The Collected Letters, Volume 4


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE; 5 September 1827; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18270905-TC-JAC-01; CL 4:253-255.


Comley Bank, 5th September 1827.

My Dear Jack— … I had a letter from Edward Irving1 the other day about the Aesthetical Professorship in the London University. In a strange, austere, puritanical, yet on the whole honest and friendly looking style, he advises me to proceed and make the attempt. ‘The Lord,’ he says, blesses him: his Church rejoices in ‘the Lord’; in fact, the Lord and he seem to be quite hand and glove. He looks unhappy, for his tone sounds hollow, like some voice from a sepulchral aisle; yet I do honestly believe there is much worth among his failings, much precious truth among all this cant. I must even regret that he goes into those matters with so very disunited a heart; but there where he stands, I wish I and every one of us were half as good men. As to this ‘projection,’ as he calls it, I have not yet taken any steps, being indeed too busy for doing anything. I was to write to him again, but have not. I wait for counsel from Jeffrey, whom I have not since seen.2

… Since all matters look so towardly, I think certainly you ought to go, and look at this Munich,3 and acquire this Surgical Knowledge, the want of which forms such a “bar of obstruction” to your contented settlement in this country. I myself am by no means blind to the advantages likely to result from such a journey; and though I doubt not you very greatly overrate them, perhaps after all they may more than repay you. For one thing, you will return home with another sort of reputation than you can look for at present: a Doctor all the way from Bavaria, jette poudre aux yeux [throws dust in people's eyes]; for most people are not so convinced as I that the great school for learning both Medicine and every other thing is the brain itself of the learner. Unspeakably the greatest advantage I anticipate for you is the intercourse you are likely to have with cultivated men, and the improvement in regard to polish of manners and what the Germans call Welt [good breeding], which you are almost sure to derive from such a society as Eichthal's must be. He himself seems one of the best bred persons extant. By all means, therefore, bestir yourself, and set forth getrosten Muthes [with a confident spirit]. …

Of course you will not come to Edinburgh till you come for good, that is, I mean on your way Munichward. You will need a suit of clothes unless you should prefer employing a German Schneider [tailor], with various other etceteras, the preparation of which will consume some time. Meanwhile would it not be highly useful to lay about you for some statistical books and histories, and other representations of the country you are going to; that so you may not visit it an entire novice, but in some degree prepared to expect what you see? I would have some History of Germany by hook or by crook; though in your case, I confess, I know not directly how it might be come by. Perhaps even Coxe's History of Austria4 is not at Annan. Do what you can: the best can do no more.

There is one consideration which must not be kept so in the background, but brought forward to the front of the stage, and rigidly overhauled: I mean the consideration of what in the English language is called Money. Sorry am I that than at this moment I was hardly ever poorer. Jeffrey's draft I have not yet discovered the proper bank for, that circumstance being omitted in the letter, and he himself having never showed face since. Were it not for that body of reserve, I believe about seven pounds sterling would exhaust nearly all the house could muster! … Nevertheless, surely, Jack, thou shalt not be fast among us all for such a sum as this. Tell me, after due computation, how it all stands; and the sum must be raised one way or other. …

In fine, my dear Jack, I take my leave, in the deepest distress of body and mind because—tea is not yet come. Compose your agitated spirits, my dear Doil;5 and let me hear from you, with your first convenience.— Ever your faithful Brother,

T. Carlyle.