The Collected Letters, Volume 10


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE ; 27 July 1838; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18380727-TC-JAC-01; CL 10: 133-139


Chelsea, London 27th July, 1838—

My dear Brother,

Your Letter of the 17th July from Como reached us the day before yesterday. I am much grieved at the harrassing scarcity of news you suffer under; owing in good part, as you conjecture, to the villany of the Lombard Post-system.1 All your Letters to us have arrived duly, except Gloag's, who neither by message nor note of any kind has ever shown any symptom of his existence here. The Newspapers have come more rarely than you seem to say; one, and one only, from Florence was the last we got. But on your side henceward, what a vacuum! Several Couriers and four or five Examiners must be lying in the Lombard Archives, dangerous to the state. A Letter, of the usual length and minuteness, written about the middle of May to Rome, never reached you, but must be lost now: this is the beginning of the whole complexity. For the next that arrived here was not an answer to that, but an announcement of your advent to Milan, requesting withal that I should write immediately “as if I had not before written.” This, owing to an accident in my right hand rendering writing painful, I was unable to do without unusual effort, and put off till some fortnight ago; I rashly imagined that a Newspaper to your address would do the essential as well. About a fortnight ago however I did write, tho' with a hand still lame, and in the worst mood, after a sleepless night; that precious sheet, for want of a better, I will hope you may have got shortly before this time; I will avoid all unpunctuality in future; and pray withal that it may be long before we have to correspond under Austrian sway again! Nay another subsequent Letter, from Jean in Dumfries namely, which she sent to me that I might add a postscript and forward it, was instantly sent along, and ought also to be at Milan about now: this, if you can get it, will give you all manner of details both about Annandale and us, and satisfy you that all is well there and here. So you see there are three letters from our side also; and counting one of these as actually lost (the Roman one), there are still two which I think may reach you. At worst I lose not a moment in scribbling a fourth, and sending it off to Berne; there at last in the honest Swiss land, where pettifogging Knavery one may hope does not sit aloft as in Wälschland [Italy], but hangs aloft with hemp round its windpipe,—I will calculate for certain that your intolerable suspense is put an end to. I will stop my Newspapers; I will write no more to that despicable country. Rejoice that the Alps are between you and it! But on the whole, all is well, dear Jack; Jean's Dumfries business seemed done according to your wish;2 your Dr Thomson here was settled with as you bade;3 our Mother had got home to Annandale safely; we were well here: in short all was as you wished it, in the “old” wholesome “way.” What a beggarly employment of one's sheet: one half of it spent not in writing anything, but in writing about writing something! Nay I must still tell you several old things over again, uncertain whether you may have yet heard them.

The Lectures terminated quite triumphantly, at the due day, early in June. Our audience grew better and better to the very last; there was applauding, complimenteering &c &c, and a money result of near £300 left in the hands of a man heartily glad to shrink back into his hole again. Thank Heaven! It seems pretty generally expected that I am to lecture next year again and subsequent years, having, as they say, “made a new profession for myself.” If dire famine drive me, I must even lecture; but not otherwise Whoever he may be that wants to get into the centre of a fuss, it is not I. Freedom under the blue sky; ah me, with a bit of brown bread, and peace and pepticity to eat it with: this for my money before all the “glory” of Portman Square4 or the Solar System itself! But we must take what we can get, and be thankful. After the lecturing, came a series of dinner-work and racketting, came hot weather, Coronation uproars,—and at length sleeplessness, collapse, inertia, and at times almost the feeling of Nonentity! I like that existence very ill; my nerves are not made for it. I corrected a few Proofsheets, I read a few Books dull as Lethe; I have done nothing else whatever that I could help, except live. Frequently a little desire for some travel, a notion that change of scene and objects would be wholesome has come upon me; but in my condition of irresolute imbecillity, especially in the uncertainty we stood in as to your movements, nothing could be done. The weather has now grown cool, even cold; I find it tolerable enough to lounge at Chelsea for the time. My digestion is very bad; I should say however that my heart and life is on the whole sounder than it was last year. Now too all is getting very quiet, streets quite vacant within these two weeks; I am not like to stir from this, unless driven. As for Jane she is much improved, indeed almost well, since Summer came; she does not wish to stir from her quarters at all; there are “Liverpool children”5 at Templand, this cuts out Templand at any rate, which we once thought of. But if thou, O Jack, get home in September, why might we not run northward together still? There is or was a project of travel to France and Paris where the good Thomas Erskine now is, whither Scott of Woolwich is going soon. In a word, my dear Brother, I will now count on meeting you if it do not go altogether badly, somewhere or other: this is the best news I have had for a good while.

