October 1831-September 1833

The Collected Letters, Volume 6


TC TO JOHN STUART MILL; 28 August 1832; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18320828-TC-JSM-01; CL 6:209-213.


Craigenputtoch, Dumfries, 28th August 1832—

My Dear Mill,

I have waited several weeks for franks, for your return out of Cornwall, for leisure to write in; and will now wait no longer, but write without leisure, or any other furtherance; considering, as I might have done from the first, that a few copper Pence will carry this sheet to you in any quarter of the British dominions, and the mere superscription and signature will find it welcome. Nay probably enough you are returned, and sitting quietly at work in the India House; wondering a little, I hope, now and then whether the Postman will bring you no news of me.

Your Letters are honest genuine Letters, and always give me great pleasure. I prize much the feeling you entertain towards me; which indeed is of the sort the most precious, for both parties, that man can bear for man. In your critical estimate of me I can easily enough foresee that a few years will produce a wonderful reduction, and your “Artist” will stand forth in his true dimensions, an honest Artisan: but even this in these days is something; and always it will be flattering and encouraging that a man of your clearness and cool deliberateness could so exaggerate me.1 Neither, after all, does our relation depend on that; nor need any length of years diminish or disturb it; for it rests on a true basis, and is a relation between two Somethings, and not between two Nothings,—the ratio or quotient of which, as you doubtless know, is quite indefinite and imaginary, and fluctuates between infinitude and zero.— Meanwhile, be that as it may, I am to reiterate my request for Letters; wherein too, pray understand, I am not singular but plural, at least dual, the Lady also joining in it, with whom you have the honour to be a first-rate favourite. I will beg you also nowise to forget the historical department, that of Biography, above all of Autobiography. Remember that we here, in the wilderness, far from being afflicted with excess of News, are in a starving state for want of them; the smallest authentic contribution is valuable. Were you to tell me only that you had met such a one at such a time walking in the Strand ‘with his hat upon his head,’2 you have no notion what I could make of it in the moors! All mortals one has known are interesting; doubly and trebly so those one loves: fancy that I can here know nothing of any one, and would so gladly know all.

We have sometimes been reflecting of late on the impossibility of your spending this Vacation with us: ‘not only so much that was impossible but so much that was possible is denied one’! However, we take it for settled, unless something special intervene, that the next turn is to be ours; and these lone wilds are to hear your voice and mine. We will show you a new phasis of life; which, as it too lies under the heavenly Vault, may be worth looking at, till you have understood it. Perhaps there is no Philosopher in the Earth that now leads so wonderful an existence as mine. Whinstone mountains, peat-bog; bare wolds alternating with primeval crags and the shade of leafy trees; peopled with Galloway oxen, grouse and blackfaced sheep, and here and there a brown-faced herdsman: this is my environment. Uttermost solitude; except my ‘Life-companion’ no human soul with which to commune: sometimes there are weeks in which one does not speak a word to any other mortal. I have a long Terrace, of two miles or more, called the road of the ‘Glaisters Hill-side,’ where I walk, and look away into Ayrshire, and over the granite of Galloway; a grim scene, where your Thought is interrupted by hardly any living object, and stretches almost of itself into the regions of Eternity; for Desolation, Solitude, is the most eternal of things; left so to himself Man is a kind of preternatural being, and in a Patmos may well write an Apocalypse. Were I of the spasmodic School,3 I could gnash my teeth, now and then, over such a banishment: but my creed lies not that way; I reflect rather what deluges of Folly and Falsehood I stand safe from; in any case, that here also is a Heaven above me, and the first and last blessedness of man: honest work to toil at. So I work with great fury, ride with great fury for exercise, smoke with great fury for amusement; and ever and anon, when I have finished some little thing, dash down for two days into the low country, and see friends; can still see a Mother and true Brothers, my brave Father I can now no longer see. On the whole, it is a tolerable life; and I thank God for it; and pray only that I may transact it wisely; and all else wisely that his Decrees may have allotted me. It is only in Idleness that I am unhappy, am contemptible; and then I deserve to be so.

