The Collected Letters, Volume 1


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE; 7 December 1820; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18201207-TC-JAC-01; CL 1:294-296.


Edinr7th December, 1820—

My dear B[r]other Jack,

I had no time last night to write a reply to your lively little note; and besides I gathered from some expressions [in] it that you intended to write me by the Annan carrier—Richardson as I conjectured;—for which reason I was the more willing to postpone the operation that so I might shoot two dogs with one ball, Anglice, answer two letters at once. Richardson is here, and you have not written; nor considering the time, am I surprised at it. You will write to me next time, I know, at great length as to every thing that concerns you. Be free in stating all your doubts and queries and difficulties: I shall be as free in answering them.

It is very fortunate that you have got Fergusson1 to hear you a lesson; stick to it while you have such an opportunity; against winter you will be ready for Edinr. I confess however that I feel a reluctance in advising you to diligence; because I know you are likely to be at least diligent enough, and present appearances give me room to fear, not that you will become a sluggard, but that you will become a drudge—and thus being ever more enticed by the charms of literature, and ever more repulsed by the foreignness of every-day mortals, that, you will play the same miserable game that I have played, sacrificing both health and peace of mind to the vain shadows of ambition—unattainable by one of us, and useless tho' they were attainable. Therefore, my good boy, let me entreat you by the warmth of brotherly affection—to beware of this, to guard against the first advances of debility, to enjoy yourself in society by every honest means, and to regard it as a certain fact that continuous study will waste away the very best constitution—the loss of which is poorly, most poorly, recompensed by all the learning and philosophy of the human race. I fear you will not listen to me: young men feel flattered when it is said they are studying themselves into ill health; but they bitterly regret their conduct when it is too late. Believe my experience, my dear Jack; may it never become yours!

I have been led into these reflexions, because I am not yet quite recovered from a wicked rebellion of the intestines—produced by the change of air, I suppose, and also by inclement circumstances in which that change was brought about.2 I have studied none yet, and read next to none. Indeed I must be reestablished before I can study any to purpose. The Review is about as good as abandoned, I guess; and there is little hope of any thing resulting from Translation. Yet Esperance!3 I have two hours of teaching, which brings me in 4 guineas per month, a walk before breakfast every morning—and considerable ennui during their continuance. One is a good-natured jolly Hibernian—the other a wretched Kimmiter [weasel] of a Dandy whom one cannot see without feeling something like a desire to pull his nose. He seems to [tear in paper: like?] me a little, however; and, what is best, he [tear]—[t]ill half his hour (from 9 to 10) is gone, an[d] [tear: w]ith tairching4 up and down his grandmother's [large] dining-room. The Paddy is a well-bred man—yesterday (the first meeting) when I had constructed a problem and was proceeding to demonstrate the construction—happening to observe, in some such words: Now the thing is done; but perhaps you may not be convinced that it is correctly done, and— ‘Och! not in the laste Sir’ interrupted Murphy— ‘Not in the laste—I know you'd do it right[.]’ Both jobs are to end soon I believe. I care not-for they are not my trade. I must have something permanent, and will have it by Hook or by Crook.

I hope you still go home on Saturdays; and ‘Janner’ [gossip] for an hour or two with our dearly-beloved Alick and other as dear friends. It will lighten your spirits. Be good to my Mother and Father—they have given us much, the time is coming to repay it.— But I must out to walk, windy and dark tho' it be. Write immensely to (your affecte bror)

Thomas Carlyle

I should have written and did intend writing to Geo: Johnstone; tell him so, and the necessity which prevents me. I shall write next opportunity. Good night again, Tonglegge mi!5