The Collected Letters, Volume 2


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE; 29 April 1822; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18220429-TC-JAC-01; CL 2:98-100.


Edinr, Monday-Evening [29 April 1822]—

My dear Jack,

I received your letter1 duly, and read it over with the pleasure which your letters always give me. I have since committed the most awkward mistake with regard to it. Being engaged to write Johnstone (about a School, which they have in view to establish in Argyleshire), I accordingly prepared an epistle for him with great speed; and passing by the Post-Office next morning, I threw into the box—not that official communication—but poor Jack's open letter, which I was wearing in my pocket for the convenience of being able to peruse it a third time when I saw cause! The subsequent evening, I discovered my mistake, and despatched Johnstone's intelligence forthwith, but have not yet succeeded in withdrawing from the “Dead-letter-office” the unfortunate sheet which had so little cause to appear there, and which besides I am in hourly want of for the sake of Geo: Johnstone's address. If I fail entirely, your letter will in time return to Annan; and I caution you that no postage is due for it, and therefore that you pay none, but let the post-men turn their hand with it, if they refuse to give it up charge-free.

My reason for troubling you so soon is partly that I may talk with you about Legendre. They have begun printing it in good earnest, & I am fairly engaged to furnish the press with two sheets of it weekly. In your last letter I mentioned my willingness to have shoved the whole matter off my hands, if it had been convenient, and my purpose in consequence to charge Waugh with the management of it. Waugh was ready to snatch at the offer; but I found the other parties were not likely to be so easily satisfied; and on surveying John's specimen (for he translated a sheet by way of specimen), it did not seem that their scruples were likely to be removed by a perusal of it: so I paid Waugh for what he had done and more (a very acceptable arrangement for poor Waugh!), and determined to go on with the business myself, at whatever sacrifice of time or inclination. Nor am I likely to repent this resolution, or to feel the sacrifice so great as I anticipated. By devoting the two hours and a half, between dinner & six o'clock, to the task, I can very nearly keep straight with Oliver & Boyd's greasy pressmen; and the time so spent would be well nigh quite useless to me in any other point of view; seeing the oppression, which a meal constantly lays upon this inward man of mine, is such as almost entirely to unfit me for serious thought, for a good space always after eating—particularly eating beef. I am at present about four sheets a-head of the knaves—being engaged in the Appendix to Book IV.—and I do not care to have them come much nearer me; a result which, as just stated, I hope to succeed in avoiding.

This even without any help: but as you request me to give you something to copy, and as I am nothing too well secured against being overtaken by the “Devil” (not Satan—Satteen—but the Printer's Devil—a little snotty boy—that carries proof-sheets to and fro, and comes asking for “Copy”), it seems as if it would serve at least five or six different purposes altogether, if you were to set about rendering a portion of Legendre yourself. I have already mentioned two of those purposes: a third would be the familiarizing yourself with the French & English tongues; a fourth would be ditto with the geometry of planes; a fifth would be doing me a service; a sixth would be putting a little cash into your own pocket; a seventh would be— But I need not multiply reasons: Jack is already convinced, and burns for action.

Begin, therefore, my bonny boy, at the beginning of Book V. if you please (I shall skip over the whole, into Book sixth); translate a little of it as you find convenience; write it out in a legible hand (legible will do); and send it up to me, so that it be here within three weeks or thereby—I mean the portion of it you shall have finished, no matter how small. I know you will do it quite sufficiently: my only advice to you is not to waver and dangle too long over it, consuming time unprofitably: I have to correct it all any way as it comes from the press; and it will be scarce any addition to my trouble to rectify any improprieties you may fall into. The beginning of the fifth Book then—definitions included—!—and observe that the figures are [worked?] into the text in this edition, so you must mark the directing number opposite the place where the figure it refers to will be wanted—thus in prop. I, you will mark {fig. 181.} thus, between the enunciation and the proof in a line by itself; {fig. 182.} between the two corollaries— or closer to the second; et sic de caeteris [and so the rest]. The references are put within parentheses as in Leslies book; thus (prop. 4. V.) in the first definition. Where you see words in italics—as perpendicular to a plane in the first definition—mak [mark] them with a stroke beneath as I have done here; except the enunciations, which you need not be at any such trouble with—they being printed so any way. These directions will do I am certain; so I leave the matter—with an understanding that you begin as soon as may be. I shall expect some “Copy” by the Jurist's box2—or Farries next time—or else a letter accounting for the deficit—which (mark this Jack—and do not get into a pucker [confusion, agitation]—if any thing come in the way to obstruct your progress) it will be no hard matter for me to make good if you give me any thing like timely notice.— And do not, my kind Tongleggus, allow this at all to abstract you from your Greek in any degree, or your other useful speculations. I am very glad to hear of your perseverance in that pursuit—be steady in it—for in due time you will reap the fruit of your exertions. Let no fear chill you Jack: I have looked abroad a little into your walk of life; and I say without hesitation or reserve that you are destined for things far better than you have yet contemplated. Your very diligence would convince me of this—if your natural talents were even of a common stamp. Be of heart then, my brave Jack!— Think of next winter when a far wider & brighter field is to be opened up for you; when you are to have an elder brother beside you, and be admitted to the wells of learning to drink your fill. And never think of the pelf part of it: you & I are both frugal characters; and we shall have abundance betwixt us. Never mind it.— I have ceased for a long while to lecture you about visiting the people in your burgh: it is not that I think the practice needless or unimportant, but that I hope my injunctions are needless. Depend upon it—you are clean wrong as to Ben—he cannot entertain any such feeling towards you: go often to him.3 Have you ever seen Mrs Johnstone again? Keep up a kind of flying kindness with all people; and think too keenly about nothing.— Good night my dear Jack! I am ever your affectionate brother, Th: Carlyle—

(Remember me kindly to our cousin R. Brown4—if you see him)