The Collected Letters, Volume 4


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE; 16 April 1828; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18280416-TC-JAC-01; CL 4:357-363.


Edinburgh, 21 Comley Bank, 16th April, 1828—

My Dear Jack,

Your Letter1 has been long unanswered, and yet I may justly say this is the first moment in which I could with any propriety undertake the answering of it. I have been in Dumfriesshire for several weeks; and am only half thro' the press of correspondence, which I found calling for immediate attention at my return four days ago. I had gone, and Jane with me, a very short while before your Letter of the 1st March reached Edinburgh; and if you had seen Scotsbrig, Templand, or the Craig, all the time I was in those parts, I should not now need to tell you how impossible it was to write a geprüftes wort [expert advice] from any of the three. But you will have received a mass of tidings from us long before this time, by other conveyances; and will not have waited long for the present sheet, when, as I may hope, it shall find you.

Our errand to Dumfriesshire was twofold. I went thither principally to survey the state of matters at the Craig; Jane to see her Aunt at Templand, who was very sick; sick, as it proved, even unto death! Yes, that gentle soul is taken from us: she lingered, in great suffering, some two weeks after we arrived; and the third I saw her laid beside her Mother in the Churchyard of Crawfurd. How much all this must have shocked us, and deranged the purposes of those connected with us, you need not be told. Jane suffered and still suffers deeply tho' in silence; and that house of mourning at Templand!—there is something in the thought of it that still not only saddens but pains me. Our old Grandfather rose like a Giant from sleep when the stroke fell on him: but there was in that grim stony aspect of his a trouble to one more than the loudest lamenting. The Liverpool Brother, a solid blunt, true-hearted man, is returned home as well as we; and now Mrs Welsh and her Father are left alone; and how they are to fare together still seems a problem. Poor Jeanie! Meek good, long-suffering heart! For her I do not grieve: she is at rest in her still dwelling;2 her fair image indestructible in our memories, and no sorrow or sadness can reach her pure spirit any more. But for the rest that still struggle in pain, and what is worse in blindness, in this vale of Tears, O Jack! It is they, it is we, that are to be pitied! God help us, and enlighten us in the way that we should go; and make us also ready, for the Hour cometh and is near at hand to us all!— I must think no more of this; or my whole Letter will be little else than a Dirge.

At Scotsbrig, where I staid in all about a week, I found every thing as it might have been hoped and was wont to be. All were in health; our Father seemingly quite recovered in his general health, only complaining a little of weakness in his limbs, especially in one knee; and tho' grave in general, yet fond of talking as ever, and rising into brilliant activity as he saw the sowing advance. Of our Mother I saw more; for Alick came down for seed-oats, and took her up in the cart with him to the Craig, where I lived with her at two times for several days; and only took my leave last Wednesday at Dumfries, whither the whole household of us, Mary included, had gone down a-marketting or a-travelling. She was well, even better than usual, and living harmoniously with Mag. I had many a long spell, reading them two and Jamie, sometimes also with Jenny and our Father, the Munich Letters, all of which I had brought down in my pocket. Jean meanwhile was here; keeping house, no less; and truly was found in this new department to have acquitted herself with consummate address. She has gained the title of Die Kluge Schaffnerinn [The Wise Stewardess], partly borrowed out of Goethe's Helena.3 And thus, you see, they were all well and in order. Of Alick I shall only add, that he has lost or rather left his Middlebie love,4 as I think, forever and a day; yet seems no worse but better, and is even friendlier and shrewder than he was. He and I found your Letter (read, and sent down for us by Jean) at the Dumfries Post-office, the first day and the first hour I entered their market; and forthwith, at rather a quick step, we hastened with it to “our inn”; where private, yet in sight of the dealing multitude, with each of us a glass of innocent beer and a well-going pipe of tobacco, I read it with “yen audible voice.”5 Alick admitted, I think, that your Letter to him, had made him “greet.” From him, from our Mother, and all quarters I was loaded with salutations to you; and assurance that if they could write a letter worthy to go so far, they would do it with all their heart and all their soul. And so for the present, good Doctor, let this suffice you.

And now I must tell you somewhat of ourselves; concerning whom much might be said, had I room. We are to commence a new sort of life: it is at length decided that we go to Craigenputtock this Whitsunday ! The house there already looks a world better, and the painters and paperhangers undertake to be gone from it before we come; so that only the out-of-doors part will require arrangement. I confess, I had many doubts and misgivings about removing thither for the present; and possibly enough, had our house here, conditionally given up before we left Edinr, been still to let, we might have been tempted to engage it again, and stay here at least another year. But such was not the case: poor No. 21. was already let; so that no rational alternative remains for us. Accordingly Jane is out endeavouring to hire a fit servant; we are chusing paper-specimens; forwarding all plans of repair and adjustment; and six carts come hither in the end of May to transport us hence bag and baggage. Neither am I sorry that we have now so decided. I anticipate with some confidence a friendly and rather comfortable arrangement at the Craig; in the midst of which, not in idleness, yet in peace and more self-selected occupations, I may find more health, and what I reckon weightier more scope to improve and worthily employ myself, which either here or there I reckon to be the great end of existence, and the only happiness one has any right to look for or even to wish. At the Craig, then, our Munich Doctor will find us! And Dumfries may still be a station for him; and then, as we contemplated, we are all in sight of one another! So it has been ordered, and surely it is best so.

