October 1831-September 1833

The Collected Letters, Volume 6


TC TO JOHN STUART MILL; 18 May 1832; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18320518-TC-JSM-01; CL 6:153-156.


Craigenputtoch, Dumfries, 18th May 1832—

My Dear Mill,

I did not remember, till your silence called it to my mind, that when friends part it is the travelling friend who must write first, and send the other notice of his existence and geographical position. Today I have a frank to London (or I make one); and so transmit you, in black on white, authentic assurance both that I am here, and that some news from you would be very welcome.

My time is too short for entering into particulars. I could write long idyllic paragraphs on the whistling of the Blackbirds, the budding of the Woods; how the people are all cutting Turf for fuel on the moors, and the grouse hatching; and unhappily the East Wind still blowing, and generally a sort of Reform Bill, of the Year, passing itself thro' the Upper House and the Under House, subject as the other Bill is to reactions enough. Suffice it to say that we are here, safe in our Patmos; and from this verge of Creation send many a kind thought towards some that are left pent up in the very heart of its activity. Greater contrast, as we often remark, could not be, than between the life-torrent of Fleet-Street and the Whinstone mountains of Nithsdale, where Silence, on her throne of crags, over her empire of heath and bog, rules supreme. Yet the blue Dome, I often say, overspans us here too: “this too is the World, the City of God.” Let no man become elegaic [sic], let him be epic and active. “There where thou art, there where thou remainest, be busy, be happy; let the present time and scene suffice thee.”1 What after all is the World anywhere but a Workshop; your best room in it, that where your Tools lie most convenient? Thus if we rejoice that Brick London and “the smok[e] of its torment,” is hundreds of miles away from us, must we not bear with patience the other feeling that Social London too is distant, and the scattered tones of Truth and Earnestness and kind Affection, that used to cheer us in the inane hubbub, are no longer audible? “Be busy, be happy”; above all, be busy!

My Business since I returned hither has been of a manifold rather than of an elevated character. I have sticked pease, set moletraps, rooted out three thousand docks; endured the horror of two Painters for three weeks; and scribbled down some pages of Mysticism. That last is my only work; the other is all mere clearing of the arena. I have a busy summer before me; which in these strange days is a blessing one ought to recognise.

The Corn Law Rhymer has got his Article; which if it be not of too “doctrinal” a character, you will see in the next Edinr Review. On the latter point, however, there are grounds for doubt: I am astonished to find on reading the thing over that it is “speculative-radical” to an almost frightful degree; and glances, in a poisonous manner, at Whiggism itself. Heaven pity poor Editors in these days! Men sent to journey among precipices and quagmires at twelve o'clock at night, and the most with hardly the quarter of an eye.— Your three little Volumes2 shall be faithfully sent round by Edinr, and forwarded thro' the Bookseller to your India House: if you want them sooner, let me know soon, and I will take some speedier method.— A little Paper entitled “Death of Goethe,” in Bulwer's next Magazine, is addressed to you among others; perhaps to Mrs Austin and you more than others.

I too saw the Wellington revolution,3—as I came from my Mother's in Annandale, last monday. They had burnt their poor patriot King at Annan; a Butcher was laid in jail for beheading him. The like at Dumfries. Nay I called in upon “the able Editor4 of the Dumfries and Galloway Courier” to see how it went with him; and found a man fuming and frothing, quite wonderful, like dog distract or monkey sick:5 “base, scandalous, infernal court-intrigue,” King Arthur,6 and what not. The able Editor's hair was all dishevelled, froth on his lips, a snuff-drop at his nose. Three times, in the void chill night, did I, otherwise melancholy enough, laugh aloud, while driving hither, at thought of that able Editor. Petitions, Addresses, Postp[one]ment of Birthday Dinners, and other terrific things were going on. A poor man [told] me that 130,000 men had marched from Birmingham to London; another had heard some rumour that “the Highlandmen were coming down.” Tout est perdu [All is lost]!

For my own share it seems to me that little is lost; that we know not whether something may not be gained. Here is a Dugald Dalgetty that professes to have no principle, except that of fighting as he is bid, as he engages himself; but who can fight, and will fight, knave tho' he be: we have discharged a Captain Bobadil,7 a soldier “of principle,” but who unhappily did not know what his principle was, wished much to fight for both sides, and so stood flourishing his weapon, for eighteen months, in sight of the whole expectant Universe, and drew no drop of blood. Peace be to him at all events! If we are to die, let it be by gunshot and cannonshot rather than by inanition and starvation. But on the whole, let Fonblanque or Bentham or some of these Chief Priests teach the people how to resist the Excise and assessed Taxes, and all and sundry will be most particularly happy to resist them.— The world, as I often declare, is actually gone distracted—with hard usage and insufficient diet. God help it, for I cannot.

Now you must undertake to write a long Letter almost without loss of time. I want to know about all London; about no man or thing in it more than about yourself. Believe this, and on your side lay it to heart. My Wife sends you her kind remembrances,—certified by me to be genuine. Write therefore. Affectionate regards to Mrs Austin, to Buller (who must write), to Fonblanque and your friend Wilson[.]8 We rejoice to see “A.B.”9 in the Examiner, and could almost think we heard him.

Your's always—

T. Carlyle