The Collected Letters, Volume 10


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE ; 9 March 1838; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18380309-TC-JAC-01; CL 10: 40-46


Chelsea, 9th March, 1838

My dear Brother,

It was on Monday last that your Letter came;1 they usually come on Mondays: it is now Friday morning when I sit in the Library up stairs, equipt for writing to you in answer; I could not get ready sooner. Your Letter, owing to the longer delay, was looked for with unusual appetite; we were not strictly speaking apprehensive of any thing, for the Diarios2 had given us repeated good indication: but I had made up my mind that there was a Letter to come that day; and accordingly it did come, and all was right once more in that quarter. I have written to our Mother (still at Manchester), and will despatch your Letter along with that to her today. I went yesterday to Stone and Martin's; found the £150 ready; carried it over to Jones's in Threadneedle street,3 and had it there sent under way for Dumfries to the charge of James Aitken, to be placed by him as the former sums were; to whom I must this day also write a little Note of Instruction, to go along with a Letter to Mrs Welsh: this winds up the matter on my side too. You get the Newspaper simultaneously with this: may they find you still well, and give you a happy morning of it!

There has been a Letter4 from my Mother and Jenny since you last heard: they were well in spite of the bitter weather; close nestled by the fireside, and not thinking to stir for Annandale till the days softened a little. Jenny is to accompany our Mother over, and stay with her a short while. Our good Mother writes in the same simple intelligent affectionate style as ever: her rude-drawn lines and words are very affecting to me. There has been no direct word from Scotland since Jean's Letter which you have. I wrote to Alick twice at intervals, he sent me a Newspaper lately. I wrote also to Jean or her husband, about the letting of that house at Craigenputtoch, if there were any prospect of letting it along with the Farm which you may have seen advertised in the late Couriers. It is to be inferred that all continues on the old footing among our Kinsfolk. I have not been able to ascertain whether Mary and her James have any or what outlook of a Farm; not tho' I have mentioned it in almost every Letter: Jenny indeed speaks of Stennybeck, and how the elder Hanning5 who had been at Manchester had said that there would likely soon be a vacancy there, and that Austin might then have a good chance. With the loan you offer,6 and a similar sort of offer from myself (of money that Scotsbrig Jamie has of mine) they might manage to get into it, or into something, and do well in it: I should be heartily glad of it, and have good hopes of them, industrious frugal and cheerful as they are. No other news out of Annandale whatever: the winter there and everywhere has been inclement, stern and long-continued; but now we seem to be getting into Spring, tho' indeed still not without returns of frost,—e.g. today.

No Packet was ever unluckier than that of the French Revolution. So it seems you have only the first volume yet, the other two lingering no man knows where! I wish you could have read and digested them before you got home; you will probably have some kicking against the pricks7 to go thro' before you can reconcile yourself; yet reconcilement is probable at last. The third volume is generally the favourite: I clearly think either of the two much less unhappy than the first. They are past and gone; that is the beauty of them. No book or thing, I hope, shall ever more throw me into such a ferment;—from the miseries of which I still, like one tempest-tossed and shipwrecked, am slowly recovering. Cavaignac sent off his Scott sheets, by a sure hand to Paris, who was to forward them free of expence to Rome, by “a Merchant” who sends a Package thither every week. Had we known of that Merchant sooner! The Article Scott seems to meet general approbration [sic]; I cannot say I ever felt more entirely indifferent as to the fate of any production whatsoever. I have got £45 for it; no other real benefit or injury at all. It ought to be in your hands before this. Ach Gott! what a despicability is Literature altogether! I confess, many times when I see “distinguished females” and such like, it appears to me deepest obscurity were better; breaking of whinstone roadstuff at 15 pence the cubic yard a more blessed trade! “Be still therefore,” I say to myself, “close thy lips and wait and look.”— As to the Article-printing with Fraser, I imagine with you that I have probably done wrong:8 I followed other judgement than my own; then Fraser fell sick; at any rate I am in such a weak mood that I abhor bargain-making, am fit for no transaction with a greedy mortal about money. It is very weak; but it is true, and cannot for the time be helped. As for Fraser he seems to be clearly getting better again; by and by we shall likely resume the subject; and either with him, or with some other, the Article Collection will be got out. I confess I want it done; I want to have the whole trash once fairly off my hand; that I might betake me to fresh fields;9 that I might consider then what quite new thing I would try writing, or whether anything more at all in the world. The edition of the F. R. as I conjecture must be nearly done, and there will probably be another; by [sic] my soul (poor soul!) shrinks from speech of such a thing with Fraser. Quiet disgust, that is the usual, least unsatisfactory mood I am in about such things. The heart of man that has not tried it cannot conceive what a business all that is. Yet, blessed be God, there is a kind of light-gleam in the innerman of one; which whoso will quietly, humbly, silently follow, it shall be well with him. “Silently” above all;—why therefore do I now speak? In a word, O brother Jack, I do endeavour to thank Heaven for much mercy to me on this side also; yes, these long years of martyrdom, and misery which I would not suffer again to buy the world, were not utterly in vain; there is hope also, sure hope, that the worst of them are over. My mood of mind at present is not nearly so wretched: I am wae, very wae and sad, but entirely peaceable, and such sadness seems almost as good as joy. My heart's prayer is, Deliver me, ye Supreme Powers, from Self-conceit, ah do,—and then what else is your will!

