TC TO HENRY INGLIS; 21 October 1835; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18351021-TC-HI-01; CL 8:233-236.
TC TO HENRY INGLIS
Scotsbrig, Ecclefechan, 21st October, 1835—
My Dear Inglis,
No letter that can come from me in my present mood and position will be worth the reading, much less the paying for: nevertheless I had long ago determined to write to you when I should arrive here; and now something almost like a call of business (tho', alas, on my part only begging business) impels me to do it. In the dullest of all humours, soliciting from the Heavens and the Earth no higher blessedness than to be let alone, I accordingly stir myself up, as it were in spite of the Devil and the Flesh. The probability or even the certainty is, I shall profit by it myself: if you suffer, pray bear it like a Martyr, as you and all men are or ought to be.
Your Letter, your two Letters found us duly at Chelsea; I can still remember the days of their arrival, as a kind of white days. We like always truly well to hear of you, especially from you. There is the image of a brave man, dashing bravely to the right and left of him many a sorry obstacle; “in still defiance,”1 or with brisk good humour, and genial mockery of what is not worth being angry at, “stepping stoutly along.” Forward, forward, in that brave fashion, and ever the more bravely! Another great merit is your evident enduring good-will towards oneself: thanks many for it; long may it live in your heart, long find a lively counterpart in mine! One cannot speak of such things without desecrating them: but surely if there be in this beggarly world anything worth prizing, one knows ever the longer the better what that is.
I have fled hither some three weeks ago out of Din and Confusion grown insupportable; to rest me a little here; to look once again, were it only with the feeling of a révenant (all too ghostlike verily) on the scenes one inhabited when alive. In that Brick Babel, where all goes with such breakneck speed, all from the Cab-driving on the streets to the way of thinking, of existing within doors and within hearts, you grow after a certain length of time to feel as one whirled with inconceivable velocity on an immeasurable whirligig for what purpose you cannot so well see; whereby you, in a fit of desperation (as some I have known do) at length go and fling yourself into the River; or else, which is the milder and surely preferable method,—retire for five weeks into the country; as I have done now. My Wife has her Mother with her; and with more or less patience waits my return. Did you notice on a Newspaper that I hoped “to see you soon”? The truth is, I did calculate on going by sea and Edinburgh, to wait, with you mainly, there one night: but Smacks and Steamboats proved all ineligible; so I fled by Liverpool rather. Literally a flight; for no sleep rested on my eyes; and I felt as if retreating from the Höllische Jagd [devilish hunt], as properly it was. In another fortnight I must be back.
I have been exceedingly busied and bustled in that Babel: apparently to little end. A task I had set myself of writing on the “French Revolution” would not prosper much, met the sorrowfullest mischances, and is yet far from done. A first volume, the fruit of five months hard toil, was lent to a friend, and by him, too carelessly, sent up the chimney, as kindling for fires! This is literally true. The task of re-writing it lasted six months; and was the ugliest I ever had in life, or expect ever to have. It is done, however; and if the Heavens keep me alive six months longer, the rest of the Book shall be done; after which my outlook into the future, as it were terminates. Literature in London is madder than Bedlam: nevertheless true it remains that God made this Universe and not the Devil; wherefore a man ought to possess his soul in peace, if he means peacefully; and hold himself ready for turning to the right hand if his way on the left hand prove all too foul. Pray only that I may be able by and by to send you a copy of the Book! Who knows but it may prove almost a unique in Edinburgh. It seemed more and more as if there were no one but yourself with whom I had any sympathy there, any call for sympathy. One should love his brothers; but finds it easier at some seasons to do it in the cryptophilous2 way, giving or receiving no sign. In London there is much to overlook (if you would keep your temper), but also somewhat to look at and dwell on: in regard to companionship and social position among my fellow men I was never elsewhere so well situated, indeed never elsewhere situated at all. We must take the evil with the good.
But amid these generalities, let me not forget the speciality, “call almost of business,” which brings you in contact with them today. The question is, Do you fortunately wa[nt a] Law-Clerk? Do you know any reputable Law-practitioner that does? There is a young Cousin of mine, of my own name,3 who longs greatly for such a situation; who, I imagine, might really fill it well. He was in an “Office” in these parts, but the Attorney died; and Tom is now in the Sheriff's Establishment at Dumfries, working without wages, for improvement merely. Improvement he does want (being still only nineteen or twenty), but also some frugal means of living. A place in some Edinr Lawyer's Office, if not a W. S.,4 then some inferior kind of man,—would meet all his wishes for a year or two. He is actually a modest, intelligent, very well-conditioned youth this Cousin of mine; of industrious, methodic habits; clear, even penetrating, for his years; likely one might say to make a superior kind of clerk; and, if he live, a superior kind of man. For the rest, owing to circumstances it seems to me as if a more than usual charge of him were laid in my hands: father and mother are gone; he is, apart from his qualities, one of the loneliest young creatures now living.— Alas, I fear you can do nothing in this kind for him: yet it seems my duty to try; if you can, nothing is surer for me than that you will with true readiness. I remain here till the beginning of November (first week probably); after that the address is the old one, which you know.
As it is dubious whether you can even make out the handwriting of this, I will not soil more of the white paper with such work; but let you go. May good be with you and not evil, my Friend! Forget me not while we both pilgrim on this side the Moon. It is a solitary kind of world; yet it is a world; and, I imagine, had a Maker;—as the other also, and all others, will probably be found to have. Farewell and love me!
My Wife would send you a hundred compliments if she were here; that is really a modest computation of it. I fear Mrs Inglis5 has forgotten me; but pray try to put her favourably in mind.— Will you ever come to London? Write, at any rate.— It is grown dark too: adieu once more!