1824- 1825

The Collected Letters, Volume 3


TC TO ALEXANDER CARLYLE; 14 February 1825; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18250214-TC-AC-01; CL 3:283-286.


Pentonville, 14th Feby 1824 [1825]—

My dear Brother,

I expected by this time almost to have been in Mainhill; and the date of my departure even from London is still in some degree uncertain. I am afraid our Mother will be getting anxious about me; so I sit down in the midst of bustle and hurry to assure you all that I am quite well, and prevented from coming home by no cause productive of any evil to me.

I expect that this weary Life of Schiller would have been published a fortnight ago, and just when every thing was ready on my part, the Engraver discovered that the portrait was not right and would require at least two weeks! before it could be put properly in order! Of course I felt terribly enraged at this new delay; but what, alas, would rage do for me? I made them bind me up 10 copies of the Book to give away among my friends here; I got my money from the knaves, took their promise of proceeding with the utmost possible expedition in the matter tho' I were absent; and thus washed my hands of the affair entirely. Irving in the meantime got me at length persuaded to come over to his quarters, “to talk with him,” and I have been here above a week “talking” with might and main. I have shipped my trunk for Leith; but reflecting that till after Schiller had been some time in Edinburgh, it was useless for me to go thither. I have continued here, enjoying myself as the circumstances permitted, and waiting patiently till all things should be ready for my departure. One consideration that detains me is the wish to see a little more of Badams before my departure, and take his final views about the management of my health. He is here at this time; and counsels me strongly to stay with him a while before leaving England. He talks of leaving London about Saturday; and I have engaged to go with him to Birmingham, however long I may stay there; and carry with me his last precepts about the management of my outward man in Scotland. So that you perceive it is still a little uncertain when I may return to you: I can only promise to write to you from Birmingham, and tell you more particularly.

Meanwhile, except perhaps for the loss of time, I feel perfectly comfortable here. Irving and I talk of all things under the sun, in the friendliest and most edifying manner; and all my friends vie with one another in kindness to the departing dyspeptic. Several of them would fain retain me; and had I not vowed inflexibly to recover health of body in preference to all things, I should be strongly tempted to listen to their solicitations. But I feel that I may grow completely well again; and seven years of perpetual pain have taught me sharply that to this consideration every thing should give way. I hope however not to leave England for good and all at present; I have got real friends here, whom I should be sorry to quit forever. Mrs Strachey and I are to correspond by letters; so also are Mrs Montague and I: the former has presented me with a beautiful gold pencil; the latter with a seal bearing Schiller's dying words “Calmer and Calmer” for an inscription; both of which pledges I design to keep with great fidelity as memorials of worthy and kind people.

For my future occupation, I have yet settled nothing definitively. The Booksellers Taylor & Hessey have offered me £100 for a Life of Voltaire to be composed like this of Schiller; to be printed, if I like, in Edinr; the subsequent editions also to be theirs at the rate of £100 apiece. I have not agreed to it; for I expect better things from the Edinburgh Trade; but at the very worst this is in reserve. I think it fair enough to get £100 for the first edition only; but they boggle at this; and besides I like not the men, they are silly people, and “Turks in grain.”1 We shall see by and by. In the first place however, I must settle some place of abode for myself, some scheme of existing in conformity to my medical prescriptions and also of proceeding with my literary employments. The farm is still my favourite or rather only steady project. A reasonable house is all that I want; with land that would pay you for working it. I feel assured that if we could get the matter rightly begun, we might manage it perfectly well. Do you know of any likely farm? Send me off a letter to Birmingham with your ideas on this point: I wish much to hear what you and all the rest think of it. We have fully £400 of money; and if I were once fairly settled, I could easily make more. Let us try it manfully, and see if we cannot prosper! I think in twelve months, I might almost be perfectly well. I long to hear what you think.

I have said already that the period of my stay in Birmingham was unsettled: I am partly calculating on ten days or perhaps a fortnight. And as I shall have nothing to employ me with, beyond my riding and regimen, I have devised a plan of occupation, which may turn this leisure to account. There is a Spaniard2 here (one of the refugees) who from Catholic has become a Protestant, a very honest shrewd little fellow, between whom and Irving I have had occasion frequently of late of officiate as interpreter (the Sp[an]iard speaking only French). I have bethought me of turning his skill [to] account; I have bought a Spanish grammar, and begun yesterday to take lessons from him in his language, which I may repay by giving him lessons in mine. I find it very easy; and design to continue it while in Warwickshire. Before leaving Birmingham, I calculate on being able to read Spanish pretty readily. This is better than entire idleness, into which at present I am too much tempted to fall.

A copy of Schiller will reach you thro' Edinr ere long. It is a very reasonable looking book; and promises to act its part in society very fairly. If I can find nothing better to do, I will write a whole string of such books. Literary fame is a thing which I covet little; but I desire to be working honestly in my day and generation in this business, which has now become my trade. I make no grain of doubt that in time I shall penetrate the fence that keeps me back, and find the place which is due to me among my fellow men. Some hundreds of stupider people are at this very time doing duty with acceptance in the literature of the time. We shall see: I am not at all in a hurry; the time will come.3

Now, my dear Alick, I daresay you have not failed to discover that this is the most meagre of letters, and to wonder how I could have written it. The truth is I am sitting here perched up in a crowded parlour, with the worst pen in nature, and all is confusion about me. To write sense is simply impossible. Were it not to calm the affectionate anxieties of my Mother, no cause could have tempted me to write at all. Assure her that I am quite well, and will write better next time if I have occasion to write again. You will write instantly to Birmingham, or at least send the newspaper instantly, and write directly after, “Care of J. Badams Esqr.” I need not send my compliments to Father & Mother and every one at home: the best wishes of my heart are with them always. I will see the whole of them in a few days. Excuse this confusion and hurry: I am in the midst of tumult and distraction, and meant only to tell you that I was well, and ever your affe Brother— Thomas Carlyle—

[In margins:] I began this letter and wrote the first page of it on the fourteenth: I have [not] got the rest written till to-day, the 17th!