The Collected Letters, Volume 4


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE; 4 June 1827; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18270604-TC-JAC-01; CL 4:227-232.


21. Comley Bank, 4th June 1827—

My Dear Jack,

I am this day sending off a letter with a Hundred Pounds Bank bill in it for Alick at Craigenputtock; and had it been as of old, one sheet at a time would have sufficed. But by another of the many whims of Fortune, my Friends at home are now separated (I trust for the glad reunion of us all); so that if I would pay my too long standing debt to you, I must write again. Not that I yet know how to proceed; for your whereabout at this date is exceedingly dubious to me. However this letter will certainly find you in the long run; and its contents will not cool in the interim; the chief purport of it being indeed to assure you of what you know well enough already, the unabated continuance of my brotherly love; and incite you, according to established wish and usage, to write more and more largely.

Of my own history here since I wrote last I need mention only one or two particulars. Every thing goes its course; I fight with dulness and bile in the forenoons as of old; I still walk forth diligently; talk de omni scibili,1 when I can find fit or unfit audience; and so live on in the old light-and-shadow fashion, much as you knew me before, only rather with more comfort and hope than with less. Jane too is well and good as ever; and within these few days has set to studying German in earnest. Mrs Welsh is still with us; but about to depart, the pleasures of Edinburgh being indeed evidently exhausted for her at present. Our evening parties still continue their modest existence, tho' John Gordon2 (who often asks for you) is for the time overwhelmed with “Reports”: last wednesday we had Malcolm3 &c, and one Paterson,4 said to be the “hope of the Scottish Church”; a very feckless young man so far as externals go, for his voice is the shrillest treble, he wears spectacles, and would scarcely weigh six stone avoirdupois; but evidently shrewd, vehement, modest, and on the whole well gifted and conditioned. Murray is beating up for boarders, Mitchell compiling [a] school-book: I see very little of either. So much for this.

Poor Wotton has prospered but indifferently since I saw you; tho' daily on the anvil; the metal is too unmalleable, often indeed quite cold, and the arm and the hammer have so little pith! At present his farther history is altogether stopped by a new enterprize. One day I resolutely buckled myself up, and set forth to the Parliament House, for the purpose of seeing our Reviewer.5 The little jewel of Advocates was at his post: I accosted him, and with a little explanation, was cheerfully recognised. “The Article? Where is the Article?” seemed to be the gist of his talk to me; for he was to all appearance anxious that I would undertake the task of Germanizing the public, and ready even to let me do it “con amore” [with love], so I did not treat the whole Earth not yet Germanized as a “parcel of blockheads”; which surely seemed a fair enough request. We walked on to his lodging together; discussing these matters. Two days after, having revolved the thing, I met him again, with notice that I would “undertake.” The next No. of the Review, it appeared, was actually in the press, and to be printed off before the end of June; so that no large Article could find place there, till the succeeding quarter. However I engaged as it were for paving the way, to give him in this present publication some little short paper; I think, on the subject of Jean Paul, tho' that is not quite settled with myself yet: and thus, O Jack, thou seest me busily occupied with a new trade! On the whole, I am rather glad of this adventure; for I think it promises to be the means of a pleasant connexion: certainly Jeffrey is by much the most loveable of all the literary men I have seen; and he seemed ready nay desirous, if time would but permit, to cultivate a farther intimacy. We were to discourse together at large some day, he projected, at Craigcrook;6 and I was to call on him, as (depend upon it) I had more time than he. Es ist ein gutiges Wesen [He is a good-natured soul]. But enough of him for once.

Today I had such a packet of letters all in a rush! A letter from Mrs Montagu (her son Charles had run away, been found again,7 and was still sulky); and inclosed in the same frank, a sublime note from Edward Irving, full of praise and thanks expressed in the most wondrous dialect; and last or rather first, for that was the paper we pounced on most eagerly, a dainty little letter from—Weimar! The good man has Knighted me too! Did you ever see so polite, truehearted, altogether graceful a note? At the same time there is a naive brevity in it which in admiring almost makes me laugh. Read and wonder:

“To Sir / Thomas Carlyle.

“Dass die angenehme Sendung, begleitet von einem freundlichen Schreiben, abgesendet von Edinburg den 15 April über Hamburg, den 15n May bey mir angekommen und mich in guter Gesundheit, für meine Freunde beschäftigt, angetroffen hat, solches anmelde eiligst. Meinem aufrichtigsten Dank den beiden werthen Gatten füge nur noch hinzu die Versicherung dass nächstens ein Pacquet von hier, gleichfalls über Hamburg, abgehen werde, meine Theilnahme zu bezeugen und mein Andenken zu erneuern.

