The Collected Letters, Volume 2


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE; 16 December 1823; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18231216-TC-JAC-01; CL 2:484-487.


Kinnaird House, 16th December 1823—

My dear Jack,

I daresay you are not without anxiety to learn how I wear since my new return to these Highland Hills; and the old drunken Kipper of a Post being up to-day, I set about scribbling you a sheet against his arrival. My journey hither was not so convenient as I expected. Despite the asseverations of that swarthy Coach-clerk, whom indeed his very looks proclaimed to be a “Turk in grain,”1 there was no conveyance to Dunkeld that night, or (that the Guard knew of) the next morning. On learning this fact from the reluctant Redcoat at Newhaven, I could have flown into a considerable passion; and did once think of returning to summon the iniquitous clerk before the Court of Police, and making him account and suffer for his lies. But after two or three ejaculations of contempt and anger, I judged it better to smother my irritation, and proceed in my pilgrimage. It was in itself but uncomfortable: we waited long for the boat; then the passage being stormy and the people all puking round me, I got queasy in the stomach, and did not feel well all day. However I got mutton chops at the Bridge of Earn with the “speculative skite,”2 then coffee at the Hammermen's Tavern in Perth, where I slept not uncomfortably till six next morning, and then set off gaily with the Dunkeld Post, a weazened snuffy drunken sinner, who allowed me half of his gigg for the sum of three shillings. The great coats kept me warm, and the morning was not bad: I arrived here very pleasantly about noon. They were all glad and cheerful at sight of me: I unpacked my articles; sat down by my own fire-side, and at night, all things were as they had been.

Since my return nothing singular has happened: I go croaking about with about the usual quantity of sickness to suffer, and the usual quantity of impatience to endure it with. For the first few days I was better; I had three whole nights of sleep. But on Sunday night, I swallowed some more of that delightful mercury; and with the usual effect. Enough of this abominable subject! Would to God I might never more have to tell any man whether I am well or ill! I have not tasted the slightest morsel of tobacco; but whether this does me any good I cannot yet positively say. I rather think it beneficial: I shall try for five or six weeks more; and then persist in abstinence, or return like the dog to his vomit. There is more pleasure in poor nicotium than in all the wines and sumptuous liquours that grace the boards of the rich.

It is but two months that we have to abide here; so I may easily enough put up with it. Philosophy, I believe, enjoins us never to complain: in this instance I shall try to obey her. Ill health is all I have to suffer; the most tremendous curse which God can afflict a creature with; but one which is not new to me, which I now should be growing used to, since it is like to be my mate thro' life. Kinnaird is not more unpleasant than other places are at this melancholy season. We had snow for three days last week; then a sort of frost, and to-day it is rain and has already melted all the ice and snow away. Every day I have ventured out and had a long walk. Patience! Patience!

To-day, the Proofsheet of Schiller came to hand: the thing fills above two and twenty pages; and seems very weak. If Providence ever give me back my health I shall write very greatly better; if not, not. To-morrow I correct the thing, and send it down again. The third Part is not begun yet! I have only been reading Wallenstein: I mean to begin it in two days positively. If it were done, I shall have nothing to mind but Goethe, which is easy.

And now Jack after this full tho' beggarly account of me, it is fit that I should seek for some account of thee, who art so patient as to listen without wincing to all this dreary pettiness. About this instant Duncan and you, “it is pwobable,” are on your way to M'Kenzie. Well speed you, my brave Doil! You have only to keep your eyes open, to employ those substantial faculties which Nature has given you, and I predict that you will surely make a figure in the world, and do credit to us all. I can only give you one advice, which I have given a thousand times, but must ever be repeating. You already guess “your health!” It is even so: if this stand f[irm] you will conquer all; if it fail you, you will conquer very little. Do you still go out in the mornings? I recommend it as a very beneficial practice. Has Duncan recovered?

Tell me how you like Good,3 if you still continue his pupil; and how you get along with your general medical studies. I know it is dreary; and young men at your age vex themselves with many anxious thoughts which make things worse. But keep a heart Jack! Secure this profession to make bread by means of: you will excel by many leagues all the Doctorkins that I know of, and receive encouragement proportionably. This is absolutely certain: it must happen, at the long run, if yourself incline. And for the interim, take no thought at all. You see I can make cash to serve us both, and while the one has, the other has also. From any but a Brother, I would be stingy of taking favours: but from a Brother, I would demand the half of his last farthing if I needed it. O Jack! What is paltry money to the affection of a true heart! I would not give the love of my people in exchange for all the diamonds of Golconda.4 So we will stick together Jack as firm as the Roman fasces: what force shall be able to break us all?— But I must leave this.— Are you reading any poetry or general literature? Tell me about it minutely: and ask me all the questions you can think of. Did you ever read Boswell's Life of Johnson? It is instructive and amusing. Scott's Dryden? or any of his works (they will not please you very much) or Ben Jonson or any of the “older dramatists”? Keep always reading something; if attentively, you cannot fail to be improving. I will send you down Schiller, and Hazzlitt ere long, and you can get yourself two others in their stead. I foolishly forgot to leave that Bank Receipt with you in case you should be needing money. If you should, of course you will let me know in a moment. I will try if a translation can be got for Summer: if not you must stay at the Infirmary (not as a patient), or set up house with me, or go to Cornwall or something grander. We shall all do well. But I must be off. Write directly. I am your true Brother, (I think on the whole I am [better] since I came hither)[.]

Th: Carlyle.

Except a letter to Sandy this is the first I have written since you saw me. Tell Murray that his parcels were delivered safely. Have you written to Johnston? If not, do: I have long been his debtor.