January 1829-September 1831

The Collected Letters, Volume 5


TC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE; 1 February 1831; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18310201-TC-MAC-01; CL 5:225-227.


Craigenputtoch, Tuesday Night / 1st Feby 1831—

My Dear Mother,

I have a parcel of Books here, which Jack has sent for you; and as Alick sets off tomorrow with his Pork for the Market, I forward them with him. Jack's Parcel came by way of Edinburgh about ten days ago, but no Letter with it either for you or me or any one: I wrote to him last week, rather in the complaining style so far as that matter went: it is possible that I may hear from him tomorrow; but more likely not till next Wednesday: in either case I will send you down word by the earliest opportunity. You would get no Examiner this week; for none came hither, by what mischance I have not yet learned. Jack's last Letter mentioned his writing some Essay or other for the Edinr Review; perhaps he was so busy with it, that he neglected the Post hour.

I have a great body of little bits of things to tell you, which are hardly worth putting on paper. You will learn the main thing, when I tell you that we are all in the usual state of health and activity; struggling on in our Solitude, as well as the times will allow. None of us are growing a penny richer; but we have wherewith to keep mall in shaft (worse or better wedged); and that is all that man can expect, or even desire on this side of Time: let us bruise away, and beat lustily with that same Mall, so long as it will hold together, and fear nothing.1 I have written a piece of a Review for the Edinburgh, and am hovering about the materials of a Book, which I have so long talked of: one day or other it must out. My Review, which is about some foolish German matter, worth little, will not be published for three months. I sent it off a week ago; and in my Letter to the Editor, mentioned that Jack had one that was likely to follow. I hope they will accept the poor Doctor's Paper, for these are bad times to live by scribbling in: and the Doctor has no channel for his meditations so profitable as this would be. At the same time, I am hardly sorry that he feels the pinch of difficulty in this Literary way of Life, which is not his, and fit for him, as the medical would be: many a time he has vexed me with his foolish talk about the “happiness” of living by Literature; and it was in vain for me to assure him that in point of “happiness” such a life was but like its neighbours. Now he may try it and see. Sooner or later, it must come to Medicine. I am glad in the meanwhile to think that he is among kind and wise Friends; not alone in that great living wilderness. Still more that he is an honest, talented man, tho' practically but unwise. Sooner or later, as I have often said, he will learn the ground he stands on, and proceed to the work that is fit for him.— I received all the Socks (that is two parcels), but have yet had no free opportunity of sending them: I told him of them, a while ago.

We had a Letter from Goethe, or rather from Goethe's Secretary, with a short kind postscript from Goethe to tell that he was ‘still in the land of the living and beside his loved ones.’2 He has lost his only son (far from him, travelling in Italy); and has had a violent fit of sickness (a flux of blood), so that for two days his own life [was de]spaired of. He bore his son's death like a hero; ‘did not [cease] from his Labours for a single day.’3 I have written to him all that was kind: engaged among other things to translate his Poem of Faust, which I reckoned would be a gratification to him. If my own Book were out, I would begin it with alacrity.

Alick has yet heard nothing about Craigenputtoch farm; tho' tomorrow is the term for something being settled concerning it. I had a long talk with him on that subject tonight; gave him my best counsel, but of course nothing can be done, till we see farther what course matters take. No one has mentioned a whisper of it to me for the last three months. I do not know what chance he has for it; or whether a true friend would so much as wish him to continue in it. There are many chances and paths for an active little fellow beside this moorland one; and if he do leave it, he will not leave it empty-handed. My duty in the meantime is to look and listen, and hold my tongue.— I am very glad to see that his Wife seems to “answer the end”: he looks a good deal happier since he wedded: and if more burden may also have more ballast, in future.— Alas dear Mother! the end of the sheet is here already. I had innumerable things to say—all meaning this: that I am still struggling forward as of old, and still full of affection for you. I read the Testament. God always bless you my dear Mother! —[you]r affectionate Son, T. Carlyle