The Collected Letters, Volume 4


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE; 1 February 1828; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18280201-TC-JAC-01; CL 4:315-321.


Comley Bank, 1st February, 1828—

My Dear Jack,

Your long-expected Letter did arrive about ten days ago; relieving us from a multitude of anxieties on your account, such as take root in friendly imaginations when Correspondents at a distance seem to get lazy. I would have answered you almost by return of Post, being anxious to hear again, had it not been for those Queries of the Herr Bergrath,1 to which I had no means of sending such specific and authenticated replies as for many reasons I was bound. Nor have I yet, I am sorry to say succeeded according to my wish; tho' now, it may be hoped, I am in a fair way of succeeding; for without loss of time I transmitted the whole inquiries, thro' Murray, to M'Culloch the Political Economist, who cheerfully engaged to do the needful in regard to them, to consult Parliamentary Reports, to cite printed works, if there were any, and so forth; only that he lingers somewhat, and so lately as the day before yesterday, when I stopped him on the street, did not seem able to fix any term for the fulfilment of his promise. In a fortnight at farthest I think I may calculate on some authentic result from him; and otherwise, I shall use means to procure such elsewhere. Meantime you can assure your friend the Bergrath that I hold myself honoured by his commissions, and bound to be in readiness for giving him, concerning these or any other points of his Inquiry, all the light I can possibly obtain. Of your own knowledge, at the same time, you will be able to inform him that our salt-works and mines and Forests are in a state little likely to illustrate the practice of Germany or any other part of Europe in those particulars. So far as I have understood there is not now anywhere such a thing as a Regality properly so called to be found in these Islands; the King having long ago formally given up all such signorial rights, and accepted instead of them such an allowance in money as the Parliament annually pleases to grant. Salt, in particular, is free as the air of Heaven; made and vended by any man that can find a salt-rock in his grounds, or has a pan and fuel to evaporate sea-water. We buy it in our retail shops at 2/6 per cwt., and the rock is exported from the Cheshire mines at somewhere about 12 or 14 shillings per ton (of 2,240 lbs avoirdupois); to what extent, I have not in the least learned, understanding only incidentally from Graham that there was such a trade between Liverpool and America. Our Mines also are free and private in the fullest sense (whether any duty even is levied I doubt, tho' there is a “Stannary” (i.e. Tin) “Court” in Cornwall); and for our woods and Forests, so far as these belong to individuals (and not as in the case of Rockingham,2 “merry Sherwood,” &c to the nation), any proprietor may lop and fell as he thinks best, or indeed, if it so please him, clap a live-coal to the lee side of his woods and reduce the whole to potash.— This is the universal understanding, as you know; which however I hope to expand into more particular details, ere long. A few Books, if I can find such (which may be doubted) were the best present I could make to your Bergrath.

Neither am I unmindful of the Baron's kind orders, tho' as yet I have taken no final step in the business. I was in waiting for Leigh Hunt's “Lord Byron and some of his Contemporaries,” a book which fills the magazines at present; but learned two days ago that the price would be, not 7 shillings or so, but 3 guineas! For which reason, like Jedidiah Clieshbottom's Bookseller, I purpose to “decline the Article,”—tho' Jedidiah positively affirms that the Article, according to all Grammars, is indeclineable.3 Moreau &c &c shall be sent by the very first Rotterdam Packet. One of my questions to M'Culloch was after “Statistical books”: in natural Philosophy, I think there can be little new; but on this too I shall make investigation.

