January 1835-June 1836

The Collected Letters, Volume 8


TC TO ALEXANDER CARLYLE; 1 July 1835; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18350701-TC-AC-01; CL 8:166-168.


Chelsea, 31st June [1 July], 1835—

My Dear Brother,

The frank carries but indifferent news today; and may take this little scrap along with the rest, as proof at least that if I had good news I would willingly let you share in them. We are not to meet so soon as was expected; nay, as you will find by our Mother's Letter, there is even a possibility (which, however, we will disbelieve in, as long as possible) that poor Jack and we are not to meet this year at all. It is very mortifying; but as usual in such cases, we ought rather to feel thankful that it is not worse; that it is not loss of life or limb to any of us; but only a postponement (as we trust it will but be) of what we wished, whereby the fulfilment will be all the joyfuller to us.

I wish I had any good word that I could write for you here, my Boy, to encourage you in your new struggle, which I often picture to myself with interest and anxiety. There is little good going, I think, for many an industrious man, as times are. It is a sore struggle, and poor wages; with little outlook of its mending in our thank [to our advantage]. I said before, I did not like the craft you were driven into in these months; and yet I feel well, it is the only craft you have just now, and that idleness is the worst craft of all. Go on with it, then, my dear Brother, while you must, and hope and look diligently for something better. Go on with it wisely: there is a wise way and a foolish way of doing all things in the world.—— I marked the Advertisement of Longdike Farm in the Newspaper one week:1 but whether you might judge that a speculation of any promise I could not conjecture. It is in the district of country you would like, and I believe a tolerable Farm; but too likely not to be had at a tolerable rent. Doubtless you would hear about it, and judge; and make trial too, if there seemed any feasibility.

To me, I confess, when looking at this country and the perverse state it is in, one of the best refuges, tho' somewhat of a stern one to take, is the one you alluded to in your Letter: America, and “over the water” to—food for one's toil! It is really a great blessing of Heaven that there is land under the sun, where the husbandman's hand will bring him corn for his ploughing; a country which God's sky stretches over, even as here, and where man's perversion has not stept in to say, “Thou that tillest, let another reap!”2 You remember, in old years I used always to dissuade from America; neither am I yet any adviser of it, where extremity has not arrived: but the longer I look and live the less questionable does it seem,—I might say, the more inevitable for thousands and millions of European men. But in the mean time, you must play “hoolly” [slowly, gently]; be canny and patient till you see well what Annan will do for you. There must be many kinds of business going on there, at one season of the year or another; and strange will it be if you are the unfittest of all for all of them! Keep clear-headed clear-hearted; be as cheerful as is possible for you; meeting all men with the look of peace tolerance and even trust: whatsoever is to be seen will shew itself, and you will clutch at it deftly enough if it look suitable. And so God speed you, my dear Alick! Take a pen and write to me what you are about: the mere telling of it over to me will make it plainer to yourself. This hot day (for it is Wednesday)3 I fancy you boiling on the Dumfries Sands there: may you return well, and better than you went! today and all days! It is something that you have a Hearth to return to, and faces that will look brighter when yours shews itself. Poor little Tom! tell him to go on learning to talk rationality till I come; as for the lassie4 she must have grown quite into a “young woman” by this time; bid her keep growing, and be gleg and goodnatured,—or she will have a “dibble of a temper.”5 and be a man's misery some day.— By the by, is “Jodad”?6 living? I saw Jock Forsyth,7 in the Strand, one day; at least I am f[ancyin]g[?] if it was not he: whiskers were all grey, the back bent, clothes verging towards the shabby-genteel; but he was striding along, and there still seemed a deal of life in him.— If you ever see Waugh, remember me to him; Jack also has often sent wishes that way.— I send Mary Newspapers sometimes tho' I do not well know her new address. Will you step over specially, and give her and James and the household our affectionate remembrances. Jane salutes you sisterlike, you and yours. Write. All good be with you dear Brother!— Ever your faithful— T. Carlyle

By the way, as I am your old writing-master, will you let me tell you a thing; or if it was not you that was guilty of it, will you tell it to the Scotsbrig people: In directing (or backing) a Letter there is a certain side you ought begin at: look on this Note, and observe the rule. The “Carlyle” written where the “Annan” is were withershins [topsy-turvy]. Look at the front, and you will see how it lies. Or if you cannot understand this (which is not very intelligible), and [sic: then] look at some old Letters, and find it out!

(a “good advice Brethren”8—not the Apostle Paul's)