October 1831-September 1833

The Collected Letters, Volume 6


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE; 10 February 1833; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18330210-TC-JAC-01; CL 6:314-323.


Edinburgh, 18. Carlton Street, Stockbridge / 10th Feby, 1833

My Dear Brother,

Your Letter of the 17th January1 arrived four days ago; to my great satisfaction, for I had begun to get rather impatient about you; and indeed had it not been for the Scotsbrig Letter, notice of which was promptly communicated, I should have been seriously anxious. Let us be thankful that all hitherto, in spite of our hypochondrias, has gone well! We will, as you say, continue writing one a month, let the Letters “overlap” one another or not: eight weeks, with the accidents which might make it far longer, is too long to wait. Another Letter of mine dated here about a month ago, and I rather conjecture still another from Craigenputtoch (after the Ecclefechan one) were upon the road when you wrote; but must now, we shall hope, be happily in your hands.

Comparing your last accounts with what sister Jane wrote me, I gather that there is nothing fixed as to Lady Clare's departure, and the length of your engagement with her: so whether to forecast seeing you this year, or not for another year, one cannot decide.2 Neither indeed do I know what we ought to wish about it, had we the fixing of it that way: another three hundred pounds, likely to be useful enough for your medical outfit, seems almost all the benefit a third year in Italy would yield; while, on the other hand, apart from the brotherly satisfaction of meeting you sooner, I cannot but desire to see you once fairly entered on what I call your permanent Future, and begun to work there. We will therefore the more readily leave it to Providence (which watches over the fall of a sparrow); and be as heretofore ready for either way of it. Fear nothing, my dear Brother: I discern surer and surer symptoms of inward clearness and steadfastness being vouchsafed you; a man, who knows his own aim, and has once set his face towards it, bids farewell to Fear. Nothing in truth, can be better news to me than the tidings you, as it were indirectly, send me of your spiritual growth;3 for the true force of a man lies in the spirit; it is thereby alone that he lives the slave of every accident, or walks forth invincible, be his outward accoutrement and wages whatsoever they may. Have Faith, then, have a sure Hope: Faith and Hope depend on no ancient Tradition believed or unbelieved; but are in all times in all places, the immediate gift of God to every faithful son of God. Rejoice too, if thro' whatever horrid tribulation, you have attained or approximated that priceless possession of being faithful, of being true; a thing possible always, but in these days more difficult than for the last eighteen centuries it has been.— To descend however, a little nearer Earth, I will assure you that the last Roman Letter seems to me one of the most comfortable I ever got from you. There is a soundness of judgement in it, a quiet honesty; and withal such a tolerance as I for one have great cause to envy. You see the working and wayfaring of your fellow creatures there; and, so far as there is profit in it, profit thereby; leaving the much there is no profit in simply to rest on its own basis, yourself, as is right and wise, passing quietly by on the other side. This is very good. We are also much gratified, as by a practical proof of your well-doing to learn that you have Patients; who trust in you, whom you are enabled to help. Caution I reckon the very first principle of true Medicine: nevertheless be not sceptical; much good may be done, were the man there to do it; about all, remember to your comfort this aphorism of Richter's: “the good Physician saves, if not from the disease, yet from the bad Physician!”4 This is a very true thing; a very important one too. My own distinct impression is that you have a real talent for Medicine; that you will, if God spare you alive, make it known that you have such, and in a manful career of help-bringing see daily the clearest fruits of such. I can wish you no higher blessedness: all the rest that is fit or necessary, will follow of itself. Persevere then, and prosper! The Future will bring us good, and evil which we may change into good. Esperons!

