The Collected Letters, Volume 2


TC TO ROBERT MITCHELL; 23 December 1822; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18221223-TC-RM-01; CL 2:242-244.


3. Moray-street, Leith-Walk, / 23d December, 1822—

My dear Mitchell,

It is many a day since I wrote to you or heard from you; yet there are few of my early friends whom I have more cause [to] feel an interest in, few periods of my life that I look back to with more pleasure than the period when our pursuits were more similar, our places of abode more adjacent than they are at present. It is in the hope of recalling old times and thoughts to your memory that I have taken up the pen on this occasion: I am still ambitious for a place in your esteem, still anxious to hear of your welfare.

Since your return to Kirkcudbright, little intelligence respecting you has reached me; but that little fortunately of a pleasant kind. I am happy to learn that your health still keeps improving, that you feel yourself able to discharge the laborious duties of your office without assistance. I need not advise you to keep a strict watch over this matter, you have already suffered too severely to need any such caution. The whole Earth has no blessing within its circuit worthy to be named along with health; the loss of it I reckon the very darkest item in the lot of man. [I] often think I could snap my fingers in the face of every thing, if it were not this. Pandora's box was but a toy compared with biliousness or any other fundamental bodily disorder. Watch! watch! and think mens sana in corpore sano [a healthy mind in a healthy body]1 is the whole concern.

It is so long since you have been in Edinr, that all except the general interests connected with the place must have become indifferent to you. I know few people here myself, you I suppose still fewer; and of these even only a very small portion seems to merit much attention. They are getting into Kirks gradually, or lingering on the muddy shore of Private teaching, to see if any Charon will waft them across the Styx of Patronage into the Elysium of tiends [tithes] and glebe. Success attend them all, poor fellows! They are cruising in one small sound, as it were, of the great ocean of life; their trade is harmless, their vessels leaky; it will be hard if they altogether fail.

James Johnston is gone to Broughty-ferry (Dundee) some weeks ago. He seems to aim at being a Scottish Teacher for life: I think if he stick to it, he must ultimately prosper. In the mean time, however, things wear a very surly aspect with him. He has got planted among a very melancholy race of people—Psalm-singing Captains, devout old women, Tabernacle shoemakers &c &c, who wish him to engage in exposition of the Scripture, and various other plans, for the spread not of grammar and accounts, but of the doctrines of Theosophy and Thaumaturgy. It is galling and provoking! You must write to console and encourage poor James: he is a true man as breathes; has no natural friends, and feels at present I can easily conceive, very lonely and dejected.

For myself, I lead a very quiet life here. The Bullers are exceedingly good people; and what is more comfortable, having still a home of my own, I depend less on their good qualities. I am with them only four hours a-day: and I find the task of superintending the studies of my two pupils more pleasing than I had reason to expect. I sit here and read all the morning—or write, regularly burning every thing I write. It is a hard matter that one's thoughts should be so poor and [scan]ty, and at the same time the power of uttering them so difficult to ac[quire.] I should be happy, if I were in health—which in about a twelvemonth or so I keep hoping I shall be. I am greatly better than I was, tho' yet ill enough to break the heart of any but a very obstinate person.

Have you seen the “Liberal”?2 It is a most sappy [lively] performance. Byron has a “vision of Judgement” there, and a letter to the Editor of “My Grandmother's Review,” of the wickedest and cleverest turn you could imagine. The vice society, or Constitutional Assocn are going to prosecute. This is a wild fighting, loving, praying, blaspheming, weeping, laughing sort of world!— The literati and literatuli with us are wrangling and scribbling; but effecting nothing, except—to “make the day and way alike long.” At present, however, it is mine to make the sheet and story alike long; a duty which I seem in danger of forgetting. Write to me whenever you can spare an hour. I want to have all your news, your difficulties and successes, your hopes and fears, a picture of your whole manière d'être [way of life]. Salute Mr Low in my name. I am always,

My dear Mitchell, / your sincere friend, /

Thomas Carlyle—

My Brother is with me at present studying Medicine and Nat. Philos.—he desires to present his compliments. Leslie has a Book half-out of press on the latter science.3 It is a monstrum horrend—&c cui literally lumen ademptum.4 If I were a Reviewer I would scatter it to the four winds, or on the waters and make the people drink thereof. Adieu!