TC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE ; 30 March 1838; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18380330-TC-MAC-01; CL 10: 53-57
TC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE
Chelsea, 30th March, 1838—
My dear Mother,
Tho' I have next to nothing or altogether nothing to say this morning, yet I think I had better say nothing on a sheet of paper and send it you: there is little doubt but it will be welcome. I am getting again into great darkness as to what is passing in Annandale; and fear nobody will write till I have written anew. Indeed I yet hardly understand, and that only by inference, whether you are in Annandale or Lancashire; an old newspaper from Hanning with three strokes on it made me judge that you had gone homewards, and I have sent two Newspapers directed thither; the Dumfries Courier of last week did not arrive moreover till Monday, but all well then, and so I concluded farther that perhaps James and Jean had been over at Scotsbrig welcoming you,—it was the best conclusion I could form about it! But I want of course to know accurately in distinct black-on-white. The weather all winter has been wild and bitter; I would fain know that you are safe thro' it, and what you are all aiming at and occupied with.
As for me, I have but one interest in the wind at present; that of my Lectures[.] It is like the harvest of the whole year. I am not quite in such a dreadful fry about it as I was in, about this time twelvemonth; but it is again agitating enough; and I think often that if I had any money to live upon there is no power in the world that would tempt me to such circumstances. Perhaps it is so ordered that I have no money in order to oblige me to open my jaw! I cannot say; I can say only that I had infinitely rather continue keeping it shut. But, on the whole, they have got me a lecture-room, and I have drawn up the scheme of my twelve Lectures, which is to be printed next week; and from the last day of April (that is, monday come four weeks!) till near the middle of June, I shall be wriggling and struggling: ah me! There are to be but two Lectures a week; this will spread it over six weeks instead of four: it seems there would not be a fair chance of attendance otherwise. The subject is about all things in the world, the whole spiritual history of man from the earliest times till now; among my audience I am likely to have some of the cleverest people in this country; and I to speak to them! As I said, it were very greatly pleasanter for me to entirely hold my tongue. Nevertheless, we will fight thro' it, one way or another, the very pain of it, and miserable trembling connected with it, is a kind of schooling for one. “Thou must not tine [lose] heart,”1 thou must gird thyself into forced composure; thou must strive to possess thy soul in patience, and await what will betide!—
This is the season, this and onwards till midsummer, when London is throngest with people; with meetings and speeches, with dinners, parties, balls and doings. I know not what I should do if I were to become an established Popular; with the popularity I have, it is almost like to be too hard for me at times. Nothing [in] nature seems to me more entirely wretched and barren than the life of people, literary and other, that give themselves up to that sort of matter here. I firmly believe it to be the darkest curse God lays upon a man or woman. Carrying the beggar's wallet I take to be bad, but far from so bad. The very look of the face of one of these people seems to say: Avoid me, if thou be wise!— You judge from all this that I am resolutely anxious to keep myself quiet; that I go out oftener than I want, but as seldom as is possible for me; and on the whole am reading books and making notes for my Lectures, and holding on my way as composedly as may be. “Dinna gang to dad tysel' a' abreed,” said Lizzy Herd to Wull once; and I many a time remember the precept here.2 To be dadded a' abreed [shaken to pieces] is precisely the thing I want above all to avoid.— As for the people I see, they are such as seem to have some likelihood of benefitting me; they would be long to mention. The best class of all whom I have seen this year are the class of religious people; certain of whom very strangely have taken a kind of affection for me, in spite of my contradictions towards them! It teaches me again that the best of this class is the best one will find in any class whatsoever. The radical members, and ambitious vain political people, and literary people, and fashionable people are to be avoided in comparison. One of the best men I have seen for many a year is one Thomas Erskine a Scotch Gentleman of great fortune and celebrated in the religious world; the title of his last book is “on regeneration”:3 most strange it is how such a man has taken to me. Nay he has been heard to say that “very few of them are at bottom so orthodox as Carlyle.”4 What think you of that? Jane has a copy of Erskine's book; and will send it to you, I think. He is to come here this evening, and take leave of us, being bound for the Continent.5 He says he could not live in London, the sight of it would break his heart.— I tell you nothing about the things they continue to tell me about my Book:6 it is a deep question with me whether all such tellings and praisings are not rather a misfortune, calculated to drive one still farther from the one blessing of life, humble peace of mind. When grand people and beautiful people pay me grand beautiful compliments, and I grope in my pocket and find that I have so few pounds sterling there to meet my poor wants with, I cannot but say with Sandy Corry, What's ta use on't?7 Or with the Cow in the fable: Gie me a pickle pease strae!8— I send you the last American Letter, however, to shew you how they are going on there; and that I have even a prospect of getting money out of Yankee land. The reprint of the F. R. is to yield so many dollars (something beyond £150), my friend Emerson says;9 and then the reprinted Articles, &c &c. We shall see. And now enough of all that matter.
