The Collected Letters, Volume 1


TC TO JAMES CARLYLE, THE ELDER; 25 February 1821; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18210225-TC-JCE-01; CL 1:329-332.


Edinr25th Feby 1821—

My dear Father,

You would get the letter addressed to Sandy from Kirk[c]aldy about thursday-morning; and I trust it would have the effect of calming your solicitudes on account of my health and outward welfare about which I have lately given you so much unprofitable anxiety. The sea-breezes of Fife, and the kind attentions of its inhabitants produced the most salutary results on me;1 I grew better every day, and in the course of a few weeks I doubt not I should have been as strong as ever at any period of my life. It was with regret that I quitted them on friday to meet Irving here, who, however, in the interim had been forced to return home. I felt in a state of decided convalescence, which I am happy to add has since continued without interruption. The sickness has altogether left me, and I am well as heretofore: for though the stomach and bowels still continue lazy, a little attention aided by a little physic2 will suffice to keep them to their duty, and me from a state of weak discomfort, about which I am glad to think that you can form no adequate conception. One becomes so dim and overclouded, so wrapt up in sack[c]loth and ashes—so full of inquietude and chagrin, it is really quite pitiful to think of: and if exercise, regimen and every species of care can secure me, I have the best of all possible motives for applying them. You need be under no apprehensions:—for my letters (I speak in sincerity of heart) do always give the worst view of my condition, seeing I hold it advisable to conceal nothing in such cases; and therefore I may gain belief now when I assure you that I am quite as easy, and but that I am a degree leaner (can any one give faith to it?), quite as vigorous as I generally was last summer. I shall tell you at once if any alteration for the worse occur; which, however, I am far enough from anticipating.

On returning to Edinr—where the minister of Kirk[c]aldy's son3 had been carrying on my pedagogic duties—I found Jack's letter, about a week old, tho' ‘haste’ stood glaring on the back of it. The perusal of that sheet bedimmed my eyes a little, tho' they are not of a very moist nature;—and it gave me an unspeakable pleasure to find that my father's house was still not only open for me in the season of need, but warmed by all the tenderness and affectionate anxiety which are so gratifying to a sick and weary [spi]rit. My heart-felt gratitude is with you all. Assure my Mother in particular that I remember her care of me in former emergencies; and desire nothing in this world more earnestly than that she would apply the same with success to herself. I will come home if I should grow useless here or run the risk of growing useless: but at present I look forward to a busy and therefore a contented summer, in which I shall accomplish much, and among other things the long wished for results of gaining for myself some permanent employment, so that I may no longer wander about the earth a moping hypochondriac, the soul eating up itself for want of something else to act upon, or a withered schoolmaster eyeing my fellow men with a suspicion and solitary shrinking, which should be peculiar to felons and other violators of the law.

In fact, matters have a more promising appearance with me at the present date than they have had for a long season. Besides Jack's letter and some others which awaited my return from Fife, there was one, which I read with indifference, abandoning the proposed undertaking of translating D'aubuisson (for which consult Sandy); and one, which I read with considerable interest proferring to me on the part of Bookseller Tait to become a candidate for the translating of a French book, Maltebrun's Geography,4 which one Adam Black,5 Taits brother-in-law, is engaged with at present, and designs to put into fresh hands. Two persons (unknown to me) are to submit specimens of their work, I am to do so likewise; & Tait assures me that if Black had known [me] sooner there would have been no competition in the case. So that I am not without hopes of getting this job, and if the judge be a correct one, of deserving it. You may think the latter proviso is like dropping feather-beds out of a window from which one is soon to be precipitated in person: but within my own mind, I feel a kind of assurance that I can surpa[ss] the fellow-translators, unless they are far superior to the [usual] run of such creatures. And if I divine aright, it will be very advantageous for me: a steady employment (the book extends to five or six large volumes—of which only one and a part are finished) that I can address myself to in any humour—for it requires no study; and by means of which it would not be difficult to clear the matter of £200 per annum, for a considerable time. I shall hear of it by and by—like [e]nough I may fail in those ex[pec]tations; but can do either way.

I had also a kind of advantage lately over one Waugh, a vapouring bookseller and bailie of this city—about whose treatment of me very probably Alick may be able to give you some information. Mr Duncan introduced me to him that I might write in a Review he was starting about two years ago:6 but the man swaggered and swelled at such a rate, and was so condescending to me withal, that I left him finally to delight his addle brain with visions of the many pounds and much civic honour he is master of—and went on my way without his shining. The Review has been consumptive, however, for some time; and Waugh having heard news of me desired that I should be again introduced to him. I went with Murray, my old acquaintance, to-day; and the bailie, at first embarrassed, finally requested with much deference that I would stand by him in the critical undertaking. I can have work, therefore, and good pay when I please; and if health continue there is no fear.— But my sheet is done, and my feet are cold—good reasons both for drawing to a close. I long to hear news of you all; but I suppose Farries had stolen a march on you, or you expected me home. My love to all there.

Ever your affectionate Son, /

Thomas Carlyle

George Johnston & I have been working all day at Maltebrun—or I would have written to Jack & Sandy. They of course will write at great l[eng]th next opportunity.