The Collected Letters, Volume 1


TC TO THOMAS MURRAY; 19 February 1819; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18190219-TC-TM-01; CL 1:163-165.


Edinr19th Feby 1819—

My dear Sir,

I expected a letter from you, in return for that which I wrote from Kirkcaldy:1 but when I consider my own conduct, in that particular, whatever reason I may have to lament, I can have little to complain of my disappointment— Except the few & brief notices, which I receive from our Galloway friends, I have no information respecting your proceedings. It is known to me, only, that you have become a Preacher—a popular one, I trust—and that you have some thoughts of accepting a charge in the island of Man— I sincerely hope that whilst discharging the sacred functions of a Clergyman, you will experience that high satisfaction which a conscientious fulfilment of them is so well calculated to produce—

By the date of my letter, it may be seen, that I have quitted Fife— I laid down the pedagogic insignia, three months ago, with a resolution not to resume them for a considerable space—never, if it shall please Providence— Since my arrival in Edinr, I have led a miscellaneous, undescribeable life. Studying Mineralogy, for which the wonderful lectures of ‘the illustrious Werner's’ as illustrious disciple2 have completely destroyed all my enthusiasm— Often reading (not so often studying) all manner of books, from De Staël to La Lande—not to speak of the learned Berzelius3 his paper upon chemical affinities, which I was this very evening translating— I have existed with the usual quantity of human comfort, and endeavoured to wait, with considerable patience, for the arrival of that distant day, when some profession may present itself, which my inclination & faculties may concur in inviting me to engage in—

Perhaps I should not have written this letter to-night, had it not occurred to me that in a week, I am to resume the study of Italian, & that consequently I shall require that little dictionary, which you, last year, borrowed for the use of a friend. If the young lady, in question, have the book in her possession, it will oblige me, to return it as soon as possible: if she have lost it, there is small harm done; for the Dictionary of Signor Graglia4 is but a faint image of that of the Academy della Crusca.5 I shall thank you, however, for information, on this point, as expeditious as you can give it—

I am sorry that I can send you no ‘literary news.’ In my present situation, I have little opportunity of receiving any— I lead a retired life; and when information of this kind does reach me, it is so tinctured & diluted by the prejudices or ignorance of those who receive & transmit it, in the back-shops of Booksellers, or at the teatables of ‘literary ladies’6 and others—as to be quite unfit for repitition. You probably know, that Macculloch,7 your countryman, is become a writer in the Edinr Review— He seems to be a diligent, sound-thinking man— But if you read the Scotsman, or have seen the articles on Ricardo,8 in the last & preceding nos of the review—you will be able to judge for yourself—

Last Autumn, at Hitchill, I met with two Misses M'Lean & their brother—relations of Mr Davidson, I believe—most pleasant persons—no less than Mrs (Norris?) who was of the party also. If you should ever see any one of them—& if that one should happen to be so kind as remember my name—you may give notice, that I still think with satisfaction of those two happy days, and of the amiable people who rendered them so—

I was among the lakes too. If you were beside me, I would compel you to sit patiently, till I had described the glories of a summer morning on the peak of Skiddaw—and an evening on the Stake of Borrowdale— Nor would I forget the fearful precipices that mark the ‘brow of the mighty Helvellyn’;9—the churchyard of Grassmere; or the echoes of Ulles-water—any more than the mysterious answers which our questions received from the boors of that picturesque Country— But at present it were foolish to speak of these matters— This summer, as my health is indifferent, I intend to pass two months in the country— Partly to read German (which I am attempting to learn at present), at My Father's; and partly to refresh my mind with wandering about the country— One of my projected tours is to Galloway. This is yet little better than a dream; but it may be realised— I wish much to see the Sienite10 of your mountains, and, still more, some respected people who live among them. If you be in the Manx country; who knows but we may ascend Snafell11 together! This, as I have said, is but dreaming; yet it is pleasant dreaming; and where is the harm of indulging it? Hope is the soul of life: look back upon the past, where the Charmer is wanting, and see what a wilderness it is!

But the watchmen give lugubrious intelligence, that it is ‘half [past] one o'clock.’ Therefore I must conclude. You will not fail to write me instantly. If the book cannot be got, I shall buy another. Perhaps you had as well address your letter to the care of John Forrest,12 as I have thoughts of changing my lodgings on Wednesday—and know not where my next station may be—

I am / My Dear Sir / Yours faithfully /

Thomas Carlyle

Davie's lodgings / 5. S. Richmond st