The Collected Letters, Volume 11


TC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE ; 24 October 1839; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18391024-TC-MAC-01; CL 11: 207-209


Chelsea, 24 October, 1839—

My dear Mother,

Along with this Note of Jack's I will send you a small line, were it only to say in words what the “two strokes” say weekly in the symbolic manner, that all is well.

Jack, I suppose, has given account of his own proceedings;1 he has left his Note sealed; I did not read it. He has plunged about here, in the old style, ever since he came; flying hither and thither, not very unhappy as yet, but unable to settle to anything. I am rather sorry for him, rather angry sometimes; but I do not advise him much, for it does more ill for most part; besides I always calculate that he will finally fall upon some feasible scheme, and stick by it. This Mr Cunningham,2 with whom he is off to Brighton two hours ago, is a young, very tall, very lean, dyspeptical, gentlehearted, rich and melancholic man; the son of a man we liked well, and lamented for the Death of;3—it seems not unlikely Jack may be of service to him; he is at present in a pitiable state with his stomach-disorders, and the dispiritment they have brought on. Jack talks of staying only a week; but it is of course very uncertain how long he will stay. To him the chief charm of the business is that he escapes from the necessity of determining what he means to make of himself. If Cunningham do any good with him, I should not wonder that they made an engagement (for C. is rich enough), and continued all winter together, perhaps wandering about from place to place. Brighton is only some sixty miles from us, which they travel in five hours; a pleasant place, full of fashionable people at this season, by the shore of the sea.— I was wae to see poor Jack take the road again this morning. But how could we help it, how could he help it? A man that has a restlessness within him must travel, no less than he that has a necessity pushing him from without. We will hope and believe that it is all for good still.

As for myself the chief fact is that I have gone riding every day since I wrote last. Every day; except one that Jack consented to take the good of, when I went walking:4 Jane, tho' she has got the offer of a saddle here, has never once made use of it; she needs some mounted man to go with her, and they are scarce at this season; besides she has had a kind of cold, caught in the Sterling's carriage one day with thin clothes, so that she did not like at any rate to venture. I have had it all to myself; and a curious thing it is, two hours or more of swift riding in this neighbourhood! It does me decided good as to health, keeps my head much clearer too; it is the blessedest thing possible to escape altogether out of this whirlpool into the green silent lanes over the river, as I can do in few minutes' galloping, and then go perfectly left to myself there! It is like dew on mown grass to me. Or if I like the other way, I can turn North Eastward, and be in Hyde Park and a series of Parks, roads: streets and drives, among the busy press of equipages, brisk motion and display. The only thing is, I grudge dreadfully the price! But yet again, if it do keep me in better health, I shall even make more money of myself, and ought to go on with it.

Generally every forenoon till 2 o'clock I sit writing; the ostler brings my horse to the door at that hour. Formerly I used to go into the Town then, and probably call on people, or meet people; not so now, I see nobody, even the people that call here I miss, for all calling is transacted, at least all formal calling, in these two hours which for me are riding hours. I cannot say but that this too is a relief and pleasure to me! Plenty of people come about me still; once or twice in the week somebody steps-in in the evenings and that is abundantly enough for me. I like fully better to spend the evening in reading than with the average of company. In the day excursion, the great towering trees, the green silent fields, the repose of brown October far and wide, with my swift little black mare,—is much preferable to any human society I could get. When I have written a tolerable morning's task, I feel extremely peaceable and content; when I have not, it is not so well, but I must just hope to do better next day. What reason have I to thank a kind Providence that has led me so mercifully thus far! It is a changed time with me from what it was but a few years back; from what it had been all my life. My sore sufferings, poverty, sickness, obstruction, dispiritment were sent me in kindness, angrily as I rebelled against them, they were all kind and good. My poor painful existence was not altogether in vain.——— Every thing goes very tolerably well with me here; I have a prospect of being able to live now with less misery from terror of want,—that is the chief good I find in the thing they call “fame,” the rest is worth little to me, little or even nothing. I should thank Heaven too that that was delayed till I had got grey hairs on my head, and could judge what the meaning of several things was.5

My dear Mother, I am writing all about myself; and yet Heaven knows I am anxious anough to hear about you, and every one of you! Is your health tolerable at this delicate season? I see you often in that little end-room; I see you, and it all, vividly at this moment! May the good Guardian watch ever over you— I long to have a Letter. Somebody must write one. The penny-post by and by is coming; then we shall have unlimited supply of Letters. How has Jamie's harvest gone? I must know that. We have had good weather, sometimes even droughty weather; hardly any rain till yesterday and today (a very wet day), these three weeks. I hope it far excelled his expectations, which I know were not high. Isabella's brother came one night lately, left that letter; he looked very healthy, effectual, and content.6 We are to see him again by and by: but he lives, I think, almost six miles off this.— How is Alick getting on? Give him my unalterable regards. He might write to me,—if he liked; but he is very lazy. I will write to him by and by. This sheet was not premeditated; it is accidental, and has grown far longer than I expected.— I should like to hear that James Aitken had got the books and pamphlets safely, and sent them safely to you. Suppose Alick addressed me an old Newspaper (no writing on it, as the last had!) with one stroke to signify the affermative [sic] of this.— My love to Mary, to Jean, and their households; and to one and all of you.— And so good b'ye dear Mother for this day. I must still try to “write” a little before 2 o'clock. What is to become of it we shall see by and by. Perhaps an “article,” perhaps none: at all events it is written.— I am ever your affectionate Son,

T. Carlyle