January 1835-June 1836

The Collected Letters, Volume 8


TC TO ALEXANDER CARLYLE; 27 February 1835; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18350227-TC-AC-01; CL 8:58-64.


Chelsea, 27th Feby, 1835—

My dear Alick,

I think my Annandale Correspondence seems fated to “clash together” in point of time: your Letter seems to have left Ecclefechan the very day mine must have got to hand (for it would arrive there on Saturday); and on the prior occasion, it was the very same thing that happened. Having done my “bit task” tonight, and an hour being still left, I will try to rectify that. Our Mother will soon hear of it from Catlinns; will fulfil her kind promise to me, and all will be in the right train. Her precious little Postscript gave me great satisfaction; and proves (you may tell her) to demonstration that she needs only ruled paper and good will; which last I know she has by her.

The Proverb says, Better a finger off than ay wagging.1 I will not regret that you are done with that glarry [muddy] business of Catlinns; that now the world is all before you where to choose.2 There is a probability that farm-stock will not be much lower, at any rate, about Whitsunday; so your calculation, favourable for the present, may be found to hold good then: and thus with “private capital” rather increased, with health, and a free heart and conscience, you can take the bent [wild grass]3 again. I wish I knew what were really wisest for you. For a wisest thing there indubitably is; only we with our poor eyes cannot always discern it. I, in particular, so far off, so inexperienced in the whole matter, can give you no counsel that has more to recommend it than best intention. You do well to ask counsel of the Heavens, and man's Great Guide there. New enterprises are always best entered on in that solemn feeling of dependence: in various senses that I can see, it is truly written, “He that seeketh findeth.”4— On the whole, however, you are not to take gloomy views, for there is nothing to mourn at, to despond at: a serious cheerfulness; that is the right mood in this as in all cases.

It is my impression that you ought not to meddle again with farms, at least not this year, when the season is spent, and so much is discouraging in that direction. In fact, I rather still incline to Conjecture that Farming is henceforth no good trade in Scotland or Britain; not a better trade than others; a worse than several. We have often talked over that matter: high rents, low prices; a hungry set of Landlords (for I believe they too are sunk in debt), a population which, whatever Newspaper “Prosperities of Trade” and so forth may say, is (and even must be) struggling deeper and deeper into destitution, and inability to purchase anything but Potatoes;—these, with the enormous competition, are fatal circumstances for farming. Farming in America were something,—on your own land! For the Sky is bounteous there as here, and the Sky's bounty is not then whisked away, as by art magic, into hands that have not toiled for it. At the worst I always look to America.5 Perhaps, as to Scottish farming, it is well that you are rid of that.