Jack, we hope, must be bestirring himself soon at Rome, in the way of getting homewards! I wish he were here again, poor Doil; I shall have much to tell him, and ask of him; many things to take counsel about. I had a Newspaper from him, since the Letter came; I think I sent it forward to some of you. It is almost certain, Jack will be for Scotland without much delay here; whether I can think of accompanying him is a thing all in the wind yet. In case he go back to Italy for next winter, we sometimes speak about going with him thither: but nothing can yet be settled; it depends on Lectures &c. One thing only is pretty clear to me, that I will get out of this London a while if I can. The stir of it frets me over much: I have the deepest appetite for repose; one all-surpassing wish, to be well let alone. This should seem a thing not unattainable; and yet it is a thing difficult of attainment.— Jeffrey is here from Edinburgh; fiddling about, as usual, and seems brisk enough: “he can neither do thee ill na'> good.”10 I had some correspondence of Notes from Mrs Edward Irving, the other week: she wanted introductions to Germany for “a dear friend of her late husband's”; which I cheerfully gave. This dear friend, a very wersh [insipid]-looking man, meant, as I learned afterwards, to go and convert the Germans to the gift of tongues, he himself in the meanwhile not knowing a syllable of their tongue!11 It seems a hopeful enterprise. The Irving Churches still continue to go on in England; and they have evangelists, angels, prophets, and I know not what; but have mostly ceased now to “work miracles.”12 Our next neighbour, a surgeon settled here lately, is a member of that body, and one of the most innocent of men.13
But now I really must terminate. If Jenny is with you, let her sit down forthwith to a long blank sheet of paper, and consider what need I have of tidings! I know nothing, and want to know everything. The Newspaper from Dumfries instructed me by symbol that James had managed the Doctor's £150, and got it put into the Bank safe on the same terms as the others, with the interest for you (if you would take it): this is all I have learned from that quarter. Alick for long has been entirely mute. I can only hope he is struggling on with some kind of tolerable outlook; if my wishes could avail anything, he were not struggling but triumphing; nevertheless it is perhaps better as we see it. Tell him to struggle on like a man, with courage, with patience; the proud temper that is in us needs to be tamed. It is verily so. Ah me, the Devil is too busy: he needs to [be] beaten out of every son of Adam with many stripes. As the good Erskine said the other night, “A man that is unhappy is to be pitied; yet perhaps a man that is not unhappy is to be still more pitied!” We all laughed, and admitted it to be just.— I long to hear specially how Mary is, and whether they have yet any outlook of a farm. Anne Cook14 wrote to Jane some time ago, about being reengaged here; Jane, I think, means to write to her; but you can say that our present servant answers extremely well at present, and there can be no thought of changing. Remember us affectionately at Scotsbrig, I mean down stairs;15 say that the butter and meal, both excellent, keep them daily present with us. I but lately finished Alick's tobacco; I daily smoke on James Aitken's pipes, the best sort of pipes I was ever in my life master of.16
Jane for the last three weeks has not been so well. She at first had got a kind of cold, and even cough, which one liked extremely ill to witness; but that is gone now; and we look forward confidently to the good weather. She is now I think not worse again than before the cold, or generally thro' the last three months: but it is a feeble state to front the world in, and her patience under the long confinement lessens as the year gets on. We have now sun, tho' with east wind, and clouds of dust flying; she ventures out in fine days a little, and seems to enjoy London wonderfully, considering.
I end here my dear Mother; having written far more than I meant. Remember me to the good Grahame of Burnswark; assure him that, tho' silent, I am not forgetful; far from that! Tell me how you are, dear Mother. I will write again before these Lectures are done, nay probably before they begin. Charles Buller and Arthur go out to Canada with Durham, and have great things in the wind.17 The Radicals are all gone to sixes and sevens; and Buller, I fancy, wishes to whisk off from them. He is my franker; I shall get another to frank.
Adieu dear Mother. May Good ever be with you; may God's Peace descend into the hearts of one and all of us! So prays heartily, Your affectionate T. Carlyle.