The Collected Letters, Volume 11


TC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE ; 13 April 1839; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18390413-TC-MAC-01; CL 11: 73-76


Chelsea, 13th April, 1839—

My dear Mother,

Many a time I think of you and wonder what you are about in this bitter spring weather. Jean wrote to me from Dumfries lately, and gave an extract from a Letter of Isabella's wherein you were mentioned; but I could gather little from that, except that you were still in a weakly kind of way, “suffering rather from rheumatism and toothache,”—which I like very ill, tho' you seemed to be thought a little better, and not in any anxiety about yourself. What can I do? I can do nothing but send my anxieties, my hopes. I have nothing other that I can send; except it be plenty of Letters, which certainly I do not let you want for of late! Plenty of flannel and of fuel; warmth by all and every means: this I should think was the hopefullest remedy. Pray do not venture much out into the air in these East winds; especially never except in the middle part of the day. Attend to your stomach also; that is the root of the whole mischief, I believe; and this venomous wind, continually fretting and obstructing the skin, acts mischievously on every function of life. Here it is the fiercest spring I have seen: poor languishing buds and blossoms, but no sign of general vegetation; the wind snell [piercing] as Greenland, continually from the East or North, and, in the former case, mingled for us with the smoke of the city which it carries hither ward: one of the ugliest seasons! What are the poor sheep and cattle doing? What are the poor Sons of Toil and Scarcity doing: ah me!— On the whole, dear Mother, I must again and again enforce on you the necessity of warmth, regimen and care; the necessity of being careful. What do you live upon? Do not take salt things, or scrap-dinners of any kind. Buy a hen or two (do this, I bid you); make soup of them,—for yourself as you would for me. Have you got any ale? If not, let Alick directly get some. I entreat you to want for nothing. There is siller enough among us, a hundred times over, to meet all that. What end could money serve that were half so blessed to any one or to all of us?

This Letter of Jack's came yesterday, and I lose no time in despatching it, tho' with a most hurried accompaniment. Thank Heaven, the good Doctor is still well, and all goes right with him. He seems to have work too, and to be managing it well: this we may say among ourselves, tho' we are not to speak of the Duke's illness out of doors. We ought to be very thankful. For my part, I rejoice much that he has done with Claredom, and has exchanged into this other field of action; a much more genial and fertile one than that ever promised to be.— Jack speaks farther of my going to meet him in Germany this summer. As yet I neither say yes nor no: it would perhaps be not the worst plan; and certainly I feel myself less indisposed for some expedition than I did last year: my mind is far calmer in general; I suppose, in spite of all indigestion &c, my health of body must really be improved too, and improving.

Arthur Buller, who was out with his Brother and Lord Durham in America, and went over the United States after their return, has a much more surprising expedition cut out for me: he talks at great length with great animation, how I am “the most popular author in America at present,” how this man said, how that man said;—in a word, how I must go out to America and lecture, “and make a fortune in six months”! Beautiful talk: but as for the fortune in six months, we will leave that hanging by its own head.1— I do think however it might be possible too to clear a handsome little sum of money by an expedition thither some time, as they are all urging me to try to do; the steamers moreover have brought the place so near now:2 we will let it stand as a resource in the background, and decide nothing for the present.

A weightier concern is that of my London Lectures, fast coming on now! I have printed Prospectuses and Tickets a week ago; in the Examiner next but one there will be an Advertisement:3 the thing is all kindled, and must go on according to the nature of it! I do not send a Prospectus for fear of overloading the Frank. We are to be in the old room; we begin on the first Wednesday of May (Wednesday come two weeks) at three of the clock; continue on Saturdays and Wednesdays: only six Lectures of them; the subject Modern Revolutions, Protestantism 2 lectures, English Revolution 2, French Revolution 2: would we were well done with it, say I! This year I am not nearly in such an agony as last year; yet I shall be ill enough I suppose, and must just “welter thro' it” as I best may.— A horse would do me good; but there is no buying of a horse here, especially at this season; there is endless fash [trouble] in it besides enormous charges. I think I shall hire myself a ride or two on horseback: one has the ride for so much money, and no more about it. But indeed the weather as yet is never of the favourablest for riding; far too cold, cold enough for the swiftest walking. One way or other, surely I calculate on being borne thro'.

Our American Miscellanies have never come, nor do I hear from Emerson, nor of him, except indeed incidentally that he was not well in health,—tho' that again is contradicted or explained. Fraser is very anxious the Book were here, which doubtless it will be, in its own time. Fraser has settled with me, at least drawn up his account of settlement for the French Revolution! He has (who would have thought it?) in clear money resulting from the adventure, £130 and odd; but charging me for every copy I gave away, reduces it to some £110, that is clear at any rate. As to the copies charged, he insists, I insist the other way; but I believe I shall yield at last, for there is a kind of shadow of justice in what he says;—and besides, any money at all is beyond my expectation.4 I believe the poor creature Fraser to be as accurate according to the rules of his trade as man could wish; but it is a villainous trade; and what help have we? We have now nearly bargained for printing a new edition of 1500; on the same terms, for Fraser is just as good as any I could get, nay better than almost any, being accurate in his way. There will be money in this too, if it sell as he confidently hopes, and it costs me nothing, not much trouble even, for he engages to have it swiftly printed: then I am to have 500 struck off for the American market, which will cost me almost nothing but the paper of them, and they will belong all to myself. I think we shall bargain in this manner one of these days.— Our French Revolution has therefore done very well; considering what we expected of it, very well indeed. Praises go for little; but the smallest contribution of solid pudding5 is thankfully received by a man that has it to seek. Yet I have had praises too, of the most amazing not to say ridiculous description. Did not I tell Alick about the Emperor of Dandies, one Count D'Orsay, and his love of me? Well, the man actually arrived here since that, in a chariot splendid as the Sun, that set all the street a-staring; to “testify his” &c &c and really I found him no fool at all, but a man of very considerable faculty in his own fashion; abundant in information, in sarcasm, even in jollity and humour; no bad fellow at all. Jane laughed for two days after at the contrast of me in my plaid dressing-gown, with my grim Presbyterian look, and this beautifullest of tall men, with his velvets, jewels and ambrosial lovelinesses, sitting talking in the friendliest manner to each other!—

The sheet is done and my time is more than done. I send you that Letter of Mrs Strachey's, the only one I have had from that hand for many years: I hope you will like it better than Jane does, and I do. As for Jane herself, this cold acts severely on her; but she crouches close over the fire; never stirs out, and holds on without damage hitherto. She has been much better all along than in late years. Mrs Welsh writes from Liverpool that she means to be at Templand soon. I suppose you have received the old cloth bag, and wondered over its contents? I had a letter from Grahame of Burnswark, in answer to the Note you had to give him: he seems to have been very unwell poor fellow; I beg the first of you that meets him to present my thanks and kind wishes and remembrances ever as of old.— What is become of Geordie Elliott? Alick must tell me both about him, about himself and what concerns you all. Did the Farm of “Dykeside”6 come to anything, or is any other like to do so? Alick said it was a wretched year for farmers; and I can well believe it. Have you been to see Jean yet? I think you will wait, you and Isabella, till the west wind come. I infer that Isabella is considerably better, since she even meditates such a thing.— And so here dear Mother I end for today. Remember us in constant affection to all, beginning at Jamie or Tom of Scotsbrig and ending at the farthest outpost. Take care of yourself, dear Mother, and let me hear that you are well again

Your affectionate— /

T. Carlyle