The Collected Letters, Volume 13


TC TO JAMES CARLYLE ; 24 March 1841; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18410324-TC-JC-01; CL 13: 64-66


Chelsea, 24 March, 1841—

Dear Brother,

Your Letter arrived last night while the Doctor sat with us at tea. His Patient was out on an Excursion to Windsor; and the Doctor had come down to spend the evening here. We deliberated upon your Letter; and it was agreed that I should write to you this morning,—both as being in some measure the umpire of the business between John and you, and also as his sore arm is not in good order yet for writing much.

We find that you have omitted one essential thing: you have forgotten to tell us the name of the Farm! This defect you must at once remedy, if any step whatever is to be taken. One cannot write to any man of business about a Farm which one does not know the name of, without giving a bad impression of one's own business habits. We know whereabouts the situation is; and might perhaps describe the place as a farm near Dornock which George Lowther once occupied; or we might guess that it is called “Dornock Mains” (a name you once used): but the name itself is evidently indispensable in the first place!1

The Doctor, with his affectionate nature which amid all faults we all know well in him, hopes you understand that there is no brotherly act which he would not readily do to assist you. He is not grown stingy or hard at all, that I can see,—as some of them used to represent to me. He is a kind fellow; and he believes of you his Brother that you are a faithful industrious true-hearted man, whom it were a pleasure for him to assist. At the same time he urged very reasonably last night, that for him alone of us all the money that he was now making was hitherto simply the only result of his life; he had yet no home, station or family, as all the rest of us had, and except by the money which he was now earning, in a slavish uncomfortable uncertain way, he had no outlook of ever getting any home for himself. It behoved him therefore to look well before taking any step of this kind, both what was the extent of it, and what would be probably the result of it not only to himself but also to you. I could not but admit all this to be reasonable. I have no doubt too but you with your candour and justness of view will think it the same. I can speak the more freely, as it is not in my own cause: my stock of money is so inconsiderable at present, and my outlooks so complicated that, as the Doctor at once discerns, he and not I is to take that part of the business on him. I yet owe him the half of Austin's money; which he declares he will not have from me till I can spare it better.2

What John doubts of therefore is this: whether the £200 for two years is not altogether a rash and erroneous calculation about what your wants in that new farm would actually be. He says he could venture £200, and even if he were not paid in “two years,” he would think it well-spent could he do you such service; but his apprehension is that it might rather require £400 or £500 to get fairly into a farm of that kind; and this is a sum he could not venture. If this latter were actually the sum needed, the £200 would of course not only be lost, but no help, nay much misery, would be entailed on you in the process of losing it. That is too plain a case; and the result would be too grievous to both parties. If this new farm has twice as much rent, will it not take almost twice as much stock as Scotsbrig; will it be actually possible to work it in the way you say?— I have great confidence in your prudence, fairness, practical good sense and manfulness: I will therefore bid you, my dear Brother, both for John's sake and perhaps still more for your own, meditate on this matter again and calculate it, not with the arithmetic of hope, but with that of doubt and rigorous practicality, and consider whether it is a thing you dare fairly commit yourself to. For Fact, when we come to try it, will be very rigid with us! If this thing do not prove practicable, it will be far better we had never meddled with it, but tried some other thing. Pray compute again therefore, and look on all sides of the affair, and then speak. Any thing you can reasonably ask, your Brother will do for you; but let it be a really executable thing, a thing which you will undertake to fulfil and stand to; not a vague semblance of a thing which when tried in practice will tumble into ruin.

For the rest, these preliminaries once settled, John will write to the Duke for you; tho' he professed not to know whether it would be of much avail:—I think it could hardly miss to be of some avail, more or less. At any rate he will write of you what he knows to be true; adding that you are his Brother and your welfare dear to him: the Duke can then do what he likes and finds best.

The name of the Farm therefore; and a more rigorous sceptical stern computation: these two things are wanted; so soon as you send these, John will directly bestir himself. You had better write again to this address. The Doctor may be here or in Ryde; but it is easy to manage in either case. No time, as you say, is to be lost. The Duke is in Scotland, not here at present. Bestir yourself therefore my dear Brother; and decide like a wise candid man.3— I have neither room nor time for a word more.——— Yours ever affectionately,

T. Carlyle

I am pestered with sitting for my Picture in these days; this day is to be the last: I am perfectly sick of it. I will write to my Mother, so soon as anything is settled about our comings or goings. We are in our usual health, and the weather promising to favour us, as well as March can.