1824- 1825

The Collected Letters, Volume 3


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE; 21 March 1825; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18250321-TC-JAC-01; CL 3:302-306.


Mainhill, 21st March, 1825—

My dear Jack,

I am arrived once more in our Father's house, and down to scribble you a few lines notifying my continued welfare. It is but an hour till post-time; but I am unwilling to keep you waiting for another day.

I left Birmingham, on the roof of the Manchester Coach, on Saturday gone a week; and reached that dingy “centre of the cotton trade,” about nine o'clock the same evening. I had previously exchanged missives with Irving Carlyle the parson of Oldham; so I removed thither (a distance of eight miles) from the Palace Inn and its thousand bagmen, next day. Irving lives in forlorn lodgings two miles to the north of Oldham, in a desolate hamlet called Shaw, wringing from the hard gripe of Destiny a contented tho' scanty existence, in the double capacity of teacher and preacher. He received me like a brother; and tho' his landlady was a sooty woman, and apparently a Fury in temper, I contrived to spend one night in his establishment with tolerable comfort. In head Irving is utterly addle; but he has a kind honest heart; and nature has taught him many valuable lessons in Philosophy, which Art could never yet teach me. I liked my humble countryman far better than I have done wiser men. From Irving I learned that George Johnstone had lately made an attempt, and then abandoned it, to settle in Oldham; and was now living with his Mother at Marsden, on the Yorkshire side of the “great spine of England,” as they call the chain of dry moory hills which there divide the two counties. The distance was said to be 8 miles; Irving and I were 4½ hours in travelling it. After wandering over an elevated grim looking wilderness, the rapid water-courses of which were sparingly besprinkled with cottages and cloth-weavers, with here and there a coal-mine or spinning-mill, and smoky villages far in the distance; we at length descried the hamlet of Marsden, nestled in the lap of the mountains, and ere long were snugly seated in the Doctor's parlour. Both he and his mother gave me such a cordial welcome, that I postponed my purpose of departure for two days; which I spent in roaming up and down among the foundries and cloth-works, and cottages of the neighbourhood. The place is literally an immense mountain cauldron; at the bottom of it five or six brooks unite to form the Aire (I think), which escapes by another valley towards Huddersfield on the north-east, and finally falls into the Humber. The bottom, and the hill-sides as far as culture has subdued the heath, are studded with houses and cottages, connected with the bottom by steep flagstone paths; the people are a fat people; you see the tall chimneys of manufacturing engines towering up in the solitude of the moors, a spot of life in the vast circuit of the dead waste; and altogether the effect is Swiss-looking and agreeable. George has all the practice which the place affords; in point of employment, abundance; in point of emolument, somewhere about two hundred a year. Living is high, so that he cannot save much; but he does save a little, with which in two years he means to visit Paris, and then establish himself in some wider and more inspiring scene. Meanwhile he seems to be gathering a little knowledge, and to feel entirely contented. He is a well-meaning shrewd fellow; considerably the best medical production of our native village. I cautioned him against the contaminating influences of Marsden; encouraged him with sympathy and lecturing, and promised by and by to write to him. He wishes much to hear of you: write him a letter as soon as you have time. His Mother is well, but not contented with the unsociality of the people; she was kind to me as to a son, and almost cried when I came away. On the whole, I feel a great interest in these worthy unpretending people; and should rejoice to hear of their prosperity. I wish you would write, whenever you have leisure.

I reached Mainhill on Saturday last, by the Carlisle Mail, without any particular inconvenience except a slight derangement in “the biliary ducts,” and a pitiful snivelling cold which I had contracted by two successive days of outside travelling. Great things have been accomplished here of late. They have rented Repentance Hill as a farm for me, at £100 a year; Alick is there ploughing even now; they are about hiring servants, and all is to go on swimmingly. I go over this afternoon to inspect the place; of which, in so far as I am concerned, every report speaks favourably. Alick on his own side is also full of hopes. I rejoice in the prospect of a comfortable home, where I may at length commence my plans of regimen, and live like a wise man. In summer, you will find a better domicilium also, than you have had: there will be freedom and fresh air and quiet, and brotherly affection for us all. I do anticipate no small improvement in our circumstances from this new arrangement. It will depend upon ourselves, whether we are comfortable and industrious, and more or less rapidly progressive in our several pursuits.