And now, my own dear Jack, having finished these public matters, let the remainder of the sheet, my boy, belong to ourselves. Heaven be praised that thy mighty heart is getting domesticated at Munich, and thy soul expanding, as it evidently is, to so many kindly and enlightening influences that encompass it, in that far city! We likewise are all well, and at Scotsbrig and the Craig such also was the case a few days ago, our Father being nearly altogether recovered and our Mother safely arrived from her visit hither, and “the Doctor's Letter” too; so that for the present, all is as it should be. Let us be thankful to God; and study to use well the fair time he grants us!— I have much to tell you about our proceedings here; so must avoid preambles. In the first place, I was very ill, the cold I last time spoke of having grown into a violent suppuration of the throat, and kept me for several days living “in an element of slime.” In the second place Becker cured me, in the most cunning way, and I am now as well as ever. In the third place, I am at this moment a formal Candidate for the Professorship of Moral Philosophy in the College of St. Andrews; Chalmers, as you know, being bound for Edinburgh! Is not this a novelty? A week ago I sent off my formal application (Jeffrey having previously written to smooth the way); and yesternight, as I compute, the Packet containing my Testimonials would reach Principal Nicol and the other Professor-Electors. Chalmers, it is said, lingers unaccountably in giving in his resignation; so that the matter may hang in the wind for many months; nevertheless, I have hopes that it may be in part decided before Whitsunday,4 which is all I want; and what is more, it seems even possible that it may be decided in my favour. At least I am recommended and witnessed for as few men can be: by Brewster, Leslie, Wilson, Procter, Irving, Dr Irving, Buller, Jeffrey &c; and all in such terms that if I cannot carry the place, I think it may seem vain to attempt carrying any such place by means of Testimonials to merit alone. The dear little “Duke”5 (Jane says, she could kiss him) has written me a paper, which might of itself bring me any Professorship in the Island. Irving also spends five heroical pages on my merits; and Wilson says there is no man known to him fitter for the office. So what more can I do but let the matter take its course, and await the issue “with indescribable composure”?6 The truth is, I hardly care sixpence myself which way it go: a man, if you give him meat and clothes, is or ought to be sufficient for himself in this world; and his culture is but beginning if he think that any outward influence, of person or thing, can either make him or mar him. If I do not go thither (which after all is very likely, for a certain Dr Cook,7 an “old stager,” talks of applying), why then, I shall not go, and they will not get me; and the Sun will rise and set, and the grass will grow, and I shall have eyes to see and ears to hear, notwithstanding. Do all that you can in honesty; and reckon the result indubitable; for the inward result will not fail, if rightly endeavoured after; and for the outward, non flocci facias, “do not value it a rush.” Between writing Wotton Reinfred in the Dunscore Moors, and teaching Moral Philosophy at St Andrews, I would not at this moment make a choice, but rather leave Destiny to make it for me.— I must not forget to say that I have written to Goethe also for a Testimonial; and may expect his answer in some two weeks. You and Dr Boisserée were alluded to, and much talk there was about the Wanderjahre and Faust.

In fact, dear Doctor, I cannot but think that you have lighted on your feet at Munich. So many kind and courteous acquaintances; such opportunities for scientific improvement, and such a lordly world of Art laid open round you. Would I had Dr Boisserée for my Cicerone, and the King's Galleries for my place of study! Jane and I are actually talking of a visit to Germany for the study of music and painting (artes perditae [lost arts] in this political and economical, and man-of-business land), and of spending six months (in an excursion from the Craig) at Weimar itself! We will do it, if the Fates forbid not.— Your description of Schelling interested us much; and warmly do I commend your purpose of studying Philosophy under such a man.8 For Heaven's sake get some real Knowledge of this high matter: be not disheartened with difficulties, for all things are possible to all men, if they but will them stoutly; and let us “wash away” the insipid palabra which for the present disgraces Britain in this matter. Have you heard of Cousin's Fragmens Philosophiques,9 a pragmatical creature, I fear, who arrogates to himself the opinions which he is hardly able even to steal. Stewart thinks him a high Philosopher, and he thinks Stewart the highest (it would seem): so of two tired garrons [broken-down horses or ponies], grazing in the meadow, if the one scrape the other's neck with friendly tooth, the good turn will be repaid; and mutual solacement, and increase of mettle, for these generous draught-horses be the issue.— Tell us all about Schelling, and Cornelius and all men that follow their course. Continue also to frequent, as you have means, the society of your Physicians, and other men of accomplishment; and esteem this as among your richest fields for study, both in science and manners, tho' for the time it may not seem so. Send for money also, when you need it: meantime I will pay the Baron's Books, and you can settle with him, which may afford some interim “supply.”

