October 1831-September 1833

The Collected Letters, Volume 6


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE; 2 December 1832; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18321202-TC-JAC-01; CL 6:266-274.


Craigenputtoch, 2nd December, 1832.

My Dear Brother,

Two Letters of yours1 are now in my hand unanswered, so that I must delay no moment to get out of debt: had there been an opportunity sooner than Wednesday, I would have seized it. My Letter, of about a month since, must before now have reached you: it was sent off from Ecclefechan, and contained direct accounts of Annandale matters, even autographs from some of the people there. On our return hither, two days afterwards, a Letter from Castellamare was awaiting us; Scotsbrig Jane had come too, and I read it to both the Janes, while Tea was getting ready. After that, tho' I was not without mind to write, a succession of confused impediments came in the way, whereby this is properly the first opportunity I had so that, without specially intending it, the Letter-and-answer plan for this time at least comes in action. You shall hear how we have been situated.— Mrs Welsh, I told you last time, was not well. We had driven over the Moors out of Annandale and seen her as we passed, apparently in rather a better state. But scarcely had sister Jane after a week got conveyed home again, and our Mother got up hither, on pressing invitation, to see us, when a Letter came from Templand with intelligence that poor old Grandfather was much worse, and Mrs Welsh throwing by all her own ailments had started up to watch over him; whereupon my Jane thought it right to set off without delay, and so left my Mother and me by ourselves here. It is needless to fill your sheet with long accounts of comings and goings, of agitations, sorrowing, and confusions: enough to inform you that the old man now lies no more on a sickbed, but in his last home beside his loved ones in the Churchyard of Crawford, where we laid him on Friday gone a week. He had the gentlest death, and had numbered four score years: fond remembrances and a mild long-anticipated sorrow attended him. Man issues from Eternity; walks in a “Time-Element” encompassed by Eternity and again in Eternity disappears. Fearful and wonderful! This only we know, that God is above it, that God made it, and rules it for good.— What change of life this may produce for Mrs Welsh we have not understood yet: most probably, she will retain the house at Templand, and give up the ground and farming establishment; such at least were her wisest plan. But Jane and I hastened off, on the Saturday, to relieve my Mother who was watching here in total loneliness, agitated too with change of servants and so forth, for it was the Martinmas term. We left John Welsh of Liverpool at Templand with his two sons and a friend, and have since heard nothing; we are apprehensive our next news may be that she is again fallen sick. Hereby, my dear Brother, you may see that I could not well write: indeed, it was only three days ago that I could so much as ascertain whether your money remittance had come.— For the rest, receive thankfully the assurance that all continues well. The Cholera, of which I wrote to you, is gone, taking about 500 souls with it, which from a population of 13,000 was, in the space of some four weeks, rather an alarming proportion. The terror of the adjacent people, which was excessive, and indeed disgraceful, has scarcely yet subsided. Happily the Pest did not spread; a few cases occurred in the Galloway villages; elsewhere none, or hardly any: and so it went its way, as mysteriously as it had come. You remember Mary Connell (or Paterson) the little busy creature who kept a bit shop in Ecclefechan: she had removed to Dumfries as washerwoman and was the first person seized, the first also that died. Nobody connected much with us has been taken, many as were exposed. Death, however, in other shapes is as of old busy: James Thomson of Cleughside2 is gone lately; Clow's wife of Land was buried last week. Old Wull Nay too is dead; his poor old Wife bitterly lamented (they said), and “hung by the hearse,”—which for all her loud weeping could not stay. A son of Davie Corrie's, married about a year ago, is also dead: what is this whole Earth but a kind of Golgotha, a scene of Death-Life, where inexorable TIME is producing all and devouring all? Happily there is a HEAVEN round it; otherwise, for me, it were not inhabitable. Courage! Courage! Uns zu verewigen sind wir ja da [We are here to immortalize ourselves].

