January 1829-September 1831

The Collected Letters, Volume 5


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE; 19 March 1830; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18300319-TC-JAC-01; CL 5:77-82.


Craigenputtoch, 19th March, 1830—

My dear Jack,

I have just despatched you a Newspaper to Moniaive, whither Rob has gone for paint-oil; and shall endeavour to have this forwarded in a day; so that your longing to hear of us may be gratified. Jane and I were at Scotsbrig for about a week, and returned only on Tuesday night, thro' tempests of sleet, and in spite of ill-shod fillies; to find your Letters among various others, and a square parcel which happily proved to be Jördens,1 lying waiting to welcome us. The good people at Scotsbrig seemed all wonderfully well and happy, and on the whole exhibited a much more comfortable style of housekeeping than I expected there. On the whole I think their way of life one of the most desirable which a man could choose for himself in this condition of things. Our Father who has been sickly and dispirited most of the winter has now recovered himself; walks out to see his dikers, and so forth, and is very bright and speculative. Our Mother we expect here shortly, when Alick goes down for seed-corn, which perhaps he will do tomorrow. She too seemed moderately well, but full of anxieties about you. Speak to her on that subject when one liked, she had always “just been thinking of it.” She wishes much that you would write to her oftener, as I assured her you would not fail to do, were you once settled. She sees all the Letters that come hither, and in general with little delay; but that is far from sufficing her. An old Newspaper from time to time with a ‘ganz wohl [all's well],’ would be quite a treat at Scotsbrig. The girls said they had constructed you a Letter, brimfull of news, and thought it should count against three from you. William Graham I likewise saw, and Simpson who was there to dine with him, and cheeped innocent trivialities till nightfall, when he and I rode over the Clinthill together, the bog-road being unfathomable. Both asked kindly after you; Graham with particular eagerness, expressing great desire and hope, unmixed with complaint, to get a Letter from you soon. I told them you seemed about settling in Birmingham as a Physician (such were the tidings Andrew Anderson2 sent) and were at that time in London. Grahame I was sorry to observe in rather dull spirits; less talkative than his wont: I think we did not raise one right horselaugh all the time, nor next day either when he came down and dined with us guests at Scotsbrig. He has been at Burnswark all winter; and black care, I fear, sits too heavy on that honest heart. Elsewhere in Annandale I was not; nor did I gather any news, except that poor George Bell3 (once called the Ranter, now grave enough) had died the week before,—as was understood, from hard drinking. Poor Ranter! we could have better spared a worthier man.4 The Clows, at Jane's request, came and drank tea with us; Miss Clow5 much admired for her ‘fine figure’; and next day, having been already detained by foul weather, we rode forth in spite of all representations; passed thro' Ecclefechan, and over Dalton Bank, in successive whirlwinds of snow; and at night found ourselves sitting not among the broad faces at Scotsbrig, but here in the wilderness alone by our own hearth. Nothing new had occurred in our absence: all were well and busy, Alick with his ploughing, Elliot[t] with his road-clearing, and hedge-cropping; Mary and her womankind with their washing and wringing within doors. We had been at Templand, as we went down to Scotsbrig, when the weather was very gay: Mrs Welsh was pretty well; and her Father too, tho' with strength of body he had recovered strength of volition, and was a very emphatic and unrestful old man. Mrs Welsh is much to be pitied with him; but she bears it all in a light patient spirit, such as might reprove many a professed philosopher. She read us part of a letter from her Brother,6 wherein he mentions you and your visit in terms of great cordiality; also another extract inquiring whether my cigars were done.— I think, I have now been minute enough, Doctor; and so shall smoke a pipe, and take up another side of the business.