I must now descend, or perhaps you will call it mounting, to domestic news. Our Mother came hither, as you have partly understood, soon after my last letter went away: she durst not fully trust Jane by by herself, so came and escorted her in person. She staid about four weeks; then went home by Hawick,10 pausing a few days there. She was in her usual health; wondered much at Edinr, but did not seem to relish it excessively. I had her at the Pier of Leith, and showed her where your ship vanished; and she looked over the blue waters, eastward, with wettish eyes, and asked the dumb Space, “When he would be back again”? Good Mother! But the time of her departure came on, and she left us stupefied by the magnitude of such an enterprize—as riding over eighty miles in the Sir Walter Scott,11 without jumping out of the window, which I told her was the problem. Dear Mother! Let us thank God that she is still here in the Earth, spared for us, and I hope, to see good! I would not exchange her for any ten mothers I have ever seen.— Jane (the less) she left behind her, to “improve her mind.” The creature seems to be doing very fairly, is well and contented. My Jane, I grieve to say, is yet far enough from well; but I hope much from Summer Weather, and a smart pony in the South. She is not by any means an established valetudinarian; yet she seldom has a day of true health, and has not gained strength certainly since you left her.— Frank Dixon, I heard incidentally, was at Brocketless, and worse this winter than ever: Dr Irving said he was really thought to be dying! Alas, my poor Frank! is this to be the end of it, thou weary and heavy-laden heart! I trust and pray, not so.— Edward Irving talks of coming hither, in General Assembly time, to preach every night, on the Prophecies! He is not mad; but neither surely does he speak forth the words of truth with soberness. Dr Waugh is said to be again bestirring himself into practice, urged on “by Hunger and request of friends.”12 Dr. Thom13 also is returned to Annan from Carlisle, and is fast degenerating into an intire scamp. Also Fergusson, the little Lawyer, has bankraped at Dumfries. The rest of this premit atra nox [black night overwhelms].14— And now my beloved Doctor what remains but that I again impress on thee the necessity of writing soon, the distance being so great; and for the present take myself away, the hour of parting being again come. All blessings be with thee my dear Jack: one true Friend thou must ever have in this world— Thy affectionate Brother,— Thomas Carlyle—

The “Foreign Review” is out with my poor Paper on Werner; concerning which I heard today that there was a kind of eulogistic discussion in today's or yesterday's London Courier.15 The Foreign Review professes to be sold at Munich in the Lindauerscher Buchandlung. Do you know such a “house”? The Review is not worth sending so far, being indeed in all points, except perhaps the first Article (by Southey) a rather poor performance. I mentioned in my last note to the Editor that you would perhaps write him a Paper on the State of German Medicine: of course if you can say aught definite about Animal Magnetism, it will be still more interesting, and gladly received.

We have had George Moir16 (of “Wallenstein,” “Thirty Years War” &c) twice with us lately. He is a small clear man; but very modest and will learn much, being honest and open. Wilson we expect to breakfast on Sunday; a thing made of starlight and burning brandy— Heaven and—— Mrs. Murray17 produced a live prattler this morning “at a quarter or twenty min past ten”! Mitchell, poor fellow, has been very ill, but is now recovering, tho' still off work. Murray, Gordon &c &c all ask duly and often after you; but Gordon's promise to write is of course still only a promise.— One Dale18 a man of Sonnets, has been appointed to E. Literature in London University. My chair is still empty. Is the white coat gone from the Earth at Munich? There never was so fine a January as ours. I have not begun my Tasso yet: proh pudor [for shame]! And I have another thing to write for Frazer too.

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