October 1831-September 1833

The Collected Letters, Volume 6


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE; 21 October 1831; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18311021-TC-JAC-01; CL 6:27-34.


4. Ampton Street, Mecklenburg Square / London, 21st October, 1831—

My Dear Brother,—Your Letter,1 eagerly expected, came to hand last Tuesday, and I now by the next Post, despatch you an answer. The Chronicle gave notice of your arrival at Dover; more explicitly your two Notes, which a benevolent “Twopenny” delivered next day. I directly after wrote to our Mother; conveying these tidings; and promising that your Letter from Paris should be forwarded the instant it arrived. Which promise I have now fulfilled; for yesterday I wrapped up both your Letter and your Note with a very long Letter from myself under the same cover, and carried them over to the Advocate's to be franked; when doubtless they will be despatched today, and so reach Scotsbrig along with the Courier on Sunday. Greatly to the joy of all, I dare prophecy. For the rest, however, I can give you no news of those dear friends; not the smallest “scrape of a pen” having arrived here yet, tho' I wrote to Alick, earnestly inviting him also to be a correspondent. From which I infer so much, that nothing sinister has happened, but all things are going their old course.

As for ourselves, we have nothing but moderately tolerable news to tell you. Our Lodgings fulfil all reasonable expectation: cleanly, reputable, honest people; the houseroom limited enough, but comfortable; and above all adapted for sleeping in to a degree hitherto unexampled. We are well nigh as quiet, and altogether as free from bed-neighbours2 as at Puttoch itself; and accordingly have oftener than once accomplished the wonderful feat of sleeping ten hours in a piece! Jane celebrates her improving appetite, drives all headaches to flight by your Henbane (which also she has happily seldom need of), and on the whole seems to be healthier and happier: I too am said to be improving in looks, and perhaps am really better in health; tho' as yet except my renewed talent for sleep, I grieve to say that there is small fruit therefrom. Napier writes that he “trusts to me for a striking Paper in the December No.”—and yesterday I was at length favoured with a copy of Hope from the Longmans: so that certainly I must at length bestir myself; but how or on what subject I shall write has nowise become clear to me. Scribbling (Notes upon Müllner3 &c) is what I have practiced every day since you left us; but hitherto am quite out of sorts for writing; all hampered and hemmed in, not in the least at home. I know the disease of old, and know also the remedy. Doubtless, if I stay here, there is much to be done: I am even seriously turning over the scheme of lecturing; and think I could do it and with profit were my lips once unsealed. The gross groping ignorance in which I descry many, almost all, seems to invite and demand me. We shall look at the arena first, and then measure ourselves with it.— As to Teufelsdreck I may conclude this first section of his history in few words. Murray, on my renewed demand some days after your departure, forwarded me the Ms with a polite enough note, and a “Criticism” from some altogether immortal “Master of German Literature,” to me quite unknown; which Criticism (a miserable, Dandiacal, quodlibet [any thing whatever], in the usual vein) did not authorize the Publication in these times. Whereupon, inspecting the Paper to ascertain that it was all there, we (my good Lady and I) wrapped all up, and laid it by under lock and key, to wait patiently for better times, or if so were ordered, to the end of times: and then despatching a very cordial-looking note to Murray, wound up the whole matter, not without composure of soul. Now that the Reform Bill is all to begin again, it may for aught I know be months before the Trade experience any revival; thus Dreck may perhaps be considered as postponed sine die [for an indefinite period]: with which result also I am perfectly contented. What I have written I have written: the reading of it is another party's concern.— In the economical point of view, I know not whether this other small occurrence be worth mentioning: that Montague (whom we see sometimes quite overflowing with “blessings”) kept rather annoying me with urgencies that I would “apply to the Lord Advocate for the Registratorship in one of the six new Bankruptcy Courts”; whereupon at last I did transmit one of the noble Lady's Notes on that subject to his Advocateship, and farther formally called upon Montague to testify by Letter (if his conscience permitted) that I was fitted for the station. Since which time I have at least been rid of the Montague importunities (for the matter has never once been hinted at); Jeffrey engaged to speak of it, but seemed to think with myself that there was hardly any hope in it; and so there it rests, in all human probability nothing more than a miserable “chimera,”—with which, however, as I have done all that depended on myself, and did indeed care very little for success in it, I give myself no manner of uneasiness.

