January 1829-September 1831

The Collected Letters, Volume 5


TC TO JOHN WILSON; 19 December 1829; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18291219-TC-JOWI-01; CL 5:42-44.


Craigenputtoch, Dumfries, 19th December 1829.

My Dear Sir,

Your kind promise of a Christmas visit has not been forgotten here; and tho' we are not without misgivings as to its fulfilment, some hope also still lingers; at all events, if we must go unserved, it shall not be for want of wishing, and audible asking. Come, then, if you would do us a high favour; that warm hearts may welcome in the cold new-year, and the voice of Poetry and Philosophy, numeris lege solutis [in numbers freed from law], may for once be heard in these desarts, where since Noah's Deluge little but the whirring of heathcocks and the lowing of oxen has broken the stillness. You shall have a warm fire, and a warm welcome; and we will talk, in all dialects, concerning all things; climb to hill tops, and see certain of the Kingdoms of this world;1 and at night, gather round a clear hearth and forget that winter and the Devil are so busy in our Planet. There are seasons when one seems as if emancipated from the ‘Prison called Life’;2 as if its bolts were broken, and the Russian ice-palace were changed into an open sunny Tempe, and man might love his brother without fraud or fear! A few such hours are scattered over our existence; otherwise it were too hard, and would make us too hard.

But now, descending to prose arrangements, or capabilities of arrangement, let me remind you how easy it is to be conveyed hither. There is a Mail-coach nightly to Dumfries; and two Stage-coaches every alternate day to Thornhill; from each of which places we are but fifteen miles distant, with a fair road, and plenty of vehicles from both. Could we have warning, we would send you down two horses: of wheel-carriages (except carts and barrows) we are still unhappily destitute. Nay, in any case, the distance, for a stout Scottish man, is but a morning walk; and this is the loveliest December weather I can recollect of seeing. But we are at the Dumfries Post-Office, every Wednesday and Saturday, and should rejoice to have the quadrupeds waiting for you, either there or at Thornhill, on any specified day.

To Gordon3 I purpose writing on Wednesday; but any way, I know he will follow you, as Hesperus does the Sun.

I have not seen one Blackwood, or even an Edinburgh Newspaper, since I returned hither; so what you are doing in that unparalleled city is almost altogether a mystery to me. Scarcely have tidings of the Scotsman-Mercury Duel reached me, and how the worthies failed to shoot each other, and the one has lost his Editorship and the other still continues to edite [sic].4 Sir W. Hamilton's Paper on Cousin's Metaphysics I read last night; 5 but like Hogg's Fife warlock, ‘my head whirled roun and ane thing I couldna mind.’6 O curas hominum [O the cares of mankind]! I have some thoughts of beginning to prophecy, next year, if I prosper; that seems the best style, could one strike into it rightly.

Now tell me if you will come, or if you absolutely refuse. At all events, remember me, as long as you can, in goodwill and affection, as I will ever remember you. My wife sends you her kindest regards; and still hopes against hope that she shall wear her Goethe brooch this Christmas, a thing only done when there is a man of genius in the company.

I must break off, for there is an Oxonian gigman coming to visit me, in an hour;7 and I have many things to do. I heard him say, the other night, that in Literary Scotland there was not one [such] other man as ———! A thing in which if ——— would [do hi]mself any justice I cordially agree.

Believe me always, / My Dear Sir, /

Yours's with affectionate esteem, /

Thomas Carlyle.