The Collected Letters, Volume 2


TC TO ALEXANDER CARLYLE; 28 September 1822; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18220928-TC-AC-01; CL 2:171-173.


3. Moray-street, 28th September / 1822.

My dear Alick,

I began a small note last night, wherein I designed to set forth at the greatest convenient length, whatever struck me as most notable in my situation here; but before I had got thro' the first three lines, the unhappy Crone of Scaills came in with his great wooden visage to interrupt my enterprize,—from which accordingly I was obliged very shortly and abruptly to desist—lest I should altogether afflict beyond remedy the melancholy pedagogue who had come to me for consolation under the first ennui of his return to Edinr. Jack, I suppose, has explained to you how we have been so fortunate as to obtain a respite1 after all, and opportunity to write letters by the Waffler at our leisure. There is perhaps some little stretch made in the interpretation of the fourth commandment—in order to sanction our proceeding at present; but if not under the head of “necessity” it may surely come under that of “mercy”—considering the virtuous pleasure I expect to give and to receive by writing to you; and there I leave it, with casuists more able to decide the merits of the question than I am.

With regard to my private history since I left Mainhill, you must already have got ample information in the many and large epistles which I have indited and sent home. I have only at present to continue your satisfaction by again saying that I feel quite pleasantly situated, my circumstances fit me pretty accurately, and I am happier than I have been for many years. There is not I believe any real satisfaction in this Earth: nor is it fitting there should be; we were not sent into it to enjoy but to act, and so stupid a sot is Man that unless for the spur of some real or fancied necessity he would too probably become first quiet, then lazy, then inert, and at last be little better than one of the Seven Sleepers2 themselves. So the roughest lot that any of us gets here below is not half so rough as it looks at first. For my own share I am sometimes quite pleased at being discontented; because it seems, if I were not so, that nothing would remain but to degenerate into a fat contented Son of Sloth—having no remembrance of yesterday no hope of tomorrow except what depended on the enjoyments that arose in the course of them and perished when they were done.

So far as concerns the externals of my present situation, however, I were a renegade to complain. The Bullers young and old behave to me with perfect kindness, treating me with a degree of consideration adequate to the height of my own conceptions. I see no airs arising from their superior station—nor if I did should I value them much: some men are rich and others poor; but every man has a circle, narrower or wider, of his own, and so long as he keeps within the circuit of that, he may walk at his ease without either distrust or defiance, conscious that he can defend his own rights effectually whoever may attack them, and therefore not jealous of their being attacked,—allowing to wealth the respect that wholesome custom demands for it, and reserving his private veneration for qualities with which wealth or poverty has nothing whatever to do. Upon these principles I keep myself in very good humour with every thing, and go along quite smoothly. The older people are “canny talkers” too, & we pass our daily two hours together very pleasantly. The boys also are doing [mo]derately well. In short I think it will answer—at least as a temporary upputting [accommodation]; and in that light alone I have always viewed it.

Now, my dear Alick, after this very lengthy and gratuitous detail of my feelings and condition, allow me to ask a similar detail of yours. I am not ignorant of the many incumbrances that press upon one circumstanced as you are, nor of the manly patience with which you encounter them; but I call upon you to be unreserved in your communications with me, and above all to consider that if within the narrow circle of my ability there lies any efforth that can serve you in the smallest, you cannot gratify me so much as by demanding it. We have always been brothers in the best sense of the word; and it would mortify me exceedingly to think that false pride or any similar feeling had prevented you from using any of my slender but most freely-offered resources. One thing I am determined on—with regard to that mercantile speculation3 of which I am the sleeping partner, you shall embark in it freely as if the funds were wholly yours—or I shall call you a stingy, jealous, faint-hearted—very bad character—for a long time. Think of this, and plague me with no more speaking on the matter—for you know my real mind completely.

As you will have double duty in the way of letters to fulfil this winter, I design taking your case into consideration—and writing you oftener than you can write to me— Nevertheless if this render you negligent of me in that particular, depend upon it you shall be punished in some shape “by the laws in that case made and provided.” So be cash-shus, as the Waffler says, be cash-shus!— Jack is going to hafft with [establish himself in] Edinr—that is, take with the gang—in a day or two.— Give my love to all our sisters and to Jamie that most spirited of husbandmen. But for the Waffler's delays, I had books &c in view: but there is a time coming! Write largely to

Your affectionate Brother,

T. Carlyle

Tell our beloved Mother that her spectacles4 shall be forthcoming. I intended to write to her to-night; but it is now past eleven—so it cannot be. Adieu!—