The Collected Letters, Volume 2


TC TO DAVID HOPE; 23 December 1822; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18221223-TC-DH-01; CL 2:245-246.


3 Moray Street, 23d Dec., 1822.

My Dear Sir:

Mr. Warrund Carlile1 being here today, and having kindly undertaken to officiate as our Postman, I embrace the opportunity of his conveyance to scribble you a line or two, in the hope of bringing myself before your thoughts in a friendly attitude, and of perhaps inducing you to “go and do likewise.”2 You wrote to me during the period of his sacred Majesty's visit to our city; but the letter did not reach me till after many days, and I could only reply to your agreeable request by empty wishes that you might feel no inconvenience from my inability to comply with it, and vain hopes that you would see the Defender of the Faith without obstruction on that score. I trust you did get lodgings and witness all the pageantry of the time quite comfortably, and at your ease.

Since the end of August I have been here in my old quarters, and following very nearly the old mode of life. Almost the only difference is the presence of my Brother, who has been here for nearly three months, busied in the study of Medicine and Natural Philosophy, sciences which the young man seems quite ambitious of mastering. He goes away early in the morning to mind them, and leaves me to my books and papers, to study or scribble, or doze and pick my nails, till two o'clock calls me to another scene of duties with my old friends the Bullers, who used to consume so much of my time when you were here. I am happy so far as Satan and the “worst of stomachs” will let me.

In Glasgow, at this season, I can easily conceive that such a thing as whining or discomfort is nowhere to be found. Is not this the time of jubilee and jollification—of haggis3 and geese—of dance and song, and port and cold rum punch? The means of being sad when you are healthy and all the world around you is piping to the tune of plum-pudding and roast-beef? I rejoice to find, by Mr. Carlile, that you are now in a condition to relish these good things, having quite recovered your soundness of body, and never lost your elasticity of spirits. It is the very first of blessings, and one which I hope you will long enjoy.

In Edinr all things are just about as they were. Two thousand dull heads set a-working in the university; twenty times as many hard hands in the various workshops of the place, manufacturing shawls and instruments and furnishings and all the apparatus of luxury; politicians wrangling; the “mob of gentlemen”4 talking insipidities and giving dinners, or gone forth to slaughter hares and woodcocks; all minding the solid prose of life, and seeking to invest it with what little decoration they can find in literature, ale, champagne, devotion, whiskey, love, etc., etc., quite in the usual way. For me, I keep as much apart from all their operations as I can; it is not above once a fortnight that I enter their old black harlot of a city, and then my stay in it is as brief as an angel's visit.5 I never think without shuddering of the life that is led there; the very atmosphere—compounded of coalsmoke and more gases and odours than ever chemist or perfumer dreamed of—were itself enough to make me loathe the whole concern. My paradise must lie many miles from any paved street—some green nook, it should be, in a far valley of the Highlands, by the clear and quiet waters, with smooth lawns around me, mountains in the distance, and the free sky overhead. Put a bright white cottage down in such a place, give me books and food and raiment and conveniences, with liberty to break the heads of all that come within a furlong of me (except some few select persons, to be hereafter specified) and then—should I be pleased? I know not—but if you hear of any such establishment, I beg you will give me notice.

Seriously, I am a very talkative individual, as you may see, fond to excess of nonsense, and apt to occupy the sheet of my correspondence with bletherings which lead to no useful result. You must come hither to Moray Street, if you want to hear me talk sense. I desire you to prove whether I am not a philosopher, by actual inspection. When you arrive, I hope to be in better health and spirits to entertain you than I was last time. Come and try.

There is no intelligence from Annandale but of a distressing kind. People are grown so poor that they have taken to robbing kirks: and the schoolmaster of Hoddam6 was nearly carried off by the Devil about two weeks ago; he (the Devil) being in the shape of a large mastiff.

Write to me whenever you have time. I am always,

Sincerely yours /

Thomas Carlyle.