The Collected Letters, Volume 1


TC TO ALEXANDER CARLYLE; 30 January 1821; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18210130-TC-AC-01; CL 1:317-319.


Robertson's Lodgings 16. Carnegiest. / 30th January 1821—

My dear Brother,

I cannot tell you what a pleasure it is for me to read over all your letters on the happy morning when Farries completes his sluggish journey. In idea, I am carried back far to the south; and see you all seated round the ingle—surrounded with bustle it is true (for what is life anywhere but bustle?]—yet cheered with honest healthy thought and merrily bearing your burdens across the bogs and wastes of this our labyrinthine wandering course. I sympathise with your particular difficulties, which I know well enough to be hard and at times ill to bear; yet I know you have bottom in you sufficient to endure them all without wavering, conscious that brighter days are coming: and if you have not much leisure for intellectual improvement, it ought to be your consolation that a far higher species of improvement, the improvement of the heart, is at all times within our reach, that it follows us to the field and to the closet thro' the hourly business of our life and cannot indeed be carried on otherwise than by struggling with the untoward elements of our situation. Labour and anxiety are the lot of some, idleness or pleasure (as they think it) and black inquietude of others; each man has his task, and the peasant who performs it well, how proudly does he stand above the satraps of the Earth who perform it ill! Let not your mind be ruffled then; keep it calm, and subdue its wrong propensities—its little frettings and longings after forbidden things; till at length by patient waiting and improving all advantages, the hour come that shall satisfy all your honourable wants. The way to it is hard and thorny, I know it well: but diligent endeavour will vanquish every obstacle, & then—! I tell you, boy, that good times are in store for all of us: let us wait for them with stedfastness, and whatever happen still say with better reason than the Poet,

Here's a sigh to those that love us,
And a smile to those that hate;
And whatever sky's above us,
Here's a heart for every fate.1

By the date of this, you will discover that I have returned to my old abode. I migrated, as Jack may have told you, to a place called Arthur-street in this neighbourhood—for the sake of warmth, having no fault to this place except a deficiency in that particular: but a few days' residence in my new quarters soon taught me that warmth was not the only or the most important requisite for comfort. A little tawdry affected kimmiter [weasel] was my sole attendant in Arthur-street; the mistress never saw me; the air too was smoky as the mouth of Vesuvius; and the street was full of wh—res. So I told the creatures that I was going to march, and as Moon made difficulties about the period of his leaving Warriston and the weather was becoming warmer, I bethought me of the excellent qualities of this valuable Celt (from whom I had parted on the kindest terms), and returned to her last Saturday. She is kedgie [eagerly friendly] (as the Yankies and you say) very kedgie about me; and I design to continue with her henceforth. The cold is not troublesome hardly: and to guard against it, I am now provided with a huge tartan cloak, a dreadnought as we call it, which I lately got from Glasgow. Graham (honest soul!) sent it out the other day, by the Laird of Grange.2 I laughed heartily at sight of it; and behind my laugh there was a feeling still more plea[surea]ble. I wear the dreadnought, and like it.

[The] ham you sent is very precious; I had the upper half of it roasted lately, and smack my lips over it very delightfully every morning. I believe it is good for me; at least I wish to believe it. When I wrote Jack the weary bowels had got cross again: but George Johnstone and I have taken them in tow, and mixed up Aloetic-wine and ginger and what not for them, by means of which we have no doubt of gaining the victory at last. I feel happier than I used to do, whenever they are well; and in process of time, I see reasonable grounds of believing that I shall after all get to something decent and honourable here. My heart longs for nothing more than the power to reward, in some degree, those who have shewn me so much honest kindness, and borne me in their arms as it were, when I could hardly bear myself. My dear Alick, let me intreat you for my sake to be kind to our father and mother. Them (cold thought!) we have not always with us.3 Be kind to them then; bear with their infirmities, and cherish them with grateful affection. Can there be a triumph half so glorious for a son, as to give up his feelings in behalf of Parents whose minds or circumstances require the sacrifice? Write to me about all your straits: it does one good to tell them to a friend—still more when the friend is a brother. Without any flattery your letters are of a Superior quality—with a few corrections which practice will give, I predict they will be excellent. Attend to this and reading: it is to the mind what hewing and polish are to marble—not merely an ornament but in some sort a creation. I am always,

My dear Brother, / faithfully your's

Thomas Carlyle