The Collected Letters, Volume 2


TC TO JAMES JOHNSTON; 29 December 1822; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18221229-TC-JJ-01; CL 2:253-255.


3. Moray-street, 29th Decr, 1822—

My dear Johnston,

I received your letter last night; and as New-years-day is just at hand, I lose no time in strengthening with all the weight of my counsel the purpose you have formed of adventuring for Cupar on that occasion.1 I trust that your Certificates are already come to hand, and that you are still determined to forward them without delay. Perhaps it might even be worth your while to walk down as far as that Burgh, and wait upon the Provost in person; to talk with him fluently, explain your views of teaching, inquire what qualifications are likely to be most in request, and let him know that you can farther command a large quantity of testimonials to several other points of your ability. You should get Mitchell to speak, and Poole of Borgue, and Irving, and me and every one that knows you, two voices however feeble being always better than one as feeble. In short you ought to exert yourself strenuously. Cupar is a rich and enterprizing town, as good a station for a School as you could wish.

All this I advise you to do, tho' I confess myself not over sanguine as to your success. There are wheels within wheels in these places in many such instances; and even granting that no sinister motive may have influence, the situation itself is so promising that you will likely find considerable opposition. But I give you this advice, because I think it a post highly suitable for you, and because in applying for it you have at least a chance of gaining it, while you run no risk whatever let it turn out as it will. If unsuccessful you have still Broughty-ferry with all the advantages it ever had. In fact it is not necessary that you let a single soul in the village know of your intentions; and by this reserve you destroy the only shadow of a drawback which the case presents. If your certificates are not arrived in time therefore, write to Mr Duncan more pressingly, and walk down to Cupar and explain in person what detains them: if they are come, send them off or carry them (which would be better) without delay: and all success attend you! If you were once settled in such a place as Cupar, I should cease to repine for you; it would be fairly in your own power to command whatever is necessary for your comfort or respectability, and none that knows you can doubt of the issue. Doubt not this or as good a station is yet wainting [waiting] you: be patient only and diligent; and never mind a failure or two. We shall long very much to hear the result of this business.

It gives us some pleasure, in the mean time, to learn that you are partly delivered from the most intolerable of your grievances at the Ferry; have got quiet lodgings, some society, and liberty to worship according to your own ideas. I need not counsel you to cultivate the intimacy of those worthy people whom you have fallen in with: one had better have a dog for friend than no friend at all. “Man loves company” says Lichtenstein “tho' it were but that of a burning pennycandle.”2 The most miserable hours of our existence are spent alone: one may have objects that make retirement desirable or even necessary; but absolute isolation is misery in whatever circumstances it be suffered—misery of the worst kind.

Have you written to Irving? I mentioned your case to [him] briefly, and said you meant perhaps to write: any thing he can [do for] you, you may count upon. You ask for news from Annandale; but in truth we have none to give. The Mainhill people usually write in the most hurried manner and confine themselves like our Professor of Logic3 to “the point and the bare point.” They were all well about a week ago. The people of Annandale are in great distress; several have taken to robbing Kirks— Hoddam, Ecclefn &c, and Gullen the Schoolmaster was all but run away with lately by the Devil—in the shape of a huge jingling Chimera, or rather stray Mastiff-dog.4 In Edinr there is equally nothing novel or entertaining. Lord John Russel[l] has sent us a new tragedy by name Don Carlos, mediocrity stamped on every page of it. The Edinr Review is worth your reading some day when you are idle. How do the jollities of the season pass with you? They have almost driven me distraught with noise: I am thinking to freight a decked boat, and spend the Hogmanay-night5 in the middle of the Frith; the pellochs [porpoises] and star-fish would be good company—compared with men and women gone mad of whisky-punch, and of joy that they were a year nearer death.

Duncan Church is well, and gone to visit some persons in the West. John also is well and busy, and promises to write to you soon: his best wishes are with you. Now do not higgle and hesitate, but go forth to Cupar bravely, and let us hear the finale without loss of a moment. Accept our sincere wishes for a happy year to you and all you love. I am always,

Your's faithfully, /

T. Carlyle