Teufelsdröckh came out last week,6 for the first time, as an English volume: Saunders and Otley not Fraser are the Publishers. I have sent three copies to Annandale, and given away a few more here; nothing can be more indifferent than I am to the fate of the whole matter. The edition is but 500; the volume is one of the shabbiest as to getting up,—printed by Clowes in the cheap fashion my Conduit Stt men7 are used to. They comport themselves with vast civility, and are at any rate more reputable men than Fraser. Their money produce will not be less than Fraser's. In fact, Fraser drove it a little too close, last time we talked; and I had a mind to have done with him. The Americans are getting out “Carlyle's Miscellanies”: I know not whether I shall not import two hundred copies or so of their edition, and save myself the trouble of editing here. Ich bin des ganzen Plunders müde [I am tired of the whole rubbish]. The matter is as good as obsolete to me; there is no bread or other profit in it to me: what's ta use on't? Saunders & Otley announce the thing as “preparing for publication,” but we have made no bargain at all yet about it. I partly meant to send you a copy of Dreck and the Revolution by some Coronating quidnunc, of which sort there are several now journeying Milan-ward;8 but I am right glad that is needless now.— I have also sat for my picture, to one Lawrence “a young man of genius,” in these past weeks and days: he did his best, tried it thrice; but seems admitted now to have made out nothing. The Swedenborgians have addressed a small Book and Letter to me here;9 also the “New Catholics” are making advances:10 Jane says I am fated to be the nucleus for all the mad people of my generation. Brave D'Eichthal when Sawyers11 caught him by the button, did with the side of his hand gently cut him off. I have seen Landor, Moore, Rogers &c, as I think I told you in the Roman lost Letter.12 I am to walk tomorrow to Ham Common near Richmond with Hunt, and dine with a little man Morgan13 there; Hunt's assent not mine; the man invited us both, and I calculated Hunt would refuse: but no! John Sterling wanted me to “accept a dinner from some Cambridge men”; then to go with him to Cambridge for three days; then to &c; lastly to go this same week down to Julius Hare's and bathe in the sea: the sea was tempting, Hare too whom I have seen is a likeable kind of man; but vis inertiae [the power of inertness] prevailed, a[nd to] this as to all the rest I answered: Impossible, dear Sterling. Indeed John is dreadfully locomotive since his return; some verses printed in Blackwood, and a considerable bluster of Wilson's about them there,14 have sorrowfully discomposed our poor John, and proved what touchy and almost flimsy stuff there must be in him. I love him as before, but keep rather out of his way at present. Mill is plodding along at his dull Review under dull auspices, restricts himself I fancy to the Fox-Taylor circle of Socinian Radicalism15 (a lamed cause at this time), and very rarely shews face here. His “Editor,” one Robertson,16 a burly Aberdeen Scotchman of seven and twenty, full of laughter, vanity, pepticity and hope, amuses me sometimes considerably more: he “desires exceedingly” that I would “do something for the October Number.” My desire that way is faint indeed. How many things in this world do not smell sweet to one; to how many things is one tempted to say with slow emphasis, Du Galgen-aas! “Gallows-carrion”: there is some relief to one in a word like that. But pauca verba, as Nym has it.17 I told all the people much to their surprise, in those Lectures of mine, that no SPEECH ever uttered or utterable was worth comparison with SILENCE:18 J. Sterling in particular could not understand that in the least; but has it still sticking in him indegestible [sic]. The elder Sterlings are touring to Derbyshire and the Devil's (inexpressible) a Peak:19 they wanted Jane much to go with them, but she could not. Harriett Martineau is touring or about to tour in Scotland.20 Mrs Austin we hear is just home from Malta;21 glorious as the Sun. Jeffrey's Daughter (Charlotte whom you have seen) is married to Empson, a longwinded, goodnatured well-bred man, of near fifty; we have not seen them yet: you remember Empson? It is a fair match in spite of the inequality of ages.— I think you have enough of clatter now.

