The Collected Letters, Volume 1


TC TO ROBERT MITCHELL; 14 June 1815; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18150614-TC-RM-01; CL 1:49-52.


Annan. 14th. June 1815—

My Dear Bob,

Your letter, of the 31st May, gave me a great deal of pleasure. I had heard a sort of vague account that you were sick; and I had formed the project of coming up to condole with you, when (it seems) you had so much need of condolence—buffetted as you have been by ‘ennui, torpor and hepatitis.’ It made me happy to learn, that you had come to a ‘quietus’: and the only remark I shall make on the subject is—be thankful—that such moderate allowances of ‘Leech's bolus’ were able to produce the effect—for there are froward creatures in the world, to make whose ‘quietus’ defies the power of any thing less efficacious than—‘a bare bodkin.’1

You take it upon you to scold2 me for not calling as I went to Dumfries. But hear my story Mit— I was proceeding quietly from Ecclefn to Annan, without the smallest intention of going on any such expedition, when I met with Johnson,3 and he advised me to accompany him. We were obliged to use all possible dispatch for fear of being too late; and (before we got Jeffrey4 accoutred at Flush,5 &c &c) it being about eleven o'clock, I had absolutely no time to see you, tho' I certainly intended it when I left Annan.— Indeed I did see from the road, a tall lank figure performing its gyrations round Ruthwell Church with much solemnity:—but whether it was Mitchell, I know not.— It was near two when we got to Dumfries—and being consequently prevented from getting within half a league of St. Micheals—we saw the ceremony of laying the stone, exactly as well as if we had been in the grand square of Tombuctoo. Yet notwithstanding this—notwithstanding that all the scullions in Dumfries-shire were ‘let slip’—notwithstanding the cantering and parading of the Etterick Yeomen—notwithstanding the paper-caps, the figured rouquelaures, the magic-lanthorns of free masonry—it was a striking scene.— Scotland paying the tribute of well earned honour to one of the noblest of her sons.— It is a great pity that the monument will not be over his grave:—many inconveniences ought to have been submitted to in order to gain this point.6— When I passed Ruthwell again, it was after midnight: so that you have nothing to blame me for on that score.

I could not send you the review—for the man of whom I had borrowed it, had got it again, & lent it to another. If I can get it again, at any time, I will send it you. Have you seen the last Edinr review? There are several promising articles in it—Scotts ‘Lord of the Isles,’ Standard Novels, Lewis' & Clarke's travels up the Missouri, (of which a most delectable account is given in the Quarterly), Joanna Southcott, &c &c.7 I have been revising Akenside,8 since I saw you.— He pos[s]esses a warm imagination & great strength & beauty of diction. His poem, you know, does not like Campbell's ‘Hope’9 consist of a number of little incidents told in an interesting manner—& selected to illustrate his positions—it is little else than a moral declamation. Nevertheless I like it. Akenside was an enthusiastic admirer of the ancient republics and of the ancient philosophers— He thought highly of Lord Shaftesbury's principles & had a bad opinion of Scotsmen. For this last peculiarity, he has been severely caricatured by Smollet[t] in his Peregrine Pickle—under the character of the fantastic English Doctor in Franc[e]10— When we mention Shaftesbury—is his book in your pos[s]ession, and can you let me have a reading of it?11 I am inclined to suppose that the prevalence of infidelity is on the decline. Pride will often overturn what reason had attempted in vain—& when the carrion and offal of human nature begin to adopt the tenets of our sages—we look for something new. What leads me to say this is that I have heard lately that there are in Middlebie sundry cunning workmen—some skilled in the intricacies of the loom—some acquainted with the operations of the lapstone—who are notable deists—nay several aspire to taste the sublime delights of Atheism! Now when creatures, s[up]erior in so few respects (inferior in so many) to the co[w] that browses on their hills, begin to tread upon the heels of [the] wise ones of the earth—the hue and cry about freedom from popular errors—defiance of vulgar prejudices—glory of daring to follow truth, tho' alone &c &c &c is annihilated—and—‘all the rest is leather and prunella.’12— But we will talk on those subjects afterwards.

Give my best respects to Mr. & Mrs. Duncan & mention, that I intend to have the pleasure of seeing them in a short time.— I cannot come, first Saturday for many reasons— I cannot come next saturday for then is Mr. Glen's13 sacrament & I believe I shall be constrained to go to sermon. There is nothing that I know of to hinder me the week after that, & if all things answer I shall likely see you then.— Tho' I began this letter last night—I have been obliged to write the greatest part of it since twelve o'clock to-day— It is within three minutes of one—and I have no more time. Write me immediately & I will be punctual in answering—your Irish play is an unique in its kind14— I shall be o[b]liged to you for your pun15—I have never heard it. Keep Blair16 till I come & seek him—& believe me to be—My Dear Mitchell,

Yours sincerely /

Thomas Carlyle