The Collected Letters, Volume 2


TC TO JAMES CARLYLE, THE ELDER; 5 February 1822; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18220205-TC-JCE-01; CL 2:31-33.


Edinr, 5th Feby, 1822—

My dear Father,

I have just received your letter from the hands of Garthwaite, and delivered the box to him. He is going away about five o'clock and it is already near four; so I have very little time to write in, and you will therefore excuse the confusion and meagreness of which it is probable my letter will exhibit too many proofs. At any rate, I wrote Jack by the Post last week, and on that occasion gave him a full detail; and I suppose you have perused it before now.

I am very glad to learn that you are going on still “in the old way”—which if not the best possible way, certainly deserves to be reckoned a very fair one, in such times as the present. Even the trifling reduction of 12 per cent will be of some service;1 and I entertain no doubt that something permanently beneficial to the farming interest must be effected soon by the Legislature[;] the state of the Country imperiously requires it. You have not surely any reason to fear for your own part: so long as you and my Mother and the rest are blessed with moderate health, there is every reason to be thankful, for the actual state of things, and to hope that the future state of them will have improved.

I feel very sorry to learn that Bogside,2 so long used to health and quiet, has been visited at length with such severe sickness. I trust it will only be for a short time: he is a worthy person in his way; and I have often experienced his kindness. Johnston wrote to me for the first time, the day before yesterday!3 He has been rather sickly, and exceedingly busied. His Irish affair is too likely to evaporate; and he naturally looks into the coming years with no small anxiety. I feel much for James: he is an honest kind soul, as lives by bread; and his fluctuating fortunes are to be imputed less to imprudence or faults on his part, than to the original circumstances in which he grew up, and to the undue neglect he has experienced from those who hold the patronages of this world in their hands. He is irresolute, because he is at once sharp-tempered and affectionate; impatient and indolent; vexed with present evil and not careful of future good. His mind is not great or strong, but it is true as gold.— I wrote him encouragingly yesterday.

Another still more unfortunate and far less amiable character than Johnston, I mean the celebrated Waugh4 comes in contact with me, here, now and then. Waugh navigates the stream of life, as an immense Dutch Lugger would drift along a rocky shoaly sea—at the rate of one mile per hour—the sails and rigging being gone, the compass and chart overboard, the captain however still standing by the helm, and by his ignorance and blindness making matters only worse, than if he were asleep continually. I know not what is to become of him. One day I pity his case very deeply; and the next some gross imprudence converts my pity into irritation. He has no money I doubt, and little rational prospect of getting any. I offered him some teaching, which he was very glad of when I spoke about it first, which he declined when I saw him a second time, wished to consider farther of when I saw him a third time, and finally rejected when I saw him a fourth time. He will most likely find some shark ready to seize upon his property for about the fifth part of its value in ready cash—which he at present longs to do; then spend this hundred pounds in half a year; and afterwards become—I wot not what.

But I have dwelt too long on those points: I must turn to myself. Those boys from London I am still attending daily—from ten o'clock to one, and then from six to eight. They improve upon me. The eldest I have talked a good deal with, and brought at last—I hope permanently, but cannot affirm—to a more rational style of feeling. He is no bad-hearted fellow: and I am inclined to think will do pretty well in the end. But we have yet heard no word from the Father, tho' we expected some two days ago; and no durable arrangement can yet be thought of. I like the business for many reasons, and dislike it chiefly because it will cut up my time so enormously for a while. I designed to set about writing some Book shortly; and this (at which I must ultimately arrive, if I ever arrive at any thing) will of necessity require to be postponed greatly. On the whole, however, I am in no bad spirits about myself at present. My health is incomparably better than it was a year ago: by the aid of some simple drugs I keep things in a kind of passable state, which tho' far from a right one, is a state calculated to yield me no small consolation, when I compare it with that which preceded. The air I live in too being very good, I expect to go on improving. I am still much pleased with my lodgings. So that every thing, if not exactly as it should be, is at least far better than it might be.

I firmly purposed to write my dear and kind Mother a long letter this opportunity: but five o'clock is already struck; and I must again defer it. Assure her of my continued love—of which indeed she requires no assurance; remember me in brotherly affection to Alick and Jack (from whom I had a letter which went round by Glasgow, and came with Johnston's) to Mag and Jamie, Mary Jane & Jenny; not doubting that I remain,

My dear Father, / Your dutiful son, /

Thomas Carlyle—

I read Robt Carlyle's letter; but unless you are much better informed about the name of Carlyle than I, the London Gentleman is likely to receive very little insight from us into that ancient patronymic. A large bell was dug up at Dumfries not long ago, of which I suppose he has heard. There is also some notice of Carlyle in Murray's genealogy of Bruce:5 but I am afraid it is a bad concern this “history.”

That great-coat will not suit Edinr any longer. Jack may have it if he like—if not, any one.— I am done—for it is quite night.