By this the Doctor infers that St Andrews is gone to the dogs. With the dogs in truth it is, and may be for me; seeing I have now no part or tot in it, and am like to have none. Dr Cook is as good as appointed; and all my most magnamimous Testimonials have been as music to the deaf. Goethe's certificate arrived while I was in the country: mustard after dinner; which these rough feeders shall not so much as smell! It also is a magnanimous Testimonial, beautifully written, and may elsewhere avail me. The old Sage fills a whole sheet with his Aüsserungen [remarks]; of which not quite one leaf belongs directly to me; the rest being as it were Erklärungsbetrachtungen [explanatory observations]. Many things are mentioned wodurch an den Tag gelegt wird, dass er auf einem originalen Grund beruhe, und die Erfordernisse des Guten und Schönen aus sich selbst zu entwickeln das Vergnügen habe;6 a praise which He, could he appropriate it rightly, ought to value more than any Professorship in these parts. Tomorrow I am to write to the Weimarischeni [underscored twice]; for his Box also has now come to hand; with its medals for Sir Walter, its Books and Letters and verses for me; and beautiful trinkets, a bracelet, and the prettiest breast-pin, for Jane. Four other medals are here for distribution; which I think of conferring severally on Jeffrey, Wilson, Lockhart, Wordsworth: but have yet had time only for writing to Scott, who is at present in London. To a certainty you must come round by Weimar as you return, and see this world's-wonder, and tell us on your sincerity what manner of man he is, for daily he grows more inexplicable to me. One letter is written like an oracle, the next shall be too redolent of twaddle. How [underscored twice] is it that the Author of Faust and Meister can tryste himself with such characters as “Herr Heavyside”7 (the simplest and stupidest man of his day, a Westmoreland Gerund grinder and Clieshbottom)8 whom he mentions in his last epistle, and “Captain Skinner,”9 a little, wizzened cleanly man, most musical, most melancholy?10 Is he greater than man; or in his old days growing less than many men? The former to me is unexampled, the latter incredible. Go see and tell us truly. He will receive you well.— For myself, unshaken in my former belief, tho' Jane rather wavers, I have written forty long pages on his Helena, which are already printed,11 and will be here in few days; and now must commence a still longer Essay on the Man himself. I am sorry that you do not see these lucubrations: but I have now some hope that you will; for I mentioned the defect to Black the Bookseller,12 who must be in Germany ere now; and even directed him to send the two Numbers of his Review to your Baron in my name. Of mine only the Helena, and that hardly, is worth reading by any but your two selves.— And now tell me, Doctor, if you have got the Book parcel, which I sent off with many letters and etceteras; shipping it at Leith, as directed, under my own eye four weeks ago? It should be at Munich by this time: perhaps indeed you have already written to let me know that it is in your hands. It contained “salt-information” for Kleinschrod; and since then, only yesterday indeed, I saw the title of a Pamphlet on the “Salt-laws,” which I would buy for him, and send him if he liked. It is called “Parkes on the Salt Laws.13 8vo. 7/6” in Tait's Catalogue, and may be had for far less.

As to your Librarian, von Lichtenthaler14 (?) signify to him that I have already consulted Dr Irving about duplicates, and will write tomorrow both to the British Museum, and the Bodleian Library at Oxford. It is little likely that either or both of these Establishments will be able nearly to exhaust such a mass of exchangeable ware; for with us 150,000 tomes make a handsome library of themselves. However something may be done; and willing and happy shall I be to forward it. Dr Irving himself is willing to exchange, so far as he can go: but the duplicates here were all sold off some years ago; and now, the Doctor thinks, they have only “a few hundreds.” However, he will look, better.

And so you see, dear Brother Doctor, I am at the bottom of my long sheet; and must out to put it in the post-office. Write to me forthwith, if you have not already written, and have room to expect a speedy answer from me. Tell me all, as I have told you all: how I am to send you your cash; and above all when and how we have to look for you home. To me many questions on that latter point were put, with no little anxiety. And now good b'ye my true Jack; and love me always as I always love thee. Our women sent you letters with the Parcel, and ever in thought send you their best wishes. Good b'ye my dear Brother!— Ever your affectionate;

T. Carlyle—

[In margins:]—Jeffrey says “Macaulay” is coming hither; and thus we shall see that “rising Sun.” He has been writing on Dryden lately; but of true Poetry (which “is of thriy [underscored twice] kinds”) the man has no glimpse or forecast.15

I saw Waugh at Annan; and Ben Nelson there and at Scotsbrig. Both inquired kindly and anxiously after you. Waugh is “practising” after a sort at Annan; that is, going out when any one asks him, and spending the fee by way of pocket-money. There however he seems to have no wish or purpose to abide; tho' meanwhile he looks happy, and fails not to eat his victuals. Ben is the old man, true, clear and cool.

Gordon has hopes of being an Editor, of some new Peasantry-Periodical

I chanced also to see “Dr” Thom at Annan: he has every feature of a quack about him; and as a private man is cut by most people. In fact there is a doleful want of Medical skill there at present. One man might rule the County.

Frazer of the Foreign Review is coming hither in a few days, to call out all fencible men. He already counts on you as a Correspondent and will with great gladness receive any Paper from you. So see what is to be done.— Irving is coming hither, I suppose, to prophecy during the time of the Assembly!— Combe16 and Hamilton are still jarring on phrenology, and this in print.17

Liston18 came and cut Mrs Yorkstoun of Hoddam, and Ned Widd's wife for cancer; and both are since dead.

Dr Becker you either have seen or will shortly see, on his way to Italy!

I did not see Graham of Burnswark, or any one but our own household at Scotsbrig.

De Quincey has been “in a manner living upon opium”; and is very low.

Charlie Clapperton is dead, about Woolwich.

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