The Collected Letters, Volume 10


TC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE ; 8 March 1838; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18380308-TC-MAC-01; CL 10: 36-40


Chelsea, 8th March, 1838—

My dear Mother,

Your Letter1 in answer to my last was as welcome as good news could be. I am much obliged to you for taking such pains; your stiff determined-looking lines have always a right honest meaning in them; they come from the heart, and go to the heart. You must thank Jenny too; if it were not that you are with her, she would deserve a Letter to herself in reply, and should have it.

Here is Spring come at last; something like ordinary March weather, which one is heartily thankful to see after the storming we have had. You will be thinking about Annandale now; but I advise you to be in no violent haste for a week or two: there are surly days yet before the fine days can be expected to come; and paved streets in the coal country are as good as Middlebie in the East winds. I suppose James Aitken has been with you, and is gone again? He would report progress out of the Scotch circle. I have heard no direct news since you wrote: I sent a Letter to Alick; he returned a Newspaper with strokes, from which I can infer that nothing is far amiss, and that is all.

Jack's Roman Letter,2 which I was partly looking for that very morning, arrived on Monday last. I despatch it to you with a word or two of my own today; having just time enough for such a thing. I must postpone writing to Jack himself till tomorrow. The money he speaks of I think I will bid James Aitken take charge of:3 you are not on the spot, but James will act in your name. I have not yet been at the Banker's to get it; he holds out some five miles from this: but I mean to go today or tomorrow; and have no doubt I shall find it all right there.

You will see farther, with gladness, that Jack purposes being home soon; in the month of May, he says. That is the best news. The rest goes all as it used to do: his Lady's Lady-friend has got thro' a confinement,4 it seems: all is still and dull at Rome, where there is nothing now to keep them, except fit weather for crossing of the Alps. We shall hope to see poor Jack again in not many weeks; and ascertain better then how it is with him.— Great part of his Letter is occupied criticising our immortal French Revolution;5 and, alas, only the first volume of it, for the second Parcel containing the last two volumes is not arrived yet, but must be hovering about, somewhere or other, as it has done near a twelvemonth now! Jack had read that first volume already in Manuscript, and with endless contradiction; he will have to execute an amazing deal of talk yet before he get himself reconciled to the thing. It is his way in these cases. I wish he were but here, to begin it!

Jane continues very tolerably well; has had no cough; and begins to venture out a little now. My own health is not to complain of at all: I still study above everything to keep myself quiet; not to get into a fret and a fuff, and “dad tysel' a' abreed [shake yourself to pieces]”6 on any account whatsoever. There is no use in it, there is nothing in the wor[l]d worth it. I have made decided progress in that since last year. That perhaps is the chief of all the advantages I have got from that Book of mine. It is a great blessing.——— Now, however, the Lecturing is coming on; I fancy it is as good as settled that I am to start and try myself again! We got a Room, or the offer of one which is like to be accepted, last night; and my first work today, on going out, is to see about. It is a far better room than last year's, an unexceptionable room, all seated for the purpose, quiet, and lighted from the roof: the only drawback is its distance, 3 miles from me, and rather out of the beat too of our fashionable patrons; but on the whole there is no other at all suitable that can be got.7 I am to give 12 Lectures this year, and charge 2 guineas; if I have a good audience, it will mount up fast: one cannot say as to that; we must just try. The subject is to be “On the History of Literature”: I shall have to speak about Greeks and Romans first, then about other Nations; in short about the most remarkable Books and Persons and Opinions of all the Peoples that I know. There are to be three Lectures weekly (we think), the first on the first day of May.8 So you know when. I am likely to be very busy getting all in readiness; Jane has gone down stairs (as I think I told you last time), and left me here with the Books and Library to myself.— I have a notion, were the time come near, to get myself a horse, and ride about, tho' it is a terrible dearth in this place; nothing can be more important for me than to be as well as I can in May. Wherefore again wish me good-speed, dear Mother; and do not fear but I shall, on the whole, get thro' it not unhandsomely. I have many a good friend here, I do believe; the proportion of scoundrels in London is great; but likewise there is a proportion of better people here than you can easily find elsewhere in the whole world. Let us only keep our hearts quiet, as I say; let us give no ear to vain-glory, to self-conceit, the wretchedest of things; the Devil's chief work I think here below!—

I yesterday dined with a Mr Erskine, a very notable man among the religious people of Scotland, who seems to have taken a considerable fancy for me.9 He is one of the best persons I have met with for many a long year. We were very cheerful; a small quiet party, and had blithe serious talk. I afterwards (on the way home) went to a “Soiree” of Miss Martineau's:10 there were fat people, and fair people, lords and others, fidgetting, elbowing; all very braw, and hot: “What's ta use on't?”11 I said to myself and came off early, while they were still arriving—at eleven at night! I go as rarely as I can to such things; for they always do me ill. A book at home is suitabler, with a quiet pipe twice in the evening; innocent “spoonful of porridge” at ten, and bed at eleven in such composure as one can. “Steady!” as the Drill-serjeants say.

I must now end, dear Mother. I am still forcing myself to think that you hold out tolerably well. Yet remember, according to Jack's precept to Jane, that Spring weather is often the unwholesomest of all;12 keep warm, keep out of wind's way and weather's, till April come and the flowers. Jenny will be a great benefit to you across the Frith, and till you heft again. Robert must stand by the shop himself; which I hope is rewarding his care of it. A great blessing it is that you all keep your health. Jane sends her kindest wishes and regards. I calculate on writing again before Lecture-time; to Manchester or to Scotsbrig according as I make out your movements. Good be ever with you, my dear Mother! Always your

T. Carlyle

Friday, 9th.— Dear Mother, I did not send off the Letter yesterday; and will add a word today before it goes, to say that all is still well. We have again got frost; sharp biting northerly air; delicate people must keep within doors.

I have just finished a long Letter to Jack, which will set off tonight, as this will; his southward, yours northward: the next we get from him, I hope, will say that he is getting upon the road. I went to the Bank yesterday; and got the £150 he speaks about; I sent it on to Dumfries, and bade James Aitken insert it in the Bank accounts there, in your name, as the other money was. I have to write to James about it this day still, before going out; in a frank for Mrs Welsh: the getting of the two franks at once, that was the reason why yours did not go yesterday by itself.13 It will be welcome I know, arrive when it may.

Your last Letter to me was inclosed to Alick when I wrote: no answ[er] yet but a Newspaper. You must let me know some way when you set out for Annandale, Jenny and you. Be in no great hurry yet. Or you may write to me after you get thither? If it be not too long till then.

My blessings with you all always!

T. C.