The Collected Letters, Volume 2


TC TO ALEXANDER CARLYLE; 29 June 1822; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18220629-TC-AC-01; CL 2:138-140.


Edinr, 29th June 1822—

My dear Brother,

I have just this moment had a flying call from the Waffler (who I imagined had long since left travelling the road); and by dint of much gasping he has contrived to make me understand that in half an hour he will be coming back from Leith, and will consequently be ready to take home one of these boxes which have stood so long here waiting for him. He also informs me that he has found means to forget a parcel directed to me lying at his lodgings; so that I am obliged to answer your letters without having seen them. In short the poor soul is as confused and bewildered as ever. If you had this box safe in your possession I would advise you to keep it: for really there is no sense to be got out of such trade as this. One had better pay three postages for a letter than have it huddled over in this fashion.

As for the books, I made enquires about them, and could have had them ready long ago, had I entertained the slightest expectation of seeing any Carrier to take them down. If I have a moment's time, I shall run up to Oliver & Boyd's and get such of them as are in their possession transmitted by this present opportunity; in which if I should fail, I will take care to transmit the whole by the Annan Carrier as speedily as possible.

I am in the greatest anxiety to hear from you about all your concerns; and if you have not written with extreme minuteness, I shall desire it as a very special favour that you sit down & give me a full account of all that is transacting about Mainhill within doors and without. You can manage this some evening when you feel “i' the vein,”1 or some wet day when you have nothing better to do.

For myself, I am going on exactly in the old style. The Translation of Legendre I am endeavouring to get brought to a close with all convenient speed; and I hope to be done with it in a few weeks at farthest. I jog up to Dr Fleming's in George-Square twice every day (Saturdays, generally, and this among them excepted) to superintend the studies of the Bullers: I go down to bathe pretty regularly: I read & write, in short, and teach and sleep & eat as quietly as I can. My stomach is still troublesome a little—generally very enervating for several hours every day; but there are times when I altogether lose feeling of it, and busy myself with quite another class of objects; and I entertain the rational expectation of once more enjoying in some moderate degree that first & greatest of earthly blessings, which I have so long & so much whined about the want of.

There are few people or things in my neighbourhood, about which I take any deep interest; and the commodity of news is one which I get little of & care still less for. They have had long trials about James Stewart's duel & Beacon Newspapers2 &c, all which, except it, furnishing materials for some small discussions over the worthy and most pleasant old Doctor's tea, has passed by me quite unheeded. I visit no one, and besides some few idlers attracted by the pleasure of conversation, and whose visits I do not at all encourage, I see no body except the people in George-square whom duties call me to see. One of the most intolerable visitors I have is John Waugh our friend, whose woes are at once the most poignant & the most contemptible of any man's I know about, and whose presence is to the minds production of thought, what a wet blanket wrapped around the fire would be to its production of heat. He has just one idea, the cruelty of his Landlady who gives him no [rest becau]se he owes her many a pound, and whose image haunts him like that of the Prince of Darkness or even more hideously. I am often altogether out of patience with the stupid lubber: I declare I would rather have enlisted for a soldier than loitered and lain like a stinker3 as he has done, an object of compassion & contempt to all that know him. He has no money at all at all—often scarcely any meat; yet he just sits and grunts, without making any effort, beyond lamenting over the hardheartedness of men because they will not allow him to sail thro' the voyage of life without putting a hand to the oar. I sometimes think he is absolutely mad— But leave him!

The Bullers are exceedingly good fellows on the whole; they & I do exceedingly well together: it seems quite possible that the people & I may engage permanently; tho' as before I continue to look at the matter as a thing which may be “owther way”—without greatly affecting my happiness. If these wretched intestines will give me any sufferable ease, I fear no weather: I am already past the worst.

Thus, my good boy, have I chit-chatted till my whole sheet is done. Forgive its meagreness—for I have had no chance to improve the structure of it, being hurried as I told you. I hope yet to see you all for a longer or shorter time at Mainhill; I have many a thing to tell you and to ask about; and I promise to be better company than I have been for a long while. The chief deformities in my life have arisen from that thrice-cursed stomach of mine!

I long for a most particular letter from you, being always

Your true Brother, /

Th: Carlyle

I got the shoes, tell Shaw—after they had wandered over about 1/8 of Edinr—they were wrong directed, and fit passably. Will you pay the body for them?