The Collected Letters, Volume 12


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE ; 17 March 1840; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18400317-TC-JAC-01; CL 12: 78-82


Chelsea, 17 March, 1840—

My dear Brother,

Just while I was sealing a Letter to my Mother, arrives yours; I send it off to Scotsbrig (there being nothing secret in it), and will straightway proceed to fling you a word of answer.

No news from Scotsbrig; only a Letter from Dumfries, intimating that [all] was right there then.1 Of late days it had struck me that Jamie's delay to write about Austin's money might perhaps be causing inconvenience to Austin, as surely it was causing no convenience to me; so yesterday I sent off £30 of money, and have written to Mary today that they will find it at the Annan Commercial Bank Office any day after Thursday first. Jamie (of Scotsbrig) said between £20 and £30; I have sent the largest sum, and hope we shall hear no more of it now.

My funds are not of the most copious at present, my £50 being thus reduced to £20, and Fraser's bills bearing “10 months date”; however, I believe I shall manage without any inconvenience whatever after all. Fraser and [I] have never got settled yet; tomorrow night I am to go up and try. Poor James seems very anxious not to quarrel with me; but I must not give him altogether his own way either.— I have finished the Koran; read some things on Iceland; a pamphlet of La Mennais2 &c. My Lectures remain dim and horrible; but I suppose I shall get them worked out too. We are in the fifth volume of our Printing: happily in some two weeks or so, that coil of confusions will be behind me; I shall study to clear the decks, and have my whole time to study my oratory in.

Mrs Jameson was here one night; not gone to Italy, her father being so ill:3 she talked with the usual enthusiasm about news, rights of women,—the “woral [world] and her horse.” No bad person at all; a great deal of heart in her, a kind of unsubduable courage, which is the grand root of all. Poor Mill is gone down to Falmouth; I understand, to see his poor Brother die!4 You remember his mentioning that poor lad the night we went to Kensington after such a walk: he had been put into a warmed room at that time; growing worse, he was sent towards Madiera about the same time with Sterling; missed the Packet at Falmouth being a day too late; has stayed there; and now—! — Mill has an article on Coleridge in the last Review which some admire much.5 It is admirably expressed; but with that my great admiration of it stops short. Milnes has also a very pretty Article on Emerson the American. If you can get at the No, catch it for the sake of these two: there is nothing else in it that I remember—except some nonsense.

Poor Darley has got out a “Thomas A'Becket a Dramatic Chronicle”; really very meritorious, Darleyish, even genial here and there; we read it with real pleasure for his sake and our own.

This morning the Parcels Company brought me two pretty Books from Varnhagen von der Ense:6 on the inside of the first board of one is pasted a cover, wherein lay the beautifullest copperplate india-paper proof epistolet:7 I send it you today; but must beg for it back again, uncrumpled, to stick in its old place. Such a Note of itself is characteristic. Such a man could in no case become a “Threefingered Jack!”8 Yet Bunsen disliked him as a Radical, I remember!— “By the bye” let me mention here, I heard that Bunsen had gone as Envoy to Berne,9 and was now living there in great felicity and propriety.

Half an hour ago, I sent your message for Mrs Anthony by Sterling,10 who was here. He came to persuade me to a “dinner of lords”; ach nein [ah no], I had too much of that on Saturday last, when I was pressed into the Stanley service again! There at the dear cost of a shattered set of nerves, and head set whirling for the next eight and forty hours, I did see Lords and Lions. Lord Holland and Lady, Normanby &c; and then for soirée up stairs, Morpeth, Landsdown[e], French Guizot,11 the Queen of Beauty12 &c. Nay Pickwick too was of the dinner-party, I mean Dickens; tho' they did not seem to heed him over much. He is a fine little fellow, Boz, as I think; clear blue intelligent eyes, eyebrows that he arches amazingly, large protrusive rather loose mouth,—a face of the most extreme mobility, which he shuttles about, eyebrows, eyes, mouth and all, in a very singular manner while speaking; surmount this with a loose coil of common-coloured hair, and set it on a small compact figure, very small, and dressed rather à la d'Orsay than well: this is Pickwick;—for the rest a quiet shrewd-looking little fellow, who seems to guess pretty well what he is, and what others are. Lady Holland is a brown-skinned, silent, sad-concentrated, proud old dame; her face when you see it in profile has something of the falcon character (if a falcon's bill were straight), and you see much of the white of her eye. Notable word she spake none; sat like one wont to be obeyed and entertained. Old Holland whose legs are said to be almost turned to stone pleased me much. A very large bald head, small grey invincible composed-looking eyes, the immense tuft of eyebrow which all the Foxes have; stiff upper lip, roomy mouth and chin, short angry yet modest nose; I saw there a fine old Jarl [Earl], an honest, obstinate, candid, wholesomely limited, very effectual and estimable old man. For Normanby, see the Caricatures. Tall, slender, perpendicular as a plummet; a large chevelure (which you suspect falsely to be dyed or a wig); anxious eyes that strive to look serene and young from amid a mass of black confused wrinkles, speaking too plainly of unsereneness and fifty-five good years! Morpeth also is very like his caricatures: big blue eyes that smile, and are set in a big puffy ring of protrusive fat;—you know him: old Thames is safe from him.13 Of the rest I will not say a syllable; not even of the Queen of Beauty (who looked rather withered and unwell): simply of Guizot one word. A curious ambassador; at first glance more like an ancient Geneva Presbyterian Minister;14—yet decidedly likeable and estimable, I should guess. Look and complexion wholly tauchy [greasy], French; baldish black head, broad low brow, a face that hastens then to conclude itself—as it were triangularly; taille moyenne [middle stature] or lower; tolerable English, and great modesty and sense: an interesting kind of man, with nothing of the sulky pedantry which I have seen in some of his portraits. I could have wished to speak with him farther: but he was whirled into the vortex of things, and I beheld him no more.— Why do I babble about all this? Heaven knows it is not because I have nothing to do!

The best news however is that I have got my horse a week ago, in the most superb order, all clipt and sleek; and that I ride daily into the free air. It is a luxury like no other. I do believe it will do my health good. I must “lecture” the better to pay it!

Poor Jane has taken a cold at last,—merely sitting at the fire!— She had a head-ache yesterday; she has got quit of that but the other sym[p]toms remain. We trust she will shake it all off soon, and without its going deeper. I will not write another word today.— Yours ever truly

T. Carlyle

Tell me nothing more about your situation than you like. I am well pleased that you have got it put on a footing “of indifference whether you go or stay.” That is the clear footing.

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