The Collected Letters, Volume 2


TC TO ALEXANDER CARLYLE; 18 December 1822; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18221218-TC-AC-01; CL 2:232-234.


Edinr, 18th December 1822—

My dear Alick.

We got your parcel a few hours ago; and all within it was safe—money and all: I am obliged by your punctuality in that matter. Your letter also, tho' it was brief, conveyed to us the most important intelligence, in assuring us that you were all in the “usual way” of health and spirits. I am now to scribble you a few hurried lines by way of reply.

And first I am happy to communicate the information that both Jack and I are likewise in the “usual way”—Jack quite sound in health, I gradually improving in that particular, and both busied about our usual avocations. Jack should have written to you to-night, but he grumbles out some excuse about “Natural-philosophy” and “business,” and seems disinclined to take up the pen on this occasion. Nay not only is he idle himself in epistolary duties, but the cause of idleness in others: I had written you a small note on the beginning of a sheet this forenoon, and left it in such a hurry, being called away to the Bullers, that I had not time to fold it, and left the care of doing this to Jack, who at that time had not returned from his class. Now mark the issue! Jack takes your note, and writes some thoughts of his own upon the end of it; then, little satisfied with his performance—chucks the whole into the fire! This was very ill-managed; but Jack deserves pardon, seeing he meant well. Nay I observe at this instant he has taken up the pen, in the view, as I conceive of writing to our Father; so that we must absolve him of all malice prepense, and reckon his silence a misfortune not a crime. He is a good honest diligent creature. He rises every morning, short while after the lark, and awakens me duly, tho' sometimes not without difficulty, before he goes out. The other morning I was aroused rather strangely by him: I had been dreaming about many confused-things, as my wont is, when suddenly there was interwoven with my vision a sound as of some noisy cascade, which in my slumbering wisdom I converted into the rushing of a miln [mill] race-trough. It went on irregularly, but louder and louder, till it awoke me—when the race-trough proved to be Jack's throat set in motion by a cog1 of porridge and milk he was eating in the other room! I burst into laughing, and laughed all day at it whenever it came into my head. Frequently since, I ask Jack when the time for tea draws nigh, if he means to open his race-trough aye or no?—all which he bears with exemplary good humour. In fact he is a very placid welltempered character: I like him well, and have no doubt he will prove an eminent Doctor yet.

We live in a very retired manner here, and so very little of what is called news reaches us at any time. Perhaps about once in the fortnight some student or preacher strays down to see us—and then goes his way after chatting an hour: but we seldom repay such visits, privacy being the arrangement we prefer on all accounts. They lead a very melancholy life, these poor preachers and teachers; waiting for a quarter of a century in the city before any provision is made for them, struggling all the while to keep soul and body together, and perhaps destined in the long run to see all their expectations of preferment dashed away. There was one Craig, a little withered man, whom I saw once or twice, a teacher of Greek here, that waited long for some Kirk or other establishment, was frequently disappointed, and lately having been more greivously disappointed than ever—took it to heart, and grew low-spirited about it, and is now gone home in a state little if at all short of derangement! I pity the poor body sincerely. Few conditions of life are more oppressive than such a one as this.

Now, my dear Alick, the new-year is coming on, and the “storms of winter”;2 can you or Father or Mother, or any or all of you say any thing definite about the visit you half-promised us? We can get you accommodations here such as they are without inconvenience in any shape, the warmest welcome you count upon at all times, and we will not let you want a hurl [ride] up and down in the coach, whenever you like to fix upon a time. I really think you should take the good-wife and the good-man to task on this matter, and try to persuade them. They must see Edinr some time; that is flat: why not now as well as afterwards? Write us about this.

Also you must send me word about your readings and studies and all your news and undertakings. Poor Gullen! to be so nearly eaten up of the Foul Thief, in so ugly a shape!3 Have they found none of the sacrilegious Kirk-robbers? Write me about all and sundry.

I am ever, / My dear Alick / Your affe Brother /

Th. Carlyle—

Will you send this note to Shaw. The unfortunate creature has a third time made the shoes too little! I have sold them to Jack, having got two corns by wearing them half a day. Unluckiest of Sutors!—