The Collected Letters, Volume 1


TC TO ALEXANDER CARLYLE; 19 April 1820; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18200419-TC-AC-01; CL 1:239-242.


Edinr19th April 1820—

My dear Alick,

I received your letter about noon, and being this day upon the fasting list (not from religious but medicinal motives), I have spirits to write but very imperfectly to you and not at all to my valued correspondent Jack, whose letter however I esteem very highly on many accounts. In truth my silence is of small importance any way: I am coming home soon, and if once I ‘loose my tinkler jaw’1 among you, you shall get enough and to spare of it. This flitting plan is a most soul-tearing thing at best; and besides the unavoidable labour of packing goods and clearing scores, I have to strive with multiplied engagements relating to my summer's employment. When I wrote last, I knew not whether I should get any business at all to keep my hand in use; but it now appears that I am to write several articles for the Encyclopedia (what they are I do not know—for I have just been putting down a pretty long list, which Dr B. is to examine & select from and report about, on friday morning); I have also two pretty long articles to translate2 which is the easiest job; and lastly (which ought to have been first) I have to write a kind of review of that clear-backed large book which you will see in the box—upon magnetism and other points: I ought to have done it here you know; but I felt my poor head so embarrassed & confused with one thing and another that it seemed upon the whole an easier plan to take the concern home with me, and prepare it at my ease—what ease at least I can find before the middle of May when it will be needed. I have likewise some (slender) hopes of getting a French book to translate—the life of Madame de Stäel;3 but of this I am far from certain, having only Dr Brewster for my haunch-man [henchman] on this occassion and he having no personal interest in the affair. But whether his application, which he was to make this day to one Tate4 a bookseller, be successful or not, I shall have plenty to do for one half-year: and tho' the money resulting from such labour is not at all abundant, it is considerably better than the rewards of laziness. It will serve at least to keep the Evil one out of one's pocket.

Now you will naturally be rather impatient after all this preamble, to know when I am actually to be at Mainhill. In brief then, my project is this. I have promised to go & see Irving at Glasgow before my return; I design to leave this smoky & most dusty town upon Saturday first—the same night & next day I shall likely spend with Nicol at Airdrie, and on Monday I shall be with Ned.5 How long I shall stay there is not so certain: it will depend upon the state of the city, of Irvings engagements &c. Upon the whole however it seems likely that if all go well, I shall see you about saturday (29th) or very soon after. It may be before: but you are not to weary if it should be Tuesday or Wednesday, tho I think that unlikely. I trust I shall find you all in good trim.

There is scarcely room left on this scanty paper to tell you how little danger there is of your intellectual abilities [not] improving very rapidly and effectually. Your letters are already out of sight better than they were a twelvemonth ago; perseverance will & must perfect them. Much has been said of genius; but it seems to me to consist in nothing so much as in the stubborn desire of improvement and progress. Wish to improve, and you will improve.

My friend Jack is not a commercial character or he would have known that Mrs Johnson's £2–36 needed not to be sent to Edinr, if word that he had got it were sent: as it is I can make nothing of it. The creature Hunter has not given me the £3, and I suppose he has left Town. The business is mismanaged, but I shall leave the money with some one to treat & transact after I am gone. I fear I shall not see the burgher synod—having only 3 days to continue here—you observe I have taken your advice and sent some of the needfullest books by the present opportunity; I shall leave the remainder for that distinguished lone way-faring man7—to bring at his leisure— But why do I continue this pitiful scribblement? I shall be at home forthwith and tell you all. Thank Jack for me; & plead my excuse; remember me affectionately to all about your house; and allow me to conclude this vague & confused story with an assurance that I remain (in the greatest haste) My dear Brother, Yours most faithfully

Thomas Carlyle

[In margin:] The radicals are quiet— How many lies have been told about them! Poor wretches! they are to be pitied as well as condemned. Cobler Smith is in Edinr Castle.8