1824- 1825

The Collected Letters, Volume 3


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE; 21 January 1824; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18240121-TC-JAC-01; CL 3:15-18.


Kinnaird House, 21st Jany 1823 [1824]

My dear Jack,

I suppose you calculated on not being troubled with any more of my scribbling till after you had seen me face to face on the first of February: but according to the Scotch adage, he wad need to have a lang ladle that sups kail wi the de'il; and he wad need to have a long head that predicts the movements of aught depending on Mrs B. We have altered our plans: I am not to come down till the tenth of February, and then to be wholly my own master for three months. Boyd writes to me for the manuscript of Meister; which I accordingly have sent, having this opportunity of Mast' and Missu's journey to Edinr for which place they set out to-morrow morning early. Denovan the crack-brained Butler has undertaken to convey the parcel cost-free; and I am scribbling a few unmeaning lines to you to go along with it.

Of course I suppose you will understand to carry down this parcel of Ms at your leisure to Boyds. I have told him to send me up the proof-sheets of Paul if he think it necessary, which I hardly do. However we should leave him no room for the echo of a grumble.

It is impossible to tell you how I have been whipt about of late; or how I look to be for some time coming. This accursed Schiller is not finished yet! I seldom get at it till six o'clock; and in such a state as would astonish the soul of the bravest scribbler on Earth. Then I am called off at eight to get tea; and frequently I never have the heart to begin again. Oh heaven and Earth! it is enough to drive me utterly mad—that I must waste my precious, precious, unreturning time, and wear out my weary days in torment for mere daily bread! Some of this Schiller I have written about ten times over, and still it is very very bad. To-day they were out roe-hunting, and I wrote about as much as I had done in a week before. Patience! Patience! or rather Fortitude! and Action! for patience will not do.

I have little hope of getting a quiet lodging in Edinr; I shall get little sleep I fear; and without sleep the result is easy to predict. I have a notion of going fairly down to Mainhill, and having the proof-sheets sent me by post. I shall see when I arrive—about the tenth.

It is impossible for any thing to be more stagnant and monotonous than our life here is. We are all very agreeable together but there is no new topic among us; and now grouse-shooting having failed, the good people are getting weary of their abode here. Two or three squires of the neighbourhood have looked in upon us of late; but their minds are what Pump Sandy calls a vaaccum: naiter and airt [nature and art] working together have rendered them very dull. We had the other night a Sir John (Something, I forget what, perhaps, Ogilvie)1 “one of the numerous baronets of the age” as Arthur with a violent effort at contempt described him; a person not unlike John Wright, Cutty2 Wright, the tailor, but of course much politer. There was also one Abercromby Dick,3 who invited me over to Tullymet his place of abode: I have some thought of going, if once I were at leisure. Thurtell being hanged last week,4 we grew duller than ever; till yesterday Mrs B turned off all her servants except two at one fell swoop. This keeps up our hearts for a time.

On the whole, however, I have been happier than I usually was throughout the summer and autumn. My health I think is little worse or better than it was; but I have the prospect of speedy deliverance; and my mind has been full, disagreeably so, oftentimes, of this miserable Schiller. It will be done now ere another week: I write like desperation when they are gone.

Now Jack by way of answer to this hurried sketch I request that thou wilt send me a letter without loss of time. I expect to be with you about Saturday-fortnight, which I have just calculated to be the 9th of the month. Tell me in the mean time all that you are doing or hoping to do: I long to hear from you. How far is Good5 advanced, and how do you like him? What other thing do you read, or how do you go on “in a general view”? Write any thing thou pleasest, good Jack: thy fortunes great and small are all in some respects likewise fortunes of mine; therefore let me not be ignorant of them. Sentimental phraseology is a very worthless thing; but the real practical affection of a human heart that will abide with us all our days is more precious than the gold of Ophir.6 I like this piece of poetry from Schiller: you may translate it at your leisure.

—Feindlich ist die Welt
Und falsch gesinnt! Es liebt ein Jeder nur
Sich selbst; unsicher, los und wandelbar
Sind alle Bande die das leichte Glück
Geflochten— Laune löst was Laune knupfte—
Nur die Natur is[t] redlich! Sie allein
Liegt an dem ew'gen Ankergrunde fest,
Wenn alles andre auf den sturmbewegten Wellen
Des Lebens unstät triebt, Die Neigung gibt
Den Freund, es gibt der Vortheil den Gefährten;
Wohl dem, dem die Geburt den Bruder gab!
Ihn kann das Glück nicht geben! Anerschaffen
Ist ihm der Freund, und gegen eine Welt
Voll Kriegs and Fruges steht er zweyfach da!7

If you can read these lines, you are a 'cute one. But it is no matter; you know the sentiment they are meant to convey, by a knowledge of the heart, which is better than a knowledge of the head.— I have had no news from Mainhill—except by the Courier, which last week signified in rather ambiguous terms that “all was well”: if you hear any thing, communicate it. Has the Targer8 yet sent you the scratch of a pen? I wonder what on Earth has taken him: I will write to the poor fellow one of these days. I doubt it is not over well with him, or he would not keep this obstinate silence. Tell me if you ever see Murray. Make my respects to his Immortality—whom I really wish well to seeing he is a worthy man. Remember me to Duncan: write soon and fully. I am ever, My good Jack

your affe Brother—

T. Carlyle

[In margins:] Tell me if you have yet thought of any feasible lodging and whether it would be prudent in your opinion to come on the Saturday—that is so far as depends on the lodging “part o't.” It is late, late; and I am dreadfully tired. Adieu.