The Collected Letters, Volume 12


TC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE ; 24 February 1840; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18400224-TC-MAC-01; CL 12: 53-56


5. Cheyne Row, Chelsea, 24 feby, 1840

My dear Mother,

Tho' there is nothing new going on here, I will write you a word even to say nothing, except that I am specially thinking of you. I have written a Letter to Jean1 at Dumfries with all the tidings I could be said to have; this she will perhaps send out to you,—tho' indeed it is not worth even that trouble: it contained at bottom nothing except that all things move along in their old course; proof-sheets &c, &c; and that, in spite of the fierce weather, both the wife and I are holding out in the usual state of health.

This is the season when the Town grows more than usually full; many thousands of Quality and their dependents crowding into this western quarter of it: one would think I had not much to do with all that; yet it does introduce a considerable agitation into our little quiet district too; and, strive against it as I will, interrupts me far more than I like. They ask me to dinner; I refuse and refuse; then not to cause absolute offence I consent, and the consequence is, a dinner somewhere between six and nine o'clock at night, and confused ferment of nervous discomfort for a week after! It requires a much thicker skin than I have, to stand that sort of thing. It is rather amusing: one sees the ways of these people; “how they ac in the various parts”:2 the “lions” of the time (those whom the world runs after, to see, as if they were lions in a show) all turn up here or there,—individuals worth a look, and generally worth little more. I saw very lately the chief literary lion of this generation, a certain Sir Lytton Bulwer, for example; he makes by far the most money of his books, has the most popularity &c of all living book-writers, and is pretty generally by men of sense admitted to be a very silly fellow and bad bookwriter notwithstanding: a rather discordant state of matters for him! He is a miserable goggle-eyed scarecrow to look upon, tho' dressed in the extremest style of dandyism; an uneasy incoherent-looking man:—poor fellow, he has parted with his wife, who is writing books against him;3 he hopes he is a great character, and yet dreads always that men may take him for what he is, a small one: one fancies it no desirable existence that!— For my own share, I confess, there is no lionism nor looking at lions, nor late dining, nor trade of that kind at all, that suits me tenth-part as well as being left alone to try whether I can do any work or not. At bottom, I find, that is all this world can do for me. If I can do any work, it is a happiness to me; if I can do no work, all is an insignificance, an unhappiness, and I had better be asleep than awake in such a world.

We have not Miss Martineau this winter: did I ever tell you she had gone to Newcastle to be under the care of a Brother-in-law who is a Doctor there? She writes to Jane sometimes; pretends to be “very happy,” poor Harriet; but cannot be happy, having some grievous disorder about her, for which I believe a surgical operation will be needed.4— Mrs Buller too is removed out of town; lives now at a place called Leatherhead some sixteen miles off; in disgust, I believe, at the course of politics, which has not brought her son Charles into any office! She got another offence: about a year and half ago she thought good to “adopt” a young female child, of whose parentage she either gave no account, or else admitted in all privacy that it was an irregular production of her son Arthur's!5 This proved a little too strong; and most of her lady-friends began to look shy upon her; a thing that made the country still more desirable. I used to see the little snaffle [weakling] of a child; but, suspecting what it was, never would take any notice of it, or so much as understand that it was running about and making a noise there. To me the Bullers were always kind and good; that is what I am bound to feel, in respect of her especially. I think, if I had my horse again, of riding out to see them some time. It is considered not to be impossible, after all, that Charles may get into some place before long. Arthur, whom I saw about a week ago, is talking about going out to New Zealand (near New Holland, nearly on the other side of the world), along with a Colony they are trying to establish there.6— Enough of all this.

I enclose you our last Missive from the Doctor. All seems to be well with him, tho' nothing yet settled: it is impossible to get hitherto any very distinct notion of what he does, or how he is situated from such letters as he writes. The truth is, we may infer, he does not well know about it himself.

I think I shall lecture this year too, to my old audience! I seem to have a kind of hold of a subject; but it is not yet got into any shape. I am considerably plagued with Proofsheets; but we are half thro' the whole thing now, and shall see the end of it, I hope, in another month or little more. In the course of this week I expect to settle with Fraser; we shall then see what he has got to give us.— Pray let Jamie remember to write me about the Austin's money; it shall be sent when wanted.

Dear Mother, did you ever read from me a greater Nothing? I am at the bottom of my sheet too: ah me! Do, I entreat you, take care of yourself in this fierce frosty weather. Tell me again how you are; I like your Letters well. Jenny wrote to me, a bit canty [a little cheerful] Letter,7 for which I request you in the meanwhile to thank her; I will answer by and by. How is the little Tom down stairs? Alick, I suppose, is about sending me off my Tobacco. The Pipes arrived last week; alas, all smashed to a few! I have written by Dumfries to the Potters about them. Farewell, my dear Mother. I must write to you soon again. Ever Your

T. Carlyle

I enclose you also the last private criticism on Chartism. It is by the Mr Spedding who once with his brother came to seek me at Scotsbrig: a letter from the one brother to the other, who shewed it me.8