The Collected Letters, Volume 2


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE; 10 September 1822; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18220910-TC-JAC-01; CL 2:157-160.


3. Moray-street, 10th September 1822—

My dear Jack,

In a most hurried and confused scrawl which I dashed off with the speed of light to our Father last Saturday, and which you must have read if not understood ere now, some mention was made of a frank, which I designed procuring shortly, in order by means of it to write home more leisurely and more at large. I now find I have been reckoning without my host, in that matter: Mr James is gone without my privity; and a frank is to me one of the “great impossibles.” Let us rejoice however that the national institution of Posts still survives in its pristine vigour, and that by paying a given number of pence, Jack can still have the privilege of listening to his brother, and I of addressing my right trusty and well-beloved Jack. It is with the certainty of this feeling's being mutual that I have taken up the pen at present; and having what they call a half-holiday at my command (of which more anon), I design giving you a most luculent and longwinded history.

It would serve little purpose to occupy any portion of your sheet with details of my meagre and most uneventful journey. Like most of the country we travelled thro' my life during that day was a flat unfertile moor. The company changed frequently, but the change brought no accession and could bring little diminution to my sources of amusement. From the burring Berwickshire guard that slumbered on the boot forward to the Reverend David Dickson1 who sat snuffing and hawking on the box, we were an inane class of mortals, given up to the digesting of victuals and careless of aught beside. So I even ducked my head beneath the collars of my dread-nought and betook myself to digesting victuals likewise; that is to say: I fell into a state of comparative torpor, from which I was only aroused at the end of each successive stage, by Coachee in want of his sixpence, or somewhat more agreeably, by the curses which one of our party (a lean bilious Dumfries-looking man who might be a hatter or shoemaker) bestowed on inns generally and particularly on the one beside us—for rating a raw egg and a glass of rum at the sum of six pence current money of the realm. The eggs he said were five pence a-dozen, the rum as much a gill, and each individual publican was a prince of knaves and already given over to the Principle of Evil for making such an overcharge. Towards evening the man's stomach began to abate, his demands and therefore his maledictions became less frequent; and even this very slender rill of coarsest amusement began to fail me, when at last the [trindlin-kist2 set us down upon the Pavement of Edinr, towards six o'clock. Such was our “travel's history.” I believe I should not have mentioned it at all; but for a caution which I meant to give you against Jodging at the Kings Arms (the worst and dearest of Inns), and a hint to carry some Sandwich (slice of beef between two of bread) or two in your pocket, when you go the way yourself. Take the Commercial Inn to sleep in, and eat your sandwiches about Biggar— Satis jam [Enough now]!

A topic on which my good Jack will feel much more interest, and which I myself am much more inclined to speak about, is the state of my accommodation and my degree of heart's ease since reaching my destination. In reply to the anxieties of all my ever-dear friends at Home, I am happy to say that every thing is better than I could expect. We have had some trouble in arranging matters and may yet have more; but in a week or two I have good hopes that all our machinery will have got itself rightly adjusted, and be moving sweetly as any one could desire. As yet I feel somewhat a stranger in the house of the Bullers—confused by their costly and often superfluous apparatus of servants and apartments and formalities, which I can neither well employ nor dispense with; and at evenings I am happier and freer when quit of it all, I reach my quiet retreat in Moray-street, and sit with a long pipe in my cheek to muse on my own thoughts and be lord of the little all that my eye can wander over. These feelings you know I anticipated, and I feel more confident than ever that they will be temporary only. It is but the natural disquiet which one constantly feels on changing, whether for better or for worse,—which even a shifting of my abode (except to the home at Mainhill) is enough at all times to excite in so irritable a subject as I am. Before a week or two elapse this feeling will be over, and then I anticipate nothing but contentment. The people treat me with a degree of respect which I do not deserve; they have submitted implicitly to all my ideas about a lodging-place, they have delivered me without even a hint on my part from the drudgery of teaching their youngest boy,3 and our arrangements for the other two have been formed with a view to my convenience as much as to that of any other. The boys too behave well; and tho' I clearly perceive that the management of my duties will require the whole of my slender stock of prudence and discretion, yet this stock I expect without wavering will at the same time suffice to carry me thro' without discredit. And—let ill come to worst—there is always this stern solace behind: If the place will not answer—let it go to Jerusalem if it will; I can do without it!

One item I know will give universal satisfaction at Mainhill, and to none more deeply than to Jack himself. Thou and I are to inhabit Moray-street together thro the winter; to have two beds and my old apartments beside—both for the rent of 8/ per week—and 9/ when fire is added. The way we manage is this. I rise at eight, out of my own old dormitory; and having fortified myself with cloak, galoches4 &c, set forth to the west end of the city where breakfast awaits me at nine: I teach till one—then get exclusive possession of the school-room till near dinner time (about five o'clock—when no company is there)—afterwards I teach another hour, then have tea, then return to the east about nine at night. Moreover we are to have two half-holidays weekly—that is, we are to have no teaching at all after one on Wednesdays and Saturdays; on which days also I may command (as I have done to-day) a dinner by myself, and so get delivered completely by three o'clock. Nothing in the world could be fairer.— Now during the whole day this fine room of mine is vacant—except when I visit it about mid-day for a smoke: but during winter Jack shall study here with all his implements, and the good Wilkie surrenders an excellent bed to him in an adjoining room. Even Duncan Church may be accommodated under the same roof for 5/ a-week: it is but dispossessing an ancient and crack-brained musician, whom all the house dislikes, of his quarters in the other two roomies; and Duncan and you may mess together and study separately according to your heart's desire.— I have scarcely a hair's breadth of space to notice the hour of teaching which awaits you. It is in the house of a Mrs Mackenzie where I taught last year—the pay is two guineas a month—and you can take it up when you choose between this and October. Your future pupils are two handsome good-natured young ladies and they learn Arithmetic. So when you tire of rustication—come away. I must break off abruptly for an obvious reason. Write large[ly and] immediately, to Yours always

T. Carlyle

[In margins:] I have some three or four pairs of grey socks here, and all the white ones. Send up Shaws galoches and strong shoes quamprimum [as soon as possible]. Direct them hither—in the box per Waffler. Has Mag any Bible? write directly. A volume would not suffice for all the kind things I would say to them at home, and here I have only a line. Give my love to our kind mother—say she must stick to tea—and expect a long letter from me soon. Our Father and Alick and Mother too may be accommodated here if they will come to see us. I am determined they shall. Remember me to all the rest! I trust the good weather we have here since two days extends to you. I see in fancy the loaded wains and busy company of Inners [harvesters]. Bid Alick see that in the hurry, no stack rush, or heat, on his hand.5 He is to write instantly.

This fullest of sheets deserves a prompt reply: let it have one. Adieu!