The Collected Letters, Volume 11


TC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE ; 5 December 1839; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18391205-TC-MAC-01; CL 11: 221-224


5. Cheyne Row, Chelsea, 5 Decr, 1839—

My dear Mother,

This being the first day of the cheap post, I determine on writing you a scrap of a letter. There will soon be an actual penny-postage, they say; but even this fourpenny-postage is a great thing. Were the penny system once come, I will expect to hear from you every week; I will write to you every week: we shall have such writing as was never seen before!

I know not whether Jean sent you out a Letter of mine from Dumfries. I told her there that I had got done with my “Article”; that all was going on very tolerably here. The “Article” is indeed all written, nay I have added some things to it since; everybody approves of it too; but how to publish it? has been the question. The Tory Quarterly Review people kept it for a week; and then, seemingly not without reluctance, sent it back, saying, “We dare not.” Mill saw it next, and contrary to my expectation expressed himself eager to have it, and publish it in his final Number, as a kind of final shout; that he might sink like a Vengeur battle-ship, with a broadside at the water's-edge!1 But Jane and Jack, and my own feelings too, advise that the thing is too good for that purpose. I have had nothing to do with their hide-bound Westminster Review, that I should sink along with it. I offered them this very thing two years ago, the blockheads; and they durst not let me write it then.2 If they had taken more of my counsel, they need not perhaps have been in a sinking state at present. But they went their own way; and now their “Review” is to cease with the Next Number, as a thing that will not pay; and their whole beggarly Unbelieving Radicalism may cease too, if it like, and let us see whether there be not a Believing Radicalism possible!— In short, I think of publishing this piece, which I have called “Chartism,” which is all about the Poor and their rights and wrongs, as a little separate Book, with Fraser, on my own independent footing. Fraser will print it; “halving” the profits. It may be out, probably, by the end of this month. I shall perhaps get less money by it from Fraser, but its effect on the public will have a chance to be much more immediate. This year, for the first time, I am not at all poor; and can shift, whether I gain “sixty pounds,” or do not gain them. Let us be thankful, then; and publish, as we best can, what it has been given us to write as we best could!

There went a parcel by Fraser to Edinburgh last week; addressed to you at Scotsbrig, to be “forwarded by coach.” Have you got it yet? I thought that a more direct method than M'Kie's by Dumfries, and not likely to cost above a few pence more. The parcel contained your knit spencer, some worthless books and nicknacks. I remembered at the last hour a piece of razor-strap paste for Jamie, and ran up with it to Fraser's; but was too late! It will come by another parcel in the beginning of next month; for I shall have another to send, containing Wilhelm Meister, and this Chartism if it be ready. Meister is out, and a very reasonable-looking book doing “as well as could be expected.” The whole cargo of the Miscellanies too is sold, and we are about beginning to print another, which will be three months of half-work half-amusement for me. Fraser must pay me down the cash at New-years-day. On this side, as you see therefore, all goes tolerably well.

Jack, I believe, announced to Alick that the sea-borne Packages arrived safe from Newcastle, a while ago. We broke into the butter, and are consuming it daily “with apparent relish”:3 the meal I threaten to break up daily, tho' there remains a fraction of the old stock, “blessed,” Jane says, “like the widow's cruse.”4 The ham also gives way rapidly before the teeth of the destroyer; it is of excellent taste; but far too lean for eating otherwise than as common meat. Fat enough, it is a kind of medicine to poor dyspeptic creatures at breakfast. I am also smoking Alick's tobacco: I will have the axe ground (it is very useful even unground), the hook shall mow grass against spring-time; the awl and gimlets did not want welcome! Thanks and again thanks to you all, you ever-kind friends, unwearied in caring for us! Near or distant, it is all one; your fash [trouble] with these London people never terminates.

Jack has been rushing about in the old style; twice down at Brighton, at the Isle of Wight &c &c. He is not so unhappy as one might fancy. He has all along, I think, had a kind of expectation that the Buccleuchs would go abroad again; and now this week, when the Duke is returned, it is to be decided; one of these very days it will be decided; you of course will hear directly how. My own conjecture is that they will go, and take Jack with them, for half a year or so: there is clearly nothing else that he can do so eligible. They speak of Lisbon rather than Italy this time; Lisbon, the Portuguese capital, is a bright place as to climate, a new place too for them, Jack I suppose will like that not worse but better. “They are idle of work that go clatching [splashing] up and down the country on cuddy-asses,” I think!

Jane caught cold about a fortnight ago, for the second time this winter; and has been rather feckless ever since. She has the cold thrown off now, but continues in a feeble way, not being yet able to venture out in the cold fogs we have. I hope this rap on the knuckles at the opening of winter may be a warning to her, that she is not to take liberties! She sits and sews, as peaceably as she can.

About a week ago I sent my horse off to its old quarters; very glad that I could get so handsomely rid of it. The Mr Marshall junior5 had actually I think some work for it; engaged, at any rate, to turn it out into a strawyard when his work ceased. I accordingly rode it out to him last wednesday (gone a week), some twenty miles off; returning next day by the railway; a pleasant enough ride,—in spite of sleet-showers: I shall not meddle with it again, till the roads dry a little; we will say in March or April. The mud of the great thoroughfares here, in wet weather, surpasses all conception: Champed into the consistency of thin weaver's-dressing, floating there like an ever-vexed sea; hundreds of men vainly endeavouring with clats [scrapers] and spades to keep it down. You cannot ride fast in that, and the weather is too cold for riding slow. On the whole, I am glad to have my five-and twenty shillings a-week taken off my hands for a while! The horse did me perceptible benefit; real good, I think: I will resume it in due season; I must work the harder to pay for it.— By the bye, did either Jamie or Alick ever in this world hear of horses being clipt in the winter time? All riding or smart carriage horses here, I found to my astonishment, are treated in that way; to prevent their sweating! I saw an artist at work on a horse, with scissors and comb; making a very neat job: he had one whole side, and a hip of the other done;—his charge, he said, was from two guineas to thirty shillings, or even one guinea, according to neatness. I did not employ him.

Alas the sheet is on the point of ending; and I have clattered all along, and got nothing at all asked about as yet! What is my small namesake down stairs doing, whom Alick reported to be unwell? I hope it proved nothing of moment. How are all the rest of you; how are you, dear Mother? Put on that knit-spencer; Jane declares it to be a great help: it goes on uppermost of all, except the gown and keeps all the rest snug. Take care of cold; I have no more pressing advice to give, to you, to Isabella, and all the womankind of you. What does Jamie's crop say when he has it on the floor? Are the Austins gone to the Gill? What of Kirtlebrig?6 I hope to hear from Alick soon, or to write to him soon. God be ever with you all!— Your affectionate

T. Carlyle