July 1836-December 1837

The Collected Letters, Volume 9


TC TO ALEXANDER CARLYLE; 23 April 1837; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18370423-TC-AC-01; CL 9:193-197.


Cheyne Row, Chelsea, 23d April, 1837.

My dear Alick,

Ben brought your Letter1 on Tuesday or Monday last; and right welcome it was after so long a silence. The inclosed from Jack had come not many hours before. I was in such haste as I had long been in at the time; but had at last the sure prospect of getting that over. I now enclose you Jack's Letter, to whom I have already written this day; and will send you a few words along with it. The Printing, after an awful struggle really, with bullying of drunken Printers, with scraping and scraffling and doing what was in one, is over, or as good as over, yesterday! The Book is all in type, my share of it finished, except some slight hour or two of work, which I shall be ready for when it is ready for me. I suppose it will be out as a Book, in not many days. You shall have a Copy of it by the earliest chance after that; and good appetite I shall wish you with it. It is I think the most radical Book that has been written in these late centuries; “cares not a rush for General Sharpe more than for any other man”;2 and will give pleasure and displeasure, one may expect, to almost all classes of persons. Let it take its fate: the great indisputable blessing is that I have done with it forever and a day.

Jack's Letter, as you will find, treats a little about the American speculation. On the whole I think what he says about it is very rational.3 There is no reason why we should regard such a thing as a perpetual separation; none at all: nay it rather seems to me as if in reality more of us would have to see America yet; as if the more of us that wended thither it were the better. This Country of England seems to me clearly enough to have a destiny before it of unknown degrees of blackness. There is a curse of God written upon the arrangements men live by in it. The fruitful land denies the toiling man food from it: that, I make bold to assert in the face of all man, is a thing that neither can nor ought to continue. And quackery and dishonesty is in high places and in low: the voice of the quack speaks loud and louder. Let us in God's name leave it to him; let us go out of it, and fasten somewhere, were it at the Earth's end, on not a quackery but a truth. In America there is this great truth which the all-nourishing Earth tells a man: “Till me, and thou shalt have sustenance from me.”— On the whole, therefore, my dear Brother I bid you be of courage, of good heart and hope, and do cheerfully and quietly what you find admonished and guided to do.

That your trade this year has yielded you little or nothing is not surprising to me. Nay farther, I could like very well to know that you had got your money fairly out of it again, the sooner the better, without loss. There is one of the things they call “commercial crisis” coming on, or rather come on: one does not know to what width it may reach, or what wretchedness in all ranks it may occasion. Get your ware made money therefore I would say, with all speed; but indeed that I suppose is a thing you are at any rate doing.

As to the payment or surety you speak of, or as to anything whatever in that strain, I beg you will speak of it no more at all.4 It is distressing to me to hear of it. The whole sum you had from me would be consumed rapidly; I not benefited, left how poor, poor! Nay the truth is, I have less need of money far than has been long usual with me. I rather think I am at last going to get into the way of gaining a little money here: it really does seem possible; the rather perhaps as I have got into the way, of late, of regarding either that or the reverse of that with an equanimity unusual formerly. Many a time I have silently said within myself since I came here, “Well then, O World, or Devil, reduce me to a diet of potatoes, to any diet, or even to no diet at all, do it, I bid thee, do it; I will beat thee after all: it is not to thee that I will yield.”—— But to quit all this speculating I wrote to John Greig that I thought you would perhaps have £300 or so to start with. A little money might save one great difficulties at starting. Jack has cash he is not using; nay who knows but I too may have a little cash: one way or other, poor Dillick5 shall and must be fitted out, if there be strength in us all to do it. As to the time of setting out, or as to Jack's plan which he is always insisting on that you should go by yourself first and look, I cannot give any kind of advice. It must be regulated by many considerations, a greater part of which is of course before your own mind than before any other man's. Grahame's advice about John Greig's being fond of selling his own land dear6 is a thing we can keep in mind; but need not, I fancy, pay any great regard to. I believe Greig to be a very honest and honourable kind of man, and of great practical good sense; and farther that he will be very glad to do you a service; for my sake were it for nothing else; indeed I understand I am grown a kind of one-and-somewhat in Yankee-land now, and Greig will reckon it ornamental to him rather than otherwise that he has a Brother of mine to advise and further. At all events we can listen to what he says, you can listen, but are not bound to believe more than your own eyes will verify. Nothing can be finally decided on I suppose till we hear from him. The instant his Letter comes I will send it you. Before very long it ought to be here: there is a Letter from him that somebody was shewing me other day; dated New York where he seems to be at present: but doubtless he communicates with his Cana[n]daigua Letters; and there is little chance that my Letter to him should not arrive without delay, or that he should not answer it without delay. We will leave it lying in this state for the present.—

