The Collected Letters, Volume 12


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE ; 5 September 1840; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18400905-TC-JAC-01; CL 12: 238-240


5. Cheyne Row, Chelsea, / 5 Septr 1840—

My dear Brother,

“Readier to be written to than to write”:1 that is precisely my own case too, at present, and indeed generally! However, I must send you a word before the Sunday intervene.

My Lectures ended the day before yesterday: a sorry job, which I am glad to see off my hands, and lying written for Printing, for Combustion, or whatever else. Most probably, after it has lain a while, I shall go over it again, and with certain parings and addings send it to the Press. It is what I had got to say in those days; better than nothing or else worse. The style of the thing disgusts me exceedingly; but there are truths in it which the people might as well know, and did not seem to know.

I might now embark anywhither; but the weather has got suddenly wet. Expense goes for something with a man whose shillings have to be all numbered. Annandale, except for my good Mother, seems questionable. I have got Steamboat Bills, and study them; I have undertaken nowhither as yet. The Town itself is one of the loneliest places: indeed in what place are there many companions one can get as much pleasure from as an honest silent Book will give? Milnes will have me come and see him in the South of Yorkshire; but it is only in the end of this month. Had he been there at present, I could almost have ventured on him, and gone Northward that way. I find the Newcastle Steamer much cheaper than the Dundee one; and two days nearer. Perhaps I ought to go and fling myself among fellow creatures? I am very bilious, frettable; inconclusive too;—and the weather is very brittle! In a few days, I shall either go, or have determined not to go. You can always write hither till you hear.

David Aitken and his Wife2 were with us yesterday; returning from a three-months continental tour. Very wizzened, very wearisome: and they had to be asked back tomorrow, for decency's sake, to dine! The “immortal Creek”3 has been called in; a solid featherbed to stand the brunt of ennui! Poor Aitken is devoured with secret vanity; and his cash has literally only made him wretcheder. A twaddling Doctor-Brunton Triviality, Dilettantism in a Geneva gown;4—almost untholable [unendurable], yet which must be tholed for an hour or two.

Did I ever tell you that poor old Basil Montagu has, even in the pecuniary sense, gone to pot? They have a “Subscription among Friends” on foot for him; Swanston and others at the bottom of it: his debts turn out to be £12,000 in overplus, no mortal can guess how, and he and his affairs entirely an inextricable coil!5 I feel real sorrow for Mrs Montagu; hardly any for any of the others. Bedlam and the Pit of Lies is their native country, and goal of return, for most of them or all. The youth Charles, as they represent him, seems marching very fast: an unmentionable scoundrel!6 — Poor Mrs Montagu we fear must be almost broken: Jane sent her a gift the other day, and there has no Threepenny come in return!

Some weeks ago, one night, the Poet Tennison and Mathew Allan [sic] were discovered here, sitting smoking in the garden. Tennison had been here before, but was still new to Jane,—who was alone for the first hour or two of it. A fine large-featured, dim-eyed, bronze-coloured, shaggy-headed man is Alfred; dusty, smoky, free-and-easy: who swims, outwardly and inwardly, with great composure in an inarticulate element as of tranquil chaos and tobacco-smoke; great now and then when he does emerge: a most restful, brotherly, solidhearted man. Allan looked considerably older; speculative, hopeful, earnest-frothy as from the beginning.7——— I have not yet put down your Name for the Library. Think whether you do want it; whether my share will not do for you.

I will write again whether hearing from you or not if I rush off anywhither. Write you as soon as you like, as you can.

If you go to the O[r]kneys, our chance of meeting will be at zero till you come back. At Oban, it was not great. On the Ayrshire Coast, we might manage.8

You do not say now at what rate you are engaged; nor for what extent of time. If you do good to the poor Patient, why should you not be content? It is to be doing good. Few people can certainly say of themselves so much. The most are but consuming victual; a malefaction and theft if there be not work returned for it, in the shape of improvement to some man or thing!

I enclose a letter from Thomas Murray: the old man.9 His Hodgson,10 a Liverpool