October 1831-September 1833

The Collected Letters, Volume 6


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE; 8 January 1833; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18330108-TC-JAC-01; CL 6:287-295.


18. Carlton Street, Stockbridge, Edinburgh / 8th January 1833—

My Dear Brother,

We shall ere long begin to feel some of the disquietude about Post matters, which has hitherto fallen exclusively to your share. It is now six weeks all but a day since we last saw your hand; a longer interval than usual; yet still not so long as to justify uneasiness, more especially considering my own slack performance of late: so, tho' you have now two Letters of mine to answer for, we will keep cheery, hoping the best, and in the meanwhile send you our news (receiving yours or not) while we have opportunity. Well am I assured that whether the Post travel or not, nay whether you write or not, thinking of us, loving us, is a duty you no day fail to discharge: I will also beg you to believe the like of us for your own behoof; and support these irregularities this wide separation with patience: if God will, we shall not always be so far separate. Good days are coming!

It was but last night that we got our household transported hither, by the Thornhill Coach; and as neither Jane nor I slept much, Jane not at all (thanks to the Watchman's care about the hour), I am not in very bright spirits at present: however, I have a vacant forty minutes, and will begin to do a duty, which is always one's best resource. I have yet seen but little of Edinr beyond a few of the Cloth-making shop-keeping sort: I am to go and dine with old Uncle Bradfute (at a precise moment); will therefore reserve all Edinburgh things till the end of my Letter, which will not be accomplished till tomorrow.— I have been once at Scotsbrig since I wrote you (if not twice, for I am dim about my last date); I set off exactly this day gone a week, thro' a world of frost-mist and snow-slush being almost superstitiously determined to see my Mother once more before we went. She was sitting at tea (in the low end-room), and stood silent with amazement to see me there all swimming with slobber [slush] (for she had despaired of me two days before); but soon got me stript of travelling gear, and otherwise lovingly attended to; and then we sat talking the whole night; for the rest of them were all gone to Brand's of Craighouse1 to a Newyear's Party. She looks older, our dear Mother, within these two years; yet her health is still wonderfully tolerable: her spirits, as we can all understand, have been much weighed down, so that her old cheerfulness is gone, perhaps for long; nevertheless the faith she has sustains her from despondency, and the love we all endeavour to show her is most lovingly responded to. She depends much on me, as the eldest; and I feel it as a sacred duty to divide my last fraction of earthly substance or faculty in her cause. One of her very first questions is always: “Hast thou heard anything fra the Doctor?” She speculates greatly about your home-coming; and says if it be the Almighty's good pleasure she shall yet live to meet you. A Letter from you to herself, not so much filled with expressions of feeling, as with minute details about your way of life, purposes, Befinden und Hoffen [condition and hopes] would gratify her much. She often speaks of you with more joy perhaps, not with more love than formerly; and now and then makes us laugh by some such phrase as “when the Doctor was sucking!” The rest were all in their usual heart; Alick (hopping a little with a sprained ancle nearly mended) able to pay his rent, and looking forward with resolution enough, confidence enough. We had a long hithering and thithering on the Wednesday night (for Alick had come down) getting everything finally settled up and course committed to paper between them; I acted as accountant and succeeded without difficulty in making everything straight. Next morning Jamie accompanied me up to Puttoch, then over to Templand; and having seen us once on the Coach, he was to take back the Gig, lock it in its House, leave the key with Peter Austin, and then on Harry ride his ways home to Scotsbrig (one of Peter's sons talked, he said, of accompanying him); and perhaps about this very hour, he may be—the length of Repentance.— Here however I must pause for Bradfute's minute is come! Adieu[.]