That is a beautiful project of meeting you at Paris; but alas, my dear Boy, it is impossible. Know in one word: I shall be lecturing, like a lion, at that very date of time! It is all settled now: there is to be a course of Lectures, 12 in number, to begin with the first of May,10 and go on three a week. Wilson and Darwin are busy: yesterday, no farther back, the room was secured; a regular Lecture-room this time; all seated, covered with faded red baize; a decent-enough place, in Edward street Portman Square, where some “Mary-le-bonne Institution” or other has its sessions: they have given it to us for the 12 times for 20 guineas. It will hold conveniently from 400 downwards; 150 will not look miserable in it, for it is of amphitheatral shape. Our hour as before is from 3 to 4. Pity me on the first of May! And the subject? Aye, the subject, for which we must contrive some fit name (Henry Taylor giving counsel in that), is called as yet “On the History of Literature”; it means, The most remarkable Books, Persons, Opinions of our Western world, from the time of Homer downwards, so far as a poor ignorant man can endeavour to get up some sincere utterances about them in Twelve most limited Discourses. The Greeks, the Romans, the Crusades, Dante & Italians, the Spanish and Cervan[tes,] then Luther, Voltaire &c perhaps to Shakspear and Samuel Johnson. I tremble to think of it; yet endeavour not to tremble. I shall be in better plight this year; I think also of getting a Horse to ride about on from the middle of April; if I had my measure of health and pluck I could do very well. Happily we are out of Willis's Rooms11 and his dancers and brass-bands, this year; they think some of the fashionables will be deterred by our ultra mundane position (in Portman Square district); but, in that case, we shall be as well without them, I think. No fewer than four Principalities, last year, came and heard me, and did not to this hour pay the fee! We are to charge two guineas this year; I cannot conjecture what audience there will be: we must try. Perhaps some £200 may be made of it, or so; there is as to money no other resource very visible for me here. Try it therefore in Heaven's name!— So you see, Doctor, you may probably get in before the death, if your Lady keeps her purpose, and hear a Lecture or two. Then, O then, right merry shall we hope to be, with the brave Summer lying all manageable and free before us! I must work like a Turk however till the time come; I have nothing else to think of till then. Courage! Esperance! And now enough of this subject, which you will put together into “harmonious composure”12 by your own quiet reflexion, more quiet than mine is at present. I wish I had three sheets!

We are pretty well in health; Jane never coughing yet, beginning now to venture out when the day is favourable. She seems to me better than she has been for several winters. I go little out at night, when I can help it: all dinners, all soirees are a malison to me. I was at Spring Rice's once, Chancellor of the Exchequer's!13 His sons and daughters were hearers of mine. They asked me a second time to their “at Home”; I was absent (out at Windsor for a day with poor Edgeworth who had still persisted in that strange pursuit of his that I should “come and stay with him”),14 I did not go to the the second “at Home”; and now, as I learn, there is some hitch in the business, owing to misconstruction of my absence, or I know not what: small matter; for my poor head and nerves did not recover the last entertertainment [sic] for eight-and-forty after. I dined very lately with one Erskine (of the “Evidences of the Christian Religion”), a mild benevolent man of fifty, one of the best of men. I seem to be getting among the Saints so-called; the better of them love me much. Woolwich Scott was of our party, a respectable character: he is delivering a gratis course of Lectures at Exeter Hall “On God's methods of revealing himself,” even now; very fluent, very honest-looking, to me not instructive.15 I went to the first, partly on compulsion; once or so I shall have to go again. Erskine is to be here, with Dunn16 probably, on Monday night. For the rest, what party is so good as reading Thucydides, Dante or Johannes von Müller?17 A mixture of both is needful, but the solitary evenings are the best. Cavaignac and Erskine met one night; and, beautiful to see, fell in love with one another!18 Enough now.— John Sterling still writes in Blackwood “Crystals from a Cavern.”19 The news from him is not quite so good of late, yet still not alarming; you will probably find him returned to this country about the time you yourself get hither. Of Mill I see almost nothing: he and his Review are taking a course apart from mine; not a prosperous one, as I predict: they must forward, as I must. William Fraser has never played pip since I saw him in Autumn, nor do I hear any whisper of him: I conclude with real pity that matters go crossly with him: his wife seemed entirely a fool, of good purpose; poor fellow! Allan Cunningham was here on Sunday last; large and bald. I have not a square-inch more, dear Jack but must say Farewell, all but the margins.

The sum of the matter therefore is, Come home safe, and with all the despatch possible. What is to be done then, we will decide, or speculate upon at boundless lengths. My Lectures will have proved themselves; I too shall then be clearer. I often think I could then wish much to get out of this Town, out of this country for a while; but I am rather driven to that than led to it: I submit to what the arrangement may most reasonably be. One does not know at all what will be best for him, except at most for the immediate future. Get ready therefore, O Jack; and come back with our blessing. How welcome will you be to our Mother, to us all! One has that possession on the Earth; and is that a small one?— I had a letter the other day from Mrs E. Irving; wishing some introductions to Germany for a friend of hers and of her late Husband's.20 I promptly complied. She inquires specially for you: poor woman; I do believe her to be as good as she can be; and am sad to think of old times. W. Hamilton I saw lately; they are all well, but sad under the Kirkcaldy vicissitudes.21 I must end here. God bless you, my dear Brother!— T. Carlyle

Charles Buller is to go out as Secretary with Durham to Canada;22 a desirable kind of promotion for him:23 he has been wavering hither and thither all winter, uncertain what to do; the Radicals being all broken into mad fractions; a wretched class of men.24 Arthur too goes.25 The elder people have been ill.

Our Mother sent you her blessing expressly, I should not omit it.— The Stimabile still thunders in the Times; comes much less hitherward than once; “Delirium in breeches,” what can you do with that? His Tories do now expect to get in. Jane is not here; you may take her love, as if it were sent. Adieu again! This is the end of me.

The Maurices “draw wire”26 as before.

Lady Lewis was here one day, a curious woman; she is for Malta soon, her husband27 has work there.

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