TC TO ALEXANDER CARLYLE; 28 August 1834; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18340828-TC-AC-01; CL 7:276-283.
TC TO ALEXANDER CARLYLE
5. Great Cheyne Row, Chelsea, London, 28th August 1834
My Dear Brother,
It is many a long week since I had a word with you; it seemed immeasurably long till you answered my last Letter; and now I daresay it is long again before I have got pen in hand to make another step in the Dialogue. You must not be so dilatory another time; neither will I, if you meet me fairly. I know how you are driven about frequently, and what a business it is to get your Desk all fettled [put in order]: but you must ever make an effort, and do me that kindness: news from poor old Annandale, and the indissolubly united Friends I have there, the most precious to me of any I have in this world, are what I can in no wise do without. See if I have not taken my largest sheet, tho' a most uncomfortable one; and what a hand I am writing in!1
You were busy, when you wrote last, snatching your Hay from the roaring burn-floods; and now, as I often figure, you are all strips on the Harvest-rig, gathering in a still more essential crop. God speed your honest toil! How innocent and free it looks, there on the hill-side, with the yellow vales and knolls of this fair Earth all spread around you, and the everlasting heavenly Vault arched kindly overhead! Yet I know well, it is not free, nor a pleasure; a task rather and sorrowful trouble, as all Labour is; not (for the present) joyous but greivous [sic]. Nevertheless persevere, persevere. Among all the struggling Sons of Adam, who have arisen this day to struggle in their several battle-fields, there is simply none more sure that he is in a right cause, than you there on the stubble-field, binding up the indispensable sheaves. This is a great blessing, and indeed the greatest: that a man be in the right in what he fights for is all in all for him; his battle, his victory, taken by itself, if we weigh it in the true Eternal Balance, issues simply in “round O,” name itself as proudly as it may. For the rest, I hear, you may judge how gladly, that your Fields have again been kind to you, that there is an “excellent crop on the ground”: so testifies Grahame of Burnswark; who adds nevertheless that he detests Catlinns (for private reasons: I believe he lost a Brother there from cruel hardships) as he does the “Plains of Pandemonium.” He mentioned, what you had already told me, that you were threatening to quit that arena; a thing he seemed rather to call in question, “provided you were making a little money in it.”2 Alas, yes! With that proviso I also should decidedly vote for your continuing in it. As it is, however, who can censure the step you have taken? I long greatly to hear what the fruit of that proposal of yours has been; and really, so uncertain is everything, and so unthrifty are all even indispensable changes, I think if they will abate you the £20, I shall rather rejoice in your continuance than otherwise. New fields of exertion, it is very true, are possible for you; wider fields, but then also more dangerous ones, with more influences that lead down to utter ruin, and where apart from danger of that kind, peace of mind may be still more difficult for you. Tell me, I pray you, the moment anything is decided about it. If they will leave you so that you can pay your rent with any comfort, I can look on you at Catlinns without misgivings: you can trim up your household establishment there more and more; you can get a few Books round you for long winter nights; you have your little children by you as a lasting interest, whom to train up in the way that they should go will be a duty and a b[l]essedness. Above all, my dear Brother, whatsoever thing you lose, O do not lose yourself! Were I assured against this, I should see no danger for you. You are too indignant against destiny: it is a fault of my own too, in which my example has perhaps harmed you; yet a sore fault it is, as I see more and more. Not Pride (from which that indignation, if we examine it, arises) but Humility, the humbling and down-pulling of that same Pride, is the lesson we are to be taught. Happy for us if we can learn it; and so with wise submissiveness “bear our cross,” whatever that may be, and skirt many an obstacle which we cannot mount over, which we would so fain hurl from us (were the arms strong enough) and utterly destroy! Finally, my dear Brother, call, from the depths of your heart, on God to help you, to guide you in the way, for it is not in man to guide himself; and so, with your eye on fixed heavenly loadstars, walk forward fearing nothing—for Time or for Eternity. Nothing! There is work on God's wide Earth for all men that He has made with hands and hearts; and we, by his blessing, will seek it, and find it, should we go to the Transatlantic grass-plains for it. And so here will I end. You do not object to my advisings and moralizings; you know that the feeling they spring from is of the deepest: I know you ponder what I say beyond what it deserves; and, in any case, are cheered to consider that you have an elder Brother who in no chance or change can cease to sympathize with your weal or woe, and help you if it be in his ability. Forward then! Steady and strong!