However, we must now quit Philosophy, and get a little of History. I have not been idle during the last month; tho' not employed in the way I most approve of. Since the Article Diderot, written in October, and not yet published, I have never put pen to paper, till last week when I began a Piece for Fraser to be entitled “Cagliostro,”5 I had found some Books about that Quack here: it will take me about three weeks; and do well enough as a parergon. A new fluctuation has come over my mode of Publication lately; so that the things most at heart with me must lie in abeyance for some time. It begins to be presumable that the Edinburgh Review can no longer be my vehicle: for this reason, were there no other, that Napier is among the worst of payers. What the poor man means I know not; most likely he is in utter want of cash: but at any rate he needs to be twice dunned before money will come from him; and at present owes me some £30, for which a third dunning will be requisite. This then simply will not do. We will look elsewhere; take new measures; as indeed solidity or permanence of any kind in Authorship is at this time not to be looked for; your foundation is like that of a man supporting himself in bog-lakes on floating sheaves or sods: the massiest will sink in a minute or two, and you must look out for new. Fraser whose Magazine I call the mud one (in contradistinction to Tait's, or the Sahara-sand one) is very fond of me, and at bottom an honest creature; Tait also would be glad to employ me; as poor Cochrane actually is: on the whole, as I told poor Murray the other day while he was advising and encouraging me, “Allah bis mallah, God is great; we shall find means!” Teufelsdreck cannot see the light this summer, tho' I remain determined to spend a sixty pounds on him, when convenient: also, most probably, neither now nor at any other time will I treat again with Booksellers about such a matter. Suffering the skaith [damage], we may at least go without the scorn:6 in the Bookseller, himself a condemned man, lies no help for us. Teufelk (whom by the by I mean to call Teufelsdröckh7) is worth little, yet also not worth nothing; I fancy there are from four to five hundred young men in the British Isles, whom he would teach many things; and sure enough, they, and not the fire, shall have him. Glen, for example, read him thrice; Henry Inglis too (what is still stranger) has vehemently seized the meaning of him. So much for that.— Meanwhile, I have been reading violently: about the Scotch Kirk (in Knox and others); about the French Revolution (in Thiers, which Mill sent me), about the Diamond Necklace, the Greek Revolt, and what not. I read with the appetite of one long starved; am oftenest of all in the Advocates' Library, and dig not without result there. My head is never empty, neither is my heart, tho' the contents of both are by times rugged enough. They must even be elaborated; made smooth and sweet. I could write whole Volumes, were there any outlet; and will (if God spare me) both write them, and find an outlet. These Books I fancy will be one of our main conquests in Edinburgh.— As to the men here, they are beautiful to look upon, after mere blackfaced Sheep; yet not persons of whom instruction, or special edification in any way, is to [be] expected. From a Highlander you once for all cannot be breeckes [trousers]. Sir W. Hamilton is almost the only earnest character I find in this City; we take somewhat to each other; meet sometimes, with mutual satisfaction, always with good will. George Moir has got a house in Northumberland Street, a Wife too and infants; is become a Conservative, settled every way into Dilettante, not very happy I think, dry, civil, and seems rather to feel unheimlich [uneasy] in my company. Aus dem wird Nichts [Nothing will become of him]. Weir8 has become a Radical spouter; and they say, is gone or going to Glasgow to start as “able Editor.” Did I tell you, by the way, that London-Spectator Douglas9 had come to Dumfries in that capacity; and was weekly emitting a Radical Dumfries Times there? A company of malcontent writers and others had made a joint-stock for that end; it is feared, unsuccessfully. John Gordon is true as steel to his old loves; otherwise a rather somnolent man: we see him pretty often: he has got appointed College Clerk (or some such thing) lately; has now near three hundred a year, and is happy enough for the time. Mitchell is quiet, in very poor health, yet cheerful, hopeful even: a respectable Schoolmaster now and henceforth. I saw a large didactic Company at dinner with him yesterday (for nothing else would satisfy him); and astonished them, I fear, with my expositions of Belief and Radicalism, as compared with Opinion and Whiggism. There was one “old stager,” a Doctor Brown,10 Travelling tutor, College-lecturer, statist, geologist, spiritual scratcher and scraper in all senses: a cold, sharp, hard, unmalleable “Logic Chopper,” good to behold—at rare intervals. There was also one Advocate Semple,11 an overfoaming Kantist, the best-natured and liveliest of small men; a very bottle of champagne (or soda-water) uncorked.12 We did well enough.— The Advocate came jigging up to us very often; but is now gone to London: he asked kindly for you, and desired to be kindly remembered to his “old friend the Doctor.” I dined with him once (Jane could not go) and met there a Mrs Fletcher13 (celebrated among Litterateurs here), whom we have since seen and liked: Dr Thomson14 also, a mean poor kind of man. Look at him, Doctor; and cease misgivings. Macvey Napier (besides his being “forever in the small-debt Court”!) is a man of wooden structure; limited in all ways: I do not dislike him, but feel that I can get no good of him. Wilson who is said to be grown far quieter in his habits, has only come athwart me once: he too, Lion as he is, cannot look at me, as I look at [h]im, with free regard; but eyes me from behind veils, doubtful of some mischance from me, political or other: I suppose I shall see little of him; and at bottom need not care. I could tell you about other people enow: but here surely I ought to stop for once. As to our own special Befinden [state of being], we are quite peaceable, content for the present; tho' both of us have a dirty underfoot kind of catarrh for the last three weeks; whereby Jane in particular suffers considerable—vexation rather than pain. Otherwise she is at least not worse: old Dr Hamilton15 (of the cocked hat) attends her; really a sagacious-looking old fellow, whose procedure exterts [extorts?] even my approval; the rather, as he says, almost nothing can be done but what herself and Time are already doing. We “go out” not often, yet oftener than we wish; have society enough, the best the ground yields; the time for returning will too soon be here. As I said last time, perhaps your final arrangement may throw some light on ours: for tho' in the mean while there can be no thought of leaving Puttoch, I have not abated in my dislike for that residence, in my conviction that it is no longer good for me. Of solitude I have really had enough: you would be surprised, I am much surprised myself at the wondrous figure I often make when I rejoin my fellow-creatures. The talent of conversation, tho' I generally talk enough and to spare, has as it were quite forsaken me. In place of skilful adroit fencing and parrying, as were fit and usual, I appear like a wild monstrous Orson among the people, and (especially if bilious) smash everything to pieces. The very sound of my voice has got something savage-prophetic: I am as a John Baptist, girt about with a leathern girdle, and whose food is locusts and wild honey.16 One must civilize; it is really quite essential: here too, as in all things, practice alone can teach. However, we will wait, and watch; and do nothing rashly. Time will offer us much; Time and Chance happen unto all men.17 I have work for the present season; under conditions that I understand: let this suffice me.

