January 1835-June 1836

The Collected Letters, Volume 8


TC TO ALEXANDER CARLYLE; 5 February 1836; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18360205-TC-AC-01; CL 8:296-298.


Chelsea, Friday 5th Feby 1836

My Dear Alick,

Tho' I really am extremely tired, having written and done little else for a long while; and have already told all my news to Jean, which you will see,—yet I will not let the Opportunity pass without a word for yourself, which you will prize the more on that account. I had indeed some words from your hand, which I am still indebted for, and was very thankful to see. You must take a sheet, and fill it yourself, however.

It gave me much satisfaction to hear of your being at least comfortably busy. “The Devil,” they say truly, “is always at the elbow of an idle man.”1 Grahame, from whom I heard lately, tells me “it is a brisk trade”:2 whether a profitable one or not, I suppose no man can yet predict. Stick to it, my brave Boy, with assiduity, with patience, with steadiness. Better times must and will come for us all; and shall, should we even cross the Water to seek them. O man that can till soil, can find soil yet in this Planet Earth, and it will give him bread if he till it! As for me, who can neither dig nor beg, I still do not a jot fear what is to come. “There is life for a living bodie”:3 fear it not.

I saw lately a Mr John Greig4 from the State of New-York, on his way northward to Edinburgh. He is a notable man. From Moffat about thirty years ago he set out, with an inkhorn at his button, unknown to all people; and now, I understand, he is grown a very King in that region, manages all public business, the benefactor of many, and has wealth—“a hundred a year for his Cook alone”! I really liked the good man (he is an old friend of Mrs Welsh's); and hope to see more of him as he returns this way. He seems to come over every three or four years; and thinks no more of a trip over the Atlantic and back, than many people would of one to Maryport or Bowness.5— Grahame knows him well. By the bye, tell Grahame when you see him that I received his Letter with real thankfulness; and will surely answer it: but you can explain to him how unspeakably busy I am, and excluded from all adventures, or things noteworthy,—except in my Inkbottle, at what it yields me or refuses.

Jack you will see promises to come to us in April. May the winds blow fair for him! One will be very curious to see what he has grown into since we parted. Evidently the great heart of Doil is unchanged. Poor fellow, after all!

You would hear how we got the Barrels. All was right at last: the Potatoes had been slightly frostbitten, but only about the ends of the Barrel; they are wonderfully good considering what a stew they had. The Meal is equal to any that we ever ate, or need wish to eat. I often enough make myself a glass of punch of your whisky, and enjoy it after such risks as it ran. The liquor is decidedly good; I let none but favourites taste of it.

Will you remember us in all kindness to Mary; explain to her why fewer or no Newspapers come, as Jean will explain to you. She can report that the woman Ann is strong and well; going on with energy, unweariedly.

Take up that Cann6 to Scotsbrig, the first good day you have! Do, like a good fellow. The back-reek which this would cure was quite abominable.

Jane sends her love to Jenny and Jane and you. Remember me affectionately to them, not forgetting fat Tom tho' he would not speak to me.— I[f you s]ee Ben Nelson, also remember me. Can James Austin tell me anything about Glen? I fear, Nothing, or nothing good.— Oh dear Alick how tired I am! Write to me soon.

Ever your affecte Brother, /

T. Carlyle.