TC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE ; 15 February 1838; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18380215-TC-MAC-01; CL 10: 26-30
TC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE
Chelsea, 15th Feby, 1838—
My dear Mother,
I have come down here into a room of my own, all fettled, heated, the seams stuffed with paper &c; with intent to set myself steadfastly to work to consider what and how these Lectures of mine are to be. Jane and I have been sitting together all winter in the room we call the Library up stairs, which is our warmest large room; but now by aid of paper-stuffing, as I say, and shutting of folding-doors, I have made myself a very snug place down here; and am to work, and to prosper if the gea [vigor] of life be in me. Before beginning, however, I find it will be better to fling you off a short line, merely to assure you that we are well, and to ask how you are.
There has little in the shape of news come from the North country since I wrote last: Jean sent, thro' me, a long Letter to the Doctor; which I read as it passed, and filled up some blank spaces in it: all was going on well at that time, as she very pointedly recorded; Austin looking after a farm; Alick ordering new goods from Dumfries, and so on: since that there has nothing reached me except the Newspaper weekly, which always carries its two strokes hitherto. Neither has anything come from Jack except Newspapers. One Newspaper arrived not long after I wrote, with three strokes on it; which I took as a clear token that the Revolution volumes and pamphlets, so long lingering on the way, had actually got to hand; a thing you may fancy I was very glad of: Jack, no doubt, will have read them by this time. A few days ago there was another Newspaper, which I forwarded to you, with the stamp very visible upon it, for the benefit of Postmen. Jean's Letter had gone off, and in it I engaged the Doctor not to reply till he had a Letter from myself, which letter I would send him so soon as the Article Walter Scott was fairly under way. Accordingly I have written at great length, some ten days ago or more, and the Article must be about over the Alps before now: we need not look for any answer however for some fortnight or three weeks yet. But just yesterday there came a new Roman Newspaper with three strokes, to signify, as I conclude, that Jean's Letter had arrived at Rome; that the Doctor was well, waiting for my letter, and would write forthwith when it came. So it is all right; and if I had news from Manchester and Annandale, I should be very fairly off on that side. I oblige myself to believe that you are not ill in any respect; there was a Manchester Newspaper lately to that effect; a sign also, as I suppose, that the dud of an article which I sent to you had arrived safe. Send another newspaper when you get this; with two strokes, if you can; I shall then keep myself as quiet as may be till Jenny and you muster another letter for me.— Many times, my dear Mother, have I thought what was becoming of you in this stern weather. How you keep yourself in heat, or what way you turn yourself against the grim influences of the time! Have you a flannel dress-gown to wrap yourself in at night? Do you take warm bottles? Happily it is a country of cheap coal-fuel you are in, and a household of careful friends. Nothing like keeping oneself warm, by whatever means! The skin all day in a shivery state deranges every function of the body, for they are all connected with the skin. There is no doubt, many thousands are miserably off at present, without fuel, without food. The “poor gardeners all frozen out” are bawling and begging under my window, few minutes ago, with a frozen cabbage on a pole: what they do in this five-weeks frost I know not, for I have seen them in former years begging on the first day of a frost.1 They have no thrift or foresight; and so, eating all they earn, have nothing to eat when they earn nothing. There are charity-subscriptions &c; the best charity one can pray for is the return of thaw, and the possibility of working.
