1824- 1825

The Collected Letters, Volume 3


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE; 21 November 1824; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18241121-TC-JAC-01; CL 3:204-208.


23. Southampton-street, Pentonville, / London, 21st November, 1824—

My dear Jack,

It grieves me to think that you must suffer the pains of suspense till Friday morning; but there is no remedy. By dint of what I thought a very strong effort, I scribbled you a full sheet last night, in spite of all calls and engagements; but just as I concluded it, I found that it was some minutes too late for the post, and must lie in Abchurch street till monday evening if I sent it, there being no departure or reception of mails here on Sunday. I judged it better to burn the luckless epistle and write you another more at leisure[.]

Nothing could have been more welcome to me than your letter, the first that came to greet me in my new habitation. For six weeks I had suffered under a total famine of news from home; and had become not only eager for some friendly communing with you, but anxious also in gloomy hours lest something sinister might have happened. You did well to write without a moment's delay: I trust you will hold fast by so good a sample, and let me hear of all your doings with a regularity greater if possible than ever. Tho' separated in place we are united in interest and affection: let us sedulously employ all the means of intercourse that still remain to us.

The melancholy you allude to is a thing I do not wonder at, having often felt it myself. You are jaded with travelling, confused with change of place and business; for the first week you cannot be happy. Let the business of the winter once be fairly entered on, your books and apparatus gathered round you, and all will be well. Edinburgh is a cold abode for one like you; anxieties of many kinds haunt your too earnest temper, and there are no friends at hand to share and alleviate them. But live in hope, my boy; and when your heart feels friendless think of me. We are not alone in life, while we are both spared to front its difficulties side by side; and depend upon it, our united efforts will in the end prevail. I know you think darkly, as I used to do perhaps still more, of the world and the part you are to play in it: I love you more for this, my honest brother; but I can assure you it is all superfluous. With your talents and diligence, and genuine strength of mind, I fear not in the smallest to set you forth among the small characters that people this our planet, to fight your way among them to distinction and independance. I have not been in the habit of flattering you, nor do I think it safe for any one to make his happiness depend upon success superior to others; but this I will say, Jack, that I have no skill in men, if thou art not fitted to send thousands of common “medical gentlemen” to the right and left, in any scene where they may meet thee. Fear not, my good Jack: thy head is clear and firm, and gifted more than thou believest; thy heart also is honest and affectionate and manly: join prudent culture of these endowments to judicious exposition of them to the public, and in due time the world is at thy bidding. This is certain as the Gospel; so think not of it for the present; think only of learning thy profession, and accomplishing as far as possible, thy general faculties: the rest will all come in proper course as it is wanted. Success to thee my own Jack! The more I know of thee, the prouder I am of our relation, the more confident of getting honour from it. Let us be true to ourselves, boy, and to one another; and there is no shade of fear.

I am rather glad than otherwise that you are to be alone this winter. Duncan1 is a poor associate for you; fitter to chat an odd hour away with, than to live constantly beside. I fear you have few associates in Edinburgh; the few that you have endeavour to take the good of; dwell not too intently on your studies and personal interests; throw by your books often, and “be unwise at a time.” See Mitchell and Murray, George Irving, Church, any one rather than none, at short intervals; treat yourself with a novel from the circulating libraries once a week; go now and then to the theatre; and walk the whole of every Saturday. Mind these things; they are serious counsels: my only fear for you is that you be too intent on well doing; here there seems a real danger for you, yet I trust you will avoid it. Tell me minutely about your studies and reading and classes and pursuits. When you have graduated in the North, I think it will not be a bad scheme for you to go to Paris for a winter: I found while there that it would not by any means be impracticable. There were many Irishmen and Scotchmen in Cuvier's Amphitheatre, when I heard him lecture: of this, more when we meet. The point is to be acquainted with your trade, to digest the facts and observations furnished to you, not in the memory, but in your own intellect; so that you, the daring Tongleg, not Dr Gregory2 or Dr Good,3 but you may know fully what is what, or know that you do not know it, when you leave class-rooms, and step forth into the complexities of actual practice. I see the many many difficulties to be conquered; but I know the force of the assailant also. Go on, like a true man, as you have begun, without pomp or pedantry, trusting to diligence and solid reflexion alone: the result is certain as aught that man can calculate on. Brave times, my Boy! When we are both philosophers; living perhaps under the same roof, remembering wherever we may be that we are brothers, and backing one another out in several lines to the very last!

