The Collected Letters, Volume 2


TC TO ALEXANDER GALLOWAY; 6 November 1822; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18221106-TC-AGA-01; CL 2:193-196.


3. Moray-street, 6th November 1822.

My dear Sir,

I called yesterday at Dr Brewster's, but did not find him; and as it is uncertain when I may again have leisure to make such a circuit, I am fain to sit down and give you my decision about the Article Perspective1 with the limited information which I already possess on the subject. With regard to correcting the press, I presume you cannot have any doubt concerning my readiness to undertake so trifling a service; and if the Doctor have in his possession the List of Books you mention, the whole matter may be accomplished quite easily. If he have not, perhaps the best method will be to take no farther thought about it. I ought also to premise that if your demonstrations are in any degree complicated or abstruse, it will be the safer plan to make arrangements for seeing the proof-sheets after I have done my part to them; because both on account of my ignorance of the subject, and my too habitual inattention, I might otherwise be liable to commit oversights of a nature to mar and disfigure your doubtless very able and learned performance. This expedient however will I hope be superfluous: I suggest it merely to quiet your fears in case of need.

You are very kind in directing my attention to the approaching vacancy at Sandhurst.2 I have turned the affair over in my mind; but my ideas respecting it are too vague and obscure for admitting any final determination. At present I know only that the college buildings stand in a fair champaign not far from the village of Bagshot, that the pupils are from 14 to 18 years of age, that the professors enjoy a salary of £180 a year with various perquisites, and that the whole establishment is commanded by one Colonel Butler3: but what kind of labour— what degree of contradiction from superiors or inferiors—I should have to undergo, what society the place affords, what conveniencies for study or improvement of any kind, are points on which I can form no judgement whatever. Can you find leisure for describing them? If you would hand me a sketch of your own mode of existence, it would answer two very beneficial purposes; would satisfy my selfish curiosity and my social, both at once. After which investigation, granting the issue to be favourable, there would only remain this query: By what steps, by what solicitations, by whose interest could the office be obtained? If this were all before me, I imagine it would easily be in my power to decide both whether I could and whether I ought to aim at acquiring the place. And the opening looks so fair at this distance, that I shall request you to spend the first vacant hour you have in conveying to me some more definite views respecting it. You are not ignorant that I dislike the business of teaching in all its forms: but the condition of life in most cases is but drudgery in one part to get enjoyment in the other. Sandhurst offers one a secure and permanent shelter from all that is worst in the inclemencies of common fortune: unless very barren indeed of higher enjoyments it is well worthy of attention in that point of view.

I figure you as being very anxious for something in the shape of news from this region; and it give[s] me pain to think that I have none to send you. The conclusion of your controversy, the check sustained by Dr B. and the ultimate discomfiture of the learned Expositor of Continued fractions or vanishing fractions, must be known to you thro' the medium of the newspapers, and my own information in the matter reaches no farther. Some relics of the Doctor's battle still hover on the edges of the field, but the centre like Bonaparte's at Waterloo appears to be culbuté et renversé [upset and overthrown], and a good retreat is the best that can be hoped. Have you seen Dr Ures notice of Leslie's Meteorology, in Brande's Journal?4 Some one shewed it to me and it seemed a very unpalatable morsel: I know not whether you will care for i[t.] At present the honest people “of letters” are much shocked at the appearance of Byron's and Hunt's Magazine “The Liberal,” which hardly one of the Bibliopolists will venture to sell a copy of. The first two articles, seemingly Byron's, are exceedingly potent—very clever and very wicked: the rest is in Hunt's vein, and no better or worse than a common Examiner.5

For myself, I am still warping along this shelvy sea of existence as best I may—the tide and wind as usual at times befriending me, at times opposing. When the College-classes are once fairly begun, and my pupils settled in them, I expect to have the whole forenoons unbroken to myself; and then—to read—to write—to—in short to do wonders! I am going to peruse all your old Elizabethans and Jamesians and Queen-Annites; and for composition I have the——

I wish you would write to me soon, and tell me every thing about yourself and Sandhurst: I long to determine whether I shall be your colleague; and chop logic with you as of old: at present I meet with no dialectician tough enough to stand above a round or two; so I am forced to seek for other exercise than sparring. Excuse this hurried letter; and believe me to be,

Your's very sincerely, /

Thomas Carlyle—

Can you tell me what is the usual number of pupils under each professor? What things they study, and what degree of subordination and good breeding is imposed on them? Also, when the successful candidate may expect to enter?— All this of course, with a due regard to the cautions and proprieties and so forth needful to be observed in so delicate a case.