The Collected Letters, Volume 2


TC TO ALEXANDER CARLYLE; 27 April 1822; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18220427-TC-AC-01; CL 2:92-95.


Edinr, Saturday, 27th April, 1822—

My dear Alick,

I have just read over your very lively, kind & acceptable letter; which, tho' the Carrier as usual has left me completely in the dark as to the period of his out-going or even his personal identity, I proceed to answer as minutely as the various calls upon my time will permit. As you are always too ambitious of my suffrage, I am happy to congratulate you on the still increasing merits in a literary point of view (which to me are the smallest merits) of your successive epistles. You only need to write oftener in order to become a very superior inditer as well as penman. I am proud to think that my advices & animadversions may have had some influence in encouraging this intellectual developement, and cherishing the expression of those honest & manly sentiments, that genuine humour & sprightly vivacity, which distinguish your natural character. I again enjoin you, by the authority that age & affection give me over you, to go on improving, to neglect no opportunity of increasing your fund of ideas or your powers of exhibiting them; and I predict without dread of failure, that by so doing, you will in due time reach the object of your honourable efforts, the consciousness of possessing a mind furnished with solid knowledge and all those departments of cultivation which dignify the humblest situation, and without which the highest can have no dignity. I have a book here for you “the Letters of Junius,”1 which I know not whether I shall get it sent to-day—so awkwardly have things been ordered. Knox2 I have also enquired concerning: I found a copy of it bound at—a reduced price of I cannot just recollect how many shillgs, but cheap as I judge. Perhaps I may get the whole sent off to-day notwithstanding every obstacle; along with our Mother's bonnet, which is also here, standing fiercely in a large band-box challenging me, as it were, to dispatch it quickly whithersoever I please[.]

You are very good to shew so much anxiety about my health: I again positively assure you that it continues to improve. I have not been so well for many months as I am even now. The stomach &c are still weak & troublesome; but (thank God for it!) that unspeakable imprisonment of all my faculties, that darkness of the head & darkness of the heart, which nothing so completely as disordered nerves can give one, is now almost quite gone. I feel very contented in my usual state—full of business even to overflowing, with projects of all sorts before me, and some few rational hopes of executing a definite portion of them. With regard to the Book, it is true, as you guess, that I have been “riddling Creation”3 for a subject to dilate upon; and have felt no small disquietude till I could find something suitable. Within the last month, however, I have well nigh fixed upon a topic, and I feel considerable alacrity, and much more contentment than formerly, in laying in materials for setting it forth. My purpose (but this only among yourselves!) is to come out with a kind of Essay on the Civil Wars, the Commonwealth of England—not to write a history of them—but to exhibit if I can some features of the national character as it was then displayed, supporting my remarks by mental portraits, drawn with my best ability, of Cromwell, Laud, Geo: Fox, Milton, Hyde &c the most distinguished of the actors in this great scene. I may of course intersperse the work of delineation with all the ideas, which I can gather from any point of the Universe. If I live with even moderate health, I purpose to do this; and if I can but finish it according to my own conception of what it should be, I shall feel much happier than if I had inherited much gold & silver. The Critics too may say of it either nothing or any thing, according to their own good pleasure; if it once please my own mighty self, I do not value them or their opinion a single rush. Long habit has inured me to live with a very limited & therefore a dearer circle of approvers: all I aim at is to convince my own conscience that I have not taken their approbation without some just claims to it.

These are the fairy regions of Hope, from which I am incessantly recalled by multitudes of less glorious but more urgent actual duties. The printing of LeGendre is fairly begun—and intended to proceed at the rate of two sheets per week. I thought to steer clear of it, & fix it on Waugh, but it would not do: so I am in for it myself, and expect to be kept as busy with it “as a cock on the [sp]it” till after August. I purpose making Jack help me a little: I have indeed need of help; and my studies even with it, in so far as the Book is concerned, must in the mean time go on rather leisurely. The hours I spend in teaching are not by any means uncomfortable—except as they consume my leisure, which I would gladly devote to other objects: the boys are very brave-hearted fellows—particularly the elder—and respect me sufficiently. I still look upon our final agreement, however, as a thing not to be counted on: but fortunately like Cowthat's4 weather “it may be owther [either] way,” without affecting me immensely; I have plenty of offers from Booksellers &c (whose anxiety to employ me, naturally increases in the inverse ratio of my want of employment) to undertake editions of works, and so forth, under terms sufficiently liberal: and at the beginning of August, I shall have “money in my purse”5 to set me above the necessity of drudgery for a long while. So I do not feel much apprehension; none at all, if it were not for the matter of health, which also, as I have said, has a favourable aspect at present.

Thus, my dear fellow, have I prated to you for “a strucken hour” of myself and my doings—sure of an attentive & interested listener, and careless of concealing whatever solicited utterance. I must now draw bridle. There were a thousand questions that I meant to ask you; but you must endeavour to forestall them next opportunity, and to send me all the details you can collect. Bad luck to the low hound of Supplebank! he was always “a Turk in grain.” Why do they not send him to the Poyais Country, for which his brother here is crimping so valiantly? He is the very man to split logwood & be eaten by Mosquitoes. Out upon him!6

I wish I could get a box home this time; for I want some cakes and eggs. I think if you sent about a quarter of meal, the landlady here could make me cakes herself. She bakes tolerable ones out even of the saw-dust, which they false[ly] call oatmeal in these parts. But I must off to the Carrier's lodgings & see what can be done. Adieu my dear Alick! I am always,

Your affectionate Brother, /

Thomas Carlyle—