It cannot be said that we have any news here, of much moment. We live quite quietly among a small circle of people, who see us from time to time, not so often as usual in the bitter weather; I do not go out much to dinner or soirees (evening-parties); Jane does not go out at all, not even in the day-time, and accordingly has grown very impatient for mild weather again. However, she takes really handsomely to her in-doors life; and has not been better, I think, these good many winters: she (and you and all weakly people) must be especially careful about this spring season, the most insidious and injurious of all. We are generally alone in the evenings, tranquil over our books and papers; what visitors and visiting we have are in the middle of the day.2 With my will I would go out nowhere to visit in the evening; it never fails to do me more or less harm: but here there is no other way of carrying on intercourse with several sorts of people whom one likes otherwise to see. My most remarkable evening-party for a great while was one lately at no smaller a personage's than—who think you?—the Chancellor of the Exchequer's!3 I went for the curiosity, for the honour of the thing. They invited me a second time; but I was absent and did not go. The invitation being now on my table, I think I will send it you, as a strange thing enough. I could not help thinking, Here is the man that disposes annually of the whole revenue of England; and here is another man who has hardly enough of cash to buy potatoes and onions for himself: Fortune has for the time made these two tenants of one drawing-room. The case, I believe, is this: Miss Spring Rice,4 the Chancellor of the Exchequer's eldest daughter, a very beautiful and rather intelligent young woman, was one of my German hearers last year, and took a fancy for my notability; so her mother the Lady Theodosia5 was obliged to be “at home” for me. The people were very kind; Spring Rice himself a substantial goodhumoured shifty-looking man of fifty: the rooms were genial with heat, and light as the sun at noon; there were high dames and “distinguished males,”6 simmering about like people in the press of a June-Fair: the whole thing went off very well; and I returned about one in the morning with a headache that served me for more than a day after. “It will help your Lectures,” Jane said. May be so; but in the meantime it has quite hindered my natural sleep and composure.7 ——— I had another Letter from Emerson the American friend, sent by a person he was introducing to me:8 by this it appears that the F. Revolution is reprinted in New England by Emerson's care, and that I am to have some money out of it, no less!9 The Articles are going on, I suppose, on the same principle. American money for my writings will be curious to get; and welcome, as all money is. As for Fraser he continues sick, tho' a little less dangerously so than before; his projects of printing and reprinting are quite blown by for the present.
I was out at Windsor, some five and twenty miles off, from saturday to monday last. A certain young Irishman & scholar named Edgeworth10 (come of very notable people, and himself a worthy man) had taken it into his head, and has been insisting occasionally these two years, that I, reason or none, must absolutely come out and pay him a visit. I went, to be done with it. This is the first time I have breathed country air since I left you. We did very well; tho' I objected greatly to the cold, Edgeworth's house being full of slides, folding-doors, fine-views, and blowing in every corner like a pair of fanners [winnowing machine]. I saw Windsor Forest, a great parish of beautiful waste land, with brackeny dry knolls, with cottages, and innumerable oaks single or in clumps, some of them the oldest and largest trees I ever saw. One huge old monster, quite empty in the heart, I fathomed; six fathoms, about six and thirty feet round! Windsor town is a place midway in size between Dumfries and Annan; a red-brick, clean-swept elevated tidy kind of place: on the highest point of the ground there is Windsor Castle or Palace; which also we saw, outside and inside; very beautiful indeed, and sufficient to lodge a much larger figure than poor little Queen Victory. The Kings hang there, the pictures of them, all in rows with their gauderies about them, poor old King William the last: like so many shadows of a Dream;—each hovers there for a year or two, and then Eternity swallows him, and he lies as strait as old Wull Moor the Galloway Hushel [useless worker].11 Enough of Windsor. I am now to get forward with my Lectures; and do not mean to stir out of this, till I have put them into some kind of figure. What they are to be? That is the question. Nothing appears to be settled but that they are to be. I suppose the people are willing to hear what I have got to say on any subject that interests me; I must get a name for my story; and then open my lips and proceed to tell it.
But here surely, my dear Mother, is a Letter long enough for any purpose whatsoever. It is a full sheet, and written in a hand of unusual smallness, tho' I had literally nothing of the slightest moment to say. When Jack's letter comes I will endeavour to write another word. Jenny and you must buckle yourselves together, the sooner the better, and tell me a long story. Let me hear, what of your departure? I think you should be in no haste for Annandale in this bitter weather. Jenny too can stand no hardship. I am easier about her since I know you are there for nurse.— Jane, who has just been down stairs to see me, and is writing to her Mother, charges me to send you her kind love; her prayers, she calls it, for all and sundry in this frosty time. She says she will take cold soon, unless the weather soften: she had better not, I answer. Along with Mrs Welsh's letter goes one for James Aitken about the letting of that Craigenputtoch House. I hope M'Queen will get it and the farm; at all events, I hope I shall hear no more tell of it for a while.
Robert's12 new shop must be beginning to declare itself; favourably, I hope. [Wish] him best speed from me. I have no fear for him; a hardy fellow that will whisk himself thro' when dozens of others would stick And so good-b'ye, dear Mother; my blessings be with you all.
I am ever / Your affectionate
As there is a Note of Miss Martineau's lying here,13 I send you that too for a curiosity.