The Collected Letters, Volume 2


TC TO JAMES CARLYLE, THE ELDER; 12 January 1822; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18220112-TC-JCE-01; CL 2:3-5.


3. Moray-street, 12th Jany 1821 [1822]

My dear Father,

I was sitting over the fire in a very sluggish humour, reading a little—chiefly to keep me out of a worse humour, when the little box was handed in to me quite unexpectedly. I looked for it about the beginning of the week; but all hope of it had left me today. Your letter1 was the first of my acceptable packet, that caught the eye; and for this reason—if there were no other—I am sufficiently directed to make it the first subject of my present consideration. I am sorry that the task of writing to Mainhill—always among the most agre[e]able of my life—finds me so ill prepared for executing it effectively, in the actual state of things. I am not only hurried vastly, but sickish. A beef-steak—resembling very much in taste and consistency, a fragment of the Bonshaw Flow2—was offered me yesterday as the best my neat little Landlady could come at in all the neighbourhood: hunger stood in place of sauce; and I consumed as food what Nature evidently intended should be consumed as fuel. The consequence was, I slept badly and little overnight. I had also to go this morning and read some old black-letter poems in the Advocates' Library: and the stomach, like a true British subject, is rebelling not a little against all these infringements of its rights and privileges. Let it croak as it pleases: I will do my duty: only you must pardon all short comings.

I am very sorry to learn that you have been afflicted with colds of late. Health, as I know too well, must enter into all our enjoyments, as the basis on which every other item of them is to be founded. Let me trust that your disorders are destined to prove of short continuance, and to be succeeded by your wonted firmness of body, in which I believe few men living are better provided than you. Still it should occupy your remembrance now and then that every constitution has its limits in point of strength; and at your years it surely cannot be too much your duty to take care. I know partly by myself, what a thing it is with your mind to sit vacant, and how much easier the full push of vigorous exertion is to you than cowering indolence: but our first wishes ought not to be listened to on all occasions; and I take the liberty of a son to beg that you will labour less, and expose yourself less. From youth upward your days have been days of toil: and life would be a wor[s]e thing than by the blessing of Providence you have found it, if the afternoon of it even to the dusk were to be as full of effort as the morning. I entreat you to think of this, for there is reason in it.

As to the times, it is an evil, which being universal must be promptly and effectually met: and many will fail for want of a remedy, perhaps ninety-nine hundredths of the British farmers, before you need even fear greatly. And if the issue were to prove unfortunate—What then? You can stand it better than many many, whom it would leave without resourse. The worst is over; we are all past childhood: and with so many brave sons to stand between you and danger, why should you be afraid?

For myself the eldest and least profitable of them, I do sometimes think that Fate is about to lift its heavy hand off me; and that I shall yet have it in my power to be useful to you all. My health is considerably better than it was last winter; it will return completely I trust: and my hopes are infinitely more extensive and better founded than they were at the same period. I have abundance of employment, and the expectation of more, and more lucrative, in process of time. There is a place, in particular, about which Irving wrote to me the other day, that promises exceedingly well. It is a Tutorship in a London family who have two sons intended to reside with their parents at Edinr, till their education is completed. The mother, Irving says, is an excellent person; the sons likely to be more troublesome: but the salary is two hundred a year, a round solid sum, for which a man would submit to much. Accordingly, I have engaged to attend the youths (about fifteen & 13 years of age) when they arrive, which they are to do shortly—in quality of teacher in the interim, for three months, till their parents arrive, with the understanding that if I like them and they me, I am to undertake the office permanently. If it suit I shall do excellently well: if not—happily I can give it to the winds, and fight my own battle again as I have done before.— You will find more of this and many other things in the remaining letter—here I am at a close.3 I wish you would write me oftener; I never read a letter from you without very enviable feelings—being always—your affe son, Th: Carlyle

My kindest love to all the little ones: I will write them all—perhaps even Jenny and Jean—next time.