9th Wednesday morning.— Dear John, I again give you the top of the morning such as it is. I went along to B's, took my dinner there, and returning about nine o'clock found the street illuminated with a lanthorn, and our old friend the “Porter from Thornhill” busy disloading our 64 stones of luggage, which was all in right order. This and what followed from it occupied the rest of the night. By way of avoiding the watchman my Goody and I retired to the back bedroom; had like however to have made a bad exchange; for the people above about the very same date seemed to have assembled a party of jolly companions who sat laughing drinking and singing to the Cithern till two in the morning, unconscious or careless that two other beings of like passions with themselves were silently or in words cursing every twang of the melody, and desiring nothing more than to have one tier of Napoleon's Pont-Neuf Artillery2 wherewith to blow them all swiftly into infinite space, and so go to sleep. However, it ended, as all things do; and we fared better than expectation. Poor Jane has got her sleep, and now in consequence her headache: tomorrow we can hope she will be up and better. This is not properly a noisy place but the reverse; in a little while we shall learn the train of things, to endure or to avoid, and so do well enough. It is an excellent Floor of its sort; two really dashing Rooms, with three Bedrooms, Kitchen and all etceteras, for £4 a month. We have engaged it for 3 months, that is till the beginning of April. You remember Stockbridge, and a smart street, with large trees growing thro' the pavement, looking into the river (water of Leith), called Dean Street? You just cross the Bridge from Edinburgh, and Dean Street stretches to the left. Now Carlton Street is the first street at right angles to that; our house is the corner one (the corner farthest from the River), and fronts two ways; both beautiful, one of them into a sort of circus or double-crescent, where are such trees that a rookery has established itself in them. So much for our Whereabout, which I know you will take pleasure in figuring. The question: what we expect or intend here? is also not very ill to answer. I expect little; to see some Books, some People; to live for twelve weeks, with eyes and ears open; and wait das Weitere [further developments]. In some days too I shall have my writing desk in order, and compose somewhat; were it only to pay expenses. I have long been very remiss in the matter of writing; indeed have not had so long an interval of reading and idling for above twelve months. But my head is not vacant; neither has that past time been wholly barren,—tho' nearly enough so. I know not what I shall write first; perhaps something for Fraser (who pays best, and is the sweetest to deal with); but you shall hear. Naso I saw yesterday walking along the streets, but kept clear of him—for a day or two. He has but one fault but that one is a thumper: he seems very scarce of money! He only paid that Paper Characteristics, after twice being dunned, some three weeks ago, and then rather sparingly I thought. Another Paper3 he still owes me; but will and must pay it. Cochrane is keeping the Diderot I conjecture for his next Number; that will be some four months hence.4 That is all of my Scriptory Economics I had to tell you. By Heaven's grace, I nowise want merchants (of a sort) for my ware; and can still, even in these days, live. So long as that is granted what more is there to ask. All Gigmanity is of the Devil devilish: let us rather be thankful if we are shut out even from the temptation thereto. It is not want of money or money's worth that I could ever complain of; nay often too it seems to me as if I did best when no praise was given me; and I stood alone between the two Eternities, with my feet on the rock: but what I mourn over is the too frequent obscuration of Faith within me; the kind of exile I must live in from all class of articulate-speaking men; the dimness that reigns over all my practical spheres, the &c &c for there is no end to man's complaining. One thing I have as good as ascertained that Craigenputtoch cannot forever be my place of abode, that it is, at present, and actually, one of the worst abodes for me in the whole wide world. One day I will quit it; either quietly, or like a muirbreak [a heavy fall of rain on moorland]—for I feel well there are things in me to be told which may cause the ears that hear them to tingle! Alles mit Mass und Regel [All with measure and rule, i.e., all with restraint]! As yet I decide on nothing; will nowise desert the whinstone stronghold till I better see some road from it. I could live again in Edinburgh; perhaps still more willingly in London, had I means; my good Wife is ready for all things: so we wait what the days bring forth. Perhaps your place and mode of settlement might do something to determine us: we shall see how it turns. Meanwhile clear enough it is that I, in these very present days, ought to—write some thing true for the Periodicals!

I said I had no Edinr news: I have yet seen only the houses and pavements. The whole place impresses me as something village-like; after the roaring Life-floods of London, it looks all little, secluded, almost quiescent. But again it is very clean, and orderly in comparison; on the whole a desirable place. One thing village-like is the number of known faces I have met on the streets; all old friends, grown a little greyer in the whiskers. I encountered Brewster yesterday, in a-canvassing for the Natural Philosophy Professorship, vacant by the death of Leslie. There seems great doubt whether he will get it. The Tory Town-Council driven desperate and distracted by the figure of the time are bent, as their last act, to make a signal job of this; and put in a certain Forbes, age about 23, never till this moment heard of by any man.5 This seems to be the main article of Bookshop gossip for the time. The elections are over: Jeffrey and one Abercromby6 (a liberal Whig) defeated the Tory wholly, and were chaired with great glory and renown. Jeffrey does not know yet that we are here; otherwise he would be thro', for it is but a stone-cast. They had an election contest at Dumfries too; a monstrous looking joiner's shed which they called a hustings stood erected at the west end of the mid-steeple, and there the people were perorating, one day when I happened to be down. Sharpe prevailed over Hannay;7 pot over kettle: a shallower mortal never travelled so far in such a trade. But so it must be: they that took such as they had never wanted. Buller is returned for Liskeard. The Whigs prevail everywhere: only some five or six perfect Radicals, among whom Cobbet[t] for Oldham. The Tories may drink hemlock when they please, for they are extin[ct] not to be reillumed. As for me, I take no hand in it, speak no word in it, whatsoever; for the whole struggle is poor and small; in thought, I am the deepest radical alive in this island, but allow it to rest there, having ot[her] to do. There will be infinite floods of contentious jargon emitted were the poor men got together; and so they will “Carry on till Loansdeal coom,”8 and then—. I suppose you see the Times still, and know all these things as well as I.

