October 1831-September 1833

The Collected Letters, Volume 6


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE; 31 July 1832; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18320731-TC-JAC-01; CL 6:191-197.


Craigenputtoch, Dumfries, 31st July 1832—

My Dear Brother,

Good wife Macadam brought us your Letter of the 4th from church with her on Sunday evening: it is the way the three last have happened to come; so we shall begin to esteem it a happy omen when our neighbour thinks of getting a sermon. God be thanked it is all right; you are well and have now heard that we are well! Another Letter sent off thro' the Advocate by the Foreign Office will be already in your hands: we shall henceforth eschew Willm Fraser as we would the Genius of Impotence itself, and trust mainly to the Post, which tho' it has loitered has never yet absolutely deceived us. I lament for poor Fraser; a worthy friendly creature; but whose utter unpunctuality, in a world built on Time, will frustrate every endeavour he may engage in,—except the last, that of quitting Life, which probably will be transacted in right seasons. I am angry too, as well as sorry: this idle losing of Letters is a stretch of carelessness to which even the peasants of Glenessland1 are superior; entrust any of them with a Letter, he knows it must be attended to. Fraser, to all appearance, has also wasted my last Letter to Goethe: at least no message yet reaches me from Weimar; and I wrote to Eckermann last week on that hypothesis. Fie! Fie! The foolish Fraser. I will ask him, however, what has become of all these papers; and have them back, if they are not burnt. And now, Doctor, taking to ourselves this practical lesson to be for our share in all things doubly and trebly punctual, we will leave the ‘unfortunate’ man, and the thing he has made unfortunate. All is right, at last.

Both of us were heartily gratified with your Letter. I have the cheering sight before me of a prophecy often pronounced and asserted, realising itself: Jack is to be a man after all. Your outward relations seem all prosperous and well managed; your character is unfolding itself into true self-subsistence: in the work appointed you to do you not only seem to work, but actually work. For the rest, let us be patient under this delay and separation: both were perhaps necessary; in any case, if we improve them, will turn to good fruits. I quarrel not with your solitude or with anything you do, so it bring yourself contentment and the feeling of profit: this is the best and only rule you can have. Nevertheless I have always found that companionship, with any man that will speak out truly his experiences and persuasions (so he have such) was a most precious ingredient in the history of one's life; a thing one turns back to, and finds evermore new meaning in; for indeed this is real, and therefore inexhaustible (God made that man you speak with); all else is more or less theoretical and incomplete. Indeed, in every sense, one is but an unhealthy Fraction while alone; only in society with his equals a whole. For which reasons it gratifies me to learn that you make acquaintance with Gell and old Squares the Doctor.2 I could like well to know both of them. Sir W. (ein Bornirter den man muss gelten lassen [a narrowminded person whom one must approve of]) will make an excellent Cicerone, can tell you all about Troy too, and who knows w[ha]t Itineraries; Quadri will satirically show you Italian quackery, and how an adust hot temperament demeans itself therein. I must also esteem it no small felicity you naturally have: that of associating with a thoroughly courteous socially-cultivated woman. No higher piece of Art is there in the world. Schone sie, verehre sie [Take care of her, honor her]! Your whole law lies there: the weak lovely one will be loved, honoured and protected: is not in truth a noble woman (noblewoman or not) Gottes Lieblichste[r] Gedanke [God's most pleasing thought], and worth reverencing? Be diligent with your Journal: note everything, let it seem noteworthy or not. Have no eye towards publication; but only towards self-enlightenment and pleasant recollection: publication, if it seem needful, will follow of its own accord. Goethe's Italian Travels3 are a fine model: alles rein angeschaut wie es ist und seyn muss [everything clearly seen as it is and must be]. I often figure you in the Toledo-street, with lemonade booths and macaroni-cookeries, and loud-singing, loud-speaking multitudes, on the lov[e]liest spot of Earth's surface: I here on the Glaister's hill side, in the warm dusk, the wilderness all vapoury and silent except a curlew or two, the great Heaven above me; around me only the spirits of the Distant, of the Dead. All has a preternatural character; unspeakably earnest, sad but nowise wretched.— You may tell me if you like what German books your Lady reads; and on the whole be more and more minute in picturing out to me the current of your ‘natural Day.’ I even want to know what clothes you wear, what sort of victual you subsist on.

