The Collected Letters, Volume 1


TC TO JAMES CARLYLE, THE ELDER; 17 November 1821; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18211117-TC-JCE-01; CL 1:395-397.


Edinr, 9. Jamaica-street, Mrs Simm's— / 17th November 1821—

My dear Father,

I was extremely glad to-day on passing along the North Bridge to see the countenance of Parliament Geordie [Dr. Little1], all in the Annandale style:—not so much on his own account (for the man had little to say of importance), as because it afforded me an opportunity of writing to you, which I felt no less anxious to do than you to suffer. I could write but a very hurried and vague epistle to Sandy on the former occasion; and I was within an inch of missing the chance of sending even that, Garthwaite being already under way, when I met him with it in my hand. So I daresay you will open this sheet with an additional portion of eagerness.

It struck me also that the Doctor might be a convenient means of enabling me to execute a small project which I have meditated for a while,—the project of sending my mother and you, each a pair of spectacles. You will find them wrapt up in the accompanying parcel. Yours I need not say are the silver ones: and I beg you to accept them as a slight memorial of the grateful affection, with which both conscience and inclination must always constrain me to regard you. This is the first thing, I believe, you ever got from me; and tho'a trifle, I know it will be ac[ceptab]le as coming from such a quarter. It affords a true delight to me to think, that, perhaps I may thus add a little to the comfort of one, to whom I myself owe sight and life and all that makes them worth enjoying. I often think, particularly on leaving Home, how blessed I am, amid all my sorrows, that my parents are yet both alive to love me and care for me; that I can think of them not only without abashment, but with a proud exultation—as ornaments—both by their talents and their conduct—to the honest station, which they have long occupied & will yet long, long occupy as becomes them. Have I not, I may well exclaim, still some to love, still where to lay my head, whatever may betide? Few, very few are so happy.

I have almost forgot to say that if the glasses do not suit exactly;—observe merely whether you need to hold the book, or other object, too near or too far from the eye; write this down to me pointedly; and send the spectacles up to me by Garthwaite, that the fault may be remedied. They can put in a pair of new sights in five minutes, and I have bargained that it shall be no additional expence. In fact the present sights were put in to suit my description, and the man told me that as they grew too young, it was the custom to get them changed regularly. See therefore, that you are properly fitted—since alteration can be made so easily.— But I am filling my paper w[i]th this poor affair, when there is so much else to talk about. Let me leave it.2

Things look as if they would go smoothly with me, this winter. I saw Brewster the other day, who received me kindly, and spread out his bank-draught for fifteen guineas, like a man. The other things3 had not been waited-for at all. He told me farther that a translation was for certain to be set about, and that I as certainly should have the first offer of it. The work is a French one, Legendre's Elements of Geometry—which Jack knows well and has in his possession. It is a thing I can work at, if the gea4 of life be in me at all; and for that cause alone I purpose to accept it. There is plenty of Encyclopedia work besides: and the worthy Review-men seem to the full as desirous that I should write for them as I am willing to write for any thing in honour that will pay me well. That poor article, which you saw, has done me some good, I find already. They had me to dine along with about a half-score of professed critics last night. The innocent Editor, our Landlord, was most officious—produced excellent stuff to eat and drink, and compliments in abundance. James Simpson5 author of a visit to Waterloo, which I remember reading to you and Heezlie,6 six years ago, was of the party. He is a good-natured, vapouring, simpering, very shallow man. So are they mostly—all very shallow—at least pretty shallow—and almost all very good-humoured. They were keenly solicitous, at least they said so, that I should continue to write for them; and tho' I respect neither them nor their cause among the highest, I have thoughts of complying for a time;—if they pay well, that is,—of which I have yet had no proof. From the whole of this, my dear Father will be happy to conclude that I am free of danger—if I keep a sound body; which I shall surely to a certain extent, or if no precaution will serve, I will return to my own climate again.

I designed to write Jack every night this week; but have failed. Tell him to look for a letter by the post—in a day or two. Alick is in my debt: but I will have him deeper in it ere long. You must write me the very first evening you have leisure: it will be a wholesome exercise to yourself, and a grateful treat to me. I am ever,

My dear Father, / Your affectionate Son, /

Thomas Carlyle.