On the day after we returned from Templand, Jamie came from Scotsbrig; expected the day before, and without Alick, who had proved too busy to come. On Wednesday morning I got our Mother mounted in the gig, and rolled off with her: it was the ‘Martinmas Wednesday,’ and all was confusion at Dumfries; however I got your Letter (of the fourth Novr at Rome) lying there; called also at the Bank, and found £135 ready, for which I took a Bank-receipt that shall be ready for you on your home-coming. I do not need the money at present, and you will need it; therefore much as I rejoice in the spirit you display let it dabey bleiben [lie aside], till we see how times turn. You may by possibility become a monied man, I never; the relation between us, in any case, is already settled.3— To save time, we made no loitering in Dumfries, but were off by 3 o'clock; Jamie too, the cattle being unbuyable for dearness, overtook us (mounted on Macadam) about Collinn; and thus we jogged along over the heights, and (lighting our lamps at Notman's smithy, for I love to be minute) came home very prettily a little after six. Alick came down two hours after, being bound for Annan to seek slate for some sheds he is now busy with. All was well there too; a rough puddle of a place as yet, but wherein there is industry exerting itself, and a sort of rough plenty. He is to be here and see us more at large in some ten days, I have sent him our Boy over to help with the slating, and stay with him thro' winter if it prove of any use. Alick is grown more collected, has lost none of his energy, nor on occasion his biting satire, which however his wife is happily too thick skinned to feel. They will struggle on, I think, and not be defeated. Jamie too goes along satisfactorily, a shrewd sort of fellow; with much gaiety, who sometimes in his laughter-loving moods reminds me slightly of you. No two of the house have such a heart's relish for the ludicrous, tho' we all like it. Mary and her husband behave very decently: it is determined, on all sides, that they are to have some new habitation next Whitsunday, tho' in what sort is not yet apparent; a small farm would please them best, but such are very difficult to be met with worth the price: the competition for “free labour” (this is all that lies in that way of life) is so strong. Our good Mother is in tolerable health and heart: she improved much with us here, the first two weeks, but fell off again for want of exercise and excitement. I am to send her down a (forgotten) bag of Trefoil with a long Letter next Wednesday. She read here about the Persecutions of the Scotch Church, and in some of Knox's writings I had; not even disdaining Fraser's Magazine or the Reviews: she is still very zealous, and predicts black times (with me) for the world. It seemed to her that Lady Clare would be much amazed with your descriptions of Scotch Life, and might learn much from it. From Almacks4 to Ecclefechan is a wide interval; yet strange things come together. Strictly considered the wretched Ecclefechan existence is the more tolerable of the two, for in it there is a preordination of Destiny, and something done, namely muslin woven, and savage bipeds boarded and bedded. Alas, the hand of the Devil lies heavy on all men. But days quite saturated with Antigigmanism are surely coming, and from these better will arise. The completest profoundest of all past and present Antigigmen was Jesus Christ. Let us think of this, for much follows from it.