Let me not forget to mention here a Letter I got for you at the Dumfries Post-Office that day of the Hustings. It lay there directed: “Doctor Carlysle, Dumfries” with a postmark “Suisse par Belfort;” I paid for it, on trust that it was either for you or me, and opening it found, in frakturschrift [German type], a “Hochzuverehrender Herr Doktor [Highly esteemed doctor]!” and then a long-winded apologetical declaration that an individual slightly acquainted with you was very desirous that you should procure him some sort of handsome Tutorship in the British dominions, if coupled with travelling so much the better. He was very anxious &c &c; then so and so qualified; furnished indeed with a Professorship at Aarau (in Switzerland, near Berne),9 but the appointments were so gering [inconsiderable], they could not support one in the proper figure; finally he signed himself “C. E. J. Häring” Aarau in der Schweitz 5 Decr 1832. The only article even like news was that a Dr Becherer (so I read it, with whom Herring seems once to have met you as well as at Eichthal's) had died a few months ago at Munich. You had better perhaps write poor Herring a word of answer from Rome; the date itself will tell him all.

We see by the Newspapers that lady Clare and Mr Burrel are still at Rome, at least were lately: you must tell me all your movements and intentions. Your difficulties and disquietudes hide from me no less; such I know you have, for you are on this Earth: ubi homines sunt injuriae sunt [where there are men there are injuries].10 Let us be thankful each of us that he is rich enough to have a Brother; on[e] whose fidelity and love will never fail, let the contentious flesh introduce what superficial Discords it may. I say we should be thankful for such a possession; and try to draw from it what good it will yield, taking deliberately precaution against the evil. Perhaps the Future will be kinder to us both: but is not the Present kind, full of work to do? Write me all things my dear Brother, and fear not that you shall ever want my sympathy. Keep diligent in business, fervent in spirit, serving God: that is the sum of all wisdom.— My Paper is near done; I feel sure I have forgotten much. No news from Irving or of him: the Tongue concern is quite out in this quarter: my poor lost Friend! Lost to me, to the world and to himself.— I found a Letter from Mill lying here for me: it is mostly about Books and Editors: Glen had been in Scotland, and Mill supposed him to have seen us, which he did not. Fraser has been again electioneering; he lost Hythe (for the last time, we hope) by a great majority.11 Brewster tells me he is not rich: if he take no better heed, he may by and by be poor enough. Far from any Answer arriving from Badams and Holcroft, the two Twopenny Letters I had sent them (or Holcroft rather, to whom they were both sent) came back thro' the Dead-letter Office about a month ago, with large post-dues, and notice that H. had “left, not known whither.” The Examiner still comes from him. I know not well what to do now: I think of trying, thro' the office of the Morning Herald, now that a frank might be had.— By the bye, did I tell you that there was to be a new Radical Paper started at Dumfries; Douglas (of the Spectator, and Inverkeithing) to be Editor? He had arrived just two days before we came off; but I saw nothing of him. It is thought the thing cannot succeed—for want of money: there are nothing but a lower sort of writers in it; hungry and contentious: I can only promise them that from Douglas they will get as good as they bring.12 The old Tory Journal is done; Duncan of Ruthwell and some of them are carrying it on—I think, he said in “a kind of religious tone.” Much prosperity attend it.13— And now, alas, dear Jack I am done also, and must close. Jane (whom I have gone to ask) sends you “no word but her kind love,” which is better than nothing. Write soon. God bless you dear John

Ever your true Brother— /

T. Carlyle

I have little time to fill the margins today, and writing without deliberation is equivalent to blank. I write to our Mother on Saturday[;] she will get it “at the Preaching” next day. The man Johnston is gone thence, and they have got a still greater dud in his stead; he even by our Mother's account of him, a dud.14 That business draws rapidly to a consummation. Alas! Nothing will abide, in this world; nothing neither good nor bad.— An Irish Mason (who had been at Scotsbrig slating sheds) told our Mother at Uncle John's one day, that if you staid six months at Rome, “it was as sure as daith” you would come round to his creed—the Popish! Your Mother laughed— I have not written to Grahame yet; but mean it: have you? He sent me some foolish burble of a proposal about the ‘Lord Advocate’ and a Son of Sandy Corries (Corrie's) which I wished to die out first. The people have strange notions about my power with his Lordship, and my disposition to use it.

Lest the last two Letters have miscarried, take this description of them: Both were to Rome; one was sent off from Ecclefechan the day before yours arrived; say, ten weeks ago; the other from Dumfries, perhaps six. I will not fancy that they are lost.

Understand, at any rate, that I got £135,,0,,0 at the Commercial Bank, where it now lies bearing interest for you.— Jamie Austin and Mary have got no farm yet; will probably go to Alick, or continue where they are. They behave themselves very decently, and gain some favour from all—

John Gordon has not called yet; but has been almost frantic in his inquiries about us. Poor John.

And now dear Brother, take, on this last selvage of paper15 my blessing and farewell!— Ever yours heartily— T.C.

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