The Collected Letters, Volume 12


TC TO ALEXANDER CARLYLE ; 8 April 1840; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18400408-TC-AC-01; CL 12: 97-99


Chelsea, Wednesday / 8 April, 1840—

My dear Alick,

The Tobacco came duly, in its little pasted Bag, the inside of which also (tho' with some difficulty) I contrived to read;—setting then to fill my pipe and raise reek from the contents! It is a precious invention this of the Penny Post.

In quality the Tobacco is altogether of the right sort; if you can get a Permit, I wish you would send it off without a minute's delay. But I understood you to signify that no right Permit could be got? In that case, alas, we cannot stir in the business; but must just be doing as we otherwise can: and I said already, you were not to trouble yourself too much about it.— My stock of Pipes is running low too; the Glasgow people make no movement towards supplying me anew: so that I suppose I shall have to send to Edinburgh shortly. You never saw such a smash as the Glasgow box had become;—all by their careless packing; which they were bound to make good again, but will not,—the scrubs!

My horse has been in action these four weeks and more; I make her work, when she is at it, galloping many a mile every day. My chief delight is to get out of the confused whirlpool with its noises, smoke and confusions, altogether; to see quiet cottages and fields; the clear green of Earth intersecting sharply the clear blue of Heaven. It does me real good. I study never to grudge the great expense; to think indeed that it is a profitable needful commercial outlay, which will come in again in the way of trade. For my Lectures are decidedly to go on. Next letter I hope to send you a printed Prospectus. The subject is “Great Men”; or as I have named it, “On Heroes, Hero-worship and the Heroic in human History”;—a great, deep and wide subject, if I were in heart to do it justice. Feeling clearly how indispensible health is towards that, I say always, “It depends more on my horse than on me,” and so ride along with unabated alacrity! The country round here is green, fertile, bright and pretty beyond what you could fancy. Not an inch of what we call wet or otherwise bad land in it; all broken into smooth leafy knolls with trim painted houses on them; or stretching in great fertile flats, of black rich mould and dead level, laid out as kitchen-gardens for the monstrous city, as flower-nurseries for the quality who drive out thither. The faults are: There is no clear running water; there is no possibility of getting an extensive view. The very Thames with its boats and ships is like a drab-coloured long lake. The best view you have is that of London in the distance (if you be to windward, as I always ride to be); monstrous London, filling half your horizon, like an infinite ocean of smoke, with steeples, domes, and the ghosts of steeples and domes confusedly hanging in it,—dim-black under the infinite deep of Blue.—— My Lectures begin on Tuesday the 5th of May, and last on Tuesdays and Fridays for three weeks. I am not quite so terrified this year; but I sometimes calculate, it will be better not to try it any more in future years; but to write rather, now that I can get something for my books.1 We shall see.— The last sheet of my Printing is just out of my hands, a few minutes ago. The Books will perhaps be ready for the 1st of May to go with the Magazine Parcels to Edinburgh: in that case I mean to send you all copies. It will be a pretty Book in five volumes.

Nothing came of the Corn-law; but it seems the people have determined on bringing it on again this season. They mean also, in the interim and subsequently, to agitate and stir up all corners of the country by means of Lectures &c. I fancy there is no doubt at all but they will carry it; when or how, nevertheless, is but dubious as yet.2 One would say, it could not be very long. One would say also, it could not fail to give a great briskness to trade, and make the general population of Britain much better off for some ten years or so; but if, in these ten years or so, no steps were taken for improving and regulating the lower classes, why then, it seems to me, there would just be more Millions of them, as miserable as ever, and no Corn-Bill Abrogation to fall back upon! The very delay in abrogating, nefarious, mad and self-destructive as it seems on the part of the Landlords, is perhaps useful in this respect; appointed by Providence to continue till the so-called Reformers do learn what Reform really means.

Jack has written little, almost nothing but half-words, of late; we gather only that he is busy, that he is well, and gets immense wages. After all, it may perhaps be a question whether this of the wages is so lucky for him. He has no home of his own, poor fellow; and these great sums, earned in that way, are not the thing to stir him up towards resolving to conquer some home for himself. I sent him, the other day, a strange printed quiz of a thing,—the cream of my Chartism done up into Classical verse (the same verse as Homer's) by a certain Cambridge Professor of eminence; a thing one could laugh at for moments.

Jamie wrote to me by the same post as you. Say I will answer before long. Our Mother, I conclude, is still at Dumfries. The rest of you, let us be thankful, seem to be all well. Poor John Aitken! a solitary man; solitary a second time in his old days! I cannot say but I feel a real sympathy with him: he has had a hard life, and gained little by it.3

Jane still complains a little; but ventures out now, hopes to be herself again before long. Her kind love to you all. Is the little Jane learning her lessons well? And Tom, my respectable representative in the village? Good be with them all, poor things! To one and all of you, Good and that only! Adieu, dear Brother

Your affectionate T. Carlyle 4