The Collected Letters, Volume 4


TC TO ALEXANDER CARLYLE; 29 January 1828; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18280129-TC-AC-01; CL 4:312-315.


Comley Bank, Tuesday [29 January 1828]—

My Dear Alick,

I half meant to write to you last Tuesday; but put it off till night, when the weather became so bad, or I myself became so oppressed with Jack's “fever of digestion,” that I could not venture out. I now take time by the forelock; writing in the morning.

Your letter relieved us from a world of anxieties about your goings on, and the fate of that “old garment,” which I hope now defends you in some measure, on wet Wednesdays,1 from the “tempests of life”; at least from the far slighter and more tolerable portion of them that are material, and come down from Heaven only in the shape of bad weather. I think you should not cut off the skirts of that ancient watch-coat; for I now find that all such things are made fully as long as it (my own new one dangles on my heels); and truly, long skirts are a great comfort on horseback.— O that I too were on horseback, tho' it were but in Glen Esley,2 and the Dunscore moors! Day after day I long more and more for it.

Grievous is it for a man of spirit to be so poor, as you are at this date: yet so long as the Constable is fairly excluded from us by solid smith-work, one ought in this world to be patient. I hope, another year, Craigenputtock will not be so hard run upon; for, this time, it has had more than its due produce to yield. Meanwhile I have paid the half-year's rent; and I must again repeat that when you need more money, for any purpose that you reckon essential, you have only to let us know. Strands'3 advice was doubtless a wise and highly virtuous counsel; yet at times even a wise and virtuous man may feel justified in departing from it. For the rest, our “whole fortune” is lying in the Bank; so that you can judge as well as I can, whether any proposed employment of it would be preferable or not.

We were thunderstruck to hear of that terrific visitation of smoke! Gracious Powers, are we doomed then to the everlasting curse of a choking atmosphere, and sulphurous vapours, which, it is taught in Scripture, are the portion of Devils only, not of still-living men? I vow and swear that it is not so; that free air is the birthright of every free man. This kitchen-chimney must be cured, my dear Alick; I say, must be, come of it what will. Surely we will try every expedient that man's wit can devise: old-wires, boxes, canns [chimney-pots], contractions; and if we cannot cure it, we will blow up the whole concern with gunpowder rather than leave it stewing there; for there, as our Father says, it cannot be.— I am much inclined to think with you that lengthening the chimney-head will be the only effectual cure: if so, do for Heaven's sake get it set about and tried: a cart-load or two of bricks will do the whole matter; and if it be still smouldering and fumigating when I come down to stay with you, it will quite depress my weak heart, I fear, with anticipation of coming woes. Speak to our Uncle on the subject, with the tongue of an eloquent orator: tell him that we are undone, undone, if that reek continue! Let all the soothsayers and astrologers and smoke-doctors and cunning-men of every sort, therefore, turn out with one accord; and, thro' the strength of Heaven, allay this pest, and finally sweep and garnish that fire-place, and let us live in peace!

Of the road also I am sure you will not be unmindful; but on the contrary do all that the most active husbandman can do [to] get it put in order. If you want money, tell us. I consulted Robert Welsh4 (a shrewd lawyer) about that dog of a gate; and find that the man neither has nor can have any kind of right to stick it up there; but that, as I supposed, any man may “take his hammer,”5 and brash it when he pleases. I hope the man will take it away peaceably; if not, it must be taken away by war.

On the whole, my dear Brother, I see you have a rough time of it: but what man, this side the moon, has a smooth one? Bear up a little; and surely we are justified in hoping that every month (which is the grand blessing of fixed quarters) things will grow quieter and quieter.— You did not tell us what sort of servants you had got: we here are going to be ill off in that particular; for our present maid turns out unworthy of being transported to Dunscore, or indeed as Jane often thinks, any whither, except to Purgatory. Mrs Welsh is on the outlook for us; but as yet without success.— If you are busy at present, it is not so bad: but if tedium come over you, Craigenputtock would be a sad station. In the dark season, and for long [cold?: word covered by seal] “forenights,” I hope you have a complete and sufficient stock of Books? They are a present help, and their compa[n]y is profitable in the future too.

Jack tells me he sent you a letter, for I also heard from him about ten days ago; and should have written back ere now, were it not that I am waiting over some commissions he gave me for his Baron. The Doctor is perfectly well and prosperous; learning all things with alacrity of soul.— For myself I am sorry to say that I am still rather weak, and still rather idle, which is as bad. Neither of my two Papers has yet advanced half a line; in the manuscript way at least. I begin sternly, but something ever comes in the way and takes me off. At present, it is that St. Andrews Professorship; of which I must now tell you a word or two. I am actually a formal Candidate for the office; having declared myself to that effect a week ago! Ever since then I have been gathering Certificates from all quarters; and now I have got a goodly stock, which I am to send off tomorrow. Brewster, Leslie, Dr Irving, John Wilson, Jeffrey and Edward of Hatton Garden6 all speak for me with emphasis; Edward, good man, gives me five full and fearless pages, and Jeffrey writes me a Testimonial which should get me the best Professorship of the Island in that kind. So you see I am doing all I can; tho' without fixed hope, or stranger still, without fixed anxiety or even desire, to succeed; but willing to try all points of my condition, and take the one which promises even a little better. If I miss St. Andrews, why then I could not get it; and to me, it ranks with the viceroyship of India, or the post of British Prime Minister; a thing, as the Cumbrian said, “quite out of our district.”— On the whole, I think there is a chance: at least if these testimonies of merit will not carry it, one need not ever more attempt to carry such a thing in that way. “But,” says Brewster, “they are a corrupt race, and will not like you.” But, say I, can they take the Craig O' Putta from us, or dare one of them shew his fat face there? Let this content us.— I have a thousand compliments for your dear little Missus: I do hope she is not getting melancholic in these moors; especially now that the spring is coming back. Little Jane is here and doing very well, as I think: she sends all kindest regards to you both; and good wishes to everything about the Craig.— You will write very soon, and with great minuteness? I am ever (my dear Alick) your affectionate Brother— T. Carlyle

I have not talked about coming down; and yet the sooner all things could be got forward the better: for whitsunday will be here; and there are plasterers, and painters and bell-hangers, &c &c; all too likely to be late. Write to me, if I could do any good—and when.