The Collected Letters, Volume 11


TC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE ; 13 January 1839; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18390113-TC-MAC-01; CL 11: 3-6


Chelsea, 13th January, 1839—

My dear Mother,

The inclosed Letters have just arrived from Jack,1 which I lose no time in sending off to you. He does not seem to have expected that I would send you more than the Letter addressed to yourself; but one frank will carry them all, and you will see better thereby how matters go. The whole travelling party has got safe to Naples; that is the main piece of intelligence as yet. Jack seems not to be in the best spirits with himself; but I impute this principally to the fret and anxiety of seeking lodgings, making arrangements, &c, and partly also to a dissatisfaction, which I am not sorry to observe increase with him, at this roving life of his generally: he finds it unfruitful, unsuitable; for which what remedy is there, except that he gather himself together, and put an end to it by settling down somewhere? His affairs, where he is, seem all to go on as well as possible: his Duke and Duchess2 full of civility and good nature to him, his voyage well concluded, in short all progressing in a very handsome manner. I have not written in answer to this Letter, having despatched a Letter as he directed me before, and not being ordered to do more. We shall probably hear from him again in some three weeks; then I will write: you shall have due notice. I have sent no Newspapers as yet, fancying that the Duke would get the Courier himself, and that another would be superfluous. I will send the Couriers now, however, to him and not to Scotsbrig, till he give me contrary notice.

By the bye, no Courier came here last week: what can be the meaning of that? I have speculated often, Jane always bidding me be at rest for that it is nothing; I will continue to hope and believe that it is nothing: however, I should have liked better to [see] the two strokes actually come. Indeed there is a special cause of uneasiness: that fierce storm you have had in the North country. Mrs Welsh, alone of all our friends, has sent us a Newspaper to indicate that nothing befel her in the many disasters of Liverpool; but you had it in Dumfriesshire too, and many persons seem to have suffered everywhere.3 Let the readiest writer take a pen immediately, and tell me what is becoming of you. Here in London we had a tempest too, but of no consequence; Jane the next morning complained of the loud roaring in the chimney tops and augured that the storm had done damage, but I never heard it, and the Liverpool Newspaper was the first messenger of the mischief to us.— I will hope, till I hear otherwise, that nothing very wrong has happened among you. Indeed I think, lazy as my correspondents are, some one of them would have made a point of writing, had it been otherwise.

There is nothing new in this household of ours; all goes on smoothly, and in a way we ought to be thankful for. Jane does not fall into coughing; on the contrary, is able to move about; goes out every good day; indeed last night, was out at dinner, some four or five miles off this, and does not seem to have suffered by it. The people took her up in their carriage, and sent us both home in it; which is a great accommodation. They are people called Reierson,4 rich merchant people, a mixture of Danish, Scotch, Russian and German; who have “wrought on us” this long time so that at last we were obliged to go, and it did well enough “after all.”— I dare say I mentioned last time that I was not intending to work any farther at present in the Westminster Review, but to write by and by something more to my mind than that sort of stuff. I have my face turned partly towards Oliver Cromwell and the Covenant time in England and Scotland, and am reading books and meaning to read more on the matter (for it is large and full of meaning); but what I shall make of it, or whether I shall make anything at all; it would be premature to say as yet. The only thing clear is that I have again some notion of writing, which I had not at all last year or the year before; a sign doubtless that I am getting into heart again, and not so utterly bewildered and beaten down as I was on the conclusion of my “Revolution” struggle. Anything that I wrote now would sell better than former things, and I think indeed be pretty sure to bring in a certain trifle of money in the long run.— Another object that engages me a little in these last weeks is the attempt to see whether a Public Library cannot be got instituted here in London; a thing scandalously wanted, which I have suffered from like others. There is to be some stir made in that business now, and it looks really as if it would take effect: meanwhile I can “do either way”; for the Cambridge people have in the kindest manner offered to get me books out of their University Library, and send them hither to read; a very kind, and one may hope, a very useful thing.5 Indeed all the people are very kind to me; which is rather surprising, considering what a sulky [fel]low I am. There will be Lectures too to think of—ah me! But for the present I keep all that out of my head. So you may picture us sitting snug here, most evenings, in “stuffed-chairs” in this warm little parlour; reading, or reading and sewing, or talking with some rational visiter [sic] that has perhaps dropped in:—in a state, which, as states go, one ought to be thankful for. Some people say I ought to get a horse with my American money, before Lecture-time, and ride, that I might be in better bodily condition for that enterprise: I should like it right well if it were not so dear. We shall see how things go: this, at any rate, is no season for riding.— Among our other benefits, I should tell you the Ferguses of Kirkcaldy6 have sent us two big Barrels, one filled with the best of potatoes; the other with carrots and a bag of oatmeal; the produce of their Fife Farm! The potatoes are a great blessing (how glad would many a poor person be of the like this year!) for here they are too generally altogether bad: as to the oatmeal, which tho' good is not equal to the Scotsbrig, we have put it into another barrel, and mean to bake it, or more probably make presents of it!

These news, dear Mother, are not worth writing I doubt; yet I do not doubt you will read them with interest when written. How gladly would I read a whole stock of the like out of Annandale. We conclude you to be with Mary at present, and are very anxious to hear how matters go there. Give our love to Mary and her household, our kindest wishes for her now and at all times. We hope to hear good news soon.— Alick gives a most melancholy picture of affairs in Ecclefechan; want of work, want of provision, want of hope or good conduct!7 Tell him I know not which of us two ought to write at present; but that if he do not before long, I will. We hope nothing is wrong at Scotsbrig, no rick whirled away with wind or the like, also that Isabella and her child are prospering. Perhaps it was some visit from the Dumfries people to you that caused the delay or loss of last week's Courier? That would be the best interpretation!— Dear Mother, you see my paper is done and I can get room for no inquiries; of which, if I were beside you with power of speech, I should have thousands to make! I wish your work were well over at Annan, and that I knew you home snug at your own ingle-cheek [fireside] again. It is wonderful the tossing and tumbling you do stand; yet surely you ought to take no liberties, to use all care. Jane says “she will write you a letter legible from top to bottom,” and one to Jean also thanking her for the braid caps,—“soon.” Meanwhile her love and mine to Mary and you all! Good be ever with you dear Mother!

T. Carlyle