January 1829-September 1831

The Collected Letters, Volume 5


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE; 4 March 1831; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18310304-TC-JAC-01; CL 5:240-246.


Craigenputtoch, 4th March, 1831—

My Dear Jack,

This is my last long sheet of paper; and I employ it and part of this rainy Saturday in giving you some of our tidings. It is but a week truly, and not a fortnight since I wrote last: however, I have various little matters to tell you which may be interesting; and as for my type, I beg you to look at it and take example by it.

I said in the Newspaper of yesterday Mit Alick noch nichts entschieden [nothing yet decided with Alick]; which is true but not the whole truth. It did become decided last week that he was not to remain here: the place is let (for £170) to some repeatedly-bankrupt Drover of these parts; and the brave Polewarth marches,—let us hope, to a more genial region. I could growl deep enough over all this, and how the toil and tumult of years goes for nothing; but is not the principle Sic vos non vobis1 universal in the life of men, and of the deeper application the better they are? What a brave heart has to do in this case is not whining and repining but looking round for some fresh arena. Alick accordingly has ridden a second time into Annandale since I wrote; and given in his largest offer (£156) for the Annan Mill. He was down there on Thursday, with all manner of accompaniments and apparatus for judging; a Miller who had worked the Mill, Robert Brown who had built it and was to build a new Caul [Weir]2 for it, Jamie, Robert Clow, &c: he had also a warm recommendation from me to Ben Nelson, who has something to do with it, and treated him, as we have since heard, with all possible kindness. It was expected that the business would be settled on Thursday; so here yesterday we sat panting and trembling (Jane was almost out of her wits!) watching till the Adventurer would return with his Yes or No. Jane met him about nine o'clock at Stumpy; and he, after inquiring what in Heaven's name was gone wrong, answered that it was not to be decided till Wednesday; the Proprietor (the Burnfoot Irving in London3) needing first to be consulted, whose answer could not arrive till the day before that. It seems to me not improbable that we may still have to wait in suspense till the second Wednesday: however, you may depend on hearing the instant anything is done. Little things are great to little men, to little man;4 for what was the Moscow expedition to Napoleon, but the offering also for a new and larger Farm, whereon to till; and this too was but a mere clout of a Farm, compared with the great Farm whose name is TIME,5 or the quiet boundless Freehold which is called ETERNITY. Let us feel our bits of anxieties, therefore, and make our bits of efforts, and think no shame of them. I am distinctly of opinion that if Alick can get this place, it will be far the best situation, morally and economically, he has ever been in: nay such a thing is almost the only steady agricultural concern remaining in these days, the only one wherein your own faculty and industry will avail you. Besides the neighbourhood, such as it is, seems to be the best, in all points of view, that Scotland offers our Brother. He and I had another scheme, about his malting and even Brewing in Ecclefechan: but this we agreed was greatly preferable. Something I have no doubt, at the worst, we shall contrive: neither do I altogether regret the four struggling years Alick has spent here; he has learnt much, and leaves the place a better man, whether a richer or not, than he came. I add only that Robert Clow, one of the worthiest persons of his sort now alive, has decided on coming to live with him, be it here or there: the creature called the ‘Laird’ it seems is not to be lived with; and poor Rob will work for Alick at anything, and so live with some mortal that will look kindly on him. Poor Rob! His little edifice too has crumbled into ashes, and his simple heart was wounded to the quick, like ours, when that grave opened!6 But we will turn the leaf.

From Scotsbrig we learn that they are all pretty well: they seem to make some movement towards writing to you; I sent them (by request) your address yesterday. Mary who still lodges there with her husband, but is soon, they say, to remove into the ‘Kiln,’ has got a Daughter the other day, and is recovering well. Her man is much esteemed in his ploughing vocation, and is to live there, for the present, in the character of ‘hind,’ which probably is the fittest for him.— Farther, I heard last night that our worthy Uncle John7 of Dumfries is to be married again forthwith to a widow ‘in the vennal’ [alley or narrow lane], a woman of good character, with children and a considerable Grocery establishment.— Quod bonum faustum sit!8 The good man I daresay has been driven into this, in great part, by the Mother of Invention.9 But he is practically a philosopher, and the best-natured man with such energy and intellect that I have almost ever met with.

