The Collected Letters, Volume 11


TC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE ; 20 May 1839; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18390520-TC-MAC-01; CL 11: 99-103


Chelsea, 20th May, 1839—

My dear Mother,

Above a week ago the enclosed Letter arrived from Jack 1 it came faster than usual, having travelled direct from Marseilles on the south shore of France. As it contained no special novelty, I judged fittest to wait with it till my Lectures were done. A draft in it for £30 I got turned into cash and have the same lying here; our Doctor is to tell me by and by what I am to do with that. I have sent him Newspapers with reports of me both to Rome and to Florence; I do not write yet till I hear from him, or at least get a Roman Newspaper. The probabilities are, I think, that he is in Rome at present; that they will make off into Germany somewhere for the summer. Our Newspapers had a paragraph last week that the Duke was or had been very ill of a “yellow fever”: this is doubtless the “bilious fever” which Jack told us of, and which is all well over now.2 We have heard thro' the Sterlings and others pretty frequent incidental tidings about our Doctor, of late; and all happily are to the effect that he goes on prosperously, doing well in his vocation. John Sterling came home about two weeks ago; his Brother, the Major Sterling whom Jack's Letter speaks of, is in France now, and expected very soon.3

But the grand thing at present is the Lectures: how went the Lectures? The Lectures, dear Mother, terminated happily on Saturday last4 at half past four O'clock. You will get a report of them, I suppose, in next Examiner; that is of the last three of them.5 I sent you either two or three daily papers that I got hold of while the business was going; one I think was sent direct, the other two were sent by Liverpool that Mrs Welsh might read them too, by whom I hope they were duly forwarded to you. I doubted not they would interest you. I would have sent you more, but more did not come into my hand or within reach of me: it is a strange place this for papers; all the world is hawking all sorts of papers on the day of their publication, sticking them under your nose wherever you go; and then on the next day if you happen to ask for one no mortal can instruct you where to get it; nay the chances are that you will not be able to get it by any means whatever (except by accident); the decks are swept clear every day, and all is despatched off “into the country sir,” or burnt, or otherwise buried under hatches, and no mortal looks as if he had ever heard tell of it in his life! There was a report of one lecture in the Times too, but Jane clipt it out, and it was of so little significance that I did not think of making any search for a second copy.

I lectured with much less pain this year than on former occasions, and with very kind acceptance from people more distinguished than ever; yet still with a feeling that I was far from the right lecturing point yet. The main evil of all evils, I believe, was my bodily condition, my want of right health, and composure of nerves. It was like Jim MacDonald6 in old days running at the Dalton footrace (Alick remembers it), and outstripping all competitors hollow, till his bowels gave way, and he was forced to retire from the scene, with an exclamation that “these cursed greens were no feeding to run upon!” So with me too, I felt as if little more than the third part of myself were ever there, the other two-thirds were sunk down, under obstruction, headache, biliousness, and mere bodily stupidity. Very hard; but what help? You are there, just with what health you have, and must make that do. My good people seemed perfectly content with me as I was; but I had generally for two days after every Lecture a sentiment of pain and remorse at the poor figure I had made, which to myself seemed very poor. Twice I got on horseback (besides the unsuccessful time), and spanged [leaped] out into the country a dozen of miles the day before lecturing; this both times had a good effect. The last lecture but one I had a pill in me, poor wretch,—I thought it was the worst Lecture I had ever made, or among the worst; and was much vexed, and plagued Jane about it, till in self-defence she took a headache, and I was forced to hold my peace. On Friday however I got again on a swift steed; cantered, and trotted, and galloped, in lonely roads, over green England, like “the hind let loose,”7 and returned home much wearied and much benefited, with a feeling that I should not be so stupid on the morrow. On the morrow accordingly (that is, Saturday last) I made much the best lecture of all, and indeed the only good lecture, or rather I should say goodish lecture, I ever had the happiness to deliver. That was really almost pleasant. I got into an Annandale rage at it, I felt myself above it, and stormed and gollied [barked], carrying the whole people triumphantly after me;—thinking to myself after I had done, “There's for you! If it were not for the ‘cursed greens’ I could talk a little!” And so it ended, handsomely, and I am well thro' it once more.8— But surely if I ever lecture again, I will decidedly have myself a horse, if I should pay fifty pounds for one— Indeed I have almost as good as come to the conclusion that if I live here at all, I simply must have myself a horse to ride; it is the only medicine that will keep me in any kind of tolerable health, the first condition of all good for every man. Thank Heaven, I am no longer entirely unable, either, to venture on such a thing.