Coming now home to Craigenputtoch, I have little to report that can be called news; happily however no bad news. We are once more alone in the wilderness, which the wild-howling winter (whom meanwhile we defy with peat and pit-coal) has rendered ugly enough. Jane is not yet by any means what she was; far better, however, than while in London, and still I think recovering. When she specially purposes to write your Letter I do not learn; can say only that she did and does purpose it, but is busied about many things. I have got nothing brought to paper since I wrote last; scarcely anything in any shape done. I fell very accidentally on some Histories and Memoirs about the Scotch Church as hinted; and have that chiefly in my head at present. I could like to try if an excellent little Book might not be written on the matter, were it not that all Bookwriting is for the present in a state of Chaos. My common saying is that Bookselling is on its deathbed; and day after day confirms me. John Murray, for example, I hear yesterday, is “under Curators”;5 Colburn and Bentley have parted company (this is quite certain); none of them have one sixpence to rub on another, but are working (in Wull Brown's phrase) “altogether upon float,” by puffery and other sharpery; to which also the Public is now opening its eyes. One day, if I live, you shall see my Essay on Authors, whom I look upon as the most stupendous characters of this age. They are truly the Church; and peace will never be till they are recognised as such and sanctioned and solemnly obligated to the functions thereof,—say this time two hundred years; in waiting for which all tithe-questions and such like must be poor and trivial, and no Church Reform but only a Church New-creation can be of any avail. Let those look to it whom it concerns. For me, and those that follow me, nothing but toil, scarcity, dispiritment, isolation, is in any case appointed, and by God's grace also perhaps the heart to bear it and subdue it. When I have the vision of all the Gig-fragments in Creation flying never so precipitately into the Nether Firepool, and a world left Gigless (and Gigmanless) what can I do but at most cry: Canny! Canny! [Careful! Careful!] Thither were they all, from the first invention of them, appointed; a quiet journey is all one can wish them. For the rest, politics, especially Radical Politics are an especial weariness to me: Tait[']s radical Magazine I call a sand Magazine, as Fraser's is a mud one, whereof the latter is the less afflicting to me. Tait I certainly consider will decease, tho' his puffing is manful; the leanest, cankerdest of magazines; written, you would say, by creatures that had all got the mange and were suffering under hunger. Destroy! Destroy! that is their whole song; thus do they journey on thro' Sahara Desarts to a Land—of vacuity. Such is the general tone of journalistic opinion, or such is it fast becoming, in this Island: alas, this too was necessary, and we must endure it. Better times are coming, surely coming; cast thou thy bread on the wild agitated waters, thou wilt find it after many days.6 That is enough.— I have sent off the Diderot piece to Cochrane, and expect the Proof-sheets of it soon. I should try next whether I could not write a little piece for Fraser,7 who is very earnest in soliciting, and the best of payers, before we go to Edinburgh. But we are bound thither about the end of this month, and there will be little time for writing: however, we must try. As to our Address in Edinr I can yet specify nothing farther. Another Letter, we hope will still find us here, our address to will be left at the Dumfries Post-Office: however, when you write after receiving this (if you have no farther light), direct to the “care of J. Bradfute Esqr 22 George Square.” On my side I will write immediately after we arrive, before, if there be anything to say; so fancy us well, while you hear nothing. If the Letters take three weeks in coming, as the last did, we must resume the old method, I fear: it shall be as you wish.— At Edinburgh, I expect Books, some conversation with reasonable earnest, or even with unreasonable baseless, men; on the whole, some guidance economical if not spiritual. Sir W. Hamilton is one I hope to get a little good of; of others too whom hitherto I have not personally known. Of my own acceptance with all manner of persons I have reason to speak with all thankfulness, indeed with astonishment. It is little man can do for man; but of that little I am nowise destitute[.] In any case, we will live in our hired house, on our own earned money; and see what the world can show us. I get more earnest, graver not unhappier every day: the whole Creation seems more and more Divine to me, the Natural more and more Supernatural. Out of Goethe, who is my near neighbour, so to speak, there is no writing that speaks to me (mir anspricht [pleases me]) like the Hebrew Scriptures, tho' they lie far remote. Earnestness of Soul was never shown as there. Ernst ist das Leben [Life is serious]; and ever to the last, soul resembles soul.— Here, however, speaking of Goethe, I must tell you that last week, as our Mother and I were passing Sandywell, a little parcel was handed in, which proved to be from Eckermann at Weimar. It made me glad and sad. There was a medal in it, struck by Bovy8 since the Poet's death: Ottilie had sent it me. Then a gilt cream-coloured Essay on Goethe's Practischen Wirksamkeit [practical effectiveness] by one F. von Müller, a Weimar Kunstfreund [patron of the fine arts] and intimate of deceased's, with an inscription on it by him.9 Finally the 3d Heft [Issue] of the 6th Vol. of Kunst und Alterthum [Art and Antiquity], which had partly been in preparation, and now posthumously produced itself; to me a touching kind of sight. Eckermann wrote a very kind Letter, explaining how busy he was with redacting the 15 voll. of Nachgelassenen Schriften [Posthumous Writings]; the titles of all which he gave me. There is a vol of Dichtung u. Wahrheit, and the completion of Faust: these are the most remarkable. I have read Müller's Essay; which is sensible enough; several good things also are in the Heft; towards the last page of which I came upon these words (by Müller speaking of Goethe): Unter den jüngern Britten ziehen Bulwer (?) und Carlyle ihn ganz vorzüglich an, und das schöne reine Naturell des letztern, seine ruhige, zertsinnige [sic] Auffassungsgabe steigern Goethe's Anerkennung bis zur liebevollster Zuneigung.10 This of liebevollste [Z]uneigung [warmest affection] was extremely precious to me: alas, and das alles ist hin [and all this is gone];— Ottilie promises to write, but I think, not.

