January 1829-September 1831

The Collected Letters, Volume 5


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE; 12 November 1830; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18301112-TC-JAC-01; CL 5:187-192.


Craigenputtoch, 12th November, 1830—

My Dear Jack,

You are justly what may be called a Benefactor to Craigenputtoch, and, we would hope, ‘an ornament to society in every direction’:1 here is the second time that your punctuality has helped us out of approaching perplexity. The long well-filled sheet arrived duly to our great satisfaction in many ways, where in the little announcement of coming Cash, humble as the circumstance was, did nowise escape us.2 I drove down with Alick on Wednesday (thro' unspeakable deluges and tempests) to await that little arrival; and had scarcely seated myself to a comfortable Pipe in Thomson's,3 when the promised Letter was handed in to me; containing, if not Twenty, at least Ten current Pounds, part of which were to be useful the very next day. And now you promise4 us other Ten, or even Twenty (if we like better, which we do) next Wednesday; whereby the Genius of Poverty will be quite excluded thro' the coming months, and can henceforth only growl to no purpose on the outside of bolted doors. Many thanks, dear Jack, for your punctuality, which, in all cases, especially in these, is an excellent virtue.

To deflect now from these personal, crumenic [pecuniary] and very humble concerns, I must express our united gratitude for the light you have thrown on your own situation, which in spite of all drawbacks I hold to be more promising than I have seen it for several years. You are now on your own feet, however small your footing, and feel yourself free, and enjoy the approval of your conscience, which is the grand basis of all human contentment: A tough struggle doubtless lies before you and around you: nevertheless the victory is certain if you keep true to yourself.5 I say the victory; meaning thereby not the victory over other medical or literary competitors, and the conquest of certain monies and eulogies, but the victory over the Devil, and the conquest of a true manly character, and manifold talent, which if the world do not reward, it ought. As for the former never trouble your soul about it: ‘meat clothes and fire’6 are all that mortal can attain here; and often, often the noblest of men, from Paul the Apostle down to Paul the Poet (of Bayreuth)7 have had these in scantiest measure. Of what clay are we that the like should not befal us also? Your texts from Luther are ganz aus meiner Seel' gesprochen [straight from my own heart];8 only with that outward and inward armour can a man composedly front the world. Go on then and prosper, dear Brother; ‘diligent in business, fervent in spirit;’9 from every fall, rising Antaeus-like, strengthened with new vigour; unwearied, fearless of the world, friendly towards it; fearing God, which takes away all other fear.10

Heartily as I condemn and contemn all manner of Gigmania, and could rather recommend in its stead a certain Diogenic humour (in a clarified way), I will notwithstanding admit that falling into Debt, or fearing so to fall, is among one's heaviest calamities, not a physical only but a moral one;—that the large sum you have to realize (a larger one than even mine) for securing yourself on that side, is for the present no small care to me. Literary labour if honest is and was always nothing but a ‘Hungerquelle’ [intermittent spring, i.e., a source of hunger]; any professional gain is far surer and more easily got. We of course need not advise you to take the smoothest path towards earning your little necessaries; and unless Literature is smoother for you than Medicine you will not follow it. I do think, however, that your whole disposable force, there as you stand, should be turned towards the latter province; that you should practice to right and left, practice among the poor, practice anywhere with or without fee, that your talent be not hid in a napkin. Farther it would gratify us much to understand that you had a ‘Dr. Carlyle Physician’ engraved on brass on your outer door, whatsoever said door might be. This were a kind of manifesto, a hoisting of your flag, tho but in small craft, yet in craft of your own, and the more courageously and honourably that it was small. Lastly we are unanimous that getting this History of Medicine, or not getting it, you actually should not quit London; that having once sat down to practice medicine, you should persist at all haps in practicing it; having laid your hand on the plough you ought in no wise to turn back. Put on your brass-plate, dear Doctor, and try it like a man! Practice for charity, practice wheresoever, or howsoever you can fall in with one of God's creatures whom you have the godlike privilege of helping. All this, however, will by and by occur to yourself, if indeed it is not already plain to you. Now tell us whether that History of Medicine, which we fear is not actually bargained for, bids fair to be bargained for or not: and for the present we will leave this topic.

