is doing admirably well; and their heads are both of the smallest. Many kind inquiries from all sides were made for you, and kind remembrances sent: Church was full of Herculaneum, and will question you strictly when he gets you. His old Father departed last winter; mildly, and full of years. Isaac Davidson is home from India in poor health and not content with his lot: I did not see him, he was in Edinburgh. Poor Donaldson the Schoolmaster, my old comrade in Kirkcaldy, has had to put away his wife for the sin of drunkenness, and was a saddish kind of sight to me. I called on old Gordon (John's father); terrified him much, but found him a very worthy and sensible man. Finally on thursday morning I departed for Girthon; breakfasted with Jeffrey (whom I found turned into a Radical), and by rough ways and over deep rivers reached home that evening about six.6 Galloway was beautiful, all green and orange, under the clear mellow sky: I had glanced into a peopled country, seen old friends, and not wholly wasted my time. Jeffrey, I must add too, was special in his inquiries about your welfare; your situation he had already ascertained (from “Blind Robie” the Fiddler, if from no other): he expressed great gratitude for your help of him in German, wherein he was again stuck fast for want of Books; I agreed to supply him in that matter, and we were to institute a regular exchange of Books by our Carriers, he to begin, which however he has not yet done. So endeth this episode.

From Annandale I hear good news and nothing else three days ago. They are all well; our Mother “rather better than usual”; Jamie had begun his harvest (the crops excellent, the weather rather damp)[.] Alick's house had been unroofed (just at the wrong time, for wet); but by his arrangements the slate would soon be on, and all rain-drops defied for the future. I have heard from himself several times since I wrote to you: he gets the Courier Newspaper from us weekly, our Mother the Examiner, of which she is exceedingly fond. In respect of this latter, your punctuality is now and then desiderated: Tom Holcroft, who sends it us, misses about one in the month; and I suppose cannot help it. I have just written to Mill inquiring whether he can form no other arrangement for us. Holcroft has never written, and I hear not a word about him or Badams or any one von diesem Geschlechte [of this group]. Badams's address even is not rightly known to me. Neither has the “noble lady” ever written; tho' she was written to months ago: perhaps I should rather honour her for this omission or forbearance; Jane and I had evidently become hateful to all that diabolic household, and on our own side quite satisfied not to say sated of it; nevertheless the noble lady, quick as a lynx to see this, stood by us faithfully and acted with friendliest regard and even reverence to the very last. Now perhaps, she thinks such effort superfluous, and so do we: her feeling we know is kindly, and can be translated into no action of importance. Poor old Montague seemed wearied out and failing; Badams used to say he would not last long. Procter is an innocent kind of body; but not undeserving the name our little lady here used to give him: “that Dud.” A more entire Dud it would perhaps be difficult to find in the Poetical or Periodical world. Mrs P. is honest, keen shallow and waspish: God mend them and us! We can do them “neither ill na' good.”— My British news are now nearly written: I need not trouble you with Reform-bill rejoicings and then, alas, with the electioneerings: it is here that the Reform-bill comes to the test: set the Angel Gabriel to elect a Parliament, how shall he succeed when there is none to elect! E.g. David Hannay and Matthew Shar[pe] with Sir John Malcom, a Tory, to mend them!7 However, a new generation will arise, and then. The Advoca[te] I find is at Edinr canvassing, and will succeed, tho' the whole country (that had much hope in him) have been disappointed. They say, he will be made a Judge when any vacancy occurs, and be set free of Politics: it were a happy change.— Of Glen we hear nothing, and reckon it creditable that he does not write: I fancied I saw in Fraser's Magazine a thing of his on Miss Fanny Kemble; full of sound and fury, not without a kind of aimless strength. I have prophecied, in opposition to all people, that something would come of Glen; but in the meantime must admit him to be as near as possible derawntched [deranged]. His Father and Mother are well remembered here; unfortunate, not worthless people; they are said to have “died of drinking”; at any rate, of broken heart! Poor Glen has much from Nature and from Accident to struggle with; yet I still hope he will prevail.— Of Edward Irving I hear nothing except thro' the Newspapers; last week it was said they had taken a large House (now used as an Exhibition establishment) in Newman Street, Oxford St., and were to put a gallery in it, and were to preach and shriek there. He has published three Papers in Fraser on his Tongues;8 I read the last yesternight, and really wondered over it: he says, he cannot believe that God, whom they had so prayed to &c would cheat them! Neither can I. Oh my poor Friend Irving! to what base uses may we come.9—— But you have enough of this: I must now turn for a moment to Naples.

