The Collected Letters, Volume 2


TC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE; 16 April 1823; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18230416-TC-MAC-01; CL 2:335-338.


3. Moray-street, Wednesday—[16 April 1823]

My dear Mother,

I was in a monstrous hurry when your letter found me to-day, or rather when I found it: we had begun our new system at Buller's this morning—where I am henceforth to breakfast &c as we used to do before the College Classes commenced. This had driven me off my aims, a good deal; and the aberration was increased by an unfortunate incident which feel [fell] out last night. A box of cut glass and other precious ware had been stolen last night; and poor Mrs Buller, whose husband is absent, not knowing how to act, made an instant appeal to me. I was in consequence obliged to sally forth, and take counsel with Thief-catchers and various other anomalous characters; and it was on my round of inquiries that I struck in by Moray-street, for a rest and a whiff of narcotic, that I discovered your letter and box in waiting for me. The box has at length been discovered, plundered of some articles, yet still retaining its most valuable contents: I have escaped for an hour, and am down scribbling to you with great zeal. Of course, I feel very tired and confused; but you will receive my lucubrations with patience or favour, whatever be their kind, and so “I pay no regard to that.”

You are improving greatly in penmanship: I wish you would study it completely, and write to me far oftener. After a few trials, it would grow quite easy and pleasant to you. Nothing gratifies me more than to hear of your welfare; or to hear as it were the sound of your Motherly voice at all.

We are all astir here, going to the four winds, in search of summer habitations. Old Buller went away yesterday with his youngest boy1 to place him in a Boarding-school in Surrey: and the moment he returns from London, we all set out to the Highlands. They have taken a nine-months lease of that house “away by the back o' Dunkeld,”2 and are to enter on possession at the middle of May. I rejoice very cordially in the prospect of getting out to the country on any terms; and this Dunkeld, they say, has many charms besides those of greenness and fresh air. There are mountains around it and water-falls and what not: Our house, which is six miles above Dunkeld, stands within a short ride of Killiecrankie,3 the most horrible monster of a place in all the north: I expect great pleasure in looking over all these wild things; for I am determined to have up that beastie,4 and to scamper about on the outside of it over the whole region.

You ask after my health, with your wonted solicitude; and I am happy to answer and “tell you truly” that it is wonderfully good. Considering every thing, I may well call it wonderful. For four months I believe there has not been one week in which I have not been roused from my sleep some night or other, and disturbed in the most abominable way. If I had got lived in quietness and regularity, I am perfectly positive, I should have been quite healthy at this very hour. It is only of late that I fell upon the notable device of sleeping with my finger squeezed upon my ear, which I find to be the most effectual method of excluding sound, of any hitherto devised. It cost me many efforts to accomplish using myself to this expedient; but now I am quite trained to it, and practice it whenever any of the neighbours chuses to be noisy, or the wind to blow or the rain to patter, or any kind of disturbance to occur. I am a poor weak sinner to need such shifts: but I shall get beyond them all yet. With the advantages of country air and exercise, I shall certainly arrive at great vigour in summer; for there has not been a time for months when I could command three nights of sleep together, without feeling myself almost perfectly well. As it is, I am very greatly recovered indeed—since you saw me; in far better spirits; and sound at heart notwithstanding all my ailments. When you see me next I shall be whole and well, or else I greatly err.

For bodily pain I care little, so long as it allows me to get along with my intellectual speculations. You ask after my book: I do believe it is begun at last! Irving has been treating with the Editor of the London Magazine, about some lives of great literary characters that I was to write for that work, and afterwards publish in a separate form, if worth publishing. I began some weeks ago to [write] the Life of Schiller, and it is growing on my hands to the size of a small book by itself. I almost determine to write it in three parts for the London men, and then collect them together—enlarge, amend, and print them by themselves! The first part will be done in a day or two; and tho' little to my own satisfaction, I finding it quite as good as many honest persons give to the world without reluctance, and find readers for in reasonable numbers. This Schiller is a noble fellow; the German whom I used to read at home in former summers. I am anxious to do him justice. If I had uninterrupted leisure, I could make something of it: as it is, I shall do my best—and fear nothing—for my aims I feel are not higher than my power will justify, and by God's blessing, I shall yet do something in my time, for all this hustling and jostling I have had to suffer of late.

The Bullers are going to make tours &c; and I shall see you in the month of August! I shall come scampering home then for a month, with no small glee. In the mean time, do not fear that I will write to you in sufficient frequency: I am rather likely to err in excess than defect. Thus the difference of distance will make scarcely any difference in our correspondence.

I expect to be comfortable enough with the Bullers and my life of Schiller during summer. They are very worthy persons in their degree, and seem to treat me always in a handsome manner. The oldest Boy satisfies me well; and tho' I am sorry that his younger brother is not to travel as I thought, I make no doubt I shall get on with them in rather a superior way. The best part of the whole is, that I do not give a doit whether they favour me or not—that is, except in a merely friendly point of view. One's only patron in this world must be himself; and I fear nothing—I care nothing—if these people pay me off to-morrow. Thus one lives calmly. But I must leave you, My dear Mother, with this long and perplexed letter, which may satisfy you by its bulk for one time. Give my kindest love to my Father and all the sisters and brothers.

I am ever (My dear Mother) / Most affectionately your's /

Th: Carlyle.