January 1835-June 1836

The Collected Letters, Volume 8


TC TO ALEXANDER CARLYLE; 4 June 1835; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18350604-TC-AC-01; CL 8:131-132.


Chelsea, 4th June 1835—

My Dear Alick,

Your Letter came yesterday, with the good news at least that you were safe, and getting nestled in your new habitation; where, if prayers of mine could prevail, a cheerfuller course of exertion would wait you than late years have offered. What chopping and changing! Shifting from trouble to trouble, and from side to side! It is the lot that has been appointed us; with which it were no wisdom to get into bad humour; unwise even to think much of it at all. I remembered you here on Whitsunday, and wished you soft progress: it was a wettish day with us, but I hoped you might have it sunnier.

And so Catlinns and all its glar [mud] lies behind you; and a new scene opens before you, or rather, alas, lies shut as yet, and only promises to open. Come of it what may, I cannot regret that you have quitted that unthankful spot, where your labour had no joyfulness, no tolerable prospect of bringing fruit. You are settled there, and can, with no great expense, and in a fair position, survey what lies about you, and even if nothing offer, know at least that nothing offers. God's Creation does not end at the Solway Frith; neither can the man that will work wisely be always foiled. If our work yield no produce, it is the clearest sign that it was unwise; and we should descend into ourselves, and see whether the fault (perhaps cunningly hid as some kind of virtue) lay not there. My grand advice is, keep your mind calm, unexasperated, clear! Do faithfully whatsoever your hand findeth to do.1 This is always possible for us; in this there is always sure hope. For if it is written (and too often verified with us) that “the race is not to the swift nor the battle to the strong,” it is likewise true that “time and chance happen unto all.”2 Be sure therefore that opportunities will offer; that if you be wise to seize them, they will bear you along.

I know not, my dear Brother, whether these reflexions are of any value to you, or indeed whether you are not of yourself too prone to indulge in the like: I can know only with entire clearness at this distance that my brotherly sympathy is strong with you; that my hope too is strong; that if all these disappointments teach us, they will have been well worth enduring.

I remember your neighbourhood very clearly from of old: but cannot get up any clear recollection of the particular house you are in. This is of the less moment, since we can hope (before you are well settled) to see it with our eyes; and hear all your circumstances freely described by word of mouth. We shall have much to communicate; advices may circulate among us; and if not much mutual light, yet sympathy and wishes, which are mutual strength.

You know that of Cattle-jobbing; and dislike it, I believe, as much as I. Yet it is hard for a man to be idle, to feel that he is doing nothing. My advice therefore were: Do this thing, if you feel that you should do it, with caution, with wisdom. Avoid, above all earthly things, the qualities that you know to be bad in jobbing. If I have ever had any fear for you, my good Brother, it was simply that your own mind might fail you, might slide down by the very course these men too generally follow. God of his great mercy forbid! But I have felt that such fears were but proof of my own dispiritment, were unworthy of you, of your Father's son.— I speak in the dark about all this, and give evidence only of my brotherly perennial regard for you.

With myself here things go not the brightest course: that lost Manuscript cannot be finished for the present; I have worn out my spirits somewhat with long toil at it, and feel that before going much farther I should [at least h]ave a rest. There are some schemes in the wind (mentioned [in our] Mother's Letter): one of them even connects itself with America. But, as I said, you will likely see me before anything is fixed on. I have yet heard no new word from Jack; but trust if all have gone well, that in a week or two we may hear.— Adieu dear Brother! Jane sends you her true sisterly wishes: our love to your little bairns and their Mother. May God keep you always!

Your affectionate Brother,—

T. Carlyle

Excuse this brevity my dear Alick; I feel as if it were of no use writing, when one has the hope of so soon meeting. I long much to see poor Jack safe here, and be off—say 6 weeks hence!

As to Harry, our hope was that he might [have car]ried my Mother while he had any strength, and so his old days have been peaceable. Certainly do not sell the poor Beast; not at least till we come: his last strength was given to us; we are bound to provide that his end be not miserable.