“Mit den besten und treuesten Wünschen mich empfehlend. / W. d. 17. May / 1827 J. W. Goethe.”8

And now we are all impatient to know what this pacquet that is coming “over Hamburg” will bring us. You shall know so soon as the new-made Knight or Baronet receives it. “With the truest wishes recommending myself”!

This day I was in the Advocates' Library seeking German Books, and I found (directed by Dr Irving) the first Article in the Monthly Review9 devoted to our “German Romance.” The man is little better than an ass; but a well-disposed one; and never dreams that his ears are long. He calls me point-blank by the name of the city Carlisle, without apology or introduction; says my lives are much the best thing in the Book, indeed sticks fast by them; and advises me to cultivate the field of Biography as my great concern. Goethe is very pretty, indeed they are all “goody-good.” Only the words Herr, Rittmeister &c have been used here and there; and I write, tho' with spunk and ornately, yet in a devilish—careless style.10 In short, the man is an entire blockhead: seems to have read some few pages of German, perhaps only of a German Grammar; but other[wise] rests in the pro[fo]undest ignorance of what he talks about. However I am [not vexed at] him (Heaven mend all our stupidities!); for he means well to me: but I will not cu[ltivate] Biography for all that.

And now, my dear Doctor, it is surely time that we said a word or two about your concerns after so fully discussing mine. Well can I sympathize with you in your present unrest, the like of which I myself have often experienced, and as I believe, it is necessary more or less for all men to experience. One thing only comforts me, tho' to you it is well nigh incredible at present: That all this will pass away, and you find yourself a man of sufficient substance to be confident of your success in almost any circumstances. O Jack! I know that you have great pride combined with great bashfulness; a vehement, resolute heart, under shew of the greatest irresolution; and the truest love under an atmosphere of incessant contradictions. Fear not: these outer weeds will pass away; and the true sufficient soil of your character will yet bear noble fruit. Jane and I were discussing you this very morning; when it was agreed on all hands, that you had stuff in you for a most substantial man and doctor, and could not fail in the long run to prosper for yourself and others. Fear nothing; “lie open to light”; seek light, search for it diligently, as for your chief treasure. I am still clear for Dumfries, as the best of all fields for you (and me): do you also turn it over, not as a theoretical but a practical question, in your mind; and prepare in due time for putting it in execution. It will be hard if it beat us all! Meanwhile study, learn all and sundry as you were wont, that so your time be not lost but turned to best advantage, as by this means it will.— You see my space is full. O that I had whole sheets to write to one and all at Scotsbrig. Tell my Mother that she is still dear to me, forever dear. Mag will take the charge now that Mary is gone: tell her to stand to it faithfully, and have the “Kittle boailing” evening and morning. I will write my Mother a long letter when the box comes. But if it do not come soon, I will write by post; for we ourselves Jane and I are coming down to Craigenputtock about the end of June (when I have done my article), and surely we shall see Scotsbrig too! Tell our Mother this and bid her “stand to her arms.” But whither am I running? Heaven bless you all!

Your affecte Brother—

T. Carlyle

[JWC's postscript:] Beloved Doctor. Sir Thomas11 has left me but little space for a postscript knowing that this was the second day of a nice plum-pudding, and my condition of course—such as to you I need not explain—very unfit for writing to any purpose. Why do you not keep your word with me? I have been long waiting the promised letter; but I suppose every time you take out your paper and pens, you bethink yourself of the furious quarrel about the roses &c &c and resolve anew that you will have nothing to say to so cross tempered a creature. But I am greatly improved in that item, as you will soon have an opportunity of convincing yourself—so soon as this article is off our hands. Poor Wotton! Dear Wotton! He was growing such an angel of a Hero. But—Sir Thomas has given me his hand “it shall be done.”

You will observe we are all getting titles now my dear Moon.12

Ever Ever Yours /


[TC's postscript:] Present my kindest affection to our Father, and all the rest, by name, down to little Jenny. Remember also to write minutely all manner of news. Jane bids me ask if there was a—cat taken to the Craig! She dreads rats “very much13—George Johnstone sends me a letter from Marsden, saying that he is almost ruined by being surety for his Brother John who has failed. Poor George! I wrote to him as kindly as might be: he talks of going off to Africa; but this I strongly dissuaded. A letter from you, I think, would be highly acceptable. We have had a dreadful time with cutting and being cut:14 but it is mostly over now. Anne Welsh (one of our Aunts) has come forward gallantly: she Robert Welsh and Mrs Robert Welsh were all here drinking coffee last night; and we are all “as thick as dog-heads,” to use a villainous simile. “There never was any thing the least like it.15 But Jane and I being philosophic spounses take the matter lightly.

I have not time to read this over; and I suppose it must be melancholy stuff. But you know the fever of digestion, and must make allowances. Write soon. Again and again, I send my blessing to you all.

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