October 1833-December 1834

The Collected Letters, Volume 7


TC TO DAVID HOPE; 19 December 1834; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18341219-TC-DH-01; CL 7:343-347.


5. Great Cheyne Row, Chelsea, / London, 19th Dec., 1834.

My Dear Sir:

I am in your debt for two very interesting letters;1 welcome and interesting, tho' the last was on a most mournful subject. Thanks for your remembrance. In a world so full of change, it is something to know that a face which has known one's some five-and-twenty years (you have not forgotten the gig day) still smiles on us; still says, this Earth is not wholly a Golgotha, but a kind of Home, at least a friendly Inn.

Poor Irving's death2 I had anticipated like yourself; especially since I saw him last in autumn. Nevertheless, the news of it shocked me, as only a few such occurrences now can. Poor fellow! he was here the week before leaving this huge Confusion of a Place: it was most touching to see the feeling of old years feebly struggling thro' the distractions that had now closed thick over it; I once or twice even raised in him a faint laugh of the true old Annandale time—most melancholy to remember. This mad City (for it is mad as Bedlam, nine-tenths of it) killed him; he might have lived prosperous and strong in Scotland, but there was in him a quality which the influences here took fatal hold of; and now—Alas! alas!

As to writing some word or other about an event so impressive to me, you shall hear how it stands, and I let you hear without loss of time. A Bookseller here applied to me a week ago to do something of the sort you mention for his magazine. I consented, thinking the man meant to give a Portrait of the deceased, and that if I did not, some other friendly and qualified hand would; whereupon three days ago the man came down to me with the piece in type; but introduced into such an Irish stew of circumambient matter, that I decided forthwith in having the thing either printed separately, or suppressed. The Bookseller, much surprised at my squeamishness, could not so readily decide; not even to-day, when after your letter I again applied to him. He is in communication with Henry Drummond, has schemes and irons in the fire (a good, well-meaning man, too) and begs to be allowed till Wednesday.3

On Wednesday, then (or more probably Monday), I expect to be able to dispatch you a printed copy of the thing (it is only two pages), and (decide as the man may) liberty to publish it anywhere you think fit. I say, decide as he may: for so you will find it, and understand it better than now. I had good mind of Adam Hope, Rector of Annan Academy, and also of old Mr. Johnstone, to both of whom Irving like myself owed much.4 I had even introduced the latter; but fancying myself writing under such magazine conditions, found it would not answer.

I often speak of both these men; declare again and again that Adam's history is legible to this day in the population of Annan: the venerable John Johnstone is my model of an Apostolic Priest; more Priestlike in his humble simplicity than Archbishops to me; and more honoured too, for I have seen the Cuddylane Population (most brutal of the creatures of God) suspend their quarrelling and cursing till he had passed thro' them, and touch their hat reverently to him. So potent is goodness; the idea even in coarsest souls, that here is a good man! Had it been the Archbishop of Canterbury with all his gilt coach-pannels, they would have thrown dead cats at him. I have often told this, to the amazement of the shovel-hatted; and mean to write it somewhere. Will you remember me kindly to Mr. Johnstone the Younger. Say that I still recollect vividly and with gratitude how the first grounds of the Latin tongue began to dawn on me, under his care; for my poor schoolmaster had sunk me into shoreless confusion. I rejoice to hear and see occasionally by the papers that such a man is prosperous and respected.5

You ask what I am doing? The short answer is: writing Books! The long, plain one would lead us far, too far. I may say in general that I am here to try conclusions with Destiny, and expect the toughest of tough disheartening battles; with which, nevertheless, by God's blessing I am minded to fight, while life is in me. Puffery, Quackery, Delusion, and Confusion of all conceivable sorts prevail to the very heart of literature; so that whosoever declines serving the Devil in that matter, it is like to go hard with him. “Thou shalt die!” threatens the Prince of the Power of the Air (for Puffery). “Be it so,” the antagonist must answer. But the prose truth of the matter is I am daily and nightly putting together a kind of book on the French Revolution, which if I live, will be out by and by. we shall then see what is to be done next. There are a few good men here too; a few, or the place would take fire. One has much to learn; much there is to encourage, if much to obstruct: we must do the best we can.

My wife returns her kind regards; will be greatly pleased to make your acquaintance. Now that I know your Brother's address (Rev. W. J. Hope), I will certainly make him out: he is an old friend of mine; I remember him one winter in Edinh, very kind to me. Pray tell him so next time you write.

Your letters were both put into the Post office—if the Parliament be dissolved before Wednesday?

I believe I can still get a frank: will try at least. And now, my dear sir, good night!

Ever affectionately, /

T. Carlyle.