The Collected Letters, Volume 1


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE; 29 March 1820; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18200329-TC-JAC-01; CL 1:236-238.


Edinr29th March 1820—

My dear Jack,

When, in requital for your large well-written sensible letter, you cast your eye upon this pitiful half-sheet of ash-coloured paper blackened, as it soon will be, by a vile squirting pen, that spits & scratches rather than writes the imaginations of a hurried brain,—you will be ready to cry out: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth,1 a sheet for a sheet—this is foul play.— But upon considering every thing, particularly what I have said in Alick's letter, your astonishment will be moderated; perhaps it will receive an opposite direction and magnify the present exploit so hastily consummated.

I must begin with expressing my satisfaction from the perusal of your remarks on the reign of Charles I. They are well-worded upon the whole, judicious & comprehensive. I think it a good exercise for you to commit your thoughts upon such topics to writing: and I shall always be delighted to read observations of so praiseworthy a sort.— I am sorry that you cannot get the remaining volumes.2 Oliver Cromwell's reign is more interesting than any other—in several respects—you will find pleasure in reading it, which I doubt not you will make haste to do, when ever an opportunity occurs.3— With regard to Lawson,4 it was surely kind in him to offer so as you relate, and I believe his library contains several books useful for you; but tho' I have been thinking upon that matter since reading your letter—I cannot specify any. Perhaps he may have Cowper's poems, which you will not like so well now as at a future date; perhaps he may have Dr Johnson's works: my mother can ask when she goes down—&, lest I forget, tell her to present my compliments to this Revd person, when she sees him, and to say that I grieve to confess the five shillings which he gave me to present to the missionary society are still in my pocket: the very memory of them had faded like a vain dream, till a few days ago. I shall certainly present them, if I do not see Mr. L. at the synod and give them to himself—

When you write next, I want to hear very minutely about all the transactions in which you have any interest immediate or remote. And first I want you [to] tell me if you hear any news of James Johnston. Has he written lately from Annapolis? I have never answered his letter (sinner that I am!); but I hear some reports from Mitchell that he is talking of returning. Is this true? you must ask at his relations. And farther, I wish you to tell Mrs Dr Johnston that I have got her son George's letter, and shall certainly get the Infirmary ticket so soon as the money reaches me; as to Dr Murray5—he does not lecture any more. You can tell her this, & say I am to leave Edinr Soon.

This is a very confused story my boy Jack; but it will exercise the ingenuity at least—to discover the meaning, and comply with it.

I am glad you read French— It is a valuable tongue—do not forget it. I designed to have got you Scott's (Walter's) life of Dean Swift6 from the library; but it was not there. When at home we shall get books from Annan in abundance.

The porter is not come; and as I may thus have time to send a line or two to my Mother—I must conclude for the present, with an assurance that,

I remain ever, / My dear Jack, / thy affectionate brother, /

Thomas Carlyle