The Collected Letters, Volume 11


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE ; 4 February 1839; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18390204-TC-JAC-01; CL 11: 14-21


Chelsea, London, 5th [4] Feby, 1839—

My dear Brother,

Without loss of time I proceed to answer the second of your Letters; the first, most welcome on its arrival, did not demand any answer. We had wearied a little for this last, as no doubt our good Mother did in a still higher degree: however it too is off to Annandale, and I hope and compute they may be reading it at Scotsbrig this monday morning about this very hour. No Newspaper, or other token except these Letters, has arrived from you. I hope you have got some Couriers by this time; none were sent till your first Naples Letter warned me; I had fancied the Duke would get both Herald and Courier,1 and that perhaps the expence of a second copy might outrun the profit for you. They will be forwarded now till you countermand them.

There has not a written word of intelligence got hither from Annandale since I wrote last. They are slow writers; a weighty correspondence, with the reciprocity all on one side! But I know the difficulties they labour under, and keep writing along as I best may. The great tempest of which, M'Diarmid still keeps jargoning,2 appears not to have injured any of them very sensibly; at least so I infer from Newspapers with strokes that have arrived from Manchester, Dumfries, Ecclefn and Annan: no articulate word gives me farther assurance. From one Annan Newspaper with a special mark on it I infer that Mary has been safely brought to bed, that probably our Mother is gone thence to Scotsbrig again. Nothing more is known to me in that quarter. I hope and believe, all is tolerably well. Poor Wull Brown!3 He clings to my thoughts here, in a way he never did while near me and alive. There is a strange sacredness in Death; the meanest gets venerable when enveloped in Eternity: that last night among the rude peat-bogs of Linbrigford will not out of my thoughts.

