The Collected Letters, Volume 2


TC TO JAMES CARLYLE, THE ELDER; 10 April 1822; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18220410-TC-JCE-01; CL 2:85-87.


Edinr, 10th April, 1822—

My dear Father,

It is a long time since I heard from you personally and almost as long since I wrote to you; and as I am at liberty on this occassion to choose my own correspondent—having no letters to answer—I have fixed upon you1 to be the medium thro' which intelligence of my fortunes may be conveyed to all my worthy and beloved friends about Mainhill. The matter will not detain me long; I wrote about every thing with extreme minuteness on several sheets only two weeks ago, and there has nothing occurred since then to create any considerable variety in my history. I still keep plodding away at my regular duties, which upon the whole I find to be very pleasant, and to form no small increase to my comfort in many respects. It is the most important of all things to have the mind kept from preying upon itself, and nothing is so important for this purpose as a constant series of employments, which we are bound in spite of all encumbrances to perform daily. I get rid of all tedium by this means; and secure at the same time a comfortable emolument to support me, as well as a reasonable portion of time to devote to my private studies. The Bullers I find to be very good-conditioned fellows on the whole: and the management of them requires no extraordinary portion of talent or resolution. The matter, as you know, is still in a state of comparative uncertainty: and I endeavour to provide for the worst, like a prudent youth, tho' I am not without a pretty certain expectation that all things will terminate agreeably against August. Still, however, I reckon this tutorship only a temporary affair, and that I must work out my own deliverance by the independent exertion of such powers as it has pleased Providence to bestow on me. For this reason I am endeavouring to be as diligent as circumstances will permit to get forward some Literary undertaking, by which I may convince myself, and that small portion of the world which is likely to take any interest in me, that I am a person not unworthy of a little patronage, and capable of doing something better than I have yet had an opportunity of doing: This is a serious enterprise; and I have no great means of bringing it to a fortunate conclusion: nevertheless such is my condition that I must attempt with all my strength and all my soul; and if I am a poor “empty ass”—why then—as Singleton said—there is no help for it; we must just do the best we can for a livelihood on some humbler footing.2 The title of this weary Book [underscored twice] I have not yet fixed upon; but I am reading things to set it forth as diligently as I can.

It gives me great pleasure to learn that you at Mainhill are all in your usual state of business and content—all in at least moderate health, and all striving against the difficulties of life with unabated perseverance. I have heard some farther speech of a fresh reduction granted you by Sharpe; but whether it will be of an adequate extent, or whether indeed it have any real existence, I am not certainly informed. Certainly it is a time of unexampled difficulty to Farmers over all the Empire; and I have no doubt their case will at length awaken the Legislature to more effectual measures for their support. In the mean time we have no means of helping ourselves, but the old ones, diligence and carefulness—which, I know, you are ever applying with as much zeal as any one.

You would not forgive me if I neglected to say a word about the state of my own outward man—which has troubled me and others so much and long. I am happy to let you know that my health [is on] the whole continuing to improve. The air in this place is scarcely inferior even to that of Annandale; I have the advantage of regular exercise; a little comfort in the present, a little hope in the future; and tho' I am not strong or free of pain yet, I feel myself much stronger and more free of pain than I was some months ago—and think I am continuing to advance in the same blessed direction. There is nothing in all the world that terrifies me to the heart, but the final ruin of my health; if that go I am sensible all is gone: so I take every precaution, and as I have said with very reasonable success. Complete recovery, however, must be a work of time: I should rejoice most heartily, if a true prophet would predict a total removal of my disorders against this time twelvemonth—which in fact I have some hopes of. At present, weakness is more my complaint than any disease; and as the latter is gone, I trust the former will go likewise. Let me be thankful for what I have received! I can now think & speak with composure and self-possession; and tho' weakish in body I am sound in mind; a blessing which I know not how to prize sufficiently. But I must now break off: my sheet & my time and I daresay your patience are near an end. I beg you will excuse this most meagre of all letters, and write me yourself by the first opportunity. Alick and the whole toll of them must write to me likewise. With the kindest sentiments towards all of them I remain,

My dear Father, / Your affectionate Son, /

Thomas Carlyle—

Tell the next Carrier to call for the box.