The Collected Letters, Volume 11


TC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE ; 2 February 1839; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18390202-TC-MAC-01; CL 11: 9-12


5. Cheyne Row, Chelsea, 2nd Feby, 1839—

My dear Mother,

This letter arrived from Jack yesterday morning; I had been expecting it partly for a week, as I doubt not you have been: I send it off therefore by the earliest opportunity. All seems to go well with Jack; his patrons good and civil to him, his patients doing well, nothing wrong anywhere: and yet he seems to have a sort of secret grudge, and does not like the thing so much as he might. The truth is, I believe, he is tired of being abroad at all, as I said last time; a symptom which he can get the better of whenever he likes, and which therefore we will reckon favourable rather than otherwise. Or perhaps, as Jane says, he may be like the Irishman in a Ballinacrazy:

There lived a man in Ballinacrazy,
Who wanted a Wife to keep him unazy!1

Let him get one in that case, and see whether he do not succeed!— But seriously, we ought to be very thankful for the good Doctor's sake; and rejoice that all has gone so right with him hitherto: he is safe in the land of summer yonder, and will do very well, we may hope, till the season for moving come. I have sent him off various Couriers, since you heard of me last; I will write to him on Monday; his answer shall not linger here when it arrives.

As for you, my dear Mother, I know not well where to guess you as being. A Newspaper from Mary with one stroke on it seemed to indicate that she had got well thro' her business; I wish I had more precise certainty of so desirable an event.2 Except a Newspaper from Alick, and the weekly Courier from Dumfries, there have been no tidings for a long while. Some of them must write; I am entirely out of news. How are you; what are you doing? How is Isabella; how is everybody? I will fancy you back at Scotsbrig, in your own upper story: ah me, if I had a wishing-carpet to ride on, I could come and have a smoke with you at that fireside before long! But we cannot manage that; let us be thankful that so much is in our power. I will hope my dear Mother is tolerably well in spite of the wild winds and weather: keep yourself warm, get abundance of warm clothing; there are good knit spencers for women, very warm; one of which I meant to get you, or rather a pair of which, but I thought you could purchase it better for yourself with cash (tho' I forgot to say so); therefore I insist on your getting it or something equivalent and above all, one way or other, that you must defend yourself from cold, and simply determine not to be cold. Do you ever get yourself any beer now? This is the time for a little keg of it; in the winter it keeps so well. O dear Mother, what a blessing for us all that you are spared in the midst of us. Surely we are bound all of us, to do whatever is in our power to keep you comfortable. So far as money will go, let nothing be wanting. I am no longer so poor as I was; and as for Jack, he with his solid purse and £500 a year, is absolutely rich.

My hand is like to give Isabella, or whoever reads this, a task for once! I have been splitting up one of the Kirkcaldy barrels this morning, in the back area; a task you may fancy, when I tell you that I had nothing to do it with but an old screwdriver, a nail-hammer and a spade! It was a work of brashing [attacking] and smashing, till I made all reek [steam] again, and thawed the very snow (or snow-glass, on the flags) with my violence. And now you see how my hand shakes, and will not steady again for hours. I must make it do; and drive on, nothing doubting.

We go along very well here, everything considered. Jane has not been so brisk for several winters; no coughing, fewer headaches even than usual. She does not venture out in the very sharp days, yet very frequently takes a little run, or somebody drives her, or she can drive herself in an omnibus for sixpence. Mrs Welsh too is come; she arrived late last night by the railway; was sitting here whole and well when I came home from the Wilsons's3 where I had been to dinner. Jane has fitted up a special room for her, far up stairs; she is resting this day and sorting, and I have not seen her yet. Mrs Austin is in town again this winter (with a husband very sick), flourishing greatly among high people: we see a little of her, but more of others usefuller to us, and have plenty of society, and the best reception from it. Chelsea lies, as I often say, at a wholesome distance withal: there is a racket in some households in the town districts here, that would drive me mad.

There is still no message from America about the Miscellanies, which Fraser is very anxious for. I imagine we shall soon get word of that Book, and doubt not in the mean time that it is going on well enough. It will be welcome come when it may. Since my last Letter I have not put pen to paper; but I have been diligently reading (and will write so[me] time or other); on Monday morning I am to mount up to my own library-room, and then most probably take to scribbling in better earnest: If my liver and stomach would but stand true, I should have every reason to be happy: but what then? We know them of old; they will not stand true: we must just try to be content without them. However, I do mean to try to get myself some horse-exercise (tho' it is very expensive) some kind of arrangement for two or three rides in the week before the Lecturing business begin, and while it lasts. One has no fair play at all with one's nerves in such a state. Jane eagerly urges me, many people urge me; and truly it might prove good thrift were it nothing more. The Review Editor4 and I, as I said last time, are partly off at present,—the man being a gowk [fool]; tho' I might still write for him if I liked: but there are other things in the wind which will probably answer better, if they come to maturity; you shall then hear of them. One great thing that is going on at present is the consultation and speculation about that Public Library I spoke of. You would perhaps notice the paragraph in the last Examiner about it, and perceive that it was by me.5 They have copied that into other Papers; and in short are making a kind of stir about the thing, which I do believe may come to a head one way or other. But indeed, as for me I need care little about it: the Cambridge people (men whom I never saw with eyes!) have last night sent me a whole Trunkful of their books in answer to a catalogue of mine: I have not in my whole life met with anything more civilly done.— So goes it with us, dear Mother. God grant us a grateful humble heart; that is the one thing needful!

But I must not crowd the sheet which is to be the cover of all.— I will write a few words to Alick, to tempt him to an answer. Good be with you dear Mother, for this time. Jane sends kindest regards: she cannot yet write the “legible letter”; I am to say that she has “sewed about a quarter of a mile of seam and driven about a quart of tacks”:6 how can anybody write in those circumstances? Health and Good to you all, dear Bairns! Adieu my dear Mother: I will write again before long; franks are more plentiful now.—

Your ever affectionate son,

T. Carlyle