The Collected Letters, Volume 1


TC TO ALEXANDER CARLYLE; 23 November 1820; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18201123-TC-AC-01; CL 1:287-290.


Robertson's Lodgings, 16. Carnegiest, / Thursday-evening, 23d Novr 1820.

My dear Brother,

Had I acted with that punctuality, the want of which I am so ready to censure in others, you need not on this occasion have been put to the expense of postage in getting news of me. I did not think Farries would have been in Edinr on Wednesday—or did not think so with the degree of assurance necessary for overcoming my indolence and previous engagements; for which reason I never visited his quarters till this morning—and found to my astonishment and mortification that the “way-faring man”1 had vanished from our metropolis. The trunk was standing majestically on its left end beneath a shed; but Geordie had already travelled many hours. You will excuse my negligence, and not grudge your 8 1/2d2 to avoid a greater evil, that of remaining in ignorance concerning my “whereabout” and my condition since we parted.

If Tuesday proved as bad southward of Erockstane3 as it did northward for many miles, you and the mares would be in a sorrowful condition. It rained upon us heavily from the time we approached the summit of that mountain, till we had arrived within twenty miles of Edinr; and one of my chief employments was picturing out the situation of poor Alick, fronting the tempest from which I was lucky enough to be retiring. I cannot be at ease till I hear that you have arrived in safety.

My seat on the coach-roof was not very uncomfortable tho' the storm was so rough as soon to soak the lower part of my back, and completely to silence the loquacity of my fair fellow traveller. The cigars alas! were wet, they would not smoke; therefore out of spite I ate the greater part of them. At Noblehouse4 a passanger [sic] had alighted, and I got inside—for paying 2/ —the rest of our journey. I listened with little attention and less delight to the conversation between two squires of low degree touching the various modes of breaking spaniels; and as the topics I attempted to introduce were shortlived and not to the taste of those hunters, it was a kind of relief in more than one sense to be fairly set down at last on the pavement of College-street, about half past four o'clo[c]k. Waugh's residence was found without difficulty; and the fat contented inmates receiving me very cordially, I soon forgot my weariness in large draughts of his indifferent tea. Waugh5 lives in a style as if Fortune smiled upon him. A fine room at 13/ per week, with all kinds of accom[m]odation, have a favourable aspect; and the alchemy by which Waugh extracts them from the expanse of an empty pocket is truly surprising. Hope never dies within the breast of man. Make him but once a Doctor of Medicine, and Waugh sees nothing in the back-ground of coming days, but a splendid mansion in the west end of London town, a coach-and-four at times rattling along the pavement, and fees descending to his now crane-necked purse—“thick as the leaves that strew the autumn brooks in Vallombrosa.”6 I lost a night's sleep and so almost threw myself into a low fever, in the vain endeavour to convince him that such projects being altogether baseless, he should keep hold of what property he has left, till some more rational way of spending it occur. Waugh is wedded to his idols, we must let him alone.7

Next day I spent in seeking a place of abode. The rooms are still dear, and I had but the out-weals [refuse] to choose among. Yet notwithstanding, I flatter myself with having made a fortunate selection. Mrs Duff's house was full, and the best room I could fix on every thing considered was this of Robertson in Carnegie-street. The parlour (for I have a snug bed-closet too) is not quite so warm as I could wish it indeed; but it is clean, well-aired, at the very out-skirts of the town; and the Landlady shapes to be among the best I have ever had. She is the widow of a Perthshire schoolmaster—came to Edinr at Whitsunday—has no family but two little girls, and keeps no lodger but myself. The poor body [d]oes all she can to make me comfortable; and [if] once I w[ere] fairly fixed in my position, I doubt not she will succeed. A few days will try her better.

Except taking possession of my quarters—hearing two lectures of the new Professor Wilson,8 and shaking hands with some few acquaintances, I have done nothing since my arrival. Brewster was not at home to-day, when I called and left the paper;9 so what is the state of his projected review, I cannot even conjecture. I should rejoice if it succeeded; but if it fall to the ground, as well it may, I certainly shall not fall with it. With health—the care of which, you will be glad to learn, I mean to make a prime consideration—I do not fear but I shall gain a living, and find finally that comfort and respectable competence which I have sought for so long in vain. Never be anxious for me, my boy; I hope to live to do you all good yet. There is nothing on all the Earth which I desire more: the affectionate attention, and patient endurance of my too fretful humour—are indelibly engraven on my heart. Shall they go unrewarded? My dear B[r]other—you must forgive my querulousness and tell my Mother and them all to forgive me. I have suffered more than they wot of—or I should be inexcusable.— But this will not do— I forget that I have but one sheet to work on and that fast drawing to a close. Write me often very often and very long. Tell mine honest Jack to write from Annan10—all the rest every opportunity from home. My Father and my Mother shall hear from me next time. I think I see all your happy countenances listening to this messenger: may peace be with you—without and within!

I have scarce left room to say that I am returning to the porridge-feed— This coffee is hot and dry as quicklime. Some meal then you must send me: and our kind mother will not grudge me the trouble of a few cakes—one hankers after them still.— I have some shirt necks, if they can find them—if not no matter— But enough— Good night my boy, I am for t[he pos]t-office. Ever Your's

Thomas Carlyle

If a letter come from Glasgow—put it in the box[.] I forgot to say that the rooms cost 7/ per week.