The money accounts of these Lectures have not yet come in; but the attendance seemed to be decidedly more numerous than it had ever been: I should guess that, deducting all expenses which are very heavy, there would remain something like £200 clear for me,—which for 3 weeks is surely not bad wages! Let us be thankful. With my bookseller money, my American money and the rest, I suppose I am decidedly richer at this moment than I have been these dozen years. Indeed I know not that I ever had as much money in my possession before. These tidings, dear Mother, I have sent you without delay; knowing how anxious you would be for them. Out of the money already received I enclose £5 to make into five sovereigns for the five women; if Manchester Jenny be with you there will be one for her too;—and for my poor Mother, this time, there will be nothing at all, but we will mind her some other time!9

I cannot tell you at all today what I am to do for the summer, or how things are to turn. The weather as yet is wholesome and beautiful; I could not be better than here. The printing goes fast on,—the Americans have written too that they do want 500 new copies (of the F. R.) which is precisely the number I had guessed for them. Besides I do not know but I shall actually now begin and write something. In short, dear Mother, I can say no more at all today except send my blessing to one and all of you, and promise to let you hear again before long. Let Alick send me an old Newspaper with one stroke when this comes to hand. The first of the old Morning Chronicles (if that still survive) with the report of the first lecture in it, would be very welcome to Jane. But any paper will do. I noticed James Aitken's accidental blot at the sale of Craigenputtoch woods:10 the cunning dog!— Jane is tolerably well, and will grow better now that she has the lecturing done. She was down stairs when I came up: if she be not gone out, she will perhaps add a word. Blessings with you all!— Yours, dear Mother, now and ever.

T. Carlyle

[JWC's postscript]

My dear Mother

The last lecture was indeed the most splendid he ever delivered— and the People were all in a heart-fever over it— On all sides of me people who did not know me, and might therefore be believed, were expressing their raptures audibly—One man— (a person of originally large fortune which he got thro in an uncommon way, namely in acts of benevolence)11 was saying “He's a glorious fellow, I love the fellow's very faults” &c &c—while another answered “Ay faith is he—a fine” wild chaotic “noble Chap” and so on over the whole room— In short we left the concern in a sort of whirlwind of “glory” not without “bread”12— One of the most dashing facts of the day being a Queen's carriage at the door—which had come with some of her household— Another thing I noticed of a counter-tendency to ones vanity was poor Mrs Edward Irving sitting opposite me in her weeds and looking as ugly as sin— with sorrowful heart enough I dare say—and when I thought of her lot and all the things that must be passing thro her heart to see her husbands old friend there carrying on the glory in his turn; while hers!—what was it all come to—she seemed to me set there expressly to keep me in mind—“that I was but a woman like the skeleton which the Egyptians place at table in their feasts to be a memorial of their latter end[”]13— My love to them all—and surely I will write a long letter to Jane before long who is very foolish to imagine I ever had or could have any reason for silence towards her other than my natural dislike to letter-writing

Ever your affectionate

Jane Carlyle

[TC's postscript]

I have many thanks to send for good kind Letter, the pains you took for me, and the affectionate invitation you send. Nothing, as I said, is fixed yet as to our motions; but I think it will go hard if we do not some way see you all this summer too. Let us wait, and hope.— How does Alick like the Ayrshire Examiner? The Editor, a hotheaded, zealous, decisive, extremely dirty-handed Scotch Radical called upon me here, expressed himself my warm admirer, and craved leave to send me a copy.14 He heard one of my lectures; he has taken the hint of his leading-article this week mainly out of me.

Mrs Welsh is got home now, we suppose, tho' only within these few days. Her Brother15 was not well.16