January 1829-September 1831

The Collected Letters, Volume 5


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE; 13 January 1829; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18290113-TC-JAC-01; CL 5:3-7.


Craigenputtoch, 13th January, 1829—

My dear Jack,

Your Letter to Jane arrived here last Wednesday; and I fail not to take the very earliest opportunity of answering it. Your anxieties about our Sister Mag ought to be alleviated without loss of a moment, now that, by the goodness of Providence, we have it in our power to do so. Since my last Letter, I have not seen the poor lassie; but we have heard weekly; and tomorrow I purpose riding down thither, and disposing of this by the road. For some time, Mag seemed to get very little better, or even as some thought rather worse; the state of her bowels (a severe diarrhœa, and no appetite) was very bad; so that for one short while we felt really alarmed. However, these bad symptoms have been removed for the last three weeks; the poor Patient gets out of bed, eats with increasing appetite; has a natural state of digestion, and seems to be daily gathering strength. Along with your Letter, on Wednesday, Alick brought up one from our Father, which represented her as very decidedly in the way of recovery. You may guess in what request your medical advice would have been on this occasion, where none worth asking was to be had for love or money. I believe, some bottles of good brandy, administered by our Mother, did more service than any faculty prescription whatever. Mag doubtless must still be very weak, she was so greatly reduced: the blister-wound I understand to be healed or nearly so; nevertheless if you come when you promise, it is still likely you may find need enough for your help in fronting the general malady, which seems to me nothing but a confirmed state of what is called biliousness, the root of so many miseries to man! I hope, were she once through this, her health may be permanently better than it has been for these last four years.

Nothing in your Letter was thousandth-part so interesting as the tidings that you do actually mean to terminate your rambles so soon, and come home to your friends and home-duties. I have said and written till I am ashamed to repeat it, that you neither can, nor will, nor indeed ought to, feel any permanent satisfaction of mind till you settle down to act what you have been so laboriously learning; and unless Medicine differs from all earthly pursuits I am acquainted with, you will find that in it also Action is the best, and, after the mere elements, the only Teacher that is to be had in any country of the world. It seems clear to me also that a man of sound character and medical talent could not fail to have eminent success at this time, in many places of Scotland, perhaps in few others more remarkably than in our own County, or Town, of Dumfries. A universal complaint there is, that no man of the slightest approach to true qualification in Medicine is to be found far and near: I could fancy a Doctor such as he should be, rising into high repute here, realizing for himself the fairest success, outward and inward, that any reasonable man could wish for. With our Vienna Doctor, I can think it possible enough, there may be a tough struggle before he could fit himself into such a situation; nevertheless, I know him to be a man of substantial gifts and true heart, and his errors must be rooted in him far deeper than I imagine if they can ultimately, or even very long, obstruct the fair exercise of so many faculties as he has, or may acquire. Dr Laing is fallen sick, and Dr Maxwell1 is fallen old: everywhere there is a cry for “medical aid.” Come home then, my beloved Doctor, with what speed your Gelegenheiten [affairs] can convey you; and leave that pudding-eating City of Vienna, and these ugly sheepskin Sclavonians [sic] to fight their own battle forever and a day.

About three weeks ago I was looking in the Map, and discovered the road by Praag and Dresden, which it seemed to me likely you would follow. You now mention that there is another, cheaper, easier and safer by Munich and Paris; and leave it to me to decide by which of these two you must come. Dear Jack, do you not see that any decision of mine on such a question would be the maddest in nature? Believe me, you must decide yourself, even without any advice of mine, for I can have none worth one halfpenny to give you. To me both routes are unknown, and the one that brings you soonest home will be the welcomest for all of us. One consideration must be already familiar to you; the wish I should have, were I in your situation, to see the Dichter des Jahrhunderts [poet of the century] at Weimar. Paris and London will stand throughout one's whole life and longer; but only one Goethe will be visible in this world, and that only for a short term of years. I think, I have mentioned twice (to the Poet himself, and to Eckermann his Secretary) that you were likely to see them in Spring: but this is a matter of no moment for any one but yourself; and not worth fronting any great evil for the sake of.2 As to the rest, it is altogether indifferent to me, and unknown to me: so determine according to your own best judgement, only come home to us without delay. If you pass thro' Paris you will see the Baron v. Eichthal's Brother,3 who will be your host there. At London, his Reverence of Pentonville4 instructed me long ago to invite you to his house: you will also visit the Montagues, the Stracheys, Charles Buller, and Fraser of the Foreign Review; to all of whom my name will be sufficient introduction for you. So let us know what you mean to do, and when we are to expect you thro' the Pass of Dalveen!5

