1824- 1825

The Collected Letters, Volume 3


TC TO ALEXANDER CARLYLE; 4 March 1825; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18250304-TC-AC-01; CL 3:291-295.


Birmingham, 4th March, 1825—

My dear Alick,

No piece of news that I have heard for a long time has given me more satisfaction than the intelligence contained in your letter of yesterday. For several weeks I had lived in a total dearth of tidings from you; and both on account of your welfare, and of our mutual projects in the farming line, I had begun to get into the fidgets, and was ready to hasten homewards with many unpleasant imaginations to damp the expected joy of again beholding friends so dear to me. It now appears that all is exactly as it should be: you are proceeding in your usual style at Mainhill; and a dwelling-place upon the summit of Repentance height1 has already been provided for me. This latter incident, I confess, was beyond my hopes. I feared we should be obliged, so soon as I arrived, to commence the weary task of farm-hunting; in which, as the season was already far spent, it seemed likely enough that we should fail this year, as we had done last, and the date of my establishment might be postponed for another twelvemonth. Happily all this is obviated. I make no doubt that Blackadder's2 place will fit us perfectly: the house, I conjecture, and partly recollect, is one of the best of its kind in the district; and as for the management of the land, knowing your industry and our general resources, I am under no apprehension. Once fairly settled in that elevated position, we shall go on with the greatest birr.3 I want nothing but regularity and care in my diet, with gardening and riding and such like exercise in due proportion, to make an immense improvement in my health; and a few hours spent daily in literary labour will not fail to turn to some account in the way of money; so that between us both, with the true aid of our Mother and the rest, we shall be able to make a bold and steadfast front against the Evil Genius, and in due time, I hope, to lay him prostrate, or cripple him forever. We must try, at any rate; like the far-famed Waffler, we will make an affu' struggle, and I doubt not, we shall prosper.

I expect to see you all in a few days; but in the mean time, let not my absence in the least impede your movements. It is only in the furnishing of two apartments in the house that I can give you any useful counsel. Proceed, therefore, in laying in your necessary stock and implements, as if you had my express and particular sanction. Get the tack [lease] or minute of tack drawn out in your own name; for I am but as a lodger, and should make no figure in the character of one of Hoddam's tenants. The entry, I suppose, will not take place till Whitsunday; but you will need to commence your ploughings and other preparations without delay. Let not my absence cause you to lose a moment. Take money from the Bank, and transact with it as you see proper. I think two such philosophers should show an example to the rude boors of Annandale: without “farming by the book,” I hope we shall make a different thing of it, than a routine clodhopper who thinks the world is bounded by “the five parishes” would make of it.

My Mother need not be assured of the pleasure I feel in having this prospect of living once more under her superintendance. If she can but be taught to stint me sufficiently in my victuals, we shall do admirably. I calculate on suffering a week or two of extra pain, before I convince her of the great fact, that the less I eat, the better; the weaker my appetite, the stronger my health. I will put her too under regimen, and make her “as sound as gold”!— She speaks of knives being cheap in Birmingham; but I fear I am a bad merchant anywhere. The people seem to read in my face that I cannot higgle or beat down their prices; so they almost always overcharge me. Nevertheless I mean to try. But we shall need many things of that domestic sort; and our good Mother shall take a journey to Dumfries, and buy them according to her own sagacity by the lump. It is like a sort of marriage; at least, it is a house-heating! Let us be thankful that we are all to be together; all still spared to be a blessing to each other.

At one time, I counted on being home by the end of this week; but now I think it plain enough that it will be towards the end of next, at soonest. Badams detained me long in London; I have but been here since Monday;4 and he left me the day before yesterday, being forced by business to return to Town, which he will not have it in his power to leave for a fortnight. He had no new precept of importance to give me; only additional recommendations of abstemiousness and exercise. He is a kind good fellow: I am here as much at home, as if I were at the fire side of Mainhill. Yesterday Badams wrote me (from amidst the “wild beasts of Ephesus.”5 as he calls the new Mining Companies, with whom he is in constant treaty about some important smelting schemes): he wishes me to stay till his return; but if I cannot, he entreats me to take Taffy (a little fiery corn-fed indefatigable Welsh Pony of his, on which I ride) with all its furniture, for the love of him; to ride home on the little red cantering nag, and use it in my own country for the recovery of my health! Such are the frank hearts I have found in England! I am actually meditating whether I shall not accept this friendly offer. The naggie can canter five and forty miles a day: I might stay and rest myself with Irving Carlyle6 at Oldham; then go thro' among the Lakes, or any way I chose. I have bought me a pair of monstrous buckskin mud-boots (spatterdashes that cover the whole shoe and extend midway up the thigh) which keep me as warm and clean, as if I were in a drawing room; and little Taffy and I go scouring over all the purlieus of this huge village. Perhaps after all I may decide in favour of the Manchester Coach, which ends the business sooner. At any rate, I shall not stir till Monday or after it. But if I am not home about a week after that, you may expect another letter from me.

For a day or two I am the less anxious, now that I know you all well, and our future up-putting decided on. My weary Schiller was still “three days” from publication, when I left London! The useless Kipper of an Engraver has used me and himself very ill. But he could not help it well, I believe; in recommending him to the job, I meant to serve a worthy and needy man; and I am not sorry for the little injury it has cost me. The Book will be in Edinr in ten days; and I shall not be long in following it. I must there take measures for the executing of some one of my various literary schemes. Among them all, I shall not fail to hit on something that may do myself and others a little good. The Hesseys and Taylors are a pitiful squad: but if nothing better may be, I can close with their offer. If they vex me, I will write some thing of my own, and send the whole brotherhood to the right and left!

It is not without regret that I leave England; and I cling to the hope of often seeing it again. I have found more kindness in it, than I ever found in any other district of the Earth, except the one that holds my Fathers house. If stony Edinburgh be no better to me than it was, I will shake the dust off my feet7 against it, and abide in it no more. My health will return, and then I shall be ready for any scene. There are warm hearts everywhere; but they seem to meet one with greater frankness here. Yesterday I had a letter from Mrs Strachey, which was soon followed by a box containing a new present of the most superb writing-desk8 I have ever seen! I should think, with its accompaniments, it cannot have cost much less than twenty guineas. I am writing on it at this moment, and design to keep it as a precious memorial all my days. These are things that make me wonder.

I have heard no news from Jack for many days: I partly design to send him a letter to-morrow. He is a hurried off-putting Doilter; but one of the truest of brothers, and bids fair to be a man of note in his day and generation, one that will do discredit to none concerned with him. To-morrow I must write to Dr Brewster about my literary plans; next day, I go and hear Crosbie,9 a Scotch minister (from Dumfries) endeavouring to establish himself, among this gun-boring, button-making people. He is a well-intentioned man, but runs no risk of being burnt for witchcraft.— The sheet is done. Adieu my dear Brother!

I am always yours, /

Th: Carlyle

I hope my Father approves of all these farming schemes, and will not think of burthening himself farther with Mainhill and its plashy soil, when the lease has expired. If I write again, it will be to him. Meanwhile give my warmest love to every mortal about home, beginning with my trusty Mag and ending with the youngest stay of the house, little Jenny.—

Tell my Mother I have a book for her, a present from Irving, which he hopes she will like.— The time is done: I must begone.