In Chelsea all goes along with an equable motion, wherein little is to be noted since you last heard. Jane continues much better than she was last year; never yet coughing; able to go out any fine day; indeed better I think than she was wont to be for some years back. On Friday last her Mother arrived from Liverpool; well in health, and in spirits as yet; not sorry I dare say to escape from the tumultuous complexities of Maryland Street. John Welsh's Partner4 is dead suddenly in these days; a serviceable man, whose loss will occasion new sorrow and increase of trouble. Mrs Welsh lodges up stairs in the front room which was Jane's dressing-room; the little French bed has been equipped in the most ingenious and elegant way; a new (old) chest-of-drawers, with improvements of various kinds, are in the room where you lodged, which is now mine. I have this morning, for the first time, got a fire once more in my old Library, am writing at my old table, with my books all round; and mean to be very busy henceforth. Till now I have sat down stairs, reading, reading; not idle, yet with no very visible result of my working. I have read a good many volumes about Cromwell and his time; I have a good many more to read. Whether a book will come of it or not, still more when such will come, are questions as yet. The pabulum this subject yields me is not very great; I find it far inferior in interest to my French subject: but on the whole I want to get acquainted with England (a great secret to me always hitherto), and I may as well begin here as elsewhere. There are but two very remarkable men in the Period visible as yet: Cromwell and Montrose.5 The rest verge towards wearisomeness; indeed the whole subject is Dutch-built, heavy-bottomed; with an internal fire and significance indeed, but externally wrapt in buckram and lead. We shall see. In the meanwhile, I have got a large Portmanteau of Books about the thing from Cambridge University Library: here they actually stand; sent me by persons whom I never saw; a most handsome and encouraging phenomenon! They came on Friday too (the day of your Letter), which we may account a lucky day. The visible agent in the business is one Douglas Heath, a promising young Barrister, who sometimes comes here, is a Cambridge man, and a zealous reader of mine.——— Precisely at this point arrives the Postman with a Newspaper and strokes from Alick (all well there); and a Letter from Emerson at Concord enclosing a draught for £100! Their Boston Edition of the F.R. is all sold out, and this is the money-produce, so far as liquidated yet. Was any braver thing ever heard of? A hundred and fifty pounds from beyond the salt sea, while not a sixpence could be realised here in one's own country by the thing!6 I declare, my American friends are right fellows, and have done their affair with effect. The Miscellanies are at press since about Christmas; will be over here by and by; greatly to Fraser's satisfaction, who is announcing then what he can. It seems I am going to make some cash after all by those Books of mine. The second English edition of the F.R. must now be set about; I must see how to combine that with the American demand, make vigorous bargain with the printing people, and see what can be done with it. This Postman delivery will give you a glad feeling too. Unhappily two American men (one Summer whom you will perhaps see in Italy, and another)7 arrived just on the skirts of Postie, and have held me clattering ever since; above an hour; till my nerves are all in a flutter, and this sheet of yours must suffer. However, you perceive, tout va bien [all goes well], neither need we now add, le pain manque [bread lacking].8— As for farther literary work, I was about to tell you that Craik9 who comes pretty often about us since you were here, proposed to me in the name of Knight his Useful Knowledge bookseller,10 some vague prospectus of a scheme about what he calls an “Analytical Library,”11 meaning in brief, at bottom a set of Review-Articles, in a volume or in two volumes each, of books at once distinguished and voluminous, to consist mainly of Extracts (as review Articles do);—in which notable enterprise, would I consent to do Goethe, Richter and the other Germans? That was the question, as far as I can explain it in this compass. I answered, the thing might be done as to Goethe and others, tho' the general scheme of the “Analytical” concern did not look very smiling to my judgement, and with Useful-Knowledge men, I thought, must necessarily prove ligneous [wooden]: however, as to me and a volume or two volumes extracted out of Goethe and bound together in some supportable way, the proposal depended altogether on what cash will you give? and with a rational offer on that head, I was ready to give rational answer. There accordingly it stands; Knight, as I understand it, beating up for men. He has already got Lord Brougham, and Leigh Hunt (for Spenser); there is to be no “editing,” or beggarly superintendance of any kind. The possibilities are that it really may come to something; I calculate it will be better than Robertson-review work; easier, quieter, thriftier, every way preferable. As to Robertson finally, he and I have got or are now getting, according to my view, into the right permanent posture: my Note about Cromwell seems to have cut him to the quick, far deeper than I meant;12 but I have laid a little unguent on, so that we shall come to stand in a quietly polite and more distant attitude; ready for nearer reapproximation if it suit at any time, and with no risk of ass-caperings or the like if it do not. Mill is supposed to be on the way to Italy or in Italy; but nothing has been heard of him since Paris: his Brother-in-law a Dr King of Maddox street here has died,13 in sad circumstances, since Mill went. Robertson is not a man to be dealt with, except afar off and with a cowskin in your hand: fools, as you say, are the uncanniest of all creatures; and if there ever was a fool this is one.— Of course there will a time come for some appearance as a Lecturer, I suppose: but of all this I think not as yet. The only item rather clear to me is that if I do lecture, I ought to have a horse during the process and a month prior to it. Dyspepsia, rousing me in the frosty darkness of morning, and shattering my poor frame of body all to pieces, is a terrible millstone hung about me; I feel as if it were the only thing I had to complain of now; and withal as if it needed only a little help to reduce it under moderate subjection, and leave me much quieter and healthier than I have been for a dozen years past. Fraser cannot give me the half of his horse, I think; but Jane has actually consulted Chancellor the Stabler here,14 and there is a kind of hope of feasibility in it, which I shall look more strictly into, had the dry weather come. At present[,] we are in frost, and stormy fluctuation: as the Yankee said, “first it friz, then it snew, then it blew, then it [thew,?] then it friz again.” There is a terrible noise about Corn-laws, which are to be abrogated or modified this hung[ry] winter;15 great distress everywhere among the poor: a confused unpleasant time, outwardly and inwardly. How [hap]py are you that “left the clouds at Valence and have not seen them since”!16— I had much to tell you about acquaintances and gossip here; but it must be mainly suppressed; small loss to you. John Sterling sends us another note from Rome: pictures, art, society forever.17 He seems to calculate on meeting with you somewhere. Charles Buller was busy drawing up his Canada Report when I saw him last, ten days ago.18 The Parlt is just at hand; the Durham prospects hardly so bright as they were.19 Buller wants a place; will get one probably by luck and dexterity: their exclus[iv]ely egoistic speculation is a little wearisome; yet they are always very obliging, these Bullers; and frank unadulterated egoism is better than a worse sort. The other night I met with a French lionlet, one Comte de Vigny, a Carlist literary dandy; civil; Parisian; with a long Roman nose, and next to no chin.20 I have also breakfasted with old Rogers; the occasion was a mighty project— no less than that of instituting a Public Library here from which books might be borrowed. I have preached upon it till people take it up; Spedding has promulgated a Prospectus; Rogers approves, Hallam and a list of official Lords are expected; your friend Sir James Clark zealously approves; and now the Newspaper engine is set a-blowing: slight thunder from the Times,21 a fierce blast (from me) in the Examiner &c: it really looks as if the thing would take effect in one shape or another. I called, by appointment, on Sir James Clark about it; saw him only for a few minutes, a whole levee of people being in waiting: he inquired very kindly about you; he seems to me a good man. I spoke also one night to Babbage about it: did you ever see him?22 A mixture of craven terror and venomous-looking vehemence; with no chin too: “cross between a frog and a viper,” as somebody called him; forever loud on the “wrongs of literary men,” tho' he has his £20,000 snug! I advise men to keep off that man. I have also seen— But enough of that and more than enough. I go out but little this winter hitherto, and find a very little all that is good for me. Yet withal I get inured to it, and can be quiet in a racket much more successfully than at first. Tout va bien ici, le pain ne manque pas [All goes well here, bread is not lacking].