Nothing else suggests itself to me as so likely for you as going down to Annan. There is always, and must always be, a good deal of trading in grain and farm-produce; in the management of which, a man that can manage it with discretion, punctuality, energy, must find some sort of reward. What degree of reward it is at present, I know not at all, but you do or can learn; and as for your fitness to work in that way, I have always understood it to be very considerable, and that, if you would improve more and more in Punctuality (which is the Soul of all Commerce) it might decidedly become superior, and I know not how much so. But the danger all over Annandale (perhaps less in Annan than elsewhere) is that miserable habit of jaffling [overworking], in all senses of the word: you must guard sternly and continually against that. I have also noticed that you are too sanguine or vehement (which is also a fault of my own), and take in more work than you can accomplish: this is a great enemy to Punctuality (one so often fails, and gets into the habit of failing), an “enemy to verta [virtue]” in general. Lastly the whole breed of us have “a dibble of a temper.”6 These, my dear Brother, are the things to be striven with, to be better and better subdued: it is really my opinion that you were then well qualified for that kind of industry, and might find yourself more at home thereby in Annan than anywhere you have yet been. There are really some trustworthy and regular-working substantial characters there; with whom by degrees you would get into the proper footing, and find it profitable every way. I think they are the best people I know about in our county. The loose, the vague, irregular that have no rule or plan of conducting themselves, (of whom also there are plenty), you will naturally shun: there may be profit away from such; with such it is not possible that profit can be.— Think therefore what you might earn by trading in (say) corn and meal, no farther than you already see and understand such trade. If it would suffice to support you, I think you might go with no hesitation, with alacrity. A house and park (cow's grass, at any rate) cannot cost very much; and with no servant, and a wife faithfully disposed to do the best, and who will learn better and better to do it, you can be far more comfortable than heretofore (with such a set of gillenyers);7 you may live there in a still but assiduously industrious way, putting your hand no farther than the sleeve will let: I think there is a fair prospect, that fitness for your employment would really bring recompense in it; better and better recompense as you grew fitter.— You see, I have it all cut and dry for you, as if I knew it all. But you will not forget that I properly know nothing of it, as it practically, at the moment, is: you will correct my theory where you find it and the reality part company. What says Ben Nelson?8 His advice is worth taking; tho' nobody at bottom can advise one. He will speak what he says with as much conviction as most men: he is one whom I should like extremely to find you got as much intercourse with as circumstances would allow; I have met with very few men in the world of a clearer mind whether as regards understanding or moral character: a well-made man, with more stuff in him than I have known famed men made of; nay not one famed man in five hundred is such as he. Give him my friendliest remembrances; say, if he were not the laziest of correspondents, he might write to me; but must not forget to think of me whether or not.— One other thing I have a kind of notion of: that a house in the town were better than one near it; you lie far readier both for things and for persons, and have advantages in that way greater than at first sight you would fancy. But doubtless you will lay all things together, and make the fittest choice you can. You spoke once of some little patch of a farm; at the Howes,9 for instance: but perhaps it were better if none such offered; I have observed, that two strings to our bow (contrary to the Proverb, in one sense), are apt to be both ill bent, to confuse one another, and prove worse than a single one.— Finally my dear Brother, set your heart bravely to it; with deliberate, cheerful energy: make no league with what is evil; cast out the fault, the sin that you feel to be encumbering you (and make solemn self-examination to that end); take God for your help, and, with humble trust in Him, fear nothing earthly. I send you my blessing and best prayers: and make little doubt but I shall learn that you have resolved on something wise, and are deliberating and resolutely prosecuting it. “Without haste but without rest”: that is the way.

As I apprehend you will not get this at any rate at the Post-Office for a day or two (Newspaper-day being past), I will not seal tonight; but add a few words if I have leisure tomorrow night. There is still so much to say, for I have sent you no account of anything here. It is now past supper-time, Jane has left me, and I say: Good night!— There is a wild blustering wind; which I doubt is wilder at Catlinns—Good night.


29th (at Night).—Dear Alick,—I was prevented putting pen to paper yesternight by a Radical Glasgow Editor, who came bouncing in; one Weir,10 Editor of the Glasgow Argus, among the noisiest, half-daftest, most boisterous (not ill-intentioned) characters I have met with in my life. He is from Dumfries originally; was an Advocate in Edinr, without employment, where I used to see a little of him. He is here looking into the “actual working” of the new Parliament: a most thankless job, I should think. The poor fellow has no kinsman on Earth; lost all his money too, by a bankruptcy: in spite of his rude Radicalism, I cannot but be kindly wae for him and wish him well.— I will finish you out however tonight: a frank may be got tomorrow.

What a wretched hand your poor Laird has made of himself: it is among the most distracted things ever seen; but natural enough; for the poor man had no head (or brain but mere vanity and wind), and without head, one flies strange courses. I doubt it will go ill with him: if his Egyptian helpmate begin to waste his gear for him, the only principle he ever had will break down, and he in desperation may take to drinking for what I see. But perhaps she will not, being now leddy. You cannot help him, nor no man can; but only pity him from afar.11

