The Collected Letters, Volume 2


TC TO ALEXANDER CARLYLE; 20 December 1822; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18221220-TC-AC-01; CL 2:236-238.


3. Moray-street, 20th December 1822.

My dear Alick,

By some mismanagement on the part of Farries we were prevented from writing to you on Wednesday,1 and are therefore constrained to put you to the charge of postage, in order to relieve you from the many disagreeable conjectures you might otherwise form concerning us. George delivered your parcel in the afternoon (the money &c was quite safe); and mentioned when Jack went up to him in the evening that he did not purpose leaving town till [the] morning. We wrote, in consequence, very manfully; and trailed ourselves about eleven at night thro' the vile clammy streets of this city, to his quarters, with our heap of letters; but found alas! that the bird was flown. Father and Mother must therefore wait for news till next time: you only are cut off from that resource, and must read two letters, and pay well for one of them, tho' neither is worth paying for.

I have little farther to tell you than what may be gathered from the few lines already written—namely that we are both in good heart, driving on exactly in the old style; which tho' poor intelligence for a mere hunter of news, is yet well worth telling to the [frie]ndly hearts that care for us at Mainhill. I rejoice to learn that you too are all in the ordinary way; and I pray earnestly that it may long be so with all of us—that if we have nothing strange to narrate to each other we may also have nothing bad.

You ask me after Edwd Irving; but I have nothing to say about him, or little, except what you know already. Like another Boanerges2 he is cleaving the hearts of the Londoners in twain, attending Bible societies, Presbyterian dinners, Religious conventions of all kinds; preaching and speculating and acting so as to gain universal notoriety and very general approbation. Long may he enjoy it! there are few men living that deserve it better. He has written to me only once since he went away,3 and has been a letter in my debt for some time; I am expecting payment very soon.

That is a kind of life, which, tho' prized by many, would not by any means suit my perverted tastes. Popularity is sweet in all cases: but if I were aiming for it in the Pulpit, the idea that a thousand drivellers had gained it more lavishly—that even John Whitfield4 used to rouse the Londoners from their warm beds, and make them stand in rows, with lanthorns in their hands, crowding the streets that led to his chapel, early in raw wet November mornings—would come withering over my imagination like the mortifying wind of Africa, and as Thomas Bell5 said in his bold metaphorical way would “dash the cup of fame from my [brow].” It is happier for me therefore that I live in still shades—shunning [the] clamorous approval of the many-headed monster as well as avoiding its censure, and determined if ever I be marked out never so slightly from the common herd, to be so by another set of judges. After all it is a blessing little worth coveting; the best and richest part of the most famous man's renown is the esteem he is held in by those who see him daily in his goings out and comings in, by his friends and relatives and those that love himself more than his qualities; and this every one of us may gain, without straying into the thorny paths which guide to glory, either in the region of arts or of arms.

But see where my digressive temper is leading me! The sheet is done, and I have yet said nothing! I had much to ask about yourself and Home—about your employments, studies, thoughts: but I have [no] room [to fo]rm my longings into thoughts—far less to backspier [cross-question] y[ou suf]ficiently on these to me most interesting topics. I wish you would sit down some night when you feel “i' the vein,” and give me a full disclosure; describe to me all that is going on in the shape of sentiment or action about Mainhill or the environs, never minding in what order or how, so it be but there. And when you have written, do not mind “poor Geordy”—for really the body is little better than a fash [vexation]; but commit your epistle to the Post, by whose agents it will be punctually delivered to a most grateful receiver.— Jack is immersed in thought at this moment—his great winnow-cloth striving to wrap itself around some mathematical and physical arcana: I dare not speak to him; but know he loves you. How do our good Fath[er a]nd Mother stand the brunt? I wish they would let us hear of them more at large. Be kind to both, my dear Brother, as you love them and us and yourself. Give my affectionate remembrances to all the true-hearted tho' too silent population of Mainhill; and wish them in my name a brave new year better than all that are gone, worse than all that are to follow. They will surely write to me on that stirring occasion.

I am ever / Your affectionate Brother, /

Th: Carlyle

Will you write to that unluckiest of sutors Shaw, and tell that his third pair of shoes has proved unwearable for littleness, like the rest! Tell him, if he can, to lay aside all ideas of neatness entirely, and make another nearly half-an-inch longer and considerably wider. The last I have sold to Jack after getting corns by crippling about with them for a few hours. He (this Shaw) is certainly “a queer man yes a very queer man.”6 Good night, my boy! I must travel to the post-office with speed; so excuse blunders and meagreness—for I have written running[.]