October 1831-September 1833

The Collected Letters, Volume 6


TC TO ALEXANDER CARLYLE; 27 January 1833; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18330127-TC-AC-01; CL 6:305-309.


18. Carlton Street, Stockbridge, Edinr / 27th Jany 1833—

My Dear Brother,

I sympathize truly with the painful incident that has befallen you. Your little Son has been lent you but a short while;1 has but as it were opened his eyes on this strange chaos of TIME, and then as if affrighted, shrunk back into ETERNITY, hiding himself from the Sin and woe in which we that are left on Earth must still struggle. There is something infinitely touching in a history so brief and yet so tragic; something infinitely mysterious too: but indeed the longest life is scarcely longer than the shortest if we think of the Eternity that encircles both; and so it is all mysterious, all awful and likewise holy; and our sole wisdom is to bow down before our inscrutable Author, and say heartily in all things, God's will be done. The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away; blessed be the name of the Lord!2—— I have many times pictured to myself that stern awakening you got: “I dinna hear the bairn breathing”! Yet surely as you observe it was a blessed mercy that you found the event to have happened, as it were by the will of Providence alone; and without mischance on your part, which would have rendered the affliction doubly severe. In all our griefs, it is truly said, there is something of mercy mingled. And so we will bid the little Wayfarer whose journey was so short, Farewell: he is but gone whither we too are hastening to follow.—

This winter I can figure you out in your Country home, a little less lonely than the last: your household is more stirring, and you are in a neighbourhood where one likes better to fancy you. I trust firmly still that the change was for your good. Continue to be diligent and prudent, and you have nothing evil to apprehend. The times and the country we live in press heavy on us all: but a certain hope of improvement is still reasonable; nay far better than any hope, a perfect assurance that if our Task be well done (which is always in our own power) all else will be well with us. So let the evil of the day be sufficient for the day:3 what the future may offer we will try to be ready for. Time and Chance, as Solomon long since declared, happen unto all.4

It is pleasant for me to consider you as now once more in a Neighbourhood: I need not counsel to study “as much as in you lies” to live in peace, in good will and sympathy with all men, more especially with those nearest you, whom you have most to do with. It is this mainly of having persons one takes interest in around one's house that makes a House into the far more precious thing, a Home. In all mortals one finds flaws; nay in oneself more than in any other: therefore let us pity and pardon; even the poor creature that wrongs us was sore driven to his shifts, or he would not have wronged us; he too is pitiable and pardonable. By the way, I hope poor Brand5 has got home again, and feels himself recovering. Tell him from me that he ought to sell that great stalking animal; and let it run in some Opposition Coach, where it may do the world some service for its oats: in any other way, it looks as if no good would come of it. Next time you write I hope you will farther have to tell me that your financial reckonings have not disappointed you; but that the Rent is actually all ready, if not paid; and so the Catlinns speculation looking as we all wish it. We will pray always: May the worst of our toils be past! In fine I will ask only one thing: that you would mend that Bridge (down at the old mill): assuredly some one will get a mischief by it, if you do not; at present I cannot think of it without a kind of horror. Mind this, now, and take warning in time.

I have been living here in a curious unsatisfactory half-awake state: the transi[ti]on is so singular from bare solitary moors, with only myself for company, to crowded streets and the converse of men. Both Jane and I, moreover, have been in a feckless [spiritless] sort of state with a dirty sneaking sniftering sort of Cold (now nearly gone), which confuses one's ideas, were there nothing else to do it. I am carrying on a sort of occupation; but not with so much energy as I could desire; still only with the assurance that I shall grow energetic. The people (of whom we see abundance) are all kind and courteous as heart could reasonably wish: nevertheless I feel myself singularly a stranger among them: their notions are not mine; the things they a[re] running the race for are no prizes to me. In politics, especially as here manifested, I take no pleasure at all: the Tories, now happily driven into holes and corners, are quite out of date; all the rest is Whiggery and Reform-Bill-for-ever, a most sandblind feeble sort of concern; a few Radicals of the Henry Hunt6 sort are a still more pitiable set. The men stare at me when I give voice; I listen when they have the word, “with a sigh or a smile.”7 One great benefit I have, and can enjoy without drawback: abundance of Books. I am almost daily in the Advocates' Library, ransacking many things; my appetite sharpened by long abstinence. On the whole, we do well (for this dirty sniftering is about over); and one way or other, generally to profit, the mind is kept full. Edinburgh affects me quite peculiarly after London: it looks all so orderly, so quiet, so little. I incline often to wish we had never left it: yet properly I cherish no regret for what is gone; that too had its worth, its influence on me for good, and lay among the things I had to do. I feel however more and more plainly that Craigenputtoch will absolutely never prove a wholesome abode for me; that I must try to get away from it, the sooner the better: however, there is evidently no immediate prospect of of [sic] such a thing, and in any case, we will do nothing rashly. I privately think sometimes we should not settle upon anything till Jack come home; of which I privately am very glad that there is now a prospect. Dr Irving, Keeper of the Advocates' Library, of whom you have heard me speak, has been talking lately very often about a Professorship at Glasgow,8 which will soon be vacant the present incumbent being very old: this as a thing that will be in the Lord Advocate's gift, our worthy Doctor thinks were the very thing for me. I bite at it with no eagerness: yet have hinted it to Jeffrey, and will not neglect it if it come in my way. We shall see. My own private impression is that I shall never get any promotion in this world; and happy shall I be if Providence enable me only to stand my own friend. That is (or should be) all the prayer I offer to Heaven.—— In Literature all is as dull here as it could possibly be: my old Manuscript9 is lying by me quiet; there is no likelihood of its being printed this winter, for I have not the Cash just ready and it is a thing that can wait. I do not think of vexing my soul with Booksellers about it or any other thing again,—so long as I can help it.— But, alas, dear Alick, my sheet is done. Our Mother has a Letter too, which she will read you; where will be found a little more news. By the way, may I trust that Jamie and you have come to some fixed measures about those Ecclefechan Houses10 and their management; and so relieving our good Mother from anxiety on that score. I know you will do what in you lies: it is well the part of us all.— Jane sends her best wishes to her Namesake, and every one of you. Let us find you all well and thriving in the Month of April!— Write to me soon, and explain all your hopes and cares to me. Bless God that in a too unfriendly world we are not without Friends. Ever, My dear Brother, Yours heartily

T. Carlyle—

I get the Newspaper here pretty late on Tuesday Night; and could send it off next day, if that were of much moment: it will be safer to appoint Friday (at any hour after the Mail has come down) as the day on which you will be sure of it. The Election Dinners are quite dreadfully tiresome.11 I have seen no more of the Times, nor heard nothing of it: I think it very questionable, whether they will get it to do: let them look to it!12

Ever faithfully, /

T. Carlyle—