January 1829-September 1831

The Collected Letters, Volume 5


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE; 10 February 1831; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18310210-TC-JAC-01; CL 5:228-232.


Craigenputtoch, 10th Feby, 1831.

My Dear Brother,

I was much obliged by your long full and confidential Letter; and much gratified tho' the news it brought us were none of the brightest. It is something to see the worst, and to feel that, at the worst, we are still united, and prepared to struggle and to hope together.

You said, I was not to write again till another Letter arrived. Now Alick brought us no Letter, no Examiner, last night; tho' doubtless both are on the road for us, and only detained by mud and wet. He is to be down again tomorrow or on Saturday, and as I am writing to the Advocate1 at any rate, I will disobey your direction for once; preparing also to follow it, when it shall be more clearly revealed. Last Newspaper, and the second before that are the only two that have ever yet failed us: the latter, by accident in London, did not get here till its successor also was ready; the former, detained by accident on the way hither, will reach us safely. We feel your punctuality to be a very great blessing; used as we were to quite the contrary. I also warmly approve of your project of weekly Letters; if we can find frank it will be a great happiness to both of us: nay without franks, one may cram a whole shilling's worth, with care, into any large sheet, when the Correspondents are wise and brothers.

I view your situation in London with true sympathy yet with some pride and entire confidence. The most grievous part of it, which however is probably for you the happiest, is that it is my debt you are in straits for. I have not at this time any power of repaying you; unless that shilly-shally Editor2 will print my stuff, and be done with it. Nevertheless tell me, and you shall not be driven utterly to the wall. I have various possibilities, yet unexhausted: I have a great useless mare, in foal, which I can send to market were summer here: one way or other, we must and shall come thro; so fear nothing. My only prayer is that you had any medical practice, were it never so little; and could bid adieu forever to that despicable Author-trade. Doubtless you yourself are full of this same feeling; and will hail your first fee, like the dawn of day. Meantime practice gratis, practice any way rather than no way: it is your only chance and hope. And so Courage! Courage! We are young and the world's wide.

I have yet heard nothing of my Article from Macvey, and nothing of yours, which I hope will answer. At any rate, as you said, there is a sure reward for you, in the increase of your own knowledge, and the consciousness of right endeavour. Let the issue then be as it will. From Cochrane I have received no whisper of tidings, and so about three weeks ago, I sent word to Moir that he was to require back the Ms. (it was he who had delivered it) and forward it hither by the Mail. Moir writes3 directly that C. has been detained by the indolence of his London publishers &c, but shall be seen in a few hours, and the Papers forwarded, with his own account of the matter. I expect it shortly, now that the roads are again open. Meanwhile I have sent a Letter to Dr Bowring (keep this quite private), offering him a paper on the Nibelungen Lied, and some farther connexion, if he like, as he gave me to know thro' Tait of Edinburgh last year that he did. We shall see in two weeks what this produces. Probably nothing, in which case no matter. My plan is, you see, to get some kind of financial work for myself, to keep house with, and in the mean time to labour at my Teufelsdreck Book, and bring it up to London in my pocket so soon as it is ready. The whole perplexity comes of that thrice and four times accursed Literary History, which has thrown me a whole year behind all my old connections, most of which accordingly are broken. Nevertheless I will one day sell that book too, for there is some morselkin of stuff in it: and in the mean while, I feel a kind of contemptuous courage; there being material enough in my head, I shall one day find publishers enough.

I can tell you of no news here. You will see by the Newspaper what a storm we have had, and how poor wayfarers have even perished in it.4 Your last week's Courier will not reach you till Saturday, the country was all blocked up here, we did not even send it off till yesterday. Alick was out in almost the worst of the snow with his Pork, for Dumfries, where also he could find no market, but struggled on to Annan, and returned to us on Friday. His leg was sprained when he left home, but at the first huge snow-wreath he leapt down, and the sprain altogether disappeared. There is a medical fact for you. Commend me to a man who like Tom Garthwaite can “work oot the streen” [work out the strain].— Craigenputtoch farm is not yet settled, but will be so ere long, and you shall hear the issue. Alick sets a resolute front to the matter, and has stuff in him to make a shift elsewhere, if ousted here. From Scotsbrig there are no tidings; the last intelligence was a Letter from Jean, that they were all well, except our Father, whose cold was ‘much in the old way.’ I hope, he is better by this time: before that last attack, he had become extremely dietetic, quite positive in regard to these matters; and was much healthier. I have got a stock of warm socks for you here, carefully manufactured by our Mother; and only wait an opportunity to send them. Ploughing is far back, and the poor are threatened with scarcity. Other news we have none, and could have none, lying here in the uttermost parts of the Earth.

For the last fortnight I have scarcely been writing any: I wait anxiously for the Parcel from Edinburgh, with news from my Editors; that I might get my Review work over, and then take me to my Book. I am a little comforted by your view of Teufelsdreck, which agrees with my own: neither is it of any consequence whether you show it to Edward Irving or not; if you have done so, well and good, if you felt inclined to do so, it were still indifferent; if not, do not. They can throw no new light on the business; and I believe, myself, that possibly I may make something of the work, and therefore shall try. It is full of dross, but there is also metal in it, and the thing still lives and produces with me. I have also undertaken at some future day to translate Faust: the venerable Alte [Old Man] has written to me since his sad visitation, he ‘can still linger for a season among his loved ones’:5 a letter of mine is by this time in his hands. Gott mit Ihm! [The Lord be with him!]

The confinement during these snow tempests has done me no good: I can study almost none, except walking, or sometimes, lying in bed. Did you go to the Stracheys? O tell me all about these people and Badams and the Irvings, and most of all about yourself. Never shut up your heart from me, that is your only offence. Think no shame of your Poverty, I am often almost proud of mine. Think of the great Jean Paul, and of so many thousand other heroes! Striving all the while with our utmost energy to widen our field of action to become lord of our world, let us take defeat lightly: it is good for us. We all salute you in love. God bless our Brother.— / T. Carlyle

Did you say that you had taken the Papers from Fraser? I care not a straw for one of them except Tk (which keep carefully), and wish them all printed and turned into money je cher je lieber [the more expensive the better].6 I wish we saw your new Letter, or do I look for one in vain?

I fear, Alick will not go tomorrow, not till Saturday—Good night, Good night, dear Brother!