The Collected Letters, Volume 2


TC TO JAMES JOHNSTON; 30 April 1822; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18220430-TC-JJ-01; CL 2:105-107.


Edinr 30th April, 1822—

My dear Johnstone,

I have this moment received your letter; and being able to relieve your anxieties about the period of the Trial, as well as desirous to lose no time in doing so, I am down answering you without any delay.

Be satisfied, then, that there is no examination to take place, within so limited a space of time as a fortnight hence. The Presbytery-members only mean to meet within a fortnight; to overhaul the matter then; and to appoint a day for deciding it, which will possibly be in June, probably in the end of May, and almost certainly not till after the General Assembly has risen. So proceed with your letters of recommendation—and gird up your loins for scattering these Hypodidascululi [little subordinate teachers] to the right and left, as if they were mere chaff, as indeed they are very nearly.

It is quite an erroneous view which you have formed of the terrors of this Trial: the probability to me seems rather that you will be the best Latinist in the Company; the Examinees having already shewn themselves abundantly, and the Examinators being nothing but the clergymen of the City, none of whom are very formidable in that line. Nor will your Recommendations fail of producing their proper effect: it is likely, I think, they may of themselves almost decide the business. Muster them, therefore, and marshal them in the best order, as soon as possible; and send them in to Edinr whenever they are ready. Murray says there is a good chance by some Bank-parcel or other, which travels weekly between you & us. This can easily be investigated.

And in the mean time, to make assurance doubly sure, I certainly do advise you to profit by your neighbourhood to so qualified a person as our worthy friend the Rector (for the news of whose recovery I thank you & rejoice with you)1 to furbish up your classical acquisitions, & scour away that “rust,” which there is no wonder certainly to find obscuring your powers, after so many moving accidents by flood & field as you have undergone for the last two years.2 The works put into your hand will be the common school-books most probably— Horace, Virgil &c; and your Greek (if any) will I imagine be from the New Testament. I speak by guess however & not by command. Mitchell is a far better hand to give you hints than I.

In conclusion, my dear Johnstone, I bid you fear nothing. The people you have to deal with are honourable persons, and will use you tenderly; and for your competitors—I would not have you once compared with those already examined, and the fresh ones are not at all likely to be numerous: indeed I should not be surprised to find you the only fresh one: such is the indolence of the Directors—with the single exception of Fleming. If you want any additional intelligence—or any kind of service that I can manage for you here by hook or by crook,—of course, I need not bid you command me. If you want nothing, I shall expect to see your packet of credentials (Do not neglect Duncan, Irving, Poole) arrive in a very short space. There is every rational prospect at present of your getting Oban School, and being very happy in it. Fleming has been very minute in asking about you à plusieurs reprises [several times]—of course, I signified to him that you were a very shocking fellow.

But I must be done. I have just finished dinner (at least had when I began to write); and you know what a quick[e]ner of the intellectual faculties roast-beef is—particularly to dyspeptic gentlemen. This will account for much of the peculiar judiciousness and brilliant sprightliness, for which this epistle is so striking. You will write to me at all events, by the packet. I bade you send it directed to my care; but if it be not ready before Thursday the 9th ensuing, it will be more safe if directed at once to Dr Fleming, as I have some intention of going to Glasgow during the Sacrament—the Occasion—here. If it come by the Bank-parc[el the] difference will be less. At all chances, lose no time.

Irving, whom I have just stated my purpose to visit, shortly, is going to London for certain. You are likely to see him in Annandale during his passage. He is to get license there, and spend the month of June among his friends. There is a revenue of £500 per annum waiting him at London, and great applause, which I have no doubt he will richly merit.

I myself am fighting with the blue Devils & the black, as valiantly as ever, and with no contemptible success. Health is returning to me by slow but steady degrees; and I am full of business. The translation of Legendre is going thro' the press in a leisurely manner: and I am fermenting some villainous cookery about the “Commonwealth-times”3 which in due season I hope to make the nation drink of. I am in Milton's prose works, Cromwell's life, George Fox's Wanderings4 &c day & night, when I have any leisure. I belong to the Forlorn Hope in this world: I may as well advance & break my neck, as stand still & be trodden under foot. Wait only for another twelvemonth! But you have already waited too long this bout: so jusqu'au revoir [until we meet again] (in June)!

Your's faithfully, /

Thomas Carlyle—

I am waiting for Mitchell's letter: tell him in the meanwhile to read none, think none, care none. I will allow him Novels or the like; but not a jot more. Who is to support the classical renown of Annandale, if he give in? bid him look to it, and festinare lente [to make haste slowly].5