The Collected Letters, Volume 2


TC TO WILLIAM GRAHAM; 23 March 1822; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18220323-TC-WG-01; CL 2:68-71.


3 Moray Street, Saturday evening [23 March 1822]

My dear Friend,

I have just swallowed two cups of indifferent tea, & seated myself here “in the visitation of the winds”1 which are howling without very potently but cannot reach me, with full purpose of scribbling this whole sheet before I give you any quarter. That “account of the unfortunate young man Faust” (as the hawkers have it) did not reach me until this morning; so I could not send it sooner: and the delay which has occurred enables me, along with this, to dispatch another piece of duty no less binding—the duty of thanking your Leech-ship for the truly paternal care you exercise over all, even my most personal interests, and which you have manifested again only two days ago by sending me Dr. Baillie's2 celebrated elixir for the use of my most afflicted inner man. I do indeed thank you: it is kind in you to take any thought of so ungrateful a matter as my health, from which no earthly enjoyment can result to your feelings except the “luxury of doing good”3—a luxury which requires no sumptuary law to act against it, I believe, being little practised even in this luxurious age. If your potion cure me, I will give you the credit of having removed more human wretchedness by a single act than you ever did in your life before. The Apothecary has done his part to give us all a fair chance: and I shall certainly drink three bottles before I despair. The liquor is pleasant to the taste and it brings kind warm thoughts into my heart every time I taste it: so that it will not be altogether thrown away, whatever be the issue. I confess my faith is small: however, I shall persevere, without faltering, to the end of three bottles.

The afternoon when you left me I returned home in a very melancholic humour, reflecting on all the shattered wrecks of fooling which compose so much of our history, and disposed enough to break forth into a coronach over the shortlivedness of earthly enjoyments. I threw myself down on that old loom of a sofa, and closing my eyes endeavoured to picture forth the actual state of those friends with whom a little while ago I had been so happy, and who had now all darted off into their several spheres, leaving me as before to gyrate in my own cold orbit—alone, or with stars only of malignant influence. There was no profit in this: so I arose, and took bread; and began to read Thucydides, and to prepare for teaching, and the several other prosaic services allotted to me. In two days I had fallen into my usual train; and have lived since in that way, enjoying as fair a mixture of cloud and sunshine as could be expected—or is perhaps desirable in my present circumstances.

Would it were so too with you! But I fear the news from America has damped you too much. Surely there is something exceedingly disheartening in the reiterated disappointment you experience of your most rational hopes. I know not how the matter stands; nor is there need: I could but sympathize with your sufferings, which you already know I do from the heart; or propound to you some cold topic of consolation, which you can practise even better than I can prescribe. My only watchword, therefore, is: Be of Courage! There are souls that feel for you a respect only deepened by each successive difficulty you surmount, and who rest assured that days are coming when all your distresses will exist but in memory, and serve but to add a more touching relish to the calm which must ultimately succeed. What honest man of a firm heart ever sank to rise no more? Not one,—if he stood by his integrity: therefore I again say Be of courage! Both you and I are fighting with obstructions, which go nigh to overwhelm us sometimes: but they shall not; tho' fainting we will fight: and Te Deum must be the end of it, and will.

What a blessed thing is Hope! How it shines like a clear star when all the universe but itself seems wrapped in Cimmerian darkness,—shedding a pure bright ray over the wild black waters which it is man's fortune so often to navigate! Never leave it out of sight, my friend! It points to fairer weather: and remember your own brave saying, the darkest hour of night is nearest to the dawn.4 We shall find it so I never doubt.

There is a portion of sorrow tempered by a portion of joy peculiar to the fate of every man; and no one can say with safety, my own share of either is greater than another's. I often imagine that it must be very hard measure with which things are meted to myself; but I know that I am wrong in thinking so. True I should be happier and more useful if I were healthy; but so should I be if I had the genius of Milton or could fly like an angel; and man was not born to be boss,5 any more than to have wings. I reflect too that it does no good at all to sit speculating on our fortunes; it is better far to use and gird up our loins and see what can be done to mend it. Therefore I am vexing myself as little as may be about many things that press on me, but harassing myself only the more about some undertakings which appear to be of vital importance, tho' of very dubious issue. “In spite of nature and my stars,”6 I am going to write a book; and I can find no subject to write upon; and thus I fret and worry from morning to night, starting fifty projects and rejecting them all as soon as started, and finding no rest for the sole of my foot till I have come to some determination, where alas! I have no fit data for determining. Unless your elixir and the fresh air and constant exercise fail to keep out the foul fiend Indigestion—which would certainly indeed concentrate all my attention elsewhere than to literature—I give you some hope to calculate on receiving from me, before this time, twelve-month, a reasonable volume by the hand of an Annandale man, which may eclipse the less happy of Andrew Muckle May's effusions7 or even rival “Henderson on Swine”8—the works by which that refined vale is at present chiefly distinguished in the world of letters. I do actually meditate this; so you may look to it—

But alas! my sheet is done; and how have I wasted it! Not one thing put down as it should have been, and many down which had no right to be there at all. There is no remedy but Patience (Geduld as our friend Faust says): I must write to you again very soon, and try to get thro' somewhat better. You will send me news of yourself the very earliest hour you can spare. Never be discouraged, come what will. I venture to bet any reasonable thing that before my book is out, you will be not only under way, but sailing with swol'n canvass thro' the rich sounds of merchandise as bravely as ever you have done. Will you take me? I am sure to win: And winning or losing to remain always,

Your faithful friend, /

T. Carlyle