Meantime till Whitsunday, we do not get possession of the house; the intermediate period must be spent in making preparations. The first, and not the easiest for me, relates to my literary employment, about which I have so often troubled you of late. Is that Book arrived? I scarcely hope it; so many delays have inspired me with distrust. Write to me instantly: if the Life of Schiller is among you, there is nothing here to detain me beyond a day or two from seeing you. At all events you can ask Boyd, in what state of progress it is. I have had such bustling and bungling with that pitiful transaction, as has quite disgusted me. You will send a copy to Brewster, and two to Mrs Welsh of Haddington: the rest you can keep till I come.

I mean to write to Brewster by this post. Alick tells me you want a little money; and I bethink me of a plan for supplying you. Brewster owes me the price of various Translations1 in his Encyclopedia, a sum perhaps of fifteen pounds; which has been due three or four months, and which he long ago directed me to bid any one call for at his house. Do you go and call, any morning between eleven and one o'clock; I will add a postscript to his letter as a harbinger; you will both see the savant, and get your cash from him with the greatest readiness. Observe this: it is needless for you to be short of money for a day; and this is the easiest method of furnishing you.

I have already missed the post, the herd-boy having gone to Bonshaw[…] hiring a farm-servant. You must wait with patience for another day; and I [will] not close this sheet till to-morrow morning. I have thus got farther leisure; bu[t I] cannot occupy it to much purpose in the way of scribbling; for the day is brilliant, and every nerve in me is chacing me forth into the sunshine. At any rate what need is there? I have already told thee the necessary as to business; and for the rest, we are all well here (except Jenny who is fast recovering from the measles), and all as true in our affection to the mighty Tongleg as we have ever been. Especially the colony of Repentance Hill expect much true enjoyment from his presence with them in a month or two. Thou art diligent as formerly: continue so, and cast away despondency. It is a natural feeling, but a thriftless one, and in thy case quite unfounded. Hast thou not a head and a heart? I tell thee, thou art fated to be a Médecin malgré lui,2 of notability in thy day and generation. Confide in me as in a friend that will never fail thee; as I too confide in thee.

So far are we from repenting having made thee a “scholar,” that there is even a serious purpose arising, in my imagination if not my judgement, of edicatting another of the family. Jean has gained immortal laurels by parsing with Ben Rae; she seems I think to have outstripped her teacher considerably in Knowledge of grammar, and I am told that she is “no worth a preen [pin] for wark.” She is in fact a kind of genius, and I grudge to see her rare talents lying wild and unemployed. We shall seriously consider of it. She is to go with us to Repentance at all events.— For external news I scarcely know a syllable worth writing. The wretched inhabitants of the village looked as squalid, and appear to be as brutish and unhappy as when I left them. It is a serious evil to live within the sound of their base doings; one is degraded by having any trade however small with them. Also nichts davon [Therefore, nothing more about this]. Waugh, I hear, is in a terrible pucker for money: Richie Uirin has had him under arrest, for bond-bills upon the property. I will see Waugh in a day or two. The pony is here, a stiff substantial brute, tho' Waugh's ostler has starved it, and Waugh himself has changed its pace into that particular species of trot, which my father would denominate a flatch[a clumsy walk]. I will remodel it.— Jemmy Bogs has left his place—by moonlight; the dirty scullion! Tom is with his father in Poverty-raw; eating opium, and practising upon the bodies of the indigent and afflicted. Taylor of Lockerby appeared in his pulpit, the Sunday before last, so drunk that he could not preach: I do pity the unlucky mortal from the bottom of my heart. These are news for you: are we not a happy people in this Annandale? I will not write another word; except to bid thee write by the very first post, and to assure thee that I am ever,

Thy affectionate Brother, /

Th: Carlyle—

(The trunk is come in safety. Send home the leather-cap, if Farries c[ome] before me)

I have begun Brewster's letter; if possible I will finish it by this post, at all events by the next. The Book, it seems, was shipped from London a week ago;3 it must be arrived among you ere now. Write directly, and expect me directly. I calculate on seeing you next week early. Write by the very first opportunity. Call on Brewster.