We have every reason to be satisfied with the accounts you send us; all seems moving as it ought, or nearly so. If you be spared to come back to us, you will have means of settling yourself where you see fittest, above all you will have inward means; we shall find you, I can well perceive, a new man in many things. All right: only do not turn yourself inwards; man may doubt as he will, but the great fact remains: HE IS HERE, and “not to ask questions, but to do work.” Kein Grübeln! N'écoute toi! Cor ne edito! [No brooding! Do not be wrapped up in your own thoughts! Do not eat out your heart!]10 Do not come back from Italy, as if you had been living in a well; speak with all people, no mortal but has something to tell, could you once get him to speak truth: Continue to mind your duties; to write in your Journal; to see and to do with utmost possible Freedom. I write these things in the shape of precept; but I know they might as well be put down like commendations and encouragements; for you already practice and in great part accomplish them. Do it more and more. I am glad you like Naples, and find it strange and notable: had I one Oriental wishing-carpet, I were soon beside you, nothing it too. Gell has proved a little worse than I expected, not much worse. Do you speak Italian perfectly? The three Doctors would be a treat to you; as (surely) might many other characters in that exotic world. As for the English, once knowing them to be non-entities, you do right to heed them no more; their whole secret is already understood: not so with Italians; even non-entities and simulacra (who as Fichte said, gar nicht existiren. [exist not at all]) of the human sort are worth studying, till you see how they are painted and made up.11 But in any case, you are not without society; your own Countess can tell you innumerable things; you see there, what multitudes are so anxious to see, an epitome of English fashionable Life, and both for theory and practice may learn much from it. Tell me more about the inside of your household; what you talk of, what you read, what you do; describe all your “household epochs” till I can figure them. Who is “Mr Mills”?12 A neighbour traveller, or what? Did you ever see Thorvaldsen13 at Rome? Have you met any Italian man of a literary cast, any of a thinking character, literary or not? Is there any “Count Manso” now in Naples; Milton's friend and Tasso's!14 Is the blood of Saint January still in existence; did you see it thaw?15 Where does Carlo Botta16 live, the Historian? What of Manzoni?17 Or are all these Lombards, and unknown in your country? I could ask questions without end.— Finally, dear Jack, be of good heart; for better things are in store for thee. There is a task for every mortal in this world of the Almighty's; for thee there is one greater than for most. Let us stand to our work, full of “desperate hope”! There is, on the whole, nothing to be afraid of: “he that has looked Death in the face will start at no Shadows.”18 Come home to us, when the time arrives, to us that love you: many hearts will give you welcome; and rejoice to see you in the way of welldoing. Our dear Mother you must again consider as mute against her will; wishing and meaning to say many things, but unable. So for the rest you know the affection of them all.— Jane here will not send compliments, scarcely even kind regards: “she meant to write the whole Letter herself, but did not know there was such a hurry, and now I have done it!”— Patience! there is a good time coming. The good wifie is already very much improved in health (tho' troubled with a little cold for the last week); and imputes her cure to no medicine so much as an invaluable threefold (trefoil) which grows in the Bogs here, and makes a most excellent bitter infusion. Our Mother also is to have some of it. I too have tried it, and find it a praiseworthy pharmacy[.] Adieu till the top of the leaf!— T. C.

Ben Nelson has never come up yet, nor do I know when he will. I saw in the Papers a little Speechie of his at their Reform Jubilation; where also Tom Graham was making a figure.19 They say, Tom has lost his health “by dissipation.” I lent Ben some Books, and have heard no more of him. Of Graham20 there is still no word: I suppose him to be in Glasgow, attending to his Dr Nott. Irving the Parliamenteer (of Burnfoot) has had a piece of work in Lancashire; at a place called Clitheroe he went to canvas[s]; was mobbed, and driven out; returned with soldiers, had a new riot, and cutting enough; they said, at first, 8 lives were lost: I know not certainly how many, or whether any.21 Cholera is spreading, is at Carlisle, at Ayr, at Glasgow; has hardly yet been in our County, at least only as imported. It is all over Cumberland[.] “Four Carriers, one of them from Thornhill, breakfasted together at Glasgow, and all died on the way home”: the Thornhill one did, we know. It has gone back to Sunderland & Newcastle. Medical men can do nothing, except frighten those that are frightable. The mortality, after all is nowise so great as in Typhus fever is seen every year: but men are by nature blockheads, and common Death is not Death[.]

Your grey hair-cap has been of great service; and is not yet quite done. I often think you must endeavour to get me another of the same. I am also like to be very ill off for warm leggings, and wish I had a pair of the old Vienna sort. Do you ever buy any Books?

They are building a bridge over the Ecclefechan burn down to opposite “our entry-mouth.” The mail-road is already shifted, and runs up the western back of the Village, and over the Hags by a long artificial cut-and-banked course. Of the people there I know or have long seen nothing. Many are dead.

Professor Wilson is at sea, cruising in the German Ocean, with Basil Hall; a pleasure-cruise:22 he has been loud in the political way.

I am now fairly at the end, and give you with true heart my brotherly farewell. A Dieu!——— T. Carlyle

Gedenke zu leben [Think to live]!23

Il volto sciolto i pensieri stretti24

Geradheit, Arbeit, und Verträglichkeit. [Uprightness, Work, and Geniality.]25

νυξ ερχεται [sic: the night cometh].26

Vale et me ama [Farewell and love me]!

This is the end.

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