The Collected Letters, Volume 1


TC TO ROBERT MITCHELL; 24 October 1814; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18141024-TC-RM-01; CL 1:31-34.


Mount Annan, 24th Octr 1814.

My Dear Mitchell,

Nothing could exceed my pleasure at receiving your obliging and entertaining tho' laconic expistle.1 I hope, however, I need not tell you, that, the foolishness of your letter was not the cause of my long silence: you should know enough of me by this time, to be aware that your letter was altogether according to my heart and fancy—and accordingly I had, the other day, written a right dolorous and woe-begone memorial—in which I humbly shewed, that I had been over head and ears in business—that adventures and misventures and trials and tribulations had so crowded upon me that my sap and substance was evaporated; I represented—but what matters what I represented—since with all its stains and blotches on it you will assuredly see it—after it shall have performed the tour of Scotland—for (O luckless man!) it was sent off to Linlithgow last Wednesday, exactly the day before I heard from Little Johnson (Corrie) that you had come to Ruth-well! ‘Say shall thine anger then abate, upon consideration of egregious ink-shed?’2

I saw Mr. Duncan3 last night at Mt Annan (for you will know I come here all night in order to teach Genl Dirom's boys, while they are in the country) and upon my enquiring after you he told me, you were very well, and that he was highly satisfied with you—but he was silent on the steps that had been taken previously to your coming. Herbert-son and Caven4 [proper names underscored twice]—!! Tell it not in Ruthwell—publish it not in the streets of Kir[k]cudbright lest the damsels of the mountains sigh—lest the punks of Gate-house weep!— Watch, watch, my Good Boy, the passions and appetites and lusts [underscored twice] of the flesh—and chiefly keep a steady eye on that ***—which, believe me, has done more harm to the church—and more cruelly thinned its ranks, than all the inquisitions, tortures, racks, faggots, screws and frying-pans, ever formed and used by persecuting bigotry.— She must have been une chose tres piquante [a very saucy tidbit], who could kindle such a fire in Mr. C's kidneys—a fire that was (must have been) roasting his reins and purtenance before he fell—and I shall only add, Cave vel Caveto tu [underscored twice: Take care or you shall have to take care].— Do you know any thing of what has been ‘the holy letcher's’ fate?—a wanderer on the face of the earth—every one that findeth him shall geld him!5

So Andrew6 is still at Gogar. I join right heartily in your short but fervent petition for his consolation. Davie & I, after convoying [you] that day on your way to Lithgow, struck across the fields and paid him a visit—and after considerable trouble were admitted into his grotto or cavern or crui [crui underscored twice]7— The most considerable of his moveables were a chair wanting a back, a joint-stool, eight potatoes and a pot of brimstone: but to give you any idea of the situation and contours of this den—to represent to you the stern and doughty appe[a]rance of its innocent inhabitant—much more to make you sensible of the ‘rancourous compound of villainous smells’8 that on all sides ‘offended nostril,’ is impossible. The tout-ensemble was dank and dreary and—

Dark as was chaos ere the infant Sun was roll'd together,
Or had tried his beams athwart the gloom profound.9

And yet Andrew, good easy man! shrugging up his shoulders, told us, “he was living like the ancients.”— With all his oddity, he is a good, honest lad.—and Davie too!—well peace be with ye, good kind-hearted souls!—

Clint, poor man, hath taken unto himself a wife, and at this time sojourneth in the ancient burgh of Lochmaben.— Hill10 is at Middlebie in statu quo; and James Johnson is lately returned from the Selkirk hall.— Alas! poor creatures, we are all dispersing towards the four winds of heaven—and embarking on life's rude ocean—and how shall we each steer his little bark thro' all the shoals and hurricanes that lie before us; when so many stately galleys have foundered on the passage! 'Tis a bleak look-out, my dear Mit—but tho' the greasy son's of pudding may pass us by with all the conscious dignity of beings of a higher and a fatter order—yet however humble be our lot, 'tis comfortable to think that—

Justum et tenacem propositi virum
Non civium ardor prava jubentium
Non vultus instantis tyranni
Mente quatit solida—
Si fractus illabatur orbis
Impavidum ferient ruinae.11

—But truce! whither am I running? let us quit moralizing—

If ever you receive that 'foresaid stray-epistle12 you will see that even while I thought you at Linlithgow I had not quitted the plan of interchanging the results of our speculations—and you may easily imagine, I will not relinquish my expectations of your concurrence with my proposals now that you are within seven miles of me. In truth, I think it could not fail of being advantageous and entertaining to us both. What do you think of it? Have you any articles of the spin-brain manufacture by you at present? For me, poor soul, I have been kept like unto a cock-on-a-spit these four months, with hardly time to breathe much less to think.— Take an instance— I am at this present, cold stormy midnight—scratching and writing what I at times think you will consider a letter—with a nose, saving the mark, I daresay as blue as indigo—and I do say as cold as an icicle—with the consoling recollection, however, that when I do get to bed—I shall not be disturbed till six in the morning— How can I think?— But let not this interrupt your communications. Genl Dirom will be away in the course of 4 wee[ks or] so—and then I shall have more time.

Mr. Duncan left Mount-Annan this morning; and having [in]vited me to Ruthwell-manse—you may expect to see me in the course of a week or two some Saturday after-noon, when, My Dear Bob, we shall talk over bygane days o' auld lang syne—and perhaps have another bout at perpending13 [underscored twice]. Tuesday must bring me a letter brimful of all things—or else—for now you are in my debt. Let me have all your theories & trials and temptations and hypotheses.— (Are you disengaged on Saturdays?) for if [I] should come and find you— But lo! I am at the bottom of my paper—and rightfortunate is it for both—for in sooth so cold and kiest-less [lacking energy] am I, in a short time I should have been absolutely preaching.— I will not ask your pardon for this motley farrago—rejoice it is not worse. Write me as punctually at the day appointed, as punctually as it is in human nature to write—pass not sentence of excommunication on me—and be assured,

I remain / My Dear Old Mit / your sincere friend (& / semi-frozen servant /

Thomas Carlyle

P.S. Mr. Kennedy14 has just told me that you called on me. What pity that I was not at home!— But I shall have done with these extraneous engagements in a very short time.— I see your post-man in town—send me without fail a letter, by the same conveyance— Direct to me at Mr. Ken[ne]dy MerchtAnnan. Do not fail to write.— Yours again.


Annan. 25th Octr 1814.—