Your tone, dear Jack, is not over happy; yet every outward thing seems to go prosperously with you. I can well understand that you are vacant at heart in that business, tho' it must be owned to be one of the best situations, or the very best, of that kind that could be found. Rejoice that you do prosper in it. Doubtless you will study to perform your service like a faithful man; and, as I think, indeed there is good prospect of advantage lying in it. Your people seem humane, honest people after their fashion; you have a real work to do for them. Beside had you once got to reading and other internal employment, the feeling of langour will leave you, and many discontents along with it. Hold out, my brave fellow. We are not to be entirely beaten in the battle yet. The worst of our days are perhaps past! Ah me, that was a saying of poor Irving's,23 whose good days and evil were too suddenly past.— If you come to Switzerland I will really make an effort to come and meet you there. Think what a ploy that will be! But we must not anticipate.— Jane has gone out; cannot send you her love in words. Craik, the innocent haver-meal [oatmeal] mortal, expressly charged me with kind remembrances for you. He and I walked to Wimbledon yesterday thro' the copious slush of snow: he laughs loud, has a fair common-sense limitation both of head and of heart; a man pleasanter to walk thro' snow-slush with than many a cleverer man. Mrs Welsh sitting alone down stairs (I fancy) would not forgive me if I failed to send some token of her remembrance. She has been speaking about you much since she came, and in every letter before that. I have stuck up your Coleridge24 by a pin against the wainscot; the thermometer and it on the end wall between the two maps. Your old dressing-room is papered, and altogether smart: God grant you were there again safe my Boy! We will hope, we will trust. Adieu dear Brother. Yours ever and ever

T. Carlyle

As the day declines fast, I must not meddle with margins. What Newspapers do you see? Great talk has been here in certain circles about the death of L. E. L. by Prussic acid.25 It is generally suspected there was some foul play in it, and, not a mere mistake. At any rate the poor light creature is now heavy and asleep forever[.] Her Pictures in the Printshops nor no gabble of tongues will now touch her any more. Eheu! It is a stern world this, that looks on the face so green.— I think I heard something from Germany since you went; of no importance; for I have forgotten what it was.— You will not delay in answering. We are too far off for that. Farewell again. Vale et me ama [Farewell and love me].


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