But I must tell you something of myself. The day you left Dumfries I left Dover with the Stracheys, the day you arrived in Edinr I arrived in London about eight at night. Irving's hospitable home was open to me; but I longed to be in some establishment of my own; so after a sleep, and 12 hours of talk with the orator about Paris and its wonders, I set out in quest of lodgings. On Wednesday evening I was planted here, within three gunshots of him, in a place far better than I had expected. The landlady with a servant, both of the best and tidiest sort, an occasional ancient gentleman (Missus' former Master) at present in the topmost story, an asthmatic lady on the ground floor, and myself occupying [the in]termediate one, compose the whole household. My two apartments are of fair si[ze and] I think the best I have lived in; clean as a new guinea, even elegant; the parlour looki[ng] with two windows into a neat and not noisy street, the bedroom into green plots like those awa doon i' Pilrig,4 with a trim space of grass and sanded walks and a pleasant-looking edifice beyond them. I like the whole very well; the people wait on me, and cook my Badamian victuals, with the regularity of an arithmetical mill: if I were perfect in the article of sleep, I should be altogether comfortable. Even this is far beyond what I had reason to anticipate in London; by good management, I may have six hours nightly of nearly absolute quiet, with which even if habit come not to my aid, I shall contrive to make a shift. Walking which I purpose to take in abundance I find a potent recipe; I do not fear growing worse in health if I attend to it. The cost is 16 / weekly excluding fires; the whole bill, I see, will reach as high as 35 / . This, I believe, is cheap for this most expensive of cities.

The printing of Schiller was to have commenced ten days ago; but as yet I have not seen a sheet of it. These creeping things Taylor & Hess[e]y are going to be altogether dilatory in their movements, if I do not whip them into action. It will be eight or nine weeks at least before the book is done. I mean to scold them once a day, and try if I can get it finished sooner. It will be about as large as a volume of Meister. I am introducing various extracts and enlargements: at present I am translating some scenes of Wallenstein; some of Karlos, and the Jungfrau are already done, some of Tell are to follow. The poor thing is also to have a portrait of Schiller; on the whole, it will be a kind of book, and live its six weeks like others.— My ulterior plans are not yet fixed. While this business lasts, I must continue here: I will work a few hours daily, and spend the rest in walking and talking, and seeing all I can of London. After that, if I am not better than I can confidently expect, I must again alter my arrangements, most probably return to Scotland. Nothing I perceive will do but setting up house somewhere or other, on a smaller or a larger scale! Here it must end, and the sooner, I think, the better. I have two or three schemes in agitation; you shall know them all by and by.

Meanwhile, I shall do excellently well, considering every thing. I have company enough; some sorts of it far from disagreeable: I shall try by walking &c to procure sufferable ease; I have many things and men whom I hope to see; I write about three hours per day, and read as many; and the time goes glibly, only too unprofitably, over. You shall hear more minutely by the next opportunity.— Now, Jack, write without delay, and calculate on writing to me somewhere nearly once a week, while I am here. Tell me all thy doings, thy thoughts sad and joyful. Poor old Reekie! What a fierce and fearful scene of conflagration!5 Remember me to Cron, Murray, Mitchell. Murray's letter I will answer; it lay for me at Dover. I wrote to Frank Dickson; and to George Johnstone. Do thou write to me. Adieu, my good Jack! My kindest remembrances to Mainhill, and commands of the most pressing sort for Alick to write. Good night! I am ever thine—

T. Carlyle

[In margins:] Has any echo of tidings from the Targer6 reached you? I know not where among nations he is. The careless sloot [lazy person]! Will you send our mother tea &c and kind letters whenever you can. I wrote to her eight days ago.

This is a sorry business of the bill. Do you write my name on the back of it, and no questions will be asked. Shew this for your authority, if it is needed. You are not in actual want of cash? Had it not been for double postage, I would have sent you some: but you need delay no longer.

Today was Irving's sacrament-day; but I was not there: I saw him an hour or two ago, nursing as usual. Last night I saw Allan Cunningham, Procter, &c.

Mind to write soon and fully. Good night! There is a wretched mortal with a voice like the howling of wolves, declaring to the earth for the twentieth time, that it is—“Paast ney-en.” Good night, and peace be with thee, Jack! I am done.