On Wednesday night come our Papers and our Letters. What a night! You should hear our little Messenger4 come trotting in, with groceries, and philosophies, and political revolutions and friendly vows, all packed promiscuously together in his holsters; and how one starts to think what a week may have brought forth. The Manuscript once despatched, our first clutch is at the Examiner; and we see Fonblanque and you warning mankind of the wrath to come.5 Here, however, I must mention, that our London Correspondent from time to time disappoints us (as for example, last week), and there is no Examiner; a most melancholy case! For which reason I have long purposed stating it to you, and asking whether there was no help. You must understand, our Post-night answers to the Monday of London; so that a secondhand Examiner is perfectly as good for us as a new one. But then the unpunctuality of men! And one omission destroys one's confidence for many weeks. The question therefore is: Have you (whom I believe to be like myself as punctual as clockwork) an Exr that you can part with for Monday's post, or do you know how such were procurable? I should like it of all things from you; the writing on the cover is so interesting for its own sake. Tell me if you can do anything. If not, I believe I must order a first-hand Paper, and let it lie wasting its sweetness for two whole days in the desert Postbag.6

Did you get your Books? They were sent off, as I announced; they may be forgotten at Longman's, at Edinr: tell me, and I will stir again. You offer to lend me books; and God knows I have much need of books. I accept you, therefore; send me any new thing you can spare and think interesting; for example, Dumont's Mirabeau, Babbage's two Books;7 conceive that I see in general nothing but some Reviews and Magazines, and have the truest pleasure [in] whatsoever throws light on any human thing. Nay you may have old books that are new to me; could you give me some outline of your stock? I command the Edinburgh Libraries when I exert myself: but I have no right agent there; and often before the Book come my reading time is over. For the rest, this is your method of despatch: Address to me here “care of Messrs M'Kinnel & M'Kie Booksellers Dumfries,” and leave it with Fraser, 215 Regent-Street, it will come up (once I have explained it to him) fast and cheap with his Magazines. I know another way, if this will not answer. Pray try it soon; and send a long Letter at all events. If you have not got that Mirabeau, that Babbage, do not in the smallest mind them.

Alas, the sheet is done, and I am hardly beginning. Tell Buller to get into a reformed Parliament that one may have a frank now and then, and some elbow-room for writing.— I procured Tait's second Number, and read your Essay,8 and found it true: all the rest was very barren and unfruitful; I have seen nothing more of it. Six Numbers of Bulwer9 I got also: well-meaning, but narrow, narrow; not the web at all, only the mere (political) listing. I have too become acquainted with a new phasis of mind; what I could call Oxford Liberalism. Fonblanque is the only clever man among them; a man whom one grudges to see a mere Radical, and thereby obliged to turn all his fine spirit into contemptuous bitterness. I saw Buller too; and endured another dose of poor Puckler10 for his sake. Two years or three ago, I remember, “Bishop Heber”11 was almost equally distressing: for what you understand once, you would fain not be taught an hundred times. Heber, however, passed away, and there was silence; as again there will be. Buller's Paper is the only reasonable one I have seen on the business. And guess what I am now reading. Oeuvres de Diderot: 25 octavos, at the rate of one a-day; whereof you will hear somewhat by and by. For the present it is over.— Write soon. Vale mei memor [Farewell remember me]!— T. Carlyle—

Do you still see Glen? My Brother often asks about him, and I can say nothing. Be patient be kind towards Glen: he may be worth it one day. Did he not write something about Fanny Kemble? I said: Aut Glennus aut Diabolus [Either Glen or the Devil].12 It is like the first staggering walk, of a Steer that will one day draw waggons; as yet all zigzag, splayfooted and heteroclite. William Fraser, I fear, will go over to the Dandies: I shall mourn for him; there was worth in him: let us still hope. And now once more (with new wishes from both of us) Farewell! T. C.

Remember me in all affection to Mrs Austin, who I hope is busy and well, and see her husband so too. To my dear Bullers also— I have nothing new that I think of at Press; you have it all out, and I am done with it. Corn-Law unaltered, untouched: there is Life in Macvey!

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