You are now at ‘the goal and purpose,’ towards which all your wishes from the very first have been pointing; a grander field you cannot find for your activity, at least not in this Planet. I understand too little of your position in London to offer any judgement on it that were worth much. Doubtless there must be some appearance of a chance for succeeding, or your two kind friends would not have so counselled you, and so substantially backed their counsel. Try it with your whole might, if you are so minded, and all the blessings that wait on honest Industry go with you! The only portion of your project at which I demur is that of your borrowing to execute it. This I do not out of any savage spirit of ‘indapindence,’ which I have long seen to be naught; but from a deep conviction that the grand thing you want is, not practicing in London, or becoming rich, or renowned, but simply feeling that you stand on your own legs; which happy consummation is thereby indefinitely postponed. Depend upon it, Jack, you were happier that way, on a crust of bread, in the Moors of Dunscore, than rolling in Matthew Baillie's chariot7 thro' the streets of London, without it. At the same time, do not understand me as decidedly advising you to refuse all help from friends: I only state my own feeling, which who knows whether I might not modify a little were I on the spot. Dangerous you yourself will see it to borrow money, and incur such obligations to any stranger: and doubtless if you can, you will forbear to do it. For my own share, I had infinitely rather hear of your translating or abridging that unhappy Sprengel, 8 or writing for Fraser's Magazine,9 or doing any other honest thing with your own strength. The more anxious am I to learn how you prosper in these latter enterprizes. Meanwhile, and whether you apply to it or not, let us admire the generosity of Badams and Montague, whose offer to you an unknown stranger deserves perpetual gratitude.10 Such faith I have scarcely found in Israel. And yet there are noble hearts scattered here and there in all lands that the Sun lights. Do but think of Jeffrey: a Letter11 was lying here from him offering in the daintiest style to settle a hundred a year on unworthy me; nay but for an accident the first remittance would actually have been enclosed in it! I have just sent the meekest, friendliest, but most emphatic refusal, for this and all coming times. Do not mention this; for you see it has never gone beyond the length of a flourish of rhetoric, and is scarcely fit for mention: only whenever we think of our Dean of Faculty, let us conceive him as a multum in parvo [much in little] that does credit to Scotland and humanity.

You interest me greatly by your Umrisse [sketches] of so many Friends,12 in your last Letter. Pity only that they are not more filled up, which indeed future opportunities only could enable you to do. Pray be very minute, and above all intelligible. How was it ‘well that you did not venture to inquire’ about Miss Kirkpatrick? Gentle shepherd, tell us How? Has my dear Kitty done anything that was wrong; or is her Major Walcot13 a scandalous fellow? Pray do inquire somewhere; and, if possible, have my kindest regards conveyed to her quocunque [sic] nomine gaudeat [under whatever name she may like]. I grieve to hear that Mrs Strachey is unwell: assure her of my unabated esteem and affection. To the Montagues also and to Badams remember me as a Friend. Mr Fraser I need not mention, as from your present locality that were understood. I have written to Irving, explaining his share in that ‘Signs of the Times,’ and saying all manner of mystic things.14 I told him you were a rough colt but might make a noble aiver [old horse], and he was to do for you what he could. I grieve daily that he belongs to that guild, and wish they would expel him.

A Mr Gleig, well known in London, I believe, wrote to me the other day out of Kent about a ‘Life of Goethe’ for some new sort of Family Library.15 I rather doubt nothing will come of the negociation [sic]; yet I wish much I had heard of it six months ago. For the rest, this has been the shabbiest winter with me that I can remember: wait-waiting for Books, beginning again and again with fierce energy, and again & again obliged to make a dead halt. These other London volumes (sent by a private hand) for which a much more important parcel in Edinr must be waiting, have never come to hand. For little, I would kick my foot thro' the whole concern even at this hour. But no! no! Neither is the good Fraser to blame; only my own evil stars. Pray will you try to ascertain from him when he would like to have that History? I had fixed on May, but hear no answer, see no symptom of preparation. I have to write to Weimar today: adieu!

Now, Dear Jack, do not neglect to write very soon: judge what anxiety we are in; were you once fixed, you shall have longer allowances. Could you get the Spectator into your own hand, for it never by any chance comes on Wednesday; and at the expiration of the first term, get it exchanged for some better one: I should still prefer the Examiner. God bless you, my dear Brother!

T. Carlyle.

Your Observer came in season, and was very welcome; it seems a dud, not worth the stamp. I had a letter from the Magazine-Fraser, who also seems a dud: he speaks of having seen you: his Magazines are not yet come to hand. I sent W. Graham your Review Articles, and my own. Can you send me C. Buller's address: perhaps I may enclose something for him by and by. Have you seen Arthur,16 and what is he like? What is he to do, or be? This when you have time.

To stick by this trade / Is not our intention
We are forced to it by / The mother of invention

Ach, Gott!17

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