October 1831-September 1833

The Collected Letters, Volume 6


TC TO ARCHIBALD GLEN; 5 July 1833; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18330705-TC-AG-01; CL 6:407-409.


Craigenputtoch, Dumfries, 5th July 1833—

My Dear Sir,

The nature of my present inquiry will contrast but too mournfully with that of the one brief interview we had some fifteen months ago, should that, the whole extent of personal acquaintance I can plead, still dwell in your memory. You must excuse me; and be well assured that impertinent curiosity is far from all my thoughts at present.

It is perhaps known to you what friendship I had with your high-minded and unfortunate Brother; I found in him the best-gifted, most energetic, and yet worst directed of all the young men known to me; and viewed him accordingly from the first with quite peculiar interest; which, I believe, he with his passionate heart as warmly repaid. My prophecy of him constantly was that he had fearful sufferings to encounter, perhaps the fearfullest of all, before clearness of mind was possible: but there lay in him such an honesty of will, such a strength and fire, that victory at last, and high results indeed from such victory, was still to be hoped and expected.1 After leaving London I continued to hear from him or at least of him, and he of me, at short intervals; but, on a kind of principle, I refrained from writing to him often; and only in last January addressed a first Letter to him, to declare in words (what I trusted he was well aware of) my unabated interest in him, love for him and hope of him. That Letter still lies in the hand of our mutual Friend2 there, who had lost him then, and could hear nothing but that he was gone to Scotland.

Dr Carlyle, my Brother, returning thro' London about a month ago, had the strictest charges from me, and the greatest desire on his own part (for I believe he was William's chief associate while near him) to search out the matter: his accounts were vague but ominous; I applied to a Friend of Mrs Chrystal's, now in these parts, and in the interim acquired the fatal certainty of what had happened. My Brother John at his landing here had to be informed that his old companion and most valued friend could not now welcome him back.

Need I say how deeply all of us sympathize in this calamity; mourn over the wreckage of that noble soul; over your bereavement too, now left alone as you are. Nevertheless “while there is life there is hope.” Our part, and yours too my young Friend, is not to mourn, but to see whether there is aught that any of us or all of us can do. As the first preliminary, and to satisfy the most natural desire, I must beg a little information from you. It was only yesterday that I ascertained not your address but how a Letter might reach you; I hope you will answer me at your earliest convenience.

John and I have both had the idea of coming off to Glasgow to examine on the spot; it somehow seems to me inconceivable that the sight of my face would not in some measure soothe poor William's agitation; as it was wont to do; that I could not persuade and command him to be well, take him down with me to these solitudes, and soothe him into peace. Alas! Alas! It is first necessary to ascertain whether his Physician admits any one to see him; whether all this is other than the merest castle-in-the-air. Mr Walter Welsh could tell us only that “the Doctors were rather despondent,” that the “bodily sufferings were very great.” Will you, my dear Sir, instruct me, in all respects, how it stands; what the bodily sufferings are; whether the mood of mind is of a gloomy, silent, or of a high and violent sort; whether the Patient is allowed to read Letters, to see friends; could with any hope be taken to the country: all that an anxious solicitude could wish to understand about him, which as yet understands only the sad fact in general.

John at least will come to Glasgow, I think, if it seem feasible on your report: his medical skill I reckon very considerable; perhaps too your Brother might meet him with more freedom.

I shall beg an early answer from you; adding only that in these Moors we have for most part but one post weekly; the Wednesday at Dumfries, which corresponds to your Glasgow Tuesday. Next week indeed there may be an exception.

With the truest sympathy, and still hoping the best,

I remain, / My Dear Sir, / faithfully your's /

Thomas Carlyle—