The Collected Letters, Volume 12


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE ; 27 February 1840; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18400227-TC-JAC-01; CL 12: 57-60


Chelsea, 27 Feby, 1840—

My dear Brother,

In answer to your hurried Coleraine Letter1 I must send you a little word today; tho' there is nothing very special astir, and I have been belated with what little work I had in view. Some mischievous urchin flung an oystershell thro' one of these windows the night before last; I had become impatient to get it mended, and the Glazier came, just as I was sitting down to my Proofsheets, gerade zur unrechten Zeit [just at the wrong time]! After fretting about, and starving [freezing] me with east-wind for the due space, he has at length departed, and my Proofs are finished too.

You have not made up any resolution for yourself; and cannot of course write anything clearly to another as yet. I can give you no advice; can advise only that you use your best discretion and reflexion; and wish and hope for you a true issue. Tell me at any rate whether you get the Newspapers; whether you want them to be still sent. I can form no notion of your environment, your hours, employments, way of spending the day. Your next Letter will perhaps contain something more decisive in regard to your purposes; if you determine on continuing, we shall gradually learn all things, as composure gradually comes upon you, if you do not say, we shall hope to learn otherwise before long. Again and again I wish you a happy outcome, a resolution that will prove wise and advantageous.

My Printers proceed with tolerable velocity; above a half is now fairly done. Four or five weeks more, and I shall be out of that dirty vortex; a real deliverance for me. Fraser wrote on Saturday last that he hoped to have the Accounts and Papers all sorted for me on Monday; I could then examine them, and the settlement should be on what day I liked to come. This is Wednesday; but no Papers have yet arrived.2 I have kept aloof from him since the first date of my demand; I find it better to rest so till the demand be complied with.— In the next Fraser's Magazine there is to be an article by Thackeray on the Story of the Vengeur: do you see it at Pellipar?

We had such sharp frosty weather, with cutting venomous east-winds, as is enough of itself to make one sickly. Swift walking, with great-coat close-buttoned, is one's only recipe. Jane hardly ventures out at all; tried it on Sunday, amid the sunshine, but very nearly caught a cold. I again, as formerly, cook coffee in the mornings; fully as well to be “in a place by myself” till I have got that operation over! I think I must have back my Horse soon; I shall not get into any right heart till then.— The Macreadys sent us the ticket of their box at Covent-Garden the other night; we two took Mazzini and the Jew,3 and saw Mary Stewart, a rant they call by that name, enact itself,—rather strikingly, so far as Macready was concerned.4 The lady Macready was to have come and “spent the day” here yesterday, her husband to fetch her in the evening; a thing I looked forward to, in my then mood, with real horror: however, there had fallen out some sickness in their house, and there came a shoulderknot to say in the afternoon that “unhappily it was impossible”! I spent the evening, in grateful silence; reading two extremely bad tragedies of Landor's: Giovanna of Naples and another;5 all cracked to tatters by a barren bitterly spasmodic spirit of exaggeration and perversion; calcined, in no kindly fire, into mere cinders and incoherency; among the worst writings I have ever seen by any man of talent.— Hunt's Play still goes on; but I hear whispers that it will not altogether last. Hunt himself we have never seen since it came out. His piece is thin, almost filmy, but worth a hundred of Landor's, two hundred of Bulwer's; and may last as long as it can.

Gerade zur unrechten Zeit [just at the wrong time] once again, comes on our old speculation of a Library here! Spedding has formally given in; I must take the matter up; Forster, Bulwer &c have agreed to act: it seems probable there will be a Public Meeting in a fortnight or three weeks, Lord Morpeth6 in the chair; and so with speechifying and advertising, the thing be fairly tried. I could have wished it at another season, had that not been impossible; for now I am beginning seriously to meditate my Course of Lectures, and have even, or seem to have, got the primordium of a subject in me,—tho' not nameable as yet. And then dinners, routs, callers, confusions; inevitable to a certain length in this mad summer quarter here! Ay de mi, I wish I were far from it: no health lies for me in that, for body or for soul; welfare, at least the absence of ill-fare and semidelirium is possible for me in solitude only! Solitude is indeed sad as Golgotha; but it is not mad like Bedlam. “O, the Devil burn it, there is no pleasing of you, strike where one will!”7

On Sunday last, for example, I had to go to an eight o'clock dinner with certain Stanleys,8 whom perhaps you have heard me speak of; it was not suitable to refuse. C. Buller was there, Fonblanque, Bulwer, Campbell of Islay,9 &c &c. Poor Bulwer did not look nearly so horrible as that night when I saw him in the green light of Macready's cavern:10 he is decidedly human, nay has a kind of intellect faintly indicated about the eyebrows, perhaps too in the afflicted-looking large protrusive eyes; his appearance, adding the long nose and open mouth, the dandiacal apparel, weak padded figure, and adventitious renown, is tragic-gawky. Poor fellow, he has his own battle to fight, like us all. He and I agreed wonderfully well, in the touch-and-go fashion; he seemed desirous to ingrush [ingratiate]11 himself rather than otherwise. Fonblanque is an unproductive smart Town-wit; what he produces is like a pinch of snuff; good only for one minute; nay perhaps you were as well without it even for that minute. Campbell of Islay professed a “desire to be acquainted with me”: I saw in him a broad Scottish man, with saloon manners, fat goodhumour; va ben, felice notte [travel well, happy little letter]. Stanley is “Secretary to the Treasury,” I think: a lively little fellow; his wife a goodhumoured beauty and coquette. I left them all thoroughly sick, about midnight; and am not well yet.

My Glasgow Pipes arrived;—all smashed to dust! I have written about new ones. Here are two Letters, the last from Annandale. I have written thither.— No more dear Brother today. God keep and guide you! Yours ever

T. Carlyle

The Duke of Wellington is called “convalescent,” but not considered likely to recover into any strength.12 Poor Mrs Sterling fell on Sunday, and hurt her face; happily without much other injury. Mrs Anthony13 is for Canada in May. Mill's Brother only got to Falmouth; is very unwell.