To turn now the Scottish side of the leaf: I have finished Goethe's Works, and corrected the Proofs of it, since I wrote: a long desultory, rhapsodic concern of 44 pages in the F.Q. Review. These are no days for speaking of Goethe. I next went over to Catlinns and Scotsbrig, leaving Jane at Templand (who rued much that she had volunteered to stay behind me). The Catlinns agriculture was all green and prospering: the Farmer with wife and child had gone over to Brand's of Craighouse; whither I followed them; and, strange enough, was shortly after joined by Jamie and my Mother: all engaged that evening to have tea there! Everything was as one could have hoped: crops all excellent, good health, good agreement, good weather. I drove our Mother to Annan next forenoon (in the Clatch, as we call the old Gig, which the new grey mare briskly draws along); went and bathed there at the “Back of the Hill” (in the very spot, I think, where I was near drowning, six and twenty years ago;4 whither I will not return); found Ben Nelson (it was market-day), dined with him and talked immeasurably all afternoon, tho' I had much rather have listened, if he had liked. Ben asked kindly about you; looked clear and free, no grayer than last time. He has lost his Brother Jonathan; his son Edward is at Botany (for Doctorship) at Edinburgh, but coming home soon, and even (as Ben asserted) up hither. James Little I saw walking with an incipient pot-belly; Dr Irving unchanged in look, metallic tone of voice, or hollow courtesy; Thom superintending builders; George Dalgliesh in grey summer coat, a milkfaced married man: to this last I nodded; did not even nod to any of the rest, but walked as a ghost at noontide. My Mother was at R. Brown's all the time; the Clatch and mare at Robinson's. Waugh did not turn up anywhere; Devitry is gone elsewhere: such is the medical world. I was at Annan another bathing day, but missed Ben. However, we chanced to meet on Dodbeck heights next Wednesday morning as I was returning home; appointed a rendezvous at our inn, and there over a thimblefull of brandy and water talked again for the space of two stricken hours.5 Waugh I now asked for, and heard this strangest history: lying among the pots, forgotten of men, he sees his Aunt Margaret die (poor old Peg!), and himself thereby put in possession of £50 as inheritance. Whereupon shaving his beard, and putting on change of raiment, he walks down to—Benson's,6 and there orders fodder and stall of the best; reigns among the Bagmen to heart's content; shifts after a season to the King's Arms Dumfries; and there or in some similar establishment is perhaps even now (related Ben) burning his fifty-pound candle to the socket, and going out in stench! Saw mortal ever the like? The man, Doctor, is once for all deprived of understanding the greatest misfortune (properly the only one) that can befal a man. He hath said to the Father of No-work and Darkness: Behold I am thine!— Let me mention here more specially before quit[t]ing Annandale that at Scotsbrig, all was busy and right; hay harvest was at its height the day I came off, and prosperin[g] well. Our Mother seemed in better than usual health; was delighted with her two bathes, and should ha[ve had another but] the Clat[ch] failed, and needed repair. She said often: “I kenna how many kind things I wanted to bid [thee say for] me to John; and thou was ay gane first.” I said that you understood them all; and I constan[tly wrote with] pains about Scotsbrig and her.— I am to write thither this night, and send your Letter, as [a word or two missing] use: Alick also I will write to; our Boy is going to exchange horses with him for a week [until] we get the rest of our coals carted. Our Newspapers go between these households, and sometimes from one to the other: there is all community that we can kept up, frequent messages, constant goodwishes[.]

