October 1833-December 1834

The Collected Letters, Volume 7


TC TO JAMES CARLYLE; 8 October 1833; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18331008-TC-JC-01; CL 7:13-16.


Craigenputtoch, 8th October, 1833—

My Dear Brother,

Will you allow me to write you a few words on a matter very important to you and all of us. I have unluckily very little time at present: however, the business does not now first come before me; if my language be hurried, my meaning may be calm enough.

I hear often of late that you are of mind to, what is called, “change your life”; that you have fixed on a fair partner,1 and, as the latest accounts run, are rather inclined to wed so soon as Martinmas2 coming. That you should resolve on anything that promises to increase your happiness, above all in so regular and honest a way as that of Marriage is what none that loves you can in the least object to: we will all join in heartily wishing you happiness, and by every means in our power contributing to it. Nevertheless, it is a precept of high authority: “Do all things decently and in order”:3 this also you will not forget. I have found you always one of the most fair and just persons, in all dealings with you; it seems to me, you have only to be reminded of one or two things to resolve on accomplishing them, were it even at a greater sacrifice than they will cost as we now stand. Let me then, who am doubtless cooler than you in regard to this matter, explain a little how it lies.

Of your fair intended I know nothing personally, and have heard very little; that little, however, was all in her favour: we shall take it for granted, therefore, that on this head all is well, and nothing more to be said.

Under another point of view, you have doubtless considered that such an engagement must presuppose one condition: Our Mother and Sisters forming some other establishment also. I should not be surprised indeed if you had fancied that our Mother and your Wife might try to live together at Scotsbrig: but depend upon it, my dear Brother, this will never and in no case do. My Mother herself, I feel sure, and all of us that have more years on our head than you will utterly and in all shapes oppose such an arrangement; and you yourself, if not now yet at some future day, will heartily thank us for doing so. The house must belong to your Wife from the instant she sets foot in it: neither Mother nor Sister must any longer be there to contest it with her.

The next question then for all of us, and for you too, is What will my Mother and the two Lasses4 do? I have thought of it often; and tho' changes are always greivous [sic], I think there are means to get a new way of life devised for our dear Mother and those that still need her guidance, and see them supported without burdening any one. They must have of course a habitation of their own; with my Mother's money, with the interest of the Girls's money, with mine (or what was Alick's, now in your hands) which I think of adding to it, they will be able to live decently enough, I think, if we can bejudicious in choosing some place for them.

For this latter “if,” however, you yourself see that Martinmas is by no means the fit time; that Whitsunday, the universal term-day of the country, is the soonest they can be asked to find new quarters. Now as your Wife cannot be brought home to Scotsbrig before that time, my decided advice were that you did not wed till then. I understand what wonderful felicities young men like you expect from marriage; I know too (for it is a truth as old as the world) that such expectations hold out but for a little while. I shall rejoice much (such is my experience of the world) if in your new situation you feel as happy as in the old; say nothing of happier. But, in any case, do I not know that you will never (whatever happen) venture on any such solemn engagement with a direct Duty to fly in the face of? The Duty namely of doing to your dear Mother and your dear Sisters as you would wish that they should do to you. Believe me, my dear Brother, wait; half a year for such an object is not long! If you ever repent so doing, blame me for it.— I would add also (tho' with real delicacy and reluctance) that two visits a [week] or even one a week (if you have other work to mind) may easily be an excess [of “too] much of nothing”! Remember, my dear Brother, that without self-restraint [and] forbearing, there is no such thing as virtue possible. You must excuse this last remark; and if in considering it you find it to be wind, treat it as such.

In all this, I have said nothing about Alick, to whom I believe the half of the Scotsbrig Lease belongs. I fancy he too is partly aware of your intentions or wishes. In all probability his purpose may be already formed too. If you mean nothing but honourable affectionate Conduct (as I believe in my heart you do) he, on his side, is bound by every tie to mean nothing else.

And so now my dear James you have it all before you; and can consider what you will do. Do nothing that is selfish, nothing that you cannot front the world and the World's Maker upon! May He direct you aright.

Enclosed is a small note for Alick; who will let me know next Wednesday whether I am to come down or not—in his judgement. You may, if you like, show him this Letter; or if you do not like, then do not.— God bless you, dear Brother!— My kindest affection to Mother and Sisters.— In great haste, / Ever your affectionate,

T. Carlyle.