October 1831-September 1833

The Collected Letters, Volume 6


TC TO WILLIAM GLEN; 22 February 1833; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18330222-TC-WGL-01; CL 6:333-335.


18. Carlton Street, Stockbridge, Edinburgh / 22nd February, 1833—

My dear Glen,

At parting from you last year, I had an expectation that you would sometimes write to me; tidings of your welfare and progress, you knew well, could not be other than welcome. You have not written: and truly, now when I consider of it, nothing doubting your love and regard, which I judge of by my own, I rather respect you more for your silence.

I now despatch this hasty Line to assure you in words that Time and Distance have not at all diminished the interest I took in you; that I often figure your course there in that tumultuous Babylon; and long, yet with a sure hope, to learn that it is well with you. Worldly advancement, and renown, as you well understand, are not the things I covet for you: these will come of themselves, if they are to come; or can stay away, if they like that better: but the blessing of inward Clearness and Determination, that is a thing which I still keep prophecying for you, to which all else that is good shall infallibly be added. Know then still that you have and retain a Friend here, who watches your walk and warfare with true friendly interest, and cherishes all manner of wishes and hopes for you. So much, under my hand and seal, I thought it right, now within year and day, to make written affidavit of. Farther the Deponent scarcely sayeth; except that a long deliberate Letter, explaining faithfully your temporal and spiritual whereabout, is now much desired; that in any case where faculty of his can do you service, the shortest most undeliberate Letter ought to be trustfully sent forth. For the present I will but repeat my old motto: Fear nothing! The Devil, the World and the Flesh are powerful, but not all-powerful; there is in the spirit of every True Man a force to subdue all these. I hope finally that you are getting Ambition brought under (you are dreadfully ambitious); and learning the great lesson of “Entsagen [renunciation]”, a hard but a needful one, which men like you are specially called to learn, and help others to learn. In any case, pray resolve to tell me what you are about; in the candid historical style: it will do yourself too no harm.

We came hither, after eremitising in the Wilderness all Summer and Autumn about six weeks ago; with intent to see Men, if there were any such; at all events Books, for such we knew there were. We stay till April; then back again to the grim whinstones, there to commune with Time and Space, almost one's only company in those parts. I reckon it not unlikely that we may leave Craigenputtoch by and by; but how, when, or whither, all this is yet perfect mystery. If I break forth some day in Cockney-land, like some John Baptist, girt about with a leathern girdle, proclaiming anew with fierce Annandale intonation: “Repent ye, ye cursed scoundrels, for”1 &c &c you will not think it miraculous. Alas, I know not yet how it will be; some way I think it shall and must be.

John Mill writes to me now and then, and seldom omits some kind news of you. For my sake, like Mill as well as you can: he is an honest man and loves you, and means well by you. We learn from him that you were in Scotland last autumn, and missed Craigenputtoch; an omission we might justly take ill of you, but, as above hinted, do not. Your footstep in that hermitage had been a most joyful sound: behave more friend-like another time. I passed your Birthplace,2 one day last August: I was in one of my preternatural moods; the whole thing looks quite magical to me.

John is again in Rome, healthy, earnest, well; he has made many a friendly inquiry after you, which I answer according to ability. You may perhaps see him this Fall; possibly not too, for there is nothing fixed about it. His Patient is almost well. John himself seems to me in decided growth, and will become a Man one day; whether a famed Physician or not he begins to see is quite a secondary question.

Ask me not what I think of Edinburgh. The Advocates' Library is full of good Books, to which I have freest access. For the rest all is Scepticism, Dilettantism, Whiggism; nothing but oxen sheep and camels grazing in their places. Peace be with them. In the bottom of Carrubbers' Close,3 I understand, the gift of Tongues keeps up a faint inaudible Dissonance; there let it squeal ad libitum [as much as it pleases]. One Weir, a Tait's Magazine Advocate, slightly of my acquaintance, is gone to Glasgow, to edit some Radical Argus4 there: do you know anything of him or it? The Radicalism of Scotland is generally of most hunger-bitten character; a quite unproductive thing, as most other systems of opinion here are.

Have you learned German? Do you read Goethe yet. Begin it now, if you have till now neglected it.

Mrs Carlyle has never yet recovered her health: however she is recovering it, seems to enjoy Edinburgh, much better than London. She sends you her kind remembrances, and hopes you have now given up “the excessive anxiety to produce an effect on Society”: these are her words.

And so God bless you! I remain always, / My Dear Glen, / Faithfully your Friend,

T. Carlyle—