The Collected Letters, Volume 10


TC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE ; 21 January 1838; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18380121-TC-MAC-01; CL 10: 7-10


Chelsea, 21st Jany, 1838.

My dear Mother,

You will be content with a very small Letter today, having heard from me so lately. Indeed, the weather is so frosty that here, with my table turned away from the fire (Jane and I being both at work), writing is not a good job at all. But the inclosed Letter from Rome came to hand almost a week ago;1 and I will not send it off without a line to go with it.

Jack is well, as you will find; has not got his Book-parcel yet; that seems to be his only news. No news, in such a case, is good news. As to the Book-parcel, it has really been a vexatious thing: it was sent off, according to Jack's direction, not very far from a year ago; he expected to have it directly were it once at Paris; to Paris it went without delay; and yet we perceive how it is circulating over the world, not arrived, to this hour!2 The man that has it is the Neapolitan Prince you may remember reading of who married an English Miss Smith, greatly to the scandal of his royal brother.3 Missus and he have doubtless other things to think of than parcels.4 However, one may hope it will arrive by and by. I want Jack to see it in Rome; both because it will amuse him, and also because I imagine there are many things in the Book that he will object to at first and afterwards reconcile himself to,—which process I want to be completed before he comes home rather than after it. He has no Practice this winter, as you will see; but what then? He has good wages without any. We ought to be very thankful that all is so well with him.

Two days after the arrival of Jack's Letter there came one from Jean at Dumfries;5 addressed both to Jack and me: I knew not well what to make of it at first; but decided for breaking it up; it then appeared that I was meant to read it and then forward it; thereby according to a cunning plan had the goodwife succeeded in saving herself a Letter to me, which she had owed me for some time! I filled up the margins, with any small tidings I had, and sent off the Letter; engaging to write again, so soon as I had sent off the Walter Scott6 as Jack desired which I thought would be in some ten days.— Jean is very particular, and affords us a very authentic-looking picture of Dumfriesshire things. She and her household are well; James busy gathering in monies; he expects to be in Manchester some time in February. The little Boy seemed to be very brisk, tho' a little affected in the digestion at times. You should impress upon her the necessity of keeping the little spirit warmly clad, and attending to what he eats. She said there had a Letter come from Manchester “on Thursday last,” representing all right. It was partly her notion, you and Jenny might come over when James returned: however, as to this, you will see how the weather &c is, and what your own notions are. If Robert see you on board the Steamboat in tolerable weather, there is no difficulty farther. As to the Annandale people Jean informed us that all were in good health; that Alick was sticking steadily to his shop, very much confined by it, and had sent to James to “buy him some oranges and barley”; he was keeping “mall in shaft,”7 he said; which was fair work for the time. The Austins were very much wearied of Annan and the carting trade; which surely I think is no wonder. James Austin and Jamie of Scotsbrig were going up, she said, to Drumpark (on the Puttock road, you remember),8 to look at a little farm there. I infer there has nothing turned up about Stennybeck yet; I have asked several times, but nobody has answered me.9 Jean said there were very many small farms to be let this very season; I could like much indeed to hear that poor Austin had got one of them so that he could live in it. I imagine Mary and he would be as industrious and as thrifty a pair as could well try: there really ought to be an effort made; some way or other we would not fail to get them set up in it. I do hope there will be some effectual trial made; I am uneasy to think of the sore work and small wages and general discouragement of Annan. In a Letter that Jane was writing to Mary I said something about it, I do not well remember what: if you can forward the business in any way, by reporting me or otherwise, no doubt you are anxious enough to do it.— This is enough about Annandale news.

Here at London everything in [sic] froze in,10 as they call it; one has no news but of frost. What becomes of you my dear Mother in these bitter days and nights? Many a time I think of you; for even I, who usually care nothing about cold, now suffer from it. I hope the new house is close and tight; I know you have coals enough. Do you wrap yourself in flannel from head to foot; do you take a warm bottle to bed with you? There is nothing unwholesomer in the world than cold. I think Jenny and you ought hardly ever to go out: the streets are slippery, you cannot walk fast for falling; and without walking fast there is no heat. Our London houses, and coals at 30 or 40 shillings a ton, are not made for frost. From the first night of the business everything has been frozen in every room here where there are not fires. One's towel is frozen in the morning; the water-jug, is an ice-jug; to get your hands washed is a problem. Jane never goes out at all; she keeps very well hitherto. Keep close you too; it will be thaw by and by!

I think I told you about sending off the list of my Writings to America and that it seemed likely they would be reprinted there first. Since then poor Fraser has grown sicker and sicker, and never stirs out; I really begin to fear he is not in a good way. It is a dangerous disease; the same that old Fletcher's wife died of, if you remember.11 Poor Fraser! I am heartily sorry for him; but still hope it may not be so bad.

For the rest, I am reading; reading, and walking, and musing in various moods. I should decline writing anything more at present even if I were pressingly asked. One of these days, I mean to get into “a place by mysel',”12 and begin seriously meditating my Course of Lectures;13 for it becomes more and more apparent that a Course must be delivered, tho' what course is still almost as obscure as ever. At the same time, I am far cooler and quieter now than I was last year, or even when I parted with you; so I have hopes we shall get tolerably thro' some way or other, “after all Mother.”14 The difficulty is in getting a name and form for the thing; for as to substance of it, I could talk to the people for a month, were my jaw once loosed. We must commence, and gird ourselves together; for the time draws nigh.

But see what a length I have run to; saying mere nothing!— You must try to convey some intelligence of the Doctor's new Letter over into Annandale; I wrote thither, as you heard, when your last turn was.

You will get the Walter Scott I hope about the beginning of the month. It is to be out next week; I will do what I can to have it sent off in time.— No news more. I am cold everywhere but in the head, which is covered with a whole fleece of hair, not having been cropt or meddled with since it was done in Dumfries. Think what it must be like! I go always in my cloak; I got a new hat last night: a shaggy almost dangerous-looking man!

How does the Shop in Jerman (or Jarman) street prosper?15 I augu[r that] Robert knows practically, whether theoretically or not, the adage, Keep thy shop and thy shop will keep thee. Jenny, it seems, has had some fit of biliousness again. There is no remedy, but continual care: doubtless too, if all go right, the spring air at Scotsbrig will do great good. Keep yourselves well and warm, all of you! The thaw will come, as I say. There is no sorrow we suffer but it will end. Farewell dear Mother for this day! Jane sends her warm love. She is in the red tartan gown usually in this weather;16 and a braw [fine] gown she has made it. Our new lass17 continues to do bravely. I bid good be among you all always. Ever your affectionate Son

T. Carlyle.