The Collected Letters, Volume 1


TC TO ROBERT MITCHELL; 30 December 1819; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18191230-TC-RM-01; CL 1:217-218.


Edinr Duff's lodgings 35. Bristo-street / 30th December 1819—

My dear Friend,

If I were not one of the meekest men that have flourished since the time of Moses, certainly I should break forth in a torrent of wrath & vituperation against your laziness. In serious dulness, you should have written to me— But let that pass; my lodging is changed, you see; and I hope in a few days to be convinced that you repent of your omission.

This is not a time—when the Carrier is clamouring for his packet—to tell you any thing about that eternal subject, ‘my situation.’ It is nearly in statu quo, any way. My health is not to be complained of; and tho' I have no society—at least none worth calling by that name; tho' the Law is a complicated skein which I have made few happy efforts to unravel; yet in general, I set a stubborn front to the storm, and live in hope of better days. In wet weather indeed—when the ‘digestive apparatus’ refuses to perform its functions—my world is sometimes black enough. Melancholy remembrances,

‘Shades of departed joys around me rise,
With many a face that smiles on me no more,
With many a voice that thrills of transport gave,
Now silent as the grass that tufts their grave’—

And dark anticipations of the coming time. Such are the fruits of solitude, and want of settled occupation. But this also is vanity.

I had a letter from poor Johnston. His voyage was perilous and every way uncomfortable; but at last he seems quietly settled in the pleasant city of Annapolis. The boys are very ignorant, he says, several of them stupid; but his patron & the rest seem to give him satisfaction. You should write to him— Poor James! What is this world, but a huge caravansera—where even the sacred joys of friendship appear for a little & suddenly vanish away?

Your pupil George John1 occassionally visits me. He was well the other day. A message which he delivered from Miss Patrickson2 was so inaccurately reported by this landlady—that without the risk of violating etiquette, I could venture to comply with her kind invitation. A courtier, like you, knows that etiquette is a holier code—than the decalogue or any other. I regret this contretem[p]s. The company of well-informed females—like learning faithfully the ingenuous arts,

‘Emollit mores nec sinit esse feros’ [feros underscored twice]:3

I know one intimate friend of mine (more intimate than you) upon whom, the operation of such alchemy is very devoutly to be wished.

Irving was here some weeks ago. His popularity in Glasgow is said to be great beyond example. Chalmers even is thought to look with some anxiety at the pillars of his throne[.] Dixon & Brown are gone to see him; so I shall hear more distinctly on their return.

Here we are all going mad. Radical Reformers—seditious orators— & warlike burghers are the humour of the day.— Who has not read the romance of Ivanhoe?4— But I leave his trophies & his turneys—for my paper & time are alike concluded. Write soon & largely, or—

Your's most faithfully, /

Thomas Carlyle