In regard to your publishing speculations I have written to Macvey Napier about you, and received a handsome enough answer;11 he thinks it likely that by and by in the Encyclopedia you might be a desirable help. If you write any Paper that you think would answer the Edinburgh Review I can without scruple, and perhaps rather favourably than otherwise introduce it to him: he at length ventures to ask me to write there; with which request I have some thoughts of complying. Cochrane also has got into a better position towards me, and I can easily introduce any of your lucubrations in that quarter. That ‘Lit. Hist. Ms.’ is by this time in his hands or Moir's rather; to whom I instructed Jeffrey, in answer not to an offer of Publication, but to a long, unasked, abusive and almost ill-bred Criticism,12 to hand it. From Moir I stipulated only that, printed or not printed, I was to be plagued with no farther disquisition on the subject: Take or Let alone was the word, and in the Devil's name let us have done with talk. On reading Jeffrey's Letter, the first thought was naturally to wash him away, which could be done with unspeakable ease, I believe; but reflecting then on the man's intrinsic kindliness, also on his sufferings and even miseries some of which I have seen into, it appeared clear enough that he had been only in a sad fit of depression, whence this acetous fermentation of small-beer; so I wrote him one of my friendliest Letters, and mean to be as kind to the worthy little Poet as is possible for me, let him kick against the pricks as he may. A warm loving heart, yet now when he is growing old, I question if there is on Earth one real Friend for him, only millions of Commensals and Compotators, and perhaps he feels this! Let us pity the poor white man;13—and rejoice that Dilettantism will ere long be kicked out of Creation, in all probability for a century or two.

I wrote to William Fraser about his Magazine, and that Teufelsdreck paper of mine, which I have now resolved not to make a Book of; but, if I have opportunity, two Articles, and the germ of more. I wished to dive into Fraser's modes and conditions, and see whether any nearer Magazine relation with him was desirable. Were his answer come, I send off this Paper (with Nimmo and other trifles); also your German Briefe [Letters]14 (commissioned up from Scotsbrig today), and another Book for you of a still more surprising character: no less than the geschmückte Exemplar [illustrated copy] of Schiller,15 which came safely to hand ten days ago. There were two copies; one bound in all conceivable superbity we are to keep; the other unbound the Artist at Dumfries is binding for you (to be here on Monday) in a decent style, with strict directions to put in the Umschlag [Cover] (of Schiller's House and Garden-house)16 also. The Craig bears a distinct resemblance;17 and there is the most wondrous Preface by dem Alten [the Old Man (Goethe)], with considerable Translations from some Letters of mine,18 and my Paper on Burns, the version of which Poet he has set agoing at Berlin. All these things, with others, you shall see soon. We have had two Letters from him by Post: a certain Gesellschaft für auslandische Litteratur [Society for Foreign Literature] in Berlin have elected me an Ehrenmitglied [honorary member]; their clerk seems to be Hitzig: of this also you shall hear. Goethe says: von der Societé St-Simonienne bitte sich fern zu halten!19 Nevertheless send me their Books by the very first chance. Jane is making you a Bread-seal, which will come with that same Packet, and stamp your coat-of-arms for you, till you get a better. We are all well, save Mary who cannot be so, tho' she will not complain in the least. Our Father has been with us for a fortnight exactly, and went off with Alick in the Gig this morning. He seems as well as he has been for some years: takes tea twice and is very dietetic, and very cheerful and talkative. God bless you, dear Brother! T. Carlyle

I have not a long sheet left, save one for Goethe, which I am to use today: however, I have striven to make the most of my short one. More you shall hear by the Books-and-Papers Parcel. Our Mother was well at Scotsbrig, and all the rest, when we heard last. Your long Letter goes down to her; and has been read here with real pleasure by all. Write again, [and fully?]: fear not to ‘weary’ us with details about you; we cannot be wearied in that way—Jane greets you aufs schönste [in the best way]. We shall hear from you on Wednesday: if you have got the Twenty Pounds, and would like to keep Ten of them for two months, you may with no inconvenience to us: but on the whole explain to me how I have earned £30 there? Ten of them must already be your own?

Alick carried in his last corn, this week, wet, to grind for the horses: the rest is dry, and a good crop. This Farm you will see in the Courier is advertised: who ploughs it next year is uncertain; Alick will find some provision, if not here, elsewhere: he is not without philosophy, neither will he be without resources.—we are to have no man-servant thro' winter, but to live ganz still [altogether quietly].

My Compliments to the Montagues: borrow rather from Badams if you can do no other.20

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