Your news about my Mother were right welcome news.7 I suppose she was on her way to Dumfries about Jack's money (£120): I got a token on James Aitken's Newspaper that the thing was rightly settled; at least so I interpreted. It is a great blessing indeed, that our Mother has been so well this winter, while so many, whom one would have thought stronger, have suffered. You will tell her of this Letter from me by the first convenience, and give her Jack's too. Say farther that I will write to herself so soon as this Lecture hurlyburly is over; and will predict more accurately if I can what I myself am then to do.— Jane continues to go on very fairly: she has got out of doors some twice when there happened to be any sun, which does not often happen; she is very feckless but has no cough or other distinct ailment, and may hope much from the warm weather. Mrs Welsh nurses her, and takes charge of household matters: how they two are going to arrange their summer is not yet fixed. Best wishes come to you all from them. Jane many a time says, “Alick has ten times the stuff in him of a common man; it is miserable to see such a one held down, hindered, and driven desperate as he is: he will burst out from it, and get free field for himself over the sea.” A year or two of tough manful struggling, and that verily is possible! Courage, my Boy: there is land in this old Earth yet for the free Plougher to till. Jenny shall make me tea yet out of some American clear stream. We are under God's blue Sky whithersoever we go: the brave heart the cunning hand and clear head are in all places at home.—

My Lectures begin on the first of May; the Monday after you read this! How I am to do in it is still a mystery; but I have a kind of fre[e] week before me and will apply myself to consider. There will surely be the strangest set of people there that ever I talked to. The other night somebody told me of Brougham coming! I contemplate the withered kippered countenance of that Ex-Chancellor twitching and jerking there on me (as its wont is) with a strange mixture of a shudder and a laugh on my part. It is like swimming; one must dash in, strike out his limbs from him; then one does swim. Nay, as Goethe says, it is so with all that man undertakes in this world.8 [N]ext Letter to my brother will say, I hope, that some way [or] other better or worse, it is got finished.

I was sorry to hear of poor Andrew Carruthers's death: I re[mem]ber he met you and me on Annan street last time I came from London; we shall now never more meet on Earth.— A week or two ago, there came a card to me thro' Fraser the Bookseller containing the address of, whom think you? Jock Forsyth! H[e n]ow calls himself “Surgeon and Man-midwife,” and lives far away in the East her[e ab]out seven [mi]les from [us]. I shall perhaps someti[me when thi]ther in my travels go and take a look at the man, if it be suitable: I have no doubt he is still a drunken scamp, or nearly so, as he formerly was.— Jack now demands to have the Courier Newspaper instead of the Herald, which latter he finds too stupid. Stupid enough it is. Will you therefore tell James Aitken to discontinue it at the end of the nearest term. Till such term he may if you like send it on direct to you at Annan instead of your Courier: you having read it can forward it hither. I have not read three paragraphs of it for the last six weeks. I will also send forward the old Examiner to you, as regularly as Hunt gives it me, which is not very regularly.

This I think my dear Brother is the substance of what I can get said at present. I will write again, when I said; and then surely at more leisure. My affection to one and all; name by name. Good be with you ever!— I send as usual a printed leaf one of the last: the next sending one may hope will be the Book itself.— Ever, dear Alick, Your faithful Brother

T. Carlyle