And now, dear Jack, before closing, let us cast a glance towards Rome. Your two late Letters are very descriptive of your household ways, and give us all much satisfaction. We can figure you far better than before. Continue to send the like. I wish you were well settled for the winter; there seems nothing else to be wished at present. I can understand your relation to your patient to be a delicate one; but you appear to have good insight into it, and to be of the most promising temper: Geradheit, Urtheil und verträglichkeit[uprightness, judgment and good temper], I miss none of these three; they make in all cases a noble mixture. Be of good cheer, in omne paratus [prepared for everything]. You will return home to us a much more productive kind of character than you went; learned, equipped in many ways, with all that is worthy in your character developed into action, or much nearer developement. Be diligent in business, fervent in spirit.11 What is all our Life; and all its ill success or good success, that we should fear it! An Eternity is already around us; Time (wherein is the Disease we name Life)12 will soon be done, and then—!— Let us have our eye on that City that hath foundations!13— God ever bless you dear Brother!— I will add a word tomorrow. T. Carlyle

Monday 3d.— Some time ago I wrote to Badams, Holcroft (for the sake of the address), Mill, and Leigh Hunt. No answer yet; from Badams such hardly expected. Mill writes very diligently, is almost my only channel of news. He reports of Glen, “Little or no alteration.” It is in an element of Radicalism that Mill lives; but he is struggling hard to get out of it: a pure well-intentioned, tolerant wonderfully open soul. Nothing from the Montagus[.] From Jeffrey a silly scrawl.14 C. Buller is said to be sure of Liskeard Borough; he writes in the F. Quarterly Review; reasonably enough, is still idle, and of uncertain promise. Mrs Austin is translating a Book by one Falk about Goethe; Apparently a kind of dud. Mrs Strachey I fancy to be gone to Torquay; a short apologetic Letter from her this spring was our last.15 Ben Nelson has never yet got hither; deterred perhaps by Cholera. “Terawntch'd,” Roby Johnston, seems to have settled in Annan.— By one of the mourners at the Funeral at Crawford16 I had a short Letter from W. Graham: he inquires anxiously about you; expresses disappointmt that he has got no Letter, as promised. He has given his American warning that he will leave him; knows not what he will next do. His address is: Fleming & Hope's, Glasgow. You might write to him, if you had leisure. His two sisters still hold Burnswk; I have not seen them for years; our Mother has latel[y.]

Sir John Leslie is dead: they offered his Professorship to Herschel, and were refused. Who gets it now a mystery.17 Babbage you see is standing for Finsbury as Parliamenteer in the Radical way.18 Moore and Campbell tried a new Magazine “the Metropolitan”: it would not do, and they have dissolved.19

A new portrait of Goethe came also in the Parcel; from the copper of Schwerdtgeburth in Weimar; described as most excellent; far inferior we think it to Stieler's.20— I will keep the last margin for tomorrow. Addio, then.

Tuesday night 4th— It is my birthnight; about two hours ago I completed my seven-and-thirtieth year! “Few and evil,” as the old Patriarch said.21— These last two days I have had a paltry snivelling cold, and two greeting [weeping] eyes. Hat nichts zu bedeuten [It does not matter]; will run off some bad humours have been plaguing me long.— Write soon! Farewell!— And so then, at last, dear Jack, Good Night, and Peace be with thee, and all joy!— T. C.

This Document
Right arrow Similar letters
Right arrow Alert me to new volumes
Right arrow Add to My Carlyle Folder
Right arrow Download to citation manager
Right arrow Purchase a volume of the print edition
Right arrowSubject terms: