October 1833-December 1834

The Collected Letters, Volume 7


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE; 1 October 1833; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18331001-TC-JAC-01; CL 7:3-10.


Craigenputtoch, 1st October, 1833—

My Dear Brother,

All your Letters came punctually to hand; the last one from Calais1 on the Sunday, as you hoped; greatly to our solacement, and to our Mother's, to whom this like the others was without delay transmitted. The Wednesday you appointed me to write on for Milan, at least the Tuesday preceding it, having now arrived, you shall find no less punctuality in me. Jane and I are for Dumfries tomorrow, on shopping business; where I will despatch this sheet myself. Let us hope that it will find you safe over the Alps, and in good heart to enjoy the comfort [that] may lie in it. You did not say, at Calais, when you were to write again; nevertheless I calculate on again hearing from you before you reach Italy; perhaps from Lausanne, or even some nearer resting place?

We often try a little to picture out your route up the Rhine, in the vintage-season: but our knowledge is too imperfect, your own data for us were too unfixed; the whole swims in vagueness, and only our affectionate wishes can go with you. My Mother charged me, thro' Jean, in answer to the Letter she got to say that she was much satisfied with it, and sent you her heart's-blessing. For me too at present there is little else of importance to be said. I reckoned favourably of your Company, from the little glimpses you gave us into it: there is, to all appearance, goodness enough in it to ensure moderate peace, and let the diverse elements there brought together work with moderate harmony. Discords too will come, discords are nowhere wanting and can be nowhere wanting in this Earth; but these, as you know, are properly but “unregulated concords,” and I think will prove no deeper or greater than are essential for the music. You are all kindly people, trustful and deserving trust; of few travelling or resting Parties can so much be said. As for you, continue to remember always that even in regulating those same “unregulated concords” does, in all situations, the wise man's task and happiness lie.

With regard to Craigenputtoch and ourselves there has nothing of the smallest moment happened since you heard last: no news either here or at Scotsbrig; which means at least no bad news. We have had visitors enough; too many sometimes. On that Wednesday Night before you left London, William Graham made his appearance; the white horse glimmered on me thro' the trees as I stood pruning among them, and next moment the honest man and I were exchanging our somewhat boisterous salutations. He staid till Friday, amid rather bad weather, and rather wearisome conversation (for he has become altogether rustic in his ideas), yet with much honest feeling on all sides; and then on Friday, he and I rode over together to Templand, and spent the night (tolerably enough) there; and parted next day at Auldgarth,2 Graham being bound for one Robson's (your “Engrush”!3), and with him to Hazliebrae, on some business of his Sister's. I told him you had mentioned in your Letter a fixed purpose to write him, and that probably he would find a Letter lying for him at Ecclefechan; a hope that seemed to flatter him greatly. Was it fulfilled? I have not heard of him since. That day, by the bye, was the “shake-wind” day, and did some damage, to Alick and Jamie as well as others: it was the night before that that frightful business of the Amphitrite occurred near you;4 but with us I remarked, the wind did not begin till towards midnight on Friday; for it came from the North, the vacuum lay in the South, and the torrent was first set flowing there.— After shaking hands with Grahame I turned in by Whigham;5 who detained me perforce for a dinner-party consisting of Closeburn Mundell,6 Sir T. Kirkpatrick7 and many women and children; out of which I realised but a moderate day. Whigham himself I found coarse but forcible, mirthful, shrewd; the most sufficient kind of fellow I have yet met with here: by and by I mean to see him again.— Some days after this Jane went off with her Mother and Helen8 to Moffat, leaving me here in perhaps the most perfect seclusion any European man was suffering or enjoying. I made a point not to be idle; and spent those ten days better than I have done many: was glad enough nevertheless to seek my little companion home again from Templand; who for her share seemed no less glad to get back to me. Moffat was “detestable” enough: she had found the Andersons there, however, and could report handsomely of them. It seems meanwhile that John is going to Law about Stroquhan; most unjustly, as I think, yet not without chance of success, which to most people will justify all.— The next visitor we got was poor Glen's Brother Archy; one night late, his rap sounded strange thro' the house; he had come to Dunscore by the Glasgow Coach. A most amiable, sensible creature we found him, one of the best youths I have seen for long. What a blessing, in the mournful state of his little household, now all resting on his shoulders alone. We talked greatly about his poor Brother; strove to sift out his true position in all respects; in Conclusion we came upon this project: to have Glen boarded and lodged with Peter Austin here, who can furnish up a tolerable room for him, and will undertake at 12/ a-week; we shall then have the poor fellow close by, can endeavour to put him on some employment and amusement, and try if any influence of ours can assist him. Archy at least was to take the plan home in his head, and submit it to the Glasgow Doctors: we are to hear from him either tomorrow, or next Wednesday. My own hopes of Glen rather strengthened by questioning Archy; I learned among other things that the poor Law-Student's money had been all done, and his proud heart grieved by robbing a younger Brother for support: in midst of an inward chaos and an outward too his sight had grown confused. My hope grounds itself chiefly on Glen's honesty of heart. If he come here I will set him to read Homer with me, or something of that kind, and see him as often as I can. Alas, what wreck of young hopes there is in this Earth! Archy Glen was not gone, with his sad errand, when with a whole bevy of biped and quadruped attendants, arrived William Gray and Wife. A couple not very unlike the Badamses: vehemence, irresolution, sinking bewilderment amid a world of Confusions; finally indolent sensuality, and—a bottle of whisky in the day! No visit that we ever had here was so intolerable to both of us: at last, after five mortal days they went out, without being thrown out. I think they will not trouble us again. For poor Gray, a man not without force, quickness, light-gleams in all kinds (a sort of Frank Dixon in many things) I feel much pity: but how can you help a man that will not help himself; that in all straits finds a present aid in the whisky-bottle? One night I lectured him earnestly; he was in tears albeit unused to that mood; but, next day, must again demand “a little whisky to mix with it, if you'll allow me.” I afterwards rather avoided earnest talk with him: the thing to be done is already spoken, ascertained; do it! On the whole, these things are Tragedies: Schicksal und eigne Schuld [Fate and one's own guilt]!9

If you ask now, what in suffering and witnessing all these little matters I have performed and accomplished for myself? the answer might look rather meagre. I have not yet put pen to paper. The new chapter of my History as yet lies all-too confused; I look round on innumerable fluctuating masses; can begin to build no edifice from them. However, my mind is not empty, which is the most intolerable state. I think occasionally with energy; I read a good deal; I wait, not without hope[.] What other can I do? Looking back over the last seven years, I wonder at myself; looking forward, were there not a fund of tragical Indifference in me, I could lose head. The economical outlook is so complex, the spiritual no less. Alas, the thing I want to do is precisely the thing I cannot do. My mind would so fain deliver itself adequately of that “Divine Idea of the World”; and only in quite inadequate approximations is such deliverance possible. I want to write what Teufelsdröckh calls a story of the Time-Hat; to show forth to the men of these days that they also live in the Age of Miracle!10 We shall see. Meanwhile one of the subjects that engages me most is the French Revolution, which indeed for us is still the subject of subjects. My chief errand to Paris were freer inquiry into this: one day, if this mood continue, I may have something of my own to say on it. But to stick nearer home: I have as good as engaged with myself not to go even to Scotsbrig till I have written something. With which view partly, on Saturday last, I determined on two things I could write about (there are twenty others, if one had any vehicle): the first a History of the Diamond Necklace;11 the next an Essay on the Saint-Simonians.12 I even wrote off to Cochrane,13 as diplomatically as I could, to ask whether they would suit him. Be his answer what it may, I think I shall fasten upon that Necklace business (to prove myself in the Narrative style), and commence it (sending for Books from Edinburgh) in some few days. At this then you can figure me as occupied. For the rest, I have Books enough: your great Parcel came about a fortnight ago; some of the Scotsbrig volumes a little crushed on the back; otherwise uninjured: I sent these latter forward to their place; and have already read what Mill sent for me. Finally, yesterday, no farther gone, I drove over to Barjarg (in the middle of thick small rain) to get the keys of the Barjarg Library; which accordingly, after negotiation enough, I found most handsomely left for me by the Hunters; so that I could seize the Catalogue and some half-dozen volumes and hasten off with them, to return at discretion! It is really a very great favour; there are various important works there; reading which I am far better than at any University. For the first time in my life I have free access to some kind of Book-Collection; I a Book-Man.14 One way and other, we look forward to a cheerfullish kind of winter here.

You already gather that I have seen none of the Scotsbrig people since the day after you saw them. Several Letters have passed, however; the tenor of which has always been favourable. Wednesday last was Roodfair too; and besides Letters that came that day (and others that went—with your Book-parcel), the Austins saw Jamie and Alick, and brought tidings of them. Neither had quite done with shearing; but good crops, and were far on: the weather since then has been of the worst, and only today grew dry again. Our good Mother seems to be cheerful, hearty, as well as she was. She will not come up, till after I go down; and urges me to get on with my writing. Jamie sold the Colt that was here to Alick. He hired Will Austin for winter; Mary's Austin wishing to be free, and seek for farms. We also have to change our servant; and think of engaging Grace Cavens,15 the only creature of the servant species, whom we have tried, and found to be above Lying: at such low altitude is the moral elevation of our people here; in fact, their total want of morality is very astonishing, very frightful.— Your Sister-in-law seems to me and to herself very considerably improved since you first prescribed for her; Moffat did her considerable mischief; nevertheless she is getting into heart again, into good looks, and anticipates the winter with more spirit than usual. She gives me a little tune or two many a night; and so we sit, as still as we can. Alick is to be up, he promises, “between shearing and Potatoe-time,” with a cart that will bring corn for Harry, and take down larches. Such are the private news. Of public I think of none that could interest you for a moment. Gavin Johnstone (poor Homicide!) was fined in thirty pounds, and three months imprisonment: he held his hands on his face, all the time of the trial, and inspired compassion rather than any other feeling.16 The “Tongues” go on here, and some it is said have got the length of Bedlam (Dow, for one); but the reports are so manifestly spiteful and exaggerated, one knows not what to believe.17 My namesake preached a while on the Highstreet, Edinr; but the Police turned him off: I fear he too will soon be in a Strait-waistcoat. Of Irving no tidings. Jeffrey has never yet written; but a Letter from him is expected—unbeschreiblich ruhig [indescribably quiet]. Mill tells us in person that he is going to Paris and cannot see us this year. He expresses himself in a loving manner towards you; does not yet know you; yet enough of you to anticipate true satisfaction from knowing you. I set him on investigating Paris for us; will probably write him again, for books to be bought, before he go. I find Mill one of the purest, worthiest men of this country; but, as you say, much too exclusively logical. I think, he will mend: but his character is naturally not large, rather high and solid.

The Paper is nearly done here; and yet I feel as if innumerable things had been forgotten. Properly as if nothing had been remembered; for my head is none of the clearest this morning. I will try for Fea's Win[c]kelmann18 this week at Edinburgh; yet with no great hope if getting it: the only representative I found of the work last winter was a poor French one with few plates or perhaps none. For you it is naturally the most appropriate study of all; there where you sit in the very scene of it study to profit by your place whatever be the produce of it, all places (even Craigenputtoch) produce something. I wish I might get Fea, for then I should read it with you: I almost need company to carry me thro' it. In my own heterodox heart there is yearly growing up the strangest crabbed one-sided persuasion, that all Art is but a reminiscence now, that for us in these days Prophecy (well understood) not Poetry is the thing wanted; how can we sing and paint when we do not yet believe and see? There is some considerable truth in this; how much I have not yet fixed. Now what under such point of view is all existing Art and Study of Art? What was the great Goethe himself? The greatest of contemporary men; who however is not to have any follower & should not have any.— In the Co[n]versations Lexn I find sundry curious things; but sadly huddled together, in the way Carriers pack, to take up least room: there is a notice about me, almost every word of which is more or less wrong[.]19 Webster20 is already covered in Cloth, and set up in his shelf: he is vastly inferior to Johnson, in all but his etymological guesses, some of which are amusing, several I think unfounded: in America, I understand, the man Webster is regarded but as a poorish person.— Your Scotsbrig Books were very appropriate, and now I end what I had to say about Books. I asked Jane whether she had anything to say: she “would read the Letter and then see.” I leave the margins; and will not yet (till bedtime) take final farewell.

Ever your's. /

T. C.

Jane says there is nothing that can be added to this so minute Letter; nothing but her sisterly love! She is busy in any case getting ready for tomorrow's expedition. Turn around to the beginning, and you shall get a few words more from me.

Your account of Badams is very verisimilar, very sorrowful: I doubt if there will be found strength in him to save himself. You once sent me his address but the Letter is at Scotsbrig (I think), and I know not how to direct, else probably I should write to him. What good can one do? Remind him that a friendly eye is upon him; that is all. Poor fellow! One grieves and grudges to see him perish.— Nothing of Holcroft; except the Examiner duly. Did you deal with him at all on that matter? You have heard me speak of Mr Swan of Kirkcaldy. I got a Letter some weeks ago, announcing that he was dead! His household and environment seemed but last May one of the most virtuous and prosperous in the world; and now! I wrote to his widow; not what I felt, for somehow I could not express that. Swan was, on the whole, one of the best men I ever came in contact with. Die raschbewegliche Zeit! All-zerstörend [Fast-moving time! Destroying everything]. One has or can have no anchorage in it; only in the Eternity it rests on. Let us feel this: surely if we felt it, we should be another maner of man.—

Diligent in business, fervent in spirit!

This is not the thin foreign post; neither is that sort done yet. Tell me whether the weight of it makes much difference, and how much. This holds the ink better.

Mrs Welsh, who seems rather unusually nervous &c, is for Liverpool in 2 weeks.

When you write tell us the biographic doings of your Travelling party; dramatically, epically, lyrically. Little touches in all these kinds will bring us far nearer you than all “general views” could. Explain all with copiousness, frankness. Above all, be autobiographic,—as you see I am.

Fraser's Draft was wrong by some fifteen Pounds minus (beside your £10): I sent it back, requiring rectification; have not heard yet, but will hear[.]

I here finally, dear Jack, bid thee Good Night!

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