Since I returned, I have been employed translating a little piece named Novelle7 from the 15th volume of Goethe, and revising an old translation of THE Mährchen with intent to add some commentary; and offer both Papers to James Fraser. I have an Essay to write on Diderot (for Cochrane) and all his 21 octavos lying here to read first; shall do it, any way, invita Minerva [without inspiration];8 and may as well begin even now. I have upwards of 100 pages to put out of me before winter: stand to it; nulla dies sine linea [no day without a line]!9 As to Dreck, he lies quite calm here bound up in twine: my partial purpose is to spend another £50 on him, and have him printed by and by myself. I in some measure see thro' the matter, not yet wholly. One thing I imagine to be clear enough: that Bookselling, slain by Puffery, is dead, and will not come alive again, tho worms for some time may live on the carcase. What method writers (who have something to write) shall next take is now the question. In a generation or two, the answer (summed up from the procedure of wise inventive men) will be forthcoming. To us any way Martyrdom is the thing appointed; in this and all other generations, only the degree of it, the outward figure of it vary. Thank God, we have still food and vesture, and can still get a thing spoken out and printed: more we need not covet; more is not necessary. I have a thing to send Napier on all this; but it is in petto [in my private thoughts] yet. Meanwhile we get along tolerably enough; all, as you fancied, is tight tidy and peaceable here: a flourishing garden (with blackbirds devouring the fruits), even apples a basket or two, roses innumerable: a park walled in (this was poor Alick's last act here) so that the “rowan-tree-gate” and all gates but the outer one removed, and cow and horses graze at ease: a monstrous peatstack against grim winter: money in one's purse, faith in one's heart: what is there wanting? So we live here: a wunderliches abgesondertes Wesen [curious secluded existence]! Jane drives down to Dumfries tomorrow with the Boy, and takes this Letter. She is far enough from perfect health still; yet certainly improving; she greets you affectionately, was much pleased with your letter,— especially that part when you speak so sensibly about a good wife, and the blessedness she brings!— I have some thought that we shall see [ourselves] in Edinburgh this winter; printing of Dreck and what not. I have Mill, and Mrs Austin Jane has occasional correspondents in London: Mill and Glen are acquainted, tho' it is mostly on Mill's side; Glen is so fencible a character, so near madness moreover. Mill's letters are too speculative, but I reckon him an excellent person, and his love to me is great! He tells me Glen got your Naples letter, was much contented therewith, and well. His other news are: the decease, at least paralysis, of St-Simonism; and London Politics, for which I care less every day. Buller is trying for Lisk[e]ard Borough, with hopes: the Election will not be for several months; no dissolution till winter.— George Irving was at Annan at his Father's funeral, for two days. Edward it seems is summoned to answer for himself before the Annan Presbytery, and will come, and be deposed. The time is near; whether I shall see him, uncertain. He is preaching in the fields about London; at Hampstead Heath, his precentor in a tree (last account I saw): there was also a paragraph about building him a new Church. His old congregation have offered Somebody £1000 a year; whether he takes it, not said. The Dows10 are both out, the last of them resigned: it is wholly a beastly piece of Ignorance and Stupidity, too stupid even for the gross head of England. That the High, the Holy can find no other lodging than that swinish one is even the misery. God mend it,—and us!— Tom Holcroft sends us the Examiner (less punctually than were good); of Badams no news since we left him in Bartlett's Buildings, gone from Enfield, with no good outlook moral or domestic. Poor Badams! Wie gern möcht ich Dich retten [how I would like to save you]!— Graham is still in Glasgow, no tidings could I get of him farther: Burnswark unsold.— So goes the world here, dear Brother: the weather is hot; the year is fertile beyond all example; the Simple hope from the Reform Bill; electioneering flourishes, in which I take no interest. Cholera is at Carlisle, and somewhat worse than ever in London: none of us are in the least alarmed at it; be not you either.11— I have still the margins; but could fill another sheet or two were it here.

I paid Alick £45”8 of your money, the £5”8 was a Tailor's account: and you now owe him nothing. I sent Jeffrey word that you had remitted me £43”10 (specifying the items) to pay him, and that I, not you, was now (till I could get the Dumfries Banker seen) his debtor: he answers gratified by your punctuality, and I will now clear him off the first time I am at Dumfries. He says you have justified what I thot unjustifiable: Gott sey Dank [Thank the Lord]!12— I am in no need of money, otherwise I wd freely take your help, and will continue as ready if you prove worthy. I can now pay the Advocate my own debt (had I once got my accounts in), and have a fifty pounds over[.] Another hundred, to be earned as fast as may be, will clear Edinr, and even print Dreck. Or Dreck can lie unprinted, till the means be lent me. So “one hand will wash the other”;13 and we shall do very well. Jeffrey is perhaps on his road to Edinburgh today: he is Candidate for the Membership there, and has a radical opponent and a tory[.]14 All men are disappointed in him a little; but remember his past services.

Allan Cunningham has sent out a little Poem (Maid of Elvar); very meritorious in spirit, in form deplorable; hat wenig oder nichts zu bedeuten [means little or nothing]. Walter Scott, you will see, has got to Abbotsford; seems easier a little; and greets his birthland, soon to be his grave! It is appointed for all.

Jane says she will write you a complete Letter next time: this is the thing she says, let us see whether she will perform. I will not fail to remind her if that will do.— And now dear Brother adieu! Valeas mei memor [Farewell remember me]!— T. Carlyle.

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