The Collected Letters, Volume 4


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE; 25 October 1827; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18271025-TC-JAC-01; CL 4:268-273.


Edinburgh, 25th October, 1827—

My Dear Jack,

I begin at the very top of this long sheet, being minded to write to you at large. Your most welcome letter found us last saturday morning; sooner than was confidently expected, and the more pleasant that it came rather unexpected. Some “Mr. Bright” had benevolently franked it too; so that we could hardly look upon the thing otherwise than as a voice from some kind Genius, bidding us be at peace, and no longer heed the roaring of the elements, for that the good Doctor was already on shore. I sent off word instantly to Scotsbrig, and yesterday to Craigenputtock: we are all much lightened in spirit; for to have had so much honesty, love, and physic and logic, drowned on the Dogger Bank1 would have been a thing never to be got over. Seriously let us be thankful in heart, and hope better and better; for much good have we seen in the land of the living.

I am trying sometimes to follow you with my imagination, up the fair Rheingau [Rhineland], and thro' the Krönungsstadt [coronation city: Cologne], on to your home in München; but it will not do; for all that region is to me unpeopled space. Where art thou, Jack, this very night? Surrounded by what aproned Kellners [waiters], or wellbooted Schwagers [coachmen], or whiskered Mautbeamters [customs officials], or other men of strange speech, art thou living and looking even now while I write? Heaven guide thee, my dear Jack; and bring thee safe to Munich and safe back to us! My duty in the meanwhile is to write a full narrative in due season, and to hope that it may be lying ready for thy arrival in that temporary home, and all that is wanting for the present to content thee there.

Alick did not come that Sunday, confidently as we might have looked for him. He shewed not himself till Monday evening, and then only for fifteen minutes; having come along in the Langholm coach, and taken out a farther passage to Falkirk that night, in some vehicle got up for the occasion. Tuesday was wet, and he did not return; not till Wednesday after dark; so that, as he went off next morning, again by the Carlisle coach, we had very little of his company. Nevertheless in talking with him somewhat at large (for we both smoked together before bedtime, and walked together next morning to the Coach) I could gather that he felt a good deal at his ease comparatively; satisfied with the Craig and its appurtenances as a residence and occupation; in good hope about his bargains; and by no means downcast or despairing about his great Life-bargain, the Purdhamston one.2 R's engagement does not seem to be of an insuperable sort; indeed Alick seemed to make light of it: I should not be surprised if he wedded this winter, nor on the other hand if he waited a little longer; for the matter was left in doubt; and on my own part I considered it a delicate matter to advise him decisively either the one way or the other. I need not say that he charged me strictly on your account, for whom indeed he seemed to feel an anxiety unusual to him. Since we parted I have not heard a word; and know only that he must have got himself wetted to the bone, at least if a cataract of rain could reach so far.

From Scotsbrig no letters; but yet a token, worthy of all acceptance; a firkin of special butter, addressed apparently in Alick's hand, as he had passed that way; for he was to wait there overnight, and—take Rachel and Mag up with him next day to see Craigenputtock! I could have liked well to hear how our Father was; for it seems his rheumatism, which had been almost removed, had again returned upon him; and at Alick's departure, he was nearly confined to the house. In his agricultural anxiety, he had ventured out among the damp stubbles too early. I hope and believe that he is better, at least no worse, or they would have written to me; for I particularly pressed it. The rest were all got well again: the shearing done, great part in, and all things moving on, tho' with many joltings, as they usually do. I suspect you will hear little of Scotsbrig except thro' me; for they are lazy penmen. What I can learn I will send.

But I am forgetting that you want to know about the Professorship, and are yet ignorant of its having come to nothing, or at least having been removed to an uncertain and uninteresting distance. I heard nothing of the matter for two weeks, and not then till I had applied by letter to my kind little spokesman Jeffrey. He wrote to me by return of Post that Brougham was already gone to London; and that when he saw him, the “Politician” fought extremely shy; seemed alarmed somewhat at my exotic predilections; and withal of opinion that it might be judicious to postpone the appointment of Moral Philosophy altogether, till the Institution had taken root on the more fertile soil of medical and other practical Science. He said however that farther than “speak of me some half dozen times to B.,” he could not press the business; my last Paper on “German Literature” not being in readiness for inspection. This he advised me to procure from M'Cork,3 and send off to Brougham; to whom in the meanwhile he himself would write. The Article, which has been printed with scarcely any alteration, I accordingly sent off: but no answer can yet be expected; nor has Jeffrey anything new to say on the affair; for I saw him today, and walked from the Dukedom4 to the City with him, discoursing of various matters in the most edifying way. I myself believe that no appointment whatever to that chair will take place for some time, perhaps for some considerable time; and that in the meanwhile Brougham will keep his eye on me, and if he finds that I prosper, may apply to me; if not, will leave me standing. At all events, the thing is right: I am before these people in some shape, perhaps as near my real one as I could expect; and if they want nothing with me, the “Devil b' in me,” as daft Wull said, “if I want anything with them either.” I am still as undetermined as ever, whether even their acceptance of me would be for my good or not.