As for ourselves, in the middle of all these fluctuations, we sit still and keep an outlook on the firm headlands, praying too for an occasional glimpse of the eternal Stars. After whitsunday we shall find ourselves here literally unter vier Augen [under four eyes, i.e., private], alone among the whinstone desarts; within fifteen miles not one creature that we can so much as speak to; for the Stroquhan people too are all wrecked (commercially), and are to remove to Moffat. With the ‘incoming Tenant,’10 who poor fellow is but another of the great Sect of Drudges, for whose fate I mourn daily, we expect to have few difficulties: our servant is an excellent creature; our premises are all railed in and distinct; there will be nothing to do as I said to Jane, but clap a lock on every door, and buy a pair of pistols. The poor man, it is probable, will be very ready to oblige us, for hire. I once thought of re-engaging Elliott, and trying that Burble (Barbouiller) again; but have fallen upon a far grander scheme. Listen, Jack; for what I have got to say will not fail to interest you. Thro' the Summer it is quite easy living here as we are; and against winter, I purpose, having saved every penny that can be earned, coming along, with my wifekin under my arm, to—London! Yes, I compute that before the long days are done, I shall have realised two things: finished my prodigal son Teufelsdreck, and got Fifty pounds into my pocket. With this sum, under the guidance of Heaven, we will visit the great Beehive and Waspnest, and (till it run done) see what is to be seen. Do thou, O Doil, take serious thought in the interim how any independent lodgement may be effected with that mite of cash, in what way such mite may be spun out farthest. Thou knowest me and my ways. I have decided on living on mine own bottom (Grund und Boden [property]) for I can be a guest, beyond two days or so, with no mortal known to me, without mutual grief. Therefore, I say, let us try. I will do my best; and surely we shall have space to find a Publisher for Devilsdreck, and look round also, spying all outlooks whether there is absolutely Nothing in God's creation that will unite with me, in the way of work and well-doing. Nay, I have half a mind (but this in deepest secrecy) to start when I come there, if the ground promise well, and deliver a Dozen of Lectures, in my own Annandale accent, with my own God-created brain and heart, to such audience as will gather round me, on some section or aspect of this strange Life in this strange Era; on which my soul like Eliphaz the Temanite's is getting fuller and fuller.11 Does there seem to there any propriety in a man that has organs of speech and even some semblance of understanding and Sincerity, sitting forever, m[u]te as milestone, while Quacks of every colour are quacking as with lungs of brass? True I have no Pulpit: but as I once said, cannot any man make him a pulpit, simply by inverting the nearest Tub? And what are your whigs and Lord Advocates, and Lord Chancellors, and the whole host of unspeakably gabbling Parliamenteers and Pulpiteers and Pamphleteers; —if a man suspect that ‘there is fire enough in his belly to burn up’ the entire creation of such!12 These all build on Mechanism: one spark of Dynamism; of Inspiration, were it in the poorest soul, is stronger than they all. As for the whig Ministry, with whom Jeffrey might appear to connect me, I partly see two things: first that they will have nothing in any shape to do with me, did I show them the virtue of a Paul, nay the more virtue the less chance, for virtue is Freewill to choose the Good, not Tool-usefulness to forge at the Expedient: secondly that they, the Whigs, except perhaps Brougham and his Implements, will not endure; the latter indeed I should wonder little to see one day a second Cromwell: he is the cunningest and the strongest man now in England, as I construe him, and with no better principle than a Napoleon has: a feeling of virtue, a worship and self-devotion to Power. God be thanked that I had nothing to do with his University and its Committees!13— So that Providence seems saying to me: Thou wilt never find Pulpit, were it but a Rhetoric chair, provided for thee: invert thy Tub, and speak, if thou have aught to say!14— Keep all this inviolably secret, dear Jack: and know in the meanwhile so much, that if I can raise fifty pounds, at the right season, to London I will certainly come.

Thus I see a busy summer before me, and therefore no unhappy one. Teufelsdreck I hege und pflege [nurture], night and day; and hope also to put forth an ‘Article’ or two before then. Teufk is not the right thing yet, but there is a kind of life in it, and I will finish it.— Bowring will perhaps write on Wednesday:15 I expect some good of him, he is at least in earnest. The slut Cochrane I reckon to be a blockheaded Editor with whom it is not good, if you can help it, to have aught to do. Nevertheless if you signify, in polished term, that you well nigh despise him, he will work under you: he is, was and will be a Bookseller's Clerk, and no Editor. I have written him that I would not send Reinecke Fuchs (from that Ms.); but the whole Essay of which it forms a part (the worst but concluding and most essential part) was at his service if he liked; if not, not. I rather wish him to decline.—More on the Margins. For this time A Dios! Your Brother—— T. Carlyle

By way of enabling me to finish off that proposed Article for Cochrane (or let me rather trust, for some one else who could understand it better) will you look in some German Catalogue, or in Black's shop, for the newest work on Reineke de Fos or Reineke Fuchs,16 whichever it may be; that I may get a title for my Essay. Copy the title accurately also if you can say three words about what the contents seem to be (tho' this last is not essential[)]: I need no other help. Cochrane has told me often there was some such Book, but never sent the Title; waited always for the real Letterpress, which I would not have read. Pray look into this, before you write; and then I shall be quite ready.— Also mention if you can, when Croker's Boswell's Life of Johnson comes out.17 I have a great mind to write something on Samuel, of considerable length, if not for Macvey, then for another.

Is not Bul[l]er's address: Clarges-street Piccadilly? I made Alick bring me up a whole sheaf of your Letters from Scotsbrig; but could not find it in these. I sent off a Note (for Mrs Strachey, eigentlich [actually] for Greaves) to that address on Wednesday.

Jane thanks you for your little Note; and says she will answer it one day by a long list of practical inquiries on housekeeping—on a subject which she knows will deeply interest you. Meanwhile her kindest wishes.

Any tidings from Napier yet? Fear not; bear up till winter, and then we consult viva voce.

Jeffrey I suppose has never asked after you. N'importe, n'importe [no matter, no matter].

Mrs Montague's Letter was very estimable and much esteemed.18 Jane knows not whether she can answer it today, but will answer it very soon. Do you still go there?

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