It will behove me, however, to get out of my own little doghutch with its interests, and tell you a little how the world is getting along. Of our Politics I will say nothing: the Parliament is prorouged [sic] yesterday for a month, some say it will be for longer; the people are all at peace with their hands, and cackling like true Roman geese4 with their tongues: so that it is wholly a weariness to turn oneself even for moments in that direction. Of more private news I will tell you somewhat: it is strange how that sort of things accumulates even in a week or two. Poor Dickenson5 was well known to you: he died in the end of last month in the Edinburgh Infirmary (where he laboured as House-Surgeon) of typhus fever, caught in the discharge of his Hospital duty. We have mourned much over him; it was a real shock to us, above most others: so innocent worthy a man, so tragically marred in all that he had aimed at, & cut off when in sight of the goal. Wondrous are the ways of Nature, inscrutable to our little sense.— The Advocate still complains bitterly, and I think does not mean to move from London; his general health he calls good, but plagues himself about the disease being cancerous and what not: he suffers great pain, but can now take an airing in the Park; the other night I had my longest conversation with him; about Literature &c &c, and have not seen him since, nor presented your remembrances to him.— Learn also that Brougham has made six “Knights of the Guelphic Order”: Ivory, Babbage, Herschel (Mathematicians), Charles Bell (Surgeon), Dr. Brewster, and—Professor John Leslie.6 Quack, quack, quack!— The Badamses inquire after you with the air of true friends: B. is often in Town, about his Mint Business, which seems to make little progress; his own health and wellbeing I should reckon progressive: we have appointed to go out and see them next Thursday.— The Montagues come much about us, and have not improved and have not sunk in my estimation since you departed. Mill also has been here: he came once—with whom think you? With Monsieur Adolphe d'Eichthal; the same individual that sent his Recipe to Dr Irving's, and was living in Woburn Place. Adolphe is a brisk little Jewish looking figure, very ingenious and ingenuous: he seemed to take considerably to me; is now off to Edinburgh with Introductions from me to Moir, Sir W. Hamilton, and Wilson, whom I warned him to expect little of. He is no St Simonian, and I guess will hardly ever be, if your account prove prophetic. Poor St Simonians, with their Deh tanti palpitis, and red plush holes in the wall!7 Bitte dich fern zu halten [Please hold yourself aloof from it].8 Adolphe is to see us when he returns: the melancholy news of his Uncle he had already with much affection confirmed to us. Of Mill I incline to augur better than Gustave does: I think he is not a Dilettante, but a smallish Enthusiast with the worst pabulum for such a temper; not without human vanity, but also not without reverence for what is above him. He and I were, last night, for the first time, at Fonblanque's; dining there.9 F[onblanque]. lives far away in the Edgeware Road; and is still lame with his Gig-fall. He has a delightful Housekin, with offices &c, and a “beautiful ideal” to wife. He himself standing on crutches, all braced round with straps (of what seemed cloth-listing) received me very handsomely: a long, thin, flail of a man, with wintry zealous looking eyes; lank, thin hair, wide, small-chinned mouth, baggy, wrinkly care-accustomed face; greatly the air of a Radical. I observed that he had a high forehead, and low crown; as in Müllner's head. We had a pleasant, discursive sitting; about Scotch scenery, Buonaparte, Cobbett, Immorality, and the Tax on Tobacco. I volunteered to call again (for he can call nowhere), which was warmly welcomed. Nothing great will ever come of the man; no genial relation will ever spring up between us: yet he is worth being known, and honoured in his way; jeder an seiner Stelle [everyone in his place]. Mill promises me two other friends: small deer, as I dread; yet will I see them gladly, being niemals menschenscheu [never shy of people], as was Schmelzle's case10 too. On the whole, this London is the most twilight intellectual city you could meet with: a meaner more utterly despicable view of man and his interests than stands pictured even in the better heads you could nowhere fall in with.