I may say truly, Clow of Land's liking to Teufelsdröckh is a real satisfaction to me; among the more genuine I have had from that Book.12 That it comes home to an earnest mind, so far away from it in every sense, is proof that there is earnest stuff in it; and should and does please me much more than any flimsy Review-praise it could have got from any Critic now going. I unluckily have not one other copy, or the worthy neighbour should have it: perhaps it may be reprinted as a [B]ook one day, and then (if it be in our time) we may have another chance. I feel pret[ty] much inclined to believe that had it been published in that fashion at first, it might actually h[ave] done. Several persons do more than like it. My last copy was solicited from me (thro' the Bullers) very lat[ely] by a Sir W. Molesworth, a young Squire, of Radical-Utilitarian temper, but solid English material; much to my surprise; for of his whole Philosophy it is subversive. He is the man who has given (to Mill's charge) £2,000 (for he is rich enough) to set agoing that Review of theirs. The first No. of it is coming out soon.—— As for the French Revolution, the worst fault of it is, it gets on so dreadfully slowly. I think otherwise it is better than anything I have done; for it rests upon a truth, upon truths; and if I had done my best with it, I will very cheerfully tumble it forth to let the world do its best or its worst. [Fr]aser has it advertised as “getting ready” in his next Magazine No.

The party we had at the Taylors'13 was most brisk, and the cleverest (best gifted) I have been at for years: Mill, Charles Buller (one of the gayest, highly-sparkling, loveable souls in the world), Repository Fox (who hotches [heaves] and laughs at least), Fonblanque the Examiner Editor,—were the main men. It does one good; tho' I buy it dear, dining so late: towards eight o'clock!— I have also seen Southey the Poet (at another Taylor's,14 where is one of the finest old women ever discovered: a Miss Fenwick from Northumberland):15 Southey is lean as a harrow; dun as a tobacco-spluchan [pouch]; no chin (I mean the smallest), snubbed Roman nose, vehement brown eyes, huge white head of hair; when he rises,—all legs together. We had considerable talk together: he is a man positive in his own Tory Church of England way; well informed, rational; a good man; but perhaps so striking for nothing, as for his excitability and irritability, which I should judge to be preeminent even among Poets. We parted kindly; and might be ready to meet again. He lives at Keswick (in Cumberland there); thinks the world is sinking to ruin, and writes diligently. There are few sensible mortals anywhere: I suppose the best stock of them might be looked for here. We do not see many people; yet enough for our purposes; and could see more. The Bullers are very agreeable; old Charles was down yesterday, and played a Game at Chess with Jane: I like him ever the better were he not so deaf. But on the whole there is nothing I find more profitable than to be left alone with my F. Revolution. “They can do' tha naither ill na' good”! You can fancy me sitting there in the old scribbling way, as you have seen me at Puttock; except that the outrake16 is so inexpressibly different and cheerfuller here: into the very throng of the Sons of Adam and the business they have. The noise long since has become indifferent to me: here at any rate we have no noise; but at night are as still as you.— One final fact I will mention: that we broke into the Catlinns Ham yesterday, and found it genuine, of first rate quality, and mean to eat a fraction of it daily at breakfast.— Jane will write a word of good-will tomorrow: I cannot afford you more than this other half-sheet; which, alas, is done! My “Counsels” seem all what they did to me yet: I shall wait very anxiously how you decide: but indeed you are not called to decide rashly. Good night, my dear Brother! May God guide you, and bless you! My love to little mute Tom, to talking Jean, and to the Mother who lovingly watches them,—and shall make tea for me yet.— I remain ever—Your affect[iona]te Brother—

T. Carlyle

[JWC's postscript:]

My dear Brother I shall fill this corner with a communciation which I know will be highly agreeable to you, and also to James of Scotsbrig, and which I cannot understand how we have both of us omitted to mention so long. Ever since I came to London I have totally declined from smoking nay am run to the opposite extreme in my sentiments toward tobacco. I perfectly abominate the smell, the sight and every thing about it. In all which there is no affectation, and not even a resolution. A bitter puff that I got out of a little black pipe of yours at the Putta gave somehow a new turn to my taste. I never wished for another! How glad I shall be to see you all again—You must impress on little Jane that I am her Aunt and Godmother—and a highly amiable woman in every respect that she may be prepared to be very fond of me when I come; perhaps it might not be ineffecacious to add that I shall also to a certainty have “peppers17 somewhere about me. God Bless you dear Alick and your wife and all that is yours—your affectionate Jane.

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