The Collected Letters, Volume 10


TC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE ; 26 July 1838; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18380726-TC-MAC-01; CL 10: 129-133


Chelsea, 26th July, 1838—

My dear Mother,

I have been thinking earnestly these three days about writing to you; and here now, by way of good luck, is a Letter from the Doctor, which as it were commands me to make no more delay. It is long, I think, since you have heard so little of me in such a space of time; nothing direct, except one little Note to Jean, since the middle of June when the Lectures ended. I have been rather lame for writing (as Jean would tell you; but that is about over now); besides being very languid and indisposed; neither indeed have I ever rightly ascertained where you were, or what you were specially about, since your return from Manchester. I will set all on some clearer footing today. The only particular notice I had was in Jean's Letter to Italy, and this not an agreeable notice, that you had caught cold, scouring blankets with Isabella, and were out of order on that account.1 Surely, my dear Mother, you might cease now to expose yourself in that manner; you have had enough of it, one would think, some years ago! Let me hope that it was nothing very serious this attack, but that you are already out of it, and that it may serve as a warning to you. Hire somebody for such work; if I should pay it, three times over! I will still hope there is little mischief done this time.

Jack's best news is that in all probability he is coming home after all. I for one am right glad to hear it. In September, he says, or almost in the end of August, one may hope to see him here. He is in good health, and well off for all things except one: news from home. Three letters of mine have been sent; but none at that time had reached him. My last to Rome must be lost, I imagine; detained by that beggarly Austrian Post-office of theirs;2 but the next I hope has reached Milan before this, and set the good Doctor's heart at rest. Jean's Dumfries letter was also forwarded with a Postscript from me without loss of time; we will suppose that this also may arrive, and set all to rights. Not one of my Newspapers durst they forward; not even M'Diarmid's Courier: surely that Constitution must be in a staggering state which M'Diarmid can put in jeopardy!3 But at all events now I will write again forthwith to Berne in Switzerland: there among the honest Swiss, with the wretched Jesuitry and imbecile stagnation of Italy all behind the Alps, our poor Jack will learn that his friends are still well, and eager to see him among them again. You will get the Examiner of next week, instead of the Austrian Postmaster, whom we will not trouble farther at present in that way. Jack, I suppose, had meant him to open that last letter, and get himself scolded a little; which, judging by the strange gum seal, I think the wretched scamp has actually done.4 Byron, writing out of that country, says in one of his letters, “If anybody open this, pray let him understand that I for one consider him as a mean scoundrel, and those that employ him, be they Emperors or what not, as worthy of being spit upon by all honest men”:5 let them take that. “A pooa avenge!” as old Pa[r]liament6 once said; but the best one can get, in such circumstances.

Yesterday morning I sent away a large Packet of Books, to go by steam to Edinburgh; and thereafter to be forwarded by Coach to James Aitken at Dumfries. They will probably arrive early in the next month (August), and serve you all reading for a while. The address was ordered to be “James Aitken, English Street, Dumfries”; and one or two of the Books are marked specially for him, one or two also for Alick; the rest are for your care, as usual, to be lent out and read as you direct. Scott's Life by Lockhart is among them, with some unimportant etceteras. But the finest item of the collection, you will say I hope, is Teufelsdröckh, fairly at last in the shape of a Book! They have got it out finally, after long delays; and it will take its lot like other things. It is not a pretty volume, not at all finely done off: but on the whole I care next to nothing at all about it, or about what comes of it,—“a kirk and a mill”7 if the world like: I had fairly done with it almost seven years ago. The present edition is small; the sale will not be great.

Jane is very decidedly better ever since the summer began: she is now about as well as I have seen her since we came to Chelsea; goes out to dinner &c occasionally, like other people: if she can but stand the winter as well, it will be a great improvement. As for me, I have not been decidedly ailing at all; but yet kept in a weakly languid state, in consequence of my lecturing operations, and all the bustle there was about that. The heat also was against me; but there is no heat now: indeed I fear there is far too much cold for the country; Jane has a fire down stairs this very day! We had it extremely hot for about a week, however; that cost me two almost sleepless nights, and had the business continued, I should most probably have run off—to Annandale or somewhither. Jane and I at one time were seriously meditating an expedition of that kind; but she, having heard of “Liverpool children” at Templand, thought it would not do at all, and gave it up, being “well where she was.” For my share, I did not give it up, but in the cool weather, I had no such cause for haste; besides I wanted to see what Jack would do. There seems now little doubt but I should be better for a short absence somewhere out of this Babylon: but I must be regulated a good deal by Jack's motions. If he do come in September, it seems most likely he will be for Annandale almost directly; in which case there is little or nothing to hinder my going with him; accordingly I will hope that such may be the way of it, and continue to hope till I see the direct contrary. For the present, London is got very quiet, some hundred thousand, or so perhaps, having quitted it in the last three weeks; so I manage very tolerably even here, and dawner [stroll] about, doing little but read; and rest myself as I best can. We will wait patiently till we see what Jack makes out.— A certain Mr Scott (a very good man, once Edward Irving's Assistant) offered us an empty house rent-free out at Woolwich, which is some dozen miles off this, if we liked to go out and hire furniture and live there for a month or so; but we, having recovered our sleep here at home, did not hesitate to “decline from it.” There are indeed plenty of invitations to the North and to the South; but one has no talent for “visiting,” in such circumstances as mine. We let them all hang there in the distance.— The Painter Jane spoke of, taking my picture, has wearied me a good deal, and made out as good as nothing; a likeness as of one in doleful dumps, with its mouth all sheyled [distorted] and its eyes looking fiercely out: meant to be very tragical. Jane is off to see it even now; and will decide: Finish or burn. My vote is distinctly the latter; at all events I am free of it now, let them do as they like.

Jean says, poor Mary is still very much distressed.8 Poor Mary, I wish one could do anything for her. You do well to go about her, and cheer her up as you can. She has a kind heart, poor thing; and this is one of the hardest trials, this of a mother bereaved. But I hope she considers whose doing it was, and strives to acquiesce in the Higher Will, sore as it is for flesh and blood. We are taught that all there, even bereavement itself, is for the best. Give her my hearty sympathy.— I did not understand till Jean's letter that Jenny had such a task before her. Jean seemed to say you or she had some thoughts of going. I think one or both of you, at all events somebody, ought to go. The poor creature is far from right help there and managed very badly once before.9 I should like well to hear that somebody was with her; better still that she had got well thro and was herself again. I have not written thither since you left; but I will send them some token soon. Alick has not written, tho' he ought if I calculate aright: I hope still to hear goodish news of his shop speculation; perseverance will triumph there as in other things. The dinner on Burnswark, when I contrasted it with what went on here around me in the same hours, looked very interesting.— We have seen no more of Isabella's Brother:10 indeed, I think he spoke about going northward for some time. His place, at any rate, even here, is long miles from us;—like a man living about Dalton,11 with uproar all the way between!

Dear Mother, I have been interrupted; and indeed at all events ought to think of finishing. You yourself are surely bound to write to me; I will anticipate something of the kind before long. Send me back the next Examiner with “two strokes” if you can; with one stroke if you are still ailing a little: if you were seriously out of order, I should calculate on a [letter?] without delay. I will take the Newspaper addressed in Alick's hand. On the whole take care of yourself, dear Mother; and scour no more blankets!

Jane, as I said, is out, and cannot join me in love to you all; which I expressly send, praying good to be with you one and all. I ought to be in the air before this time, for it is now towards three o'clock, so long winded was my visitor below stairs: and no Wife to take him off my hands.— Good be with you, dear Mother; blessings for this day and always.

Your affectionate /

T. Carlyle—