The Collected Letters, Volume 2


TC TO DAVID HOPE; 23 March 1822; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18220323-TC-DH-01; CL 2:71-73.


3 Moray Street, Leith Walk, / 23d March, 1822.

My Dear Sir:

I received your kind letter in due time; and should have acknowledged that mark of your attention long ago, had I not been excused in my own eyes by the expectation you held out to me of an opportunity to acknowledge it more agreeably by word of mouth, in your visit to Edinr, which I then thought was near at hand. “February” is come and gone, and you have not shown face. I continue, however, to expect you: and by way of fortifying your purpose to beat up my quarters when you arrive, I am going to foist this sheet into a packet of Mr. Irving's, which I have already loaded with letters to him and Mr. Grahame, thus making it a messenger to nearly all of the very few friends I reckon as mine within the bounds of your extensive city.

Some account of your projected marriage had reached me while in Annandale: but I received your authentic detail of the business1 with fresh interest—not only as it explained a rather curious transaction, but as it afforded me a proof of your confidence, which I am very proud of thinking I possess in such a matter. Various thoughts strike me on considering that business; and certainly the most agreeable of them is the clear persuasion that you have acted with perfect integrity and honour—nay, with even scrupulous attention to the interest of others, and an almost culpable neglect of your own, throughout the whole negotiation. As for the loss itself I am not sure that you have much cause for regret, when all is reckoned up. The young lady's conduct I can find an explanation if not an excuse for, and the evidence of testimony forces me to believe that her general demeanour displayed many graceful qualities. But she was a person of genius, if I mistake not: and much as I admire, not to say idolize, that characteristic in a mistress (or sweetheart, as we call it), I confess I should pause before recommending it to any honest man in a wife. These women of genius, sir, are the very d——l, when you take them on a wrong tack. I know very well, that I myself—if ever I marry, which seems possible at best—am to have one of them for my helpmate; and I expect nothing but that our life will be the most turbulent, incongruous thing on earth—a mixture of honey and wormwood, the sweetest and the bitterest—or, as it were, at one time the clearest sunshiny weather in nature, then whirlwinds and sleet and frost; the thunder and lightning and furious storms—all mingled together into the same season—and the sunshine always in the smallest quantity! Judge how you would have relished this: and sing with a cheerful heart, E'en let the bonny lass gang!2

Before long I trust to see you more happily mated than you could have been in this instance. There is no happiness, properly speaking, I am told, without a good wife: so I counsel you to bestir yourself while it is in season. I prophesy that you will make an excellent husband to any lady worthy of you; and I doubt not in due time to have the happiness of seeing your hospitable fireside enlivened and adorned as I and all your friends could wish. You know the old story of the scissors: a single blade of them is good for nothing but scraping a trencher or so; together they clip everything before them, from cambric up to white iron. What a lesson to bachelors and spinsters!

I designed to give you a full picture of all my doings here; but not having room or time now, I must refer you to our friends Irving and Grahame, either of whom will give you ample satisfaction on every point.

They will tell you how I am partly in the prospect of entering as tutor into an English family against August; how I am writing sometimes, often meditating to write, and not unfrequently on the verge of being sent to pot entirely, by the worst of stomachs.

I had likewise some news in store for you, but not of importance enough that you should regret the want of them. In our native Annandale there is nothing but embarrassment. The farmers all are poverty-struck to a man; so are all that depend on them, of course. A striking proof of their necessity in Hoddam parish is the fact that even Sharpe3 has at last consented to a reduction. Irving, as you know, was here preaching lately. Nothing since the days of Knox or the Erskines 4 has excited so much speculation in the theological world as his appearance here. They think him the cleverest and strangest person they have ever fallen in with. The talk has been interrupted a little by a ridiculous prediction, imputed to Professor Leslie, that horrible convulsions were to occur in the atmosphere last Friday—none of which occurred—but it is not exhausted yet. He was touching on the Catechisms: I could fancy the Closehead folks,5 if he had read that sermon to them, all rising as one man to cast him forth of the Tabernacle, or at least withdrawing en masse, with the most wintry air imaginable, and leaving him to utter his “heresies” to empty benches and bare walls. At Edinr they proceeded more moderately: some admired, several did not, most knew not what to think. I have not listened to a sermon displaying equal mind in my whole life.

But you see, my dear sir, that I must now “cease to darken counsel by words without wisdom.”6 I have spent an hour very merrily in chatting with you, and shall go to sleep no worse for it. I expect to spend several hours with you still more agreeably, when you come Eastward: and failing this, I have a kind of half intention of visiting Glasgow about the beginning of May; when—woe to your oranges! Woe to the quiet of your house!—unless I relent and stay at home.— Excuse all this palabra, and believe me to be (my dear sir)

Most sincerely yours, /

Th. Carlyle.