Meanwhile I am beginning (purpose seriously beginning tomorrow) an Article on Zacharias Werner, for the Foreign Quarterly Re[vie]w; concerning which I have had another application from a dirty Cockney, one of the publishing Booksellers, whom Tait sent hither. They have “gat,” he says “s'ch a fellenx of talent”; and partly expect an “Article” even from “Gutta” [underscored twice]!5 Jane and I laughed outright at him.— I design afterwards, if Jeffrey is willing, to give a Discourse on Tasso, as I proposed; after which I daresay I shall have to visit Craigenputtock for a day or two; and farther than this, my view extends not into the Future with any certainty.

For the present there is no change in our position, except such as the course of the Earth round the Sun produces, in the shape of horrid deluges of rain. Jane, poor wee thing, is not got well yet, tho' I think she is a little better. In Science, Art, Politics and Manufactures there is nothing singular; except perhaps that “Professor” Macculloch has been presented with the freedom of the Burgh of Dumfries, and Dequincey has taken a Diarrhea. Of the latter circumstance, I was apprized only last night (from Gordon), tho' the sufferer himself had promulgated it in the Police Court, where he was bearing witness, two days before. May the Lord have mercy on him!

Becker6 sometimes comes hither, and seems to have far more to say than he can find words for. No bad youth, I believe; but, as Packman Saunders said of the London people, “terribly aff for a langitch!” Mitchell also we see: he is just finishing his Geography, a laborious bead-roll, which I wonder that he has had patience to go thro' so honestly. Williams,7 he says, is writing a History of Alexander the Great! John Wilson has not been down to us; nor tho' he volunteered a fresh promise when I saw him last, do I very confidently expect him. I suspect he feels a sort of division from me: for hitherto at least I am an honest “striver after the Idea,” and he has in a great measure renounced it, and between Blackwood and the Scotch Kirk-session, has almost degenerated into Fichte's “Mongrel.” Walter Scott again is no mongrel, but a sufficient “hodman”; and his hod indeed is filled with good gingerbread and “black-man8 to satisfy a hungry and discerning public. May Heaven be merciful to us all; for Matter presses down Mind in the most lamentable fashion; and the poor sons of Dust hardly know in these times to what hand to turn them!

Now, Brother Jack, it cannot be doubtful to thy mind, that if thou hadst desire for a letter to Munich, we may naturally have much more for one from it. How many hundred thousand questions could we ask already and you answer! How fared you on your journey; how found you the Baron and the Fräulein; and did their welcome prove what you expected? Present our regards to the worthy gentleman; and say that if there be aught he would have us do, it will be a kindness to mention it.— Have you yet found any comfort in speaking German? Did you see Schlegel, and find him a “puppy”? Is Schelling at Munich, and accessible? Are you like to be happy there? If not, bolt, and come home to us again! There are “meat, clothes and fire” to be had in old Scotland yet, for all fencible men. In short, Jack, no body of news, no largeness of paper, or smallness of type will entirely content us. Jane's best affection accompanies mine: she has missed her Review; and says you will bring it back to her. Alison herself shed warm tears that day you went off; she evidently has a secret respect for her Physician, tho' she admits that in orderliness he is inferior to “the Master”; which latter for instance always gives his coat “some kind of fold” when he lays it off, while the former often leave his “like—fishguts”! This Kraftspruch [strong, pithy language] of the fishguts must be forgiven her; it was worthy of Annandale itself.— In conclusion, Dear Jack, think often or rather always of us, and repay our love with love. Study, like a man of true head and true heart: you have much to learn, but will learn it all. Endeavour to see Germany and German men as they are; and learn by whatever good is to be found amongst them. Geradheit, Urtheil und Verträglichkeit!9 were my last direction to you, on that wae enough day. They will carry a man far either here or there.— Good night, my poor old Tongleg!10 Love me always, as I on my side am always— Thy true Brother T. Carlyle.

—Becker says the Letters should come “via Holland,” which is safer in winter. I believe few or none of them, on any plan, are lost.

Old Dr Ritchie11 has resigned his Divinity Chair here, and it is partly expected Chalmers will be appointed. He has refused the West Kirk, and given it to one “Paul.”12

We shall expect your letter, without loss of a moment; for I am even afraid I myself have been too long. I would have written sooner; but for the London affair; on which till very lately, I may even say till today, I had no absolute certainty.— Our Mother and Jean, will not come, I daresay till I go down and fetch them; perhaps in six weeks or so.

Are you keeping a regular Journal? Do not neglect it. You have left Tait's accounts all lying here: I am afraid they are past entire preservation, even if they deserved it.

How stands it with you for Cash? Tell me the proper address next time; for at present I am uncertain.— God bless you always! I am done at last. T.C.