I ought to have mentioned earlier that Mr Maclae11 called one day to say that he would carry any Letters &c to you: but I did not send any, which perhaps was as well, for I think now you will hardly meet. Also that Dr Irving12 one morning brought me over a Letter for you from one Haig13 a Medical fellow student (for I broke it up), congratulating &c, and then asking your counsel about settling in London: “Dr Gordon (?) had told him there was an opening in the City.” The good George undertook to answer him; in the negative. George comes here pretty frequently, and we like him much as an honourable good young man: he and I settled handsomely, and as friends. Arbuckle14 we have also had once, with as much favour as usual; Mensbier15 has not found us out yet, but has been inquiring[.] An invitation for him was left. Glen is much desiderated: the whole Montague world (except Basil) have repeatedly assaulted me about him: altogether for nought and in vain. These people see a quarter of an inch into everything; deeper into nothing.— Of poor Edward Irving I have seen little and wish I had heard nothing since you went away. Alas! the “gift of tongues” has now broken loud out (last Sunday) in his Church, the creature Campbell (or Caird or whatever she is) having started up in the forenoon; and (as the matter was encouraged by Irving) four others in the evening, when there ensued as I learn something like a perfect Bedlam scene, some groaning, some laughing, hooting, hooing, and several fainting. The Newspapers have got it, and call upon his people for the honour of Scotland to leave him, or muzzle him. The most general hypothesis is that he is a quack; the milder that he is getting cracked. Poor George is the man I pity most: he spoke to us of it almost with tears in his eyes; and earnestly entreated me to deal with his Brother; which, when he comes hither (by appointment on Tuesday) I partly mean to attempt, tho' now I fear it will be useless. It seems likely that all the Loselism [lazy rascality] of London will be about the church next Sunday; that his people will quarrel with him; in any case, that troublous times are appointed him. My poor friend! And yet the punishment was not unjust; that he who believed without inquiry, should now believe against all light, and portentously call upon the world to admire as inspiration what is but a dancing on the verge of bottomless abysses of Madness! I see not the end of it; who does?

But now, dear Brother, having so nigh filled my Paper with tattle, such as I had, let me turn for a moment specially to yourself. I think I may congratulate you on having made a fair beginning, and promise myself that you will handsomely get thro' this business, and find it the beginning of better. Your ideas about your course seem to me perfectly just: the rule you have to follow is simple enough; neither do I doubt but you have force in you to follow it. Do all the good you can; willingly sacrifice any merely selfish interest to the interest of her you have to guide: think wisely, and act wisely (as our dear Mother would say, with the fear of God, and no fear of Man but love of him, before your eyes): who knows but you may prove a real blessing to this Lady, whose life, all but in the matter of mere money, is as yet one of the barrenest.— For your own behoof too keep looking, and noting (I mean writing also), and gathering insight wheresoever it is to be had. You will see lands enough and peoples enough, and may improve yourself many ways; I wish we heard of you safe over the Alps, and could picture you in some settled state. Write the instant you read this, and count on hearing as rapidly again. Finally, dear Brother, love me, and fare well! If better days are appointed, let us study to deserve them; if worse, to meet them. Honest and true we may and can always be found. God be ever with you! So prays also your Sister here, and—Your faithful Brother—

T. Carlyle.

I sent on your Morning Chronicle to W. Grahame (Fleming & Hope's, Brunswick Street, Glasgow): he imagined it was in your hand, and that some delay had occurred, or thing gone wrong; and so franked me a Letter earnestly inquiring, which [I] instantly and with all affectionateness answered. I also promised Grahame that you would write to him, were you once settled: which do.

They set all the bells to ring muffled at Annan &c when the Reform news16 came, and began petitioning: so was it over all Scotland: otherwise quiet as pussy.

We have heard from Mrs Welsh but from no one else in Dumfsre. Both Arbuckle and George desire specially to be remembered. I think they both have a real friendship for you. Napier who wrote in bed (being sick) said nothing about your Article on Digestion: I still think you should attempt it, for your own sake. The thinnest of paper (whence you know), but the worst of pens, the muddiest of heads: spirit willing, flesh as usual. Adieu, my beloved Brother!

The Dairlawhills farm is advertised; I advised Alick to bestir himself, as I hope he is doing. Picken is making me a grey brock!17 Tell me your right address, and I will observe it.

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