The Collected Letters, Volume 1


TC TO ALEXANDER CARLYLE; 21 November 1821; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18211121-TC-AC-01; CL 1:397-400.


Edinr21st November 1821—

My dear Brother,

I was proceeding along Prince's-street, to-day about 2 o'clock in the company of that “hard character,” Cron of Scaills,1 when my eye fortunately caught the acceptable figure of Thomas Garthwaite. He consigned to me our Mother's spectacles; could find no letters; and promised to send up the box, which he thought contained some, in a very short time. It has not arrived yet: but the hurry about it is smaller, as I had not left Thomas many paces, till by a very natural process, I discovered what I was in quest of, by undoing the cover of my little parcel. So I proceeded right onwards—reading as I went—to the Optician's with the spectacles; engaged to call for them about dusk; and am now down to scribble you a line or two in the interim.

I need not say that I am very much gratified by your letter, and the friendly sentiments and inquiries which it expresses. There is a good deal of consolation in the thought, that if few like us, those few like us well, and will stand true by us forever: and it is a thought too which should not lie barren within us; but operate as a fresh stimulus to make us if possible justify their partiality, by a conduct full of gratitude to our favourers, and of upright independence towards all men. I considered, on ascending Middlebie brae, that day we went to Waterbeck, what a brave thing it was, that here were we three, firm fellows, all brethren arrived at manhood, the sons of honest parents, ourselves without a stain: and I prophesied within myself that a day would come when we should be still more proud to call each other brethren, and give still more comfort (perhaps) to those that own us. I am still full of these hopes; and I know no better—indeed no other, way to realise them, than by acting as we have endeavoured to do hitherto—with diligence in business and fervency in spirit, towa[r]ds every thing within our reach that is manly or becoming. But wherefore darken counsel by words without wisdom?2 Those speculations are familiar to every person of reflection: you understand them as well as I. Turn we to more plain matters.

And upon this head I need not extend largely. Nothing novel has occurred since I wrote last so fully—not even a change in my lodgings. This latter event must however take place shortly, for my room is let to a person who enters it on Saturday evening. This intimation of my intentions to the poor little body of a landlady I thought it but fair to make, and she received it very decently. In fact I could not stay. Besides the noise of masons, dog-fights, cat-squallings, carpet-beatings, my evenings were annoyed by the coughing of a poor girl directly below my bed who, I unfortunately learned, was dying of Consumption. You cannot conceive how much this afflicts me. But the little woman is very cleanly, and very attentive, and the place is finely aired: and as there is a front-room free from most of these inconveniences, I think it is likely the body and I may agree about it, and make the rent suit; in which case I shall only have to shift about six yards. Mrs Swan3 of whom I spoke to my Mother, has sought out several rooms for me; but none that suits—indeed there is no place in Edinr so convenient in regard to air as this; and I am now got naturalised to it in great measure. So I think it is probable I shall continue. At any rate, direct to me here next time: Mrs Simm's, 9. Jamaica-street.4

I[n] other respects I am hardly begun to work yet. Dr Brewster advises me to commence forthwith at Legendre5 for it will go on certainly. “I shall do it.” But I have got no desk yet, no ——, no &c &c. Expect however to learn that I [shall be] consid[erably] underway next time I write—in spite of all these wants. I shall want for no cash or aught like it, during winter: and I am to write a book6 for my own convenience I am! depend on it.— There is another thing which I should mention. It is that I am as well as ever I was at home of late; rather, in fact, in the improving direction. I sleep at nights very well (when the poor girl's cough is not excessive): and I have a fine acidifying stomach, which will get as well even as Grier's7 bye and bye.

Now my boy Alick, think if in all the course of your various reading, you have ever read such a jumbled scrawl as this? Has it middle or beginning or end? I would burn it, if I had a moment's time to write another: but I have not. So you must just make a shift with it, boy. Next time will do better: but I have been taken off this time and off, and hurried to death. Write to me, Write— I am ever,

My dear Alick, / Your affectionate brother, /

Thomas Carlyle.

My affectionate regards to father & mother and all the little ones. They all owe me letters—let them pay instantly.