The Collected Letters, Volume 1


TC TO ALEXANDER CARLYLE; 29 December 1819; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18191229-TC-AC-01; CL 1:215-217.


Edinburgh, 29th December 1819.

My dear Brother—

… I said I should stay in Edinburgh during the Christmas holidays; but happily my firmness in this determination was not put to the test. Our professor gives no holidays; so, at the present festive season, we are labouring with our wonted assiduity in the complex study of Law. I have not yet gained much knowledge of it: but he (Mr. Hume)1 is very plain hitherto, and by the help of those monstrous tomes with which I am environed, there is little doubt that I may in time acquire competent information upon all the branches of this science. I have not been so diligent of late, on account of a paper I am writing—which I have a design to offer for publication.2 No mortal is aware of it, so you need not mention the circumstance: but I can see well enough that to this point my chief efforts should be directed. In fact, unless my pen will afford me present subsistence, what hope have I in Law? I ought to try at least,—and I shall tell you the issue of my trial when it happens. Yet if these schemes should fail I need not still despair. Teaching and preaching are the only trades that I have forsworn; and it will be hard, very hard, if a humble man cannot earn his bit of bread in any other department of art or science. I will not despair nor even despond.3

In the meantime it is pleasant to have these few hard-earned notes by me, to answer every exigency. Economy and diligence will go far in all cases. … I remain, my dear Brother, yours most faithfully,

Thomas Carlyle.