You say that I must send you ten pounds to Paris or Frankfort, lest your money run short. With heartiest readiness will I send that or any sum in my command for such a purpose; only tell me whither and how. Can the Blacks at London assist me? Or am I to inclose a £10 Bank of England Note, and direct it “to lie till called for”? Instruct me, Jack, fully, and that forthwith; that you may not miss it by the road. But after all, is the Baron's Letter of Credit done, or have you never applied to it? Ransom and Co. can easily repay him and without risk at Munich; only perhaps you had rather not interfere with him farther? Perhaps it is best so: instruct me therefore what I am to do, and I will do it without loss of a moment.

On the whole, I perceive no sense will be got on the one side or on the other, till you come hither and see us face to face. I imagined I had given you most minute and punctual descriptions of our Thun und Lassen [daily activities] here, and you complain that you can understand nothing whatever about it. Know this one thing for your contentment, dear Jack, that we are all moderately well, and working our way thro' this pitiful existence as stoutly as we can. I have sat for many weeks at my desk, writing duller and duller Articles for Fraser and Jeffrey; and what is worse I have sat reading these four days without stirring beyond wind of the fireplace, so that I am bilious enough. Surely, however, I reckon myself better since you left us. I shall never be well, while I inhabit this carcass; but I am willing enough to be sickish. The “Duke” has maltreated Burns till I cannot bear to look on it: he wishes me to write more for him, and chatters unprofitably about Mysticism and so forth.6 I am very much alone in this world. Nevertheless I must go on a little farther in the highly despicable craft of reviewing; for there are trees to be planted and roads to be made; and man cannot live without money even in the Dunscore wilderness. Alas for the days when Diogenes could fit up his tub, and let the “literary world” and all other worlds, except the only true one within his own soul, wag hither and thither at discretion! But Courage! To the willing, all things are possible; it is not on outward circumstances, but on one's own weak heart that the blame lies. Courage, with Hope or without it, to the last hour of Life!—— I rejoice much to hear of your writing that long-expected Essay on German Medicine: Fraser has inquired of me about it again and again with becoming eagerness. As you persist, you will find the task of wrinting [sic] grow easier to you. Doubtless, by this time, you must have accumulated materials for many a foreign-medical Article; the produce of which will bring grist to the mill, when you settle here, and so long as your Practice leaves you leisure. Mrs Welsh is for you and Dickenson to settle in partnership at Dumfries! Dickenson is studying Medicine this winter in Edinburgh (last winter and summer in London) with the courage of a Lion.7 I hope to have deserved a civic crown by him.

There has been a dreadful piece of work at Edinburgh, with Irishmen decoying people into houses and there murdering them to sell their bodies to Dr Knox! One unspeakable miscreant is to be hanged for that crime in a few days. They killed Daft Jamie in that way; the poor purblind creature that went about with a show-box on his back; said to be a brother of Peter Nimmo's. It is said, thirteen other crimes of that kind have been confessed; the one that brought all the rest to light was the killing of a miserable old strolling Irishwoman.8— There is an infectious fever in Edinburgh too:9 so you may think, we are all as well out of it.— But now Jack, not to increase my biliousness, I must positively go and have a walk. You will write to us the moment this comes to hand; explaining your route, how the money is to be sent you, and when we may calculate on seeing you. God send you safe back to us! is the prayer of all here, and of none more fe[r]vently than your true Brother—

T. Carlyle

We have had deluges of rain here all November & December, with winds of the most boisterous sort: now at last within a week, we have got right frost, or rather the hope of such, for it still wavers. The cold we exclude by Sanquhar coals. Alick has been thatching a cattle-shed (for 30 Galloways) down in the Bottom, and is done with it. Mary has been at Scotsbrig for a week; I expect to meet her tomorrow, unless the roads be too slippery.

Jane's Grandmother10 (of Albany Place Dumfries) was buried Saturday last, in Dunscore Churchyard: it has been a dreadful year with mortality, all over this district. Old Mr Anderson of Straquhan also is dead.11

Our Mother's Letter thro' Lichtenthaler12 came safely to hand, tho slowly, and occasioned great joy. I believe it is here even now.— Have you ever seen Schlegel?13

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