October 1831-September 1833

The Collected Letters, Volume 6


TC TO WILLIAM GRAHAM; 17 October 1831; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18311017-TC-WG-01; CL 6:19-22.


4 Ampton Street, Mecklenburg Square, / London, 17th October, 1831.

My Dear Friend,

I have this moment been favoured with your kind Message and Inquiry.1 That business of the Morning Chronicle, well meant as it was, has turned out, I find, as “the best concerted schemes of mice and men” often do: instead of quieting your friendly anxieties, it has stirred them up into new fermentation. The Newspaper in question was purchased by my Brother, in the Regent-Circus, Piccadilly, on the very edge of his departure for France, as the coach stood waiting; and by him transmitted hither as a symbol of his safe arrival at Dover; whereupon I (not he, for it was my hand) forwarded it to Glasgow, hoping that it might pleasantly remind you of my existence, and perhaps convey (mutely but gratuitously) all the information that in the present state of matters could be given, which fair project having, as we perceive, “gone aglee,” there is this good in it, that I receive a new assurance of your kind regard, and am specifically called on to return you the like. Let us be thankful for all friendly thought.2

Jack went off, at the time indicated, in good spirits; well wrapt up, and looking forward to a more glittering future. He has since written me a short note from the sea coast; that he had met his Countess, that they were to be at Paris in some four days, that he was well, and all looking well. From the French Vanity Fair I as yet hear nothing, tho' he must have been there rather more than a week: I expect some tidings almost daily. To you also, from some point of his route or residence, I imagine some friendly memorial will arrive.

For both your letters, to him and to me, were duly delivered and duly welcomed, and read in common with the pleasure that belongs to quite undoubted testimonials of affection. Unhappily but a rare pleasure; yet sometimes, as we see, imparted to us even in this Devil's Epoch. We ought to be the gladder of them.— I rejoice heartily to learn that you have an actual profitable employment; and so fair a prospect of a better one, in the American Consulship; which I wish it lay with me to secure for you. May the hard heart of Jonathan3 be turned in the right direction! I think he may go farther and not find a fitter man. It further gives me real satisfaction to find that you have now well nigh done with Burnswark. The feeling that attached you to that “spot of clay” was a praiseworthy, even venerable one: nevertheless it has many times grieved me to figure a man of your talents and attainments spending them on so ungainly a field; why, Hab or Meinfoot could farm Burnswark better than Cincinnatus; and you—understand the Commerce of the World! My advice were that you shook yourself loose of Burnswark, the sooner the better. Neither is this a shaking yourself loose from Dumfriesshire: the Mould of Dumfriesshire, nay these very Limbs we have made from it, are not ours, we have but a Life-rent of them: all that was true Property, in our possessions there, the love of soul to soul, and the good soul does to soul, remains to us forever.— I shall hold it a real benefit, whether this Consulship be awarded you or not, to know you once more with “your foot on the fog”;4 the “world before you where to choose”:5 for I am convinced, such gifts and qualities as yours must even in these times find some reasonable market. Esperance! Esperance!

I keep your Memorial on Patents laid safely by, and consider myself bound to bring it before the proper person when the proper time comes. I could leave it with the Advocate6 any day, but it would inevitably be thrown by, and lost in chaos. The Advocate is sick, and confined to bed: moreover, sick or well, there has no thing, public or private so much as a chance to be considered till once this unspeakably wearisome Reform Bill be passed. All men's anxieties, thoughts, calculations are directed thither and thither alone. By the mysterious arrangement of this world, it has been ordered that 200 bipeds, few of them with sense of stuff enough to make a moderate taylor, should be called Peers, and have the power to keep all Britain in a ferment for months, perhaps to drive it into desperation, and anarchy: But at the same time, as old Smail the Ecclefechan Smith said: “How can you help it? we must just do the best we can for a livelihood, Boy.”— For the present all is quietness and good humour here: Songs singing on the streets, etc. etc. etc: the “Hundred and Ninety-nine”;7 nay what will perhaps astonish you, our new alarm is of a “rising in Glasgow”! Few would believe me, till the event showed, that Saunders8 knew infinitely better how many beans made five than to “rise,” and have his crown broken, on any such occasion.

To me also this state of matters brings its evils. No Bookseller will so much as look at a Manuscript for the last five months; all trade in Books is utterly asleep. So after laboriously enough ascertaining this, I have locked up my poor Bundle of Papers, and do not mean to speak about them, for some weeks; not at all, if times do not alter,—which however, they must do, or altogether cease and determine. Meanwhile I have brought my Leddy up hither; she is now sitting sewing beside me, and sends you her truest regards. We have a pretty little quiet and cleanly first-floor, where, now that I have a Housewife again, all goes comfortably enough: here, seeing and being seen, we purpose to pass the winter; and shall hope to revisit old scenes and old friends in spring,—with perhaps better knowledge how the world actually whirls, and keener relish for the quiet nooks therein. I have met and am to meet with sundry strange men; of whom more at our meeting. Allan Cunningham, whom I see, remembers you kindly. Irving lives far nearer me; and I believe is near me in heart as well as place; yet the good man is strangely beleaguered with Shadows and Substances; preaching, teaching, working miracles, and what not; and I fear partly seems to “scunner” at [flinch from] communicating freely with one so heterodox as me. I purpose yet to tell him my whole mind about that miraculous rubbish of his one day: He deserves such a mark of confidence from me; and I love him as one of the best men and best friends I was ever brought near.— But the paper is done; and my too soft Pen has been unthrifty. Pray write to me again, whenever you have leisure; when aught notable befals whether you have leisure or not. Also do not frank your letters, or I must do the like.9

Ever your true Friend, /

T. Carlyle.