The Collected Letters, Volume 4


TC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE; 11 September 1828; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18280911-TC-MAC-01; CL 4:401-403.


Craigenputtoch, Thursday-Night, 11th August [September], 1828.

My Dear Mother,

I am very tired with writing all day, and it is now half past eleven o'clock: nevertheless I must write you a few words before I go to sleep; for a Letter has just this minute arrived from Jack!1 The man, William, brought it from Dumfries, and will take this down tomorrow.

The Doctor is well in health; but seemingly somewhat afflicted in spirit; the old demons Pride and Poverty being at work with him. He has received the Twenty Pounds; but most part of it, he says, was already spent in clothes &c. The Baron continues very friendly to him: but the Doctor's proud stomach has evidently for many months been getting highly squeamish on the subject of dowrying [living on gifts]; and now he has determined he says to quit the Baron's house (altho' he has even pressed him to continue), and to spend “the winter” elsewhere. And where? think you. At Scotsbrig, the Craig, or Dumfries? No such matter! In Germany, where he proposes to subsist by teaching English, and translating German books for the London Booksellers! I declare I am sorry for the Doctor, and angry with him. This foreign jaunt of his has cost him a round sum of money, and seems to have taught him no new wisdom; not a whit abated his love of vagrancy, or opened his eyes to the necessity of settling down as a quiet professional man. He talks of the Baron's having offered him a “Letter of Credit” to any amount; and of this being a great accommodation; as if the worthy Doctor had some landed property, or annuity in this country to draw upon, and pay that “Letter of Credit” whenever he pleased! After all, I believe, he is partly sorry for his German jaunt; and wishes he had let it alone: yet with his usual sagacity, is not for abandoning it, the sooner, the better; but for staying yonder till he can come home with more pomp than in this half-bankrupt condition.

I am rather at a loss what to do. My first feeling is to write instantly, and advise him home forthwith, nay tell him to come, if he would not quarrel with every one of his friends here; and to make no more use of the Baron's “credit” than what is necessary for bringing him hither. But it strikes me on the other hand that the Doctor has a spice [small quantity] of delirium in him, which perhaps there were no better way to cure than even letting him try to fight his own battle where he is, for a season. No mischief can readily happen him; and I believe, if he once felt the true pinch of want, he would be a wiser man all the rest of his days. However, I still rather think it will be better to take the former plan. At all events, I can do nothing for a week; being so terribly busy: indeed in about a month I expect to hear from the Doctor again; for there is a letter for him which he will receive in about a week, and has promised to answer when it arrives.

Meanwhile, my dear Mother, do not disturb yourself about the youth; for evidently he is in perfect health; and ails nothing, except from the old Devil's-disease, haughtiness of heart.

I expect to be down ere long; perhaps in a week or two: I will bring the Doctor's Letter with me. Jeffrey is coming hither very soon: it may be I shall not get away till he is gone. I am in my usual state of health; better than usual with me when I am writing.

The rest of us are all in our usual way; except that Alick had some touch of sore-throat yesterday, which he has cured, he thinks, by a sound—dose of Epsom Salts. Only we are in such a confusion, as to out-of-doors work, as you have seldom seen. The shearing could be finished in about a week, were not the weather broken: but there are masons, and joiners, and flaggers and hewers and plasterers; and all is swashing and swattering [splashing and spattering] in extremity of bustle, which is tolerable o[nly] because we do hope it will be done soon. It is one great mercy, surely, that we are all spared in health. So let us fight away as long as we dow [are able], and fear no colours!

This night also, Hugh of Hawick's stockings (for Jane and me) are come to hand; and good stuff they seem to be; only there is no invoice with them.

This moment I have found a little scrap in the Doctor's Letter, which seems to hint that perhaps he might write to you at present. Yet in another part of it he bids me send word directly to Scotsbrig. I will send this therefore; tho' if his Letter have reached you, my poor sheet will be a dear pennyworth. However, my good dear Mother will take the will to serve her for the deed.— I rejoice to learn that you are pretty well; that you sometimes shear on afternoons. Mag will be here one of these days, and tell us all about it. Alas! It is long, long, since I had a quiet word with my Mother! But surely this hubbub will subside, and I shall be my own master, and Larry's.— Meanwhile my best prayers are with you all. Remember me in love to my Father, to Mag, Jemmy and Jenny. I am ever your affectionate Son,

T. Carlyle—

They are all asleep here, and cannot send you there love, except in dreams. I am the only reasoning mortal in the house at this moment.— One smoke, and I too am off!——If you have not received the Doctor's Letter, it were well to call now and then till it come. If you have, send it by Mary. Adieu!