The notices you give me about our Mother are what I especially desired, as I still desire more. She has at last written me part of a Letter with her own hand, in the cheerfullest serene spirit, even with a touch of jocoseness; which I think has been one of the gladdest things that has befallen me since I left you. I will write to her very soon, at Jean's; indeed, I had thoughts of writing to her today and not to you whose right it was; but I fancied you impatient, and so will do both ere long. That James has got his wedding over so greatly to his mind, and likes it still so well, is a thing I heartily rejoice at: tell him so, poor fellow; and that according as his wife and he are wise, so will their happiness be: in that proportion and no higher one; yet by God's blessing in that proportion. Give him my brotherly love, and best wishes that all may be well with him and what belongs to him.3 Jean confirms your report of the Austins at Annan; describes work as scarce, but Jamie as getting a share of it. She says they have still their eye on farms, and some kind of outlook towards Wull Brown's.4 In this you are infinitely fitter than I to give them counsel. My wishes that they may be well counselled are all I can give. Remember me specially to poor Mary, who I think is like to be a douce Wifie; tell her that I hope to find her well and doing well, and to eat another breakfast with her yet from time to time.
I may as well finish off Scotch business before going farther. That Craigenputtoch shooting as you have perhaps learnt, is let; the parties are in it, I believe, with all their retinue; doing the best they can beside old Nannie. They are East Lothian people, whom Jane knows (one of them called Aitken, another Scott, both Indians); they will behave decently, and pay their £10 of rent. So the thing is settled tolerably enough. We have heard, by Mrs Welsh, of the Shower-bath; but fear it had been delayed too long for M'Diarmid, and was not sold: in that case, they must just do the next best with it. The old Clatch you say is disposed of; and in a week or two (in October, I believe) you will learn what you have got for it: I hope it will be useful to Brand, while he is weak, and not a losing bargain to him. There is finally that Craigenputtoch wood-cutter, whom you have to settle with. I believe him to be a decent man who will give you little trouble in it. He will meet you at Dumfries any day; and according to the Proverb, the nearest day you can get him and get yourself to fix will be the best. He borrowed £10, for which his acknowledgement is here; his own wages were to be 3/ a-day, and that of the other people strictly what they cost him: he was to have a written account of everything to show, and said “it would be the queerest wood he ever saw if it did not clear itself and leave something over.” I shall like to hear that you have settled, and what the amount is. That £10 receipt should have been sent while there were franks (and can still be, if essential); but it is only on simple paper; and you in your final discharge of him can take notice of it. As was said, I believe the man to be honest; and hope to hear that you could settle cheerfully with him. J[ane] (by way of “more last words”) says there was 3/ you were to pay an Apothecary, and asks whether it be within the limits of possibility that you have forgotten it? And so that is the very last “last word” on this part of the subject.
As for London and myself, tho' I think I could sit with you on some of your brae-sides for the length [of] a day, and talk to you about it, with comfort and profit, yet of news that can be written there is not more than this remnant may hold. Briefly, we are in the old way. Our household goes quickly on, all fairly fulfilling its promise. My work too does not stand still, tho' nothing can yet get so far as black-on-white, but is toilsomely shaping itself in silence and secret. My day is spent in reading, in considering. I have had a pensive, sometimes a sad, yet a sweetly-tender summer; on the whole, a better one than I have known of late. Whatsoever be my destiny I feel in general that here is the place where I must work it out; that I am at my post here. Much exercise of spirit (as several people will name it) has gone thro' me; I hope, not to no purpose; for I have much to settle and alter in that quarter. Tho' I hardly learn anything from speech with any individual man here, yet in the long run the influences of the place are upon me, and I feel better what it is I am working, and how to work it, and have a much more natural position than in the wilderness. Puttoch in particular who can regret? Many other places, all your Annandale regions, the windings about Milk Mill, the very Hags and Brownmoor, look softened and bright to me in the distance; but not so the Dunscore Desert; that is a place we never knew good in except what we gained as at the sword's point; a place doomed, even in my memory, to silence, obstruction, and the dispiritment of motionless desolation; a place I care not if I never see again! So far all is well. What London is to do for me remains with the Providence that guides us. A huge confused outlook, wherein, however, I think I am learning to look with more freedom, more profit. The intellect, the natural force of none of the people is such as to strike me with the smallest fear for myself: generally even the literary men seem the