The Collected Letters, Volume 1


TC TO ALEXANDER CARLYLE; 10 January 1821; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18210110-TC-AC-01; CL 1:305-308.


Edinr—10th January 1821—

My dear Brother,

I have had such a days running & perplexity, I waited so long for your letter, and I feel so stupid after getting it, that actually you must not look for any thing but most insipid drivelling from me on this occasion. I saw Parliament1 yesternight, and then Farries, who told me he had a box, which would be with me next morning early; whereas after waiting till 11 o'clock this morning, I had to search out who knows how many Carriers' stores, to travel back and travel forward—to consult with hostlers and chaffer with porters and assign the waffler fifty times to ‘all the devils’—before I could get sight of that unfortunate hamper. And the whole of this to happen just when I was meditating a change of lodgings, and so had need of all my wits and all my time to use them undisturbed! The Waffler is a waffler still.2

I have not got a new room; and still feel undetermined about quitting the present one. My Landlady is good, no need of better; but the place is cold, visited too freely by the breath of Heaven, and other ‘skiey influences’3 to which my carcase has no liking. I thought once of going to a place called Warriston Crescent, on the nort[h] side of Edinr, where one Moon a preacher has resided several years; but on visiting the spot to-day, I find that ‘gliding remote in the verge of the sky the Moon’ still lingers in that chamber, to the exclusion of all other bodies. I know of some places in the neighbourhood; but this poor Mrs Robertson is so worthy a creature that I would fain weather out the winter with her. Direct to me as if nothing had been said on this score: if I depart, notice will be left whither I am gone.

My possessions of worldly comfort are still mostly in perspective. Yet I live in hope, and no sooner is once [one] scheme blasted than another springs up instead of it. Brewster is to settle with me about my writings whenever I like to go over; and what might be better he professes great readiness to furnish me with a letter of introduction to Thomas Campbell, who has lately been appointed Editor of a Magazine in London,4 the publishers of which are said to offer about fifteen guineas a sheet. I must try somewhat for Campbell. O for one day of such vigorous health and such elastic spirits as I have had of old! I will try however. Brewster came to me on the street to-day, and talked long: he seems to feel that I can be of some use to him, and therefore he treats me gently. I was at dinner with him the other day; and there were Professor Wallis, Telford the engineer,5 Jardine another of the same, and one Wright a very ugly loud-speaking man. They are persons to hear whom would make one admire how they have got the name and the emolument they enjoy at present. Telford spoke of his ‘friend’ the duke of this, and his friend the Marquis of that—all honourable men. I left the party without regret to sup with little Murray (you recollect about him), where was to appear M'Diarmid of Dumfries and M'Culloch, the great M'Culloch better known to you as the ‘Scotsman’.6 M'Culloch fell sick, and we had to content ourselves with one of his coadjutors—a broad-faced, jolly, speculating, muddleheaded person called Ritchie.7 I debated with Ritchie in a very desultory stile about poetry and politics, less to his edification than surprise; and the dapper little M'Diarmid sat by as umpire of the strife. M'Diarmid is not ‘an elegant gentleman’; his look recalled to me the Yorkshire Mooncalf:8 in mental qualities he is estimable rather than otherwise—shewy but unsubstantial—broad but shallow. ‘What a grawsp’ said he after repeating some lines of Byron— ‘G-d! What a grawsp!’ said he, pursing his mouth to a side—learing with his drowsy eyes and shovelling out his wee hand—as if to catch the rumbottle— ‘G-d what a grawsp!!’

After all perhaps I shall fall into some agre[e]able society here, and finally be restored to something like steady peace and comfort. In the mean time, as you remark, I ought to be thankful that I am as I am. Witness Waugh!9 sad emblem of imprudence! Hunted by duns, destitute of cash, he has left his luggage to make good the payment of his lodging, and is now winding his zig-zag way among the pursebearers of Annandale to raise a little money from the wreck of his property. No one but pities Waugh, no one but blames him.

They tell me poor Sarah White10 has met with a misfortune which is likely to be fatal. She was a harmless quiet body, and it is mournful to think of her coming to such an end. Tell me the result.

As to M' Nay, 11 I cannot recollect among all the ‘lives of the Poets’ that I have perused, a single instance of a child of song, consuming his gains in [the rest of the letter missing.]