The Collected Letters, Volume 10


TC TO ALEXANDER CARLYLE ; 13 June 1838; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18380613-TC-AC-01; CL 10: 101-102


Chelsea, 13th June, 1838—

My dear Alick,

There is a bundle of Letters going off to my Mother; in which, tho' doubtless you will all share in them, I may as well insert specially a single line for you. Our Lectures are over, as you will learn abundantly from our Mother; over, and well over: I suppose they will yield us some scrap of “private capital,” on which we may be able by dint of thrift to struggle on again till the season come round, next year, if we live to see it. A very great blessing to one who like me has not for many years, you may say never at all, seen any fixed prospect of livelihood before him, but been at all times baited and haunted by the haggard fear of actual destitution! “Better a wee bush than nae bield [shelter],” the Proverb says: we will be thankful for these Lectures, for these changes of luck, that have yielded us even this little deliverance: “these little things are great to little man.”1 Our Lecture-room this year was in a baddish part of the town; but it was a real Lecture-room adapted for a man speaking in, not a rascally fashionble shew-room (like last year's) adapted for fiddlers fire eaters and playactors: I got my “tinkler jaw [loud, scolding tongue]”2 loosed considerably better in it, and told the people much more of my mind. They welcomed it too, as handsomely as people could: there is fair play for a man here, if he can get play at all; people ask not, who or what he is, so much as simply, whether he can say or do anything that has any substance in it for them.— Since I wrote my Mother's sheet, the first Proof of Teufelsdröckh has actually come to hand and been corrected: it will make a nice enough Book, which I hope to shew you soon. “I am glad he is going to get published, poor beast,” said Jane. And so am I too, “poor beast”: he has had a sore fight for it, these seven years and more, since you and I drove down to Glencaple that August morning3 (and lost the beer-barrel from behind us); so many years struggling to get his head above ground, up out of the mire;—almost like the Author of him, we may say! And now he is actually getting up; and will breathe, and live as long as is appointed him; a day, or a year and day, that is of no moment; simply as long as it is given him, which is just the right longness.

I cannot tell you yet what I am going to do, or when or how I shall get to Annandale (if possible); but it will clear itself up before long, and then you shall soon hear. I am and shall be in a heated sort of state, for some while; a state I do nowise like; but it will not last: I shall get quiet again with the smallest possible delay. I hear still that there are people meaning to “give me a dinner,” I heard so again yesterday: but I will not have it, unless the contrary be impossible; a “dinner” will do little for me, except fret my poor nerves: but really the friends here that I have are worthy of all gratitude from me. My health is not bad, were I rested again; indeed I think I am considerably better in body and mind than I was this time last year; but I am still far from rested, and want quiet! quiet!— Jane seems to grow distinctly a little better as the summer gets in, thro' all these fierce east-winds: she is a little under par today, and cannot go out with me to the place we were to dine at. Had Jack got home about this time, and carried us off with him “O'er the Border and away,”4 how blithe had it been for us all! But that was not the way of it, I fear; we must be content with another way of it.

I supped on one of the Ecclefechan eggs last night; fresh as wine; the greater part of them are now gone for breakfast: a large indentation too has been made in the bacon-ham, which is one of the best of its kind. The beef we durst not cut upon so freely; finding it good, savoury to the taste and fierce on the weak stomach, Jane gave it away to Mrs Sterling to whom it was jolly acknowledgement of many many favours we have had from that house. They boil it, rasp it down into powder, eat it with joviality to breakfast,—happy are they in their stomachic department. Many thanks to poor Dillick;5 God be thanked that he too is to be able to live; that after a ten-years battle, and work without wages, is now to work with wages of some sort, and have a little composure in his lot!— Remember us both, in all affection, to Jenny and the Bairns. Good be with you, dear Brother, and with yours!

—T. Carlyle