1824- 1825

The Collected Letters, Volume 3


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE; 24 December 1825; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18251224-TC-JAC-01; CL 3:440-443.


Hoddam Hill, 24th December, 1825—

My Dear Jack,

In the course of my investigations today, I learned that George Farries, Waffler in Ecclefechan, was to set out for Edinburgh early on Monday morning. I have determined to commit a portion of manuscript to him, that you may be duly advertised of his approach, and so enabled to send down the box, for the purpose of having it filled with luggage for me and proviant for both next time there is an opportunity. I trust the body will not lose these papers: in the event of your getting hold of them in safety, you can take them over to Tait, and tell him to set the Printers all and sundry, from Ballantyne himself to the lowest Devil of the office to work on the copy; so that they may be in readiness for quick and earnest action the moment I arrive. The little note will explain this to Tait, indeed, without your saying any thing: only if you could get any deliverance from him before you write, it would be so much better.

For the last two weeks I have been very idle again, having done nothing that I can recollect save writing this very pitiful Life of Musäus. I have been out of books, indeed; for I cannot resolve upon this Undine of Fouqué's, till after I have seen the Todtenbund [League of the Dead] in the Advocates' Library. Besides I had a cold, and was forced to go hawking about for several days with a shawl round my neck. Now I am quite recovered: but still intending to pass another week without much work, writing letters and making arrangements for my departure. Indeed I should have set out directly: but the jubilee of Hogmanay affrights me to the soul; and eighty miles from it seems too short rather than too long a distance. Ten days after this, I know not but I may be with you.

This day week, I rode up to Belcathill;1 but found nothing there except snubby children, who were scarcely able to inform me that Frank had gone to Cannobie for an indefinite period about a fortnight before. By dint of much simple eloquence I gained admission to his book-closet; but found it stuffed, like a shop in St Mary's Wynd, with old trowsers and other cast apparel, and had not light or patience enough to make any strict search for the German Books; disappointed of which, I trotted gravely home again as wise as I went away. Waugh also I have again seen, while commissioning a pair of shoes from Ried; and again partaken of his flewks [flounders], and spirit-stirring speculation. O Pitti, nil me sicut antea juvat!2 I wish this world were paved with beauty and rapture, only this modest wish, and stingy Fortune refuses me! The world continues paved with mire and tedium: and what can we do, but just struggle on till we get to the end of it? Therefore, westward ho!

The principal public news of this quarter is touching a sort of silver tray or epergne or waiter or some commodity of that sort which certain of the natives, instigated by “Sandy Corrie” have been presenting to Mr Yorkstoun our venerable parson. The value of the plate is seventy guineas of gold. Nine and thirty men sat down to dinner in the Grapes Inn yesterday, at what hour I know not, His Honour in the chair; and after a due consumpt of tough beef with wine and British spirits the tray or whatever it is was laid upon the genial board, and presented by the General, with an appropriate speech, which he regretted that a day's hard hunting had prevented him from rendering more appropriate by previous meditation. Dr Simpson also sang a bawdy song. Orations (not for the Oracles3) were delivered by various hands; and after protracting the feast of reason and the flow of soul4 till the keystone of the night had mounted over their heads, the meeting with extreme hilarity and glee &c &c. Will Brand, stinking with whisky like the mash-tub of the Celt, told me all this to-day, while I was searching for a book in his press and finding none.

Of domestic news, more interesting to you, I must not forget to mention the speculation for Shawbrae. They have offered for the farm together with Hab Hunter's “Lower Bogside” a rent of £230, by the hands of Alick last Wednesday. Miss Welsh has also written a strong letter to Major Creighton in their favour; so that they have considerable hope of prospering, tho' several others have offered, and are offering. It will be decided in three weeks; till which time, for this and similar concerns, there will be nothing but unbounded conjecture, and reports assuming new forms daily, and not worth listening to in any form. Our Father is in high spirits about the matter; our Mother's wishes are still keener tho she is “ready to submit to His disposal”; in fact every one (not even excepting me) is anxious for an affirmative answer.5 With regard to the Hill, His Honour's people have now changed from solicited to solicitant: they are anxious for a formal renunciation of the concern; which on certain equitable counter-engagements our agriculturists are ready to grant them.

You see, my dear Jack, I am leading you into our situation, not transporting myself into yours, in this epistle. Yet I am not without an apprehension of your cares and prospects, or without as deep an interest as ever in the issue of them. One very mean department of “the Life of Man” you must now be on the point of feeling the evils of, if they have not already overtaken you; the want of circulating capital. Can you weather till I come? If not, write instantly and I will gallop off to Annan, and get you some of the poudre de P[erlimpin]pin [charlatan's dust], Quesnay's magic dust, which opens the hospitalities and serviceable [functions?] of the whole human race to him that holds it. And never mind these sublunary things for the present; but go forward getrosten Muthes [confidently, courageously] with your Thesis, and consider the world as your oyster which in due time by one mean or another you will rend asunder. Ancient Pistol was to do it with “sword”;6 but there are many ways to the wood. I begin to feel a very considerable contempt for the whole mystery of “getting on”: what the deevil is it that a man gets on to after all? To the wisdom of being true and honest-minded, of “endeavouring to clear his mind from cant”;7 and then like Larry O'Broom being “quite (quiet) there,” and “composing himself to his pratees.”

But it is getting late; and there is no use sitting gabbling here till the keystone of the night surprise us, as it did the silver tray party this time four and and [sic] twenty hours. Let us part therefore with hilarity and glee. Have you written to Haddington? The young lady says: “Not a word from the ungrateful man of physic!” Consume some idle hour in clearing scores with her. She is not well, and would be gratified with such a mark of your regard. On the whole, Jack, thou must be a good boy, and all will turn out sweetly. Any faults thou hast experience will cure: preserve thy faithful conscientious heart; love those that deserve love; and for those that deserve hatred, defend thyself from their presence by the “smith's fingers” so long as possible, and after that by “act of Parliament.” Love me as well as thou canst; for I am ever thy affectionate Brother;

Thomas Carlyle

If possible send down the Box by Farries: there is no other either here or at Mainhill (where I inquired to-day) that is road-worthy; otherwise “your cakes and wine” had been sent by this conveyance. If you miss Farries, and cannot write by him, write by post without loss of time, and describe to me the aspect of matters. Next time I write, I hope to appoint for you the day when we are to meet. All here salute you with kindest greetings. I enclose a piece of paper which our Mother began writing; but was forced to desist from for lack of time and matter. It is better than many more elaborate compositions, for it comes from the heart.