The Collected Letters, Volume 4


TC AND JWC TO HENRY INGLIS; 11 December 1828; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18281211-TCJWC-HI-01; CL 4:429-432.


Craigenputtoch, 11th December, 1828—

My Dear Sir,

Your Letter1 arrived this morning to breakfast, and set the table in a roar,2 hearty enough to make up for the fatal nature of both the others that came along with it. For you are to know that we had two Letters besides; one as it chanced for every member of the household, including the servant maid herself. I burst open mine; and was obliged to close it again after the first three words: it was from New York, and belonged to quite a different man, an Advocate in your city, I suppose, with whom I have no community except that of name.3 Our poor maid fared still worse: she had infused a certain modicum of tea, and was quietly toasting bread for the nourishment of these earthly bodies, when the fateful scroll with “hast” (haste) written on it was delivered to her: instantly I hear a crash as of broken crokery, then a movement to and fro; breakfast lingers in appearing: Jane goes to investigate the matter; finds that it is a proposal of marriage, or perhaps it might be refusal to marry, from some Shoulderknot4 in the North Country; in consequence of which the lovesick Abigail has smashed that old-established teapot into a thousand shards! Conceive our situation: a raw December morning; one Letter still sealed, another broken by mistake on the table; and apparently even the hope of tea evaporated into air! However, as I hinted, tea did arrive, indeed with astonishing promptitude; your Letter is opened; and in one loud peal of innocent laughter, the whole catastrophes forgotten. This surely is what Baillie Waugh5 would call “foin wroiting”; such an effect has it on the minds of men.

But to be serious one moment. Here is a Letter for the Opium-Eater;6 whose address, if you cannot find it elsewhere, you will learn at the office of the Saturday Post, in Register Street. There is at the end a small but sufficient introduction for you in that Sheet, if you choose to deliver it in person, or rather to call after it is delivered: you will find Dequincey a man of very considerable genius; and labouring in a state of depression (for he is by birth a man of fortune), which renders him still more interesting. He also is a German, a Kantist; a Mystic also, I suppose.

Would you ask Clark, as you pass some day: What he has done with my No. 4 of the Foreign Review? It is not at Sinclair the Bookseller's in Dumfries; should have been sent to the “care of Mr Aitken, Academy-street” and so may probably have gone to the Limbo of vanity some weeks before its time. I have a Life of Heyne7 in it; not worth sixpence; and all misprinted, I believe, for the Proof-sheets were lost. There will be a highly unmystical Paper in the next No.; on German Playwrights, without any undue admiration from beginning to end. I mean to continue reviewing, in that melancholy vehicle, for some months yet.

By all means buy me that Spanish Grammar; that I may light my Pipe with that other one at the very earliest date. Harmoniere's8 is the title, which I mention because without any exception known to me, it is the worst Grammar in existence at this era. Nevertheless we shall be thro' the first vol. of Don Quixote tomorrow night; and have liked it exceedingly. Few languages seem equal to the Spanish; few lips so melodious, in any language, as those of the old maimed Soldier; who had not, in this world, so much as a house to live in, except a Jail. Shame on us! who are we; and what do we complain of, knowing that such things have been and are and will be!

Persevere in your German: Lessing is a true man, tho' a tart one; and Repp9 will carry you thro' triumphantly, if you apply. Make my best respects to him. By and by he will let you into Schillers Jungfrau von Orleans, or History of the Netherlands; either of which will interest you more.

Farther I must say that you are infinitely unjust to “Blockheads,” as they are called. Ask yourself seriously within your own heart, what right have you to live [wise]ly in God's world, and they not, to live a little less wisely? Is the[re] a m[an mo]re to be condoled with, nay I will say, to be cherished and tenderly-treated, than a man that has no brain? My Purse is empty: it can be filled again, the Jew Rothschild could fill it; or I can even live with it very very far from full. But gracious Heavens! What is to be done with my empty Head?— Consider too, if you object to the vanity of Blockheads, how little harm it does. If a man will wear a bladder full of wind, and call it a Purse full of gold, does not every shopman he offers it to, shed a kind tear over him?— But the “Leddy,” as she is called here, wants to say a word or two: so good night! Write whenever you have leisure, and send me all manner of tidings: at present I do not even see an Edinburgh newspaper. Ever truly yours,

Thomas Carlyle

[JWC'S postscript:] My dear Sir

I hasten to relieve the solicitude of your good heart, by the details which you have so well merited. Know then, that not only have the peat-stack and Spunkie [fire] or Spelunca,10 most commonly called Stumpy, kept their ground in these high winds; but even the tall brick chimney continues to stand—a miracle of saving power: The Lord (as Edward Irving says) blesses us exceedingly.

Of the Shing I have the strangest news to tell you. Being of another school than the mystic he found his station at Craigenputtoch quite too solitary; and so, without hinting his resolve to any one, rushed forth one day into the wide world, “an ornament to society in every direction.”11 Should you chance to meet with him at any time; perhaps you could do him a good turn, and recommend him to Mr Steen or some other foxhunter of your acquaintance.—— The drakes, to my great disappointment, have laid no eggs yet; but it is confidently expected they will commence about Christmas.

My Harry proves to be the most delightful pony in the world but I fear I shall not be permitted to ride to Edinr this winter. Carlyle talks of not going till Spring and indeed I do not see that we can get away soone[r, th]o when we will I hope we shall find you there, for there are few people in Edinr or any other place that we like as well. Do write to us often; and come and see us again when you can. This fraction of postscript is not meant to pay my debt— I will answer your letter at greater length one of these days— In the meantime God bless you—affectionately yours Jane Welsh Carlyle