The Collected Letters, Volume 1


TC TO ALEXANDER CARLYLE; 11 April 1821; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18210411-TC-AC-01; CL 1:351-353.


Edinr, 11th April 1821—

My dear Brother,

I had just concluded the first meal of the day now passing over me,1 when a tall wench interrupted my reflections, by lugging in that respectable box—the sight of which never fails to inspire me with agreeable ideas of various kinds. It gives me promise not only of substantial accom[m]odations for the outward man, but also of intelligence refreshing for the inward man, and it holds out the prospect ‘of an hour or two’ to be spent agreeably in transmitting intelligence from myself in return. The second gratification I have already enjoyed; the first is certainly in store for me; and the last, you see, I am purposing to make sure of without delay.

Your sheet (the first real sheet of a long time) is well filled and pleasantly. Cobbett ‘triple-turned Renegade’2 tho' he be—will not I am persuaded be unfruitful in your hands: by turning him over patiently as liesure serves, you cannot fail to acquire a substantial knowledge of Grammar; your hand of write is very considerably improved, as well as your orthography, and both will go on improving still farther. Practice is the only road to Perfection, in this art as in others; and you cannot have a better opportunity of travelling it, than my necessities hold out to you at present. Continue to epistolize me diligently. Write concerning all matters that cross your ‘mental veeshon’; give me a true picture of your state and situation—outward and domestic; you can tell me nothing that will not be interesting. I would not be unreasonable, however; I daresay you are very busy at this period,—tilling the soil—for potatoes, or harrowing it over corn, or fallowing it, or doing twenty things beside: so I do not look for such minute and comprehensive dispatches yet, as I shall get by and by. Only be as liberal as you can; do not fail to give me something, and I shall be satisfied.

There is nothing different in my condition, since I wrote last to you. The Review I finished eight days ago, and gave to Waugh directly: I understand it is to be printed in due course. Something however there seems to be requiring discussion connected with it. Waugh told me yesterday, that the Editor Dr Poole, thawt viry highly of eet; and wished to see me at tea to-night for the purpose of talking about it. I am going accordingly. I suppose it is too long; for their book is small, and I was copious at the time. Dr Poole shall have leave (Heaven bless him!) to make ‘a kirk and a mill’3 of the thing if he likes—so his principal do but table me a reasonable quantum of cash for my duty. I imagine it possible that some benefit may arise to me from this undertaking. The present article is very wretched certainly: but if it induce them to give me more—of an agreeable stamp—I should find little difficulty, while in health, of throwing of[f] a sheet or so of letter-press for them monthly; from which would arise a neat little sum—sufficient to maintain me snugly throughout the whole year, and leave me room besides to prosecute such other objects as I might incline. With health, I certainly fear nothing: and health I trust may be served by due attention. As to the Provost's scheme, I think it may perhaps turn to something beneficial after all. I have written about it to Irving; and design to mention it to some others. Perhaps I might contrive to get—say four boys; it would keep me beyond danger of want—of itself; and then I have fair scope in other directions.

We must all fight and fight—if we would live in this world. I often think they are happier that fight for solid necessary objects, than they that vex themselves in vain for dainty cates to satisfy the boundless cravings of a spirit left unoccupied. To see them hunting and drinking and debauching all ways; dancing, dressing, strutting—not to mention your great conquerors and projectors of various sorts—alas! the mind is languid and tempest-tossed and discontented, do what they will. Your husbandman keeps hold of Health any way; and I tell you the possession of that bright blessing is better than the empire of the world. If you could penetrate into the hearts of our poor shambling lairds—whether they be dandies or jolly ones, and see the yellowness and flatness of their inward landscape; you would fly with double speed back to your fresh fields and bracing air; gladly forsaking the switch and quizzer and other plaiks [toys] invented by French barbers and the like, for the venerable plough—invented by Father Adam himself, and dignified by the usage of patriarchs and heroes, and still better dignified intrinsically as the Upholder of the human race.— But a truce with Philosophy— There is no room for her here.— Do you hear any thing about Jamie Johnstone of late? I have enquired often but without success. Tell me next time: and collect news for me from all parts, no matter how empty— I rejoice over the library,4 and its new chance of existence. Watch over it, in spite of all opposition.— Write long, long: believing me to be always,

Your faithful Brother, /

Thomas Carlyle

What, in the name of wonder, is become of Jack?