October 1833-December 1834

The Collected Letters, Volume 7


TC TO ALEXANDER CARLYLE; 18 February 1834; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18340218-TC-AC-01; CL 7:96-99.


Craigenputtoch, 18th Feby, 1834—

My Dear Alick,

If you be at the Fair1 tomorrow, you will get this Letter: if not, it will come upon you perhaps still more welcomely in the solitude of Catlinns. There is little in it save the assurance of my old brotherly regard; but that little I know is worth much. By my Mother's Letter, last week, you would hear of my purpose to write; also of my half-hope to hear from you tomorrow: if you have not written (which I think the more probable case), let this be a new inducement to do it with as little delay as possible. Mary told me our Mother was well: but beyond this, all seems to remain uncertain; and I want much to hear your report on it, your advice about it. We should have spoken far more about the business when you were here: but we had not the very best opportunity, and I thought for a good while you would stay longer. Something must be resolved upon, and before long; lest whitsunday find us unprepared.

Austin I fancy has now no chance for a farm this year; nor is it perhaps a thing to be regretted, considering how farms have usually gone. The project (failing this, which has now failed) that my Mother seemed most to hint at was occupying the two upper rooms at Scotsbrig, as her own and so living under the same roof with the new Couple. A scheme of which the many risks and certain disadvantages are very plain. But something must be done; and the question is, what were the least objectionable? One cannot fix on anything that were quite right; that were other than a temporary measure. If our Mother have any plan, any wish of her own, that would be the most advisable to help her in. But I doubt she cannot form a very decided plan at present; and it is very sad to have to ask her for one. Write me what you think about the whole matter: I am often thinking about it, but with very little effect. I could wish we had it in our power to fix it, next time I come down.— At rare times one is tempted for a moment to say: “If the swine would but run thro' this marriage!” Yet it were very cruel to poor James: he has a chance of “happiness” for one month in that way; and of great suffering if that month be denied him. There are men living that never in their life managed to get so much as a month. Yet as the Doctor says, “It comes all to the same ultimately.” On the whole, I want to hear your voice about all that business.

Poor Mrs Clow,2 it seems, has been called away. She was not long left a superfluity in the world; but has found a home, beside her old Partner, where there will be none to grudge her. O Time! Time! How it brings forth, and devours;3 and the roaring flood of Existence rushes on, forever similar, forever changing! Already of those that we looked up to as grown men, as towers of defence and authority, in our boyhood, the most are clean gone; we ourselves have stept into their position, where also we cannot linger. Unhappy they that have no footing in Eternity; for here, in Time, all is but Cloud and the baseless fabric of a vision!4

But to turn back to the Earth; for in the Earth too lies the pledge of a Higher world, namely a Duty alloted us. Tell me, my dear Brother, how you fare on that wild know-head [knoll-head], what kind of cheer you are of. The little children, I imagine, must be your chief blessing; and surely you are thankful for them, and will struggle with your whole strength to instruct them and protect them, and fit them for the long journey (long, for it is as long as Eternity) that lies before them. Little Jane will be beginning to have many notions of things now; train her to this, as the corner-stone of all morality: To stand by the Truth; to abhor a Lie as she does Hell-fire.5 Actually the longer I live I see the greater cause to look on Falsehood with detestation, with terror, as the beginning of all else that is of the Devil.—My poor little namesake has no knowledge of good or evil yet: but I hope he will grow to be a strong fellow, and do his name credit.— For yourself I am very glad indeed to see you make so manful a struggle, on that uncomfortable clay-footing; which however you must not quite quarrel with: in the darkest weather I always predict better days. The world is God's world, and wide and fair: if they hamper us too far, we will try another side of it. Meanwhile I will tell you a fault you have to guard against; and is not that the truest friendship I can shew you? Every position of man has its temptation, its evil tendency; now yours and mine I suspect to be this: a tendency to Imperiousness; to indignant self-help, and if nowise theoretical yet practical Forgetfulness and tyrannical Contempt of other men. This is wrong, this is Tyranny I say; and we ought to guard against it. Be merciful, repress much indignation; too much of it will get vent after all. Evil Destiny is nothing, let it labour us and impoverish us as it will; if it only do not lame us and distort us. Alas, I feel well, one cannot wholly help even this: but one ought unweariedly to endeavour.

When I am coming down I cannot yet fix; it is most likely I will come by Catlinns: in any case you shall soon hear of me. Tell me your Lockerby Carrier's name for I have forgotten it.

Glen goes on wonderfully well; and I certainly hope is improving. We read Greek every night; a great improvement to me: he goes on with his Mathematics too, tho' slowly; and seems perfectly satisfied at Peter's.— I have had another Letter from Jeffrey, full of friendly professions, excuses, regrets &c; and have thoughts of letting the Correspondence lie there—for a good while.— My Diamond Necklace is not done: I get along so miserably slowly.— Farewell my dear Brother! I hope to see you soon; to hear of you sooner. With all good progress for you and yours,

T. Carlyle