incontrovertiblest duds: yet do they not live? I too will live, and do much more than that! Meanwhile, as was said, my task lies on the work-board, and I have to work at it; which is clear enough guidance. I hope to make a reasonable production of it; and shall verily do my best. It will be sore, sore; I shudder to look at it; but know, from old experience, that it is possible for me, and as the Cockneys say “shall be done, Sir.”5 Money for nearer wants I expect to earn some other way. Nay I had an offer the other day from Fraser to earn a £20 by a new “Article” for him; but he wished it of a lower, froth-price, and cared not (as he seemed to tell me) tho' it were froth too: I, after consideration, declined, yet respectfully. He is a good creature, Fraser, tho' surrounded with Irish-blackguardism; and, as seems likely will be the man for publishing my Book: he is honest, punctual and cheerful to do business with; great qualities and not the commonest in his way. We have finished off Teufelsdröckh, last month; he paid me for it honestly what he bargained for; he made me up 506 complete copies, most of which I have dispersed far and wide: there was a set for Dumfriesshire, which I hope are now very near you: they were to come by Edinburgh and M'Kie, and to be sent all to Jean: one for her, one for Catlinns, one for Scotsbrig, one for Annan; that is to say, one for every household of you, so that whoever will or dare may read in it. The thing is not worthless; you will get something out of it, in the winter time, and at all events, a remembrance of your Brother and his old Life (for it was written the last summer we were together), which will be dear to you. I put your name on it in the Bookseller's shop, but could say nothing more there. There is another little thing,7 which Mill is urging me to publish (and will even print at his own expence that he “may write a review on it”!) but whether to set it out, or keep it a while (and perhaps gain some pounds by it) I do not yet know. This is all my Book news.
We are particularly still at present, one might almost call it solitary, were it not that talk if you like to go out for it can at all times be had. But this is the season when “London goes out of Town”; innumerable mortals fly in every direction to sea-coasts and mineral wells, by way of varying their dulness. I cannot say that any friend we valued much is gone; indeed there is only one or two to whom that character at all belongs; I myself too am very much isolated in my own thoughts, and find less pleasure in most persons than they seem to find in me: but I will leg about me by and by, and try to get among the practical people. If a man's opinion is worth never so little, his experience is always of value. Hunt is ever brisk, friendly and at hand; but has found me, I imagine, a most iron Presbyterian fellow, and hovers rather in the distance last fortnight. His talk is clever, among the cleverest; but far from the talk I want; unproductive, in earnest seasons worth nothing to me. Allan Cunningham has more stuff in him; he was here an evening lately: good scotch guffawing talk, almost like a country Scotch “fore-supper”! He has presented me his Life of Burns; a good thing, which I wish I could get lent to you.8 We had Irving down: a touching, rather sad sight, yet with kind remembrances clinging to it: he is white in beard and whiskers, looks very weak, coughs, and seemed disposed to do what I pressingly wished and insisted on: go and rest himself in the country. I was to see him soon; but had not time yesterday, when near his place, and so have perhaps missed him. I trust he will recover; and if so, there seems certainly a likelihood that in mind too he will be himself again. May it be so!—(Turn to the first page)
I will not write on this wretched paper, nor try to write so small, again, for really you are a loser by it, so stiff do I get both in the fingers and the mind and nothing flows freely from me.— When will you write? Do not, I beg of you, be long. If you cannot get a sheet filled, send it off half-filled. The Newspaper will come to you every Monday, I hope, with the regularity of the sun. Aitken seems very punctual with it, and in me there is no shadow of irregularity—or should not be, for I like it ill. One day it was behind some weeks ago: but then it had not come.— Tell Grahame that I got his Letter and read it with joy. By the bye, could not you see a little more of Grahame? He seems fond of you, and is fond of rational speech with all men.9—— But alas! dear Boy, my sheet is done. I could take an acre more, were there time. We shall meet again, and have a talk! Give our love to Jenny; be kind to her, and she will repay you with interest: she has now none but you between her and the wind. Tell little Jean and my Namesake to be good till I come. God ever bless them and you!
Your affectionate /
I beg you will lose no time in letting my Mother hear of you after you get this; but indeed I will write soon to herself.— I end here; and will nev[er] write so small again!
Our summer has been hot, hot; it seems now gone, very suddenly: there is harvest-moon, and clear coolness, almost cold. The stubble is all bare in these parts many weeks ago, and we have had rain enough after our drought: the grass is green and rank.
Jane is angry that I have not more specially sent her love to you all. She was not at hand, and I had no orders. Here it is! She is well.