No paper was ever worse than this; of the fatal Plaster-of-Paris sort, on which no man can write! Besides my right hand is still a little weak. But in any case it will put you out of uneasiness about us, and I doubt not be right welcome at Berne. If I find any interesting Newspaper of later date still likely to find you there, I will send it too. If none come, suppose I have found none such convenient. But do you, dear Jack, write at any rate, the moment you have got this read, and tell us what you are to do, what you are doing. If you are to come home “at the end of August,” or even in September, it will be the welcomest of all news. But if your Dames22 alter their mind, I will set out and give you a meeting somewhere: one way or another we must meet. August or even now were empty enough for her Ladyship here; nobody but a few Parlementeers remain in London. O that we saw Jack coming; dismounting from the “improved cab” at this door! You will find all the cabs changed; turned into “Hanson's improved Safety,”23 of half a dozen different shapes, each foolisher than the other. But you will find your Brother unchanged; except two years older, his face getting wrinkled, his hair fairly declaring that it will get gray. Come, with as much speed as possible: the weather will still be good; I never was more disposed for idling; my heart too is lonely, and wants to speak. Your next Letter will tell us what to look for.— Poor Jane had a headache this morning, and can send you no word of herself at all; I doubt even, so sick has she grown since I began, whether she will be able to read this before it go. As I said however, she is in generally far better [health?] than she was. I wrote yesterday to our Mother; inclosing your Letter. There seemed to be again some speculation about her going to Manchester, where poor Jenny has a difficult enterprise before her soon again;24 I advised that Jean or she should go. Alick sent me a Newspaper lately; no letter for a good while. He and the Ecclefn people dined on Burnswark on the Coronation day! I think I must end now: my hand is weary, my head confused. Ever your true Brother, T. Carlyle

M'Diarmid the Courier Editor was here, looking at Queen Victory a-crowning. Very “raised [excited]”; formidable rather, in such a scene as this. Cunningham says tolerably well: “He has discovered a Town here, Sir.” I saw him only once; better than twice. A certain Eliz: Fergus of Kirkcaldy staid with us two weeks abt that time. There are strong invitations to several places in the North, if we would please to go and rusticate. Alick Welsh of Liverpool was here; we saw him very slightly once: he came with some man to Surgeon Brodie.25 Lytton Bulwer is made Baronet,26 and Menteath of Closeburn.27 Hunt has written a Play; got it accepted, then suddenly rejected; threatens to come here and read it.28 We have seen comparatively nothing of him for a year past: small loss, in the posture he is in; without money, without wit—in any but the Book sense! I have had sundry Germans, sundry Americans; one Dr Tysson (?)29 who said he had known you at Rome: men for the most part wearisome[.] As indeed many men are! Poor Mr Dunn has been ill;30 is off to Cheltenham or some such place the other day. He invited me thrice, and thrice I happened to be engaged: it is long since I saw him. We are to be at the Wilsons'31 on Monday; I hope, the last dinner for a great while. They are always very kind; but seldom indeed very amusing. And then one's nerves!

Both my own Letter, and the one of which Jean wrote the main part, were addressed legibly “C. of Clare's (Poste restante) Milan”: there is nothing of moment in either should they prove irrecoverable.— Good be with you now, dear Brother; my blessing always. I must end here.— T. C.

The little canary-bird Chico was found dead in his Cage yesterday; of ennui and old age. Farewell Chico!

Your Letter was sealed exceedingly slightly, with something like gum. I suppose the Milan men did open it?

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