The Collected Letters, Volume 2


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE; 12 January 1822; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18220112-TC-JAC-01; CL 2:10-13.


3. Moray-street, 12th Jany 1822.

My dear Jack,

I have been writing very copious letters to Mainhill all this afternoon; and as I had no time to get one ready for you, my heart partly smites me now that I have come back from the Carrier's; and as at any rate I feel somewhat indisposed for dipping into the character and projects of Faust to-night, I purpose to solace myself by holding a little chat with you before I go to bed. It is uncertain when you may see this: for I have nothing to communicate but what you will soon know fully by another channel; and therefore I am not going to take your ninepence half-penny out of its dry lodging in Wellington-street to put it into his Majesty's treasury, on this occasion; but to give this letter to the Jurist 1 or some other trust-worthy person, and let it come cost-free tho' more slowly.

I thank you very kindly for your letter. It is of the right open-hearted kind, written without reserve from the fulness of your own thoughts; and that is just the thing I want. Write to me often in the same style not waiting for carriers or the like, but using the convenience of the Post-Office without reserve. I always rejoice to see one of your letters, because I am sure of its coming from an honest soul that loves me. I am glad also to find by the epistle in question that you are so much in the way of improvement, and making such large advances in the acquisition of knowledge,—of facts as well as of reflective habits, which are most valuable of all. Go on, my brave Jack! and fear no weather! We have both a sore fight to wage; but we shall conquer at the last. There are many men now lolling upon the pillow of inglorious sloth, and pitying such adventurers as we: but their pity shall not always endure—the lazy haggises;2 they must sink when we shall soar.

Now that you have finished Rollin,3 I think you ought to begin some other book on general literature, directed if possible like it, in some degree to the progress of your classical studies. There is a Roman History by Hook,4 if I mistake not, in your catalogue. Concerning its merits I am not entitled to speak—never having seen it: I suspect they will be small; but it will undoubtedly contain many details of advantage for you to be familiar with; therefore I partly advise you to get hold of it. Failing this, you might commence Smollett's Continuation of Hume,5 or any continuation of him—for a worse one can scarcely be imagined than Smollett's; and endeavour to make yourself acquainted with the outlines of recent English history. There are some “histories of Scotland” which relate to periods with which perhaps you would like to become acquainted. Laing 6 is a sensible, hard-hearted man: Pinkerton7 has the most hateful mind of any living author—but his “house of Stewart” is worth looking into. The “early history” cannot be read, by any thinking creature; it is fit only for antiquarians. At all events, read something. A continual exercise of the memory and judgement alone wears out one's energies, and is unprofitable to the faculties in the long run. You will be abundantly able to hold up your head here in the Classes next winter, without overstraining yourself. So take it leisurely upon you. And count upon it, Jack, as a settled thing that you are to appear here. I expect to be able to set you above all fear, whether you get teaching or not,—which however is very probable. They will tell you at home, about a projected Tutorship, which is yet uncertain, but which if I like it—for the most lies there, will yield me a nett revenue of £200 a-year. Where is the risk then my boy Jack? And if this all evaporate, I can still translate and compile and write and do rarely. I think my health is improving; and I have often said, that I want nothing more. So be of good cheer, benighted Teanglegg! day will dawn upon thee, and a fine country lie disclosed at thy feet, before the year's end.

Parson Sloane8 must have very peculiar views on the nature of adverbs. “Fence in the tender shrubs” is no mysterious phrase; and in, if there be any logic upon Earth, is a preposition to all intents and purposes; in composition with “fence” to be sure, and not governing “shrubs,” but still a preposition if there ever was one. Does the hysterical pedagogue not know or understand the property of all Saxon languages, and of English among them, which permits the separation of a verb from the preposition in composition with it, and the inversion of their usual arrangement if necessary? Did he never read “I have set-to my seal”9 in his Bible? Did he never say “Put to the door”? And is to an adverb likewise? After all it is simply a question about terms; and makes no jot of difference, however it be decided. But one does not like to be bravadoed and cowed out of any thing.

You did well to mention James Irving's case to me. Call upon him the first opportunity, and say that I am ready to aver if needful that I never in the whole course of my natural life saw him reading Pittiscottie's History10 or any other thing whatever, on his knees or off them, before the fire or behind it, above it or below it; and that I never said I so saw him to Peter Forrest11 or any son or daughter of Adam. This I can assert whenever James Irving's interest requires me to assert it.

Your little Typographus has acted very foolishly and impudently in using my name in the matter: it were acting with strict justice but too great severity towards him, to leave the business here, and let him pass for a liar, when he merits only to be counted a babbler. The truth is he was pestering me about books to print and so forth one day: Pittiscottie was mentioned among others; and the question, where it could be had, being started, I said it must be in the neighbourhood for I had heard that James Irving had read it. “Does he read?” said my man of types. I replied that he did certainly, and I believed (for I had heard this too, and know from whom I heard both statements) when other conveniences failed he would sit by the fire and read even on his knees, when the embers began to glimmer feebly. So diligent was he.— Tell this to Irving whenever you see him: and say I am sorry that I should have been instrumental however remotely and innocently, in bringing him into the smallest uneasiness.— As to Forrest I have no spleen against him,—except that he has acted very thoughtlessly and very absurdly, tho' I do believe not malevolently. He has also taken up too much of my poor Jack's letter with his pranks and their consequences. Laissons-le [Let us leave him alone].

Now thou must write again boy in a few days and tell me all that is in thy liver, both pro and contra. How does Ben do? Make my best respects to him. I intend writing: but alas! How busy am not I? As Potty12 said—that is Potty of Lauder, who is a good man notwithstanding

I have written in a strange humour to-night Jack: melancholikish, illnaturedish, affectionatish—all in ish—for I am very weak and weary, having slept little last night, and sat too much. I am for bed now. Good night, My Jack! I love thee as well as I can, which is pretty well considering all things.

If I can rise in time to-morrow morning (which is far from likely) I intend giving this to Dr Johnston,13 who has been here witnessing about Armstrong of Glingan's trial.14 Armstrong is to be quit for a month's imprisonment, as you will hear. Johnstone did not give his evidence in full; for they saw, he said to me last night in Waugh's room, they saw he was going to 'waken on them [burst out in anger]—and so prudently let him travel.

I like my room well—the air is good, the landlady is good, and there is peace. Alas! for my poor Book. But it shall appear yet. When shall I begin? Good night again!

Thy affectionate brother, /

Thos Carlyle—.

Will you present my compliments to George Johnstone of Ecclefn and ask why he sends me no word of himself. Is he there still.