Of the Annandale people I have still mostly good to tell you. Our Mother is well, and the rest of them: I have written to her twice; have bought her a Thomas a Kempis, and mean to send it next week by Dumfries, with your Letter, and one from myself. Poor Alick has lost his infant son, in rather a stern way: his Wife awoke him one night with an exclamation that she “did not hear the bairn breathing!” The poor little creature was gone; they called the disease Hives: I wrote to Alick too, comforting him as I could. You will find him very considerably improved when you return: his Farm seems to be quite tolerably prosperous; they are all doing, as times go, rather well.— I have now, thro' Mill, got Badams's address (somewhere about Paddington18), and will prevail on T. Holcroft to write me word how they are going on. Of Glen nothing for many weeks: I mean to write him a Note also someday. When you return to London, you must see Mill: he is growing quite a Believer mystisch gesinnt [inclined to mysticism], yet with all his old Utilitarian Logic quite alive in him. A remarkable sort of man; faithful, one of the faithfullest (yet with so much calmness) in these parts. The Austins talk of going to live in Berlin; too poor for continuing in London. Mrs Montague wrote to Jane lately: she had been to see Irving (in Newman Street); he had fitted up “five bedrooms and a sitting-room for strangers and pious clergymen,” had a large audience, and was going on at a great rate. The Tongues perform here in Carrubers Close,19 but with smallest effect. The Dow20 and my namesake21 are the Choragi [leaders of the chorus]. There has also a “Church society”22 organised itself here, the avowed aim of which is to root out Established Churches altogether. Peddie23 and other Dissenters, all zealously religious men, are the main people: it is a sign of the times. Finally another society (some churchmen in it)24 to get patronage abolished; in which aim, it is conjectured, they will succeed. This is an unrestful age.— But here my dear Jack I must break off. Continue as your last Letter describes you: honest, clear, composed. Question the Abbete farther. Still move your Lucien Secretary.25 My kind love to the d'Eichthals:26 Adolphe I find well remembered here; assure Gustave that I affectionately regard him, and rejoice that he is out of Saint Simonism. “Diligent in business, fervent in spirit, serving God!”27 Fear nothing; hope all things; “no good thing shall be withheld.”28— Ever your true Brother, T. Carlyle

I have not written to W. Graham either: do you. It will give real pleasre[.] Tom Grahame29 is here; unsuccessful as an Advocate, radical & rather sulphurous.

Mrs Strachey wrote lately inquiring the address of “Miss Morries;”30 I answered: Rome; and that the character must be large. Mrs S. (at Torquay) seemed calm, and full of devoutness.

The reading of this Letter will serve you for a week; Jane has (much to my dissatisfaction) partly crossed it: here, however, I end, tho' of material there is no end. James Johnston and still more his Wife are said to be in weak health, otherwise doing extremely well. Gordon and all your friends make faithful inquiries for you. Addio Fratello [Farewell brother]!

Dequincey is here, said to be in jail; at all events, invisible.31

I have a Germn Transln of the Art. Goethe,32 very ill done, praised and judged by a Stupidissimus.

Diderot (I learn this minute) is to come out in April. Cochrane “appeals” in a begging way that I would take out a certain small section of it. I mean to comply: near 50 pages will remain[.]33

[JWC's postscripts:]

My dear John if I kept my word no better in my daily walk and conversation than I do in this matter of writing I should deserve to be forthwith drummed out of creation—but I beg you to believe my failure here an exception to the general rule— In truth I am always so sick now and so heartless that I cannot apply myself to any mental effort without a push from Necessity. And as I get the benefit of your letters to Carlyle—and see how faithfully he pays you back, I always persuade myself when the time comes that there is no call on me to strike into the correspondence.— But I can assure you my silence has nothing to do with indifference[.] I watch your thun und lassen [activities] with a true sisterly interest—and rejoice with husband to see you in so hopeful a course—every one gets the start of poor me! Indeed for the last year I have not made an inch of way but sat whimpering on a mile stone alamenting over the roughness of the road— If you would come home and set my “interior” to rights it would wonderfully facilitate the problem of living for me—but perhaps it is best for me that it should not be made easier. Mrs Austin said she had “to do all the hoping of her family”— Carlyle has to do all the hoping here, and does it bravely— God bless you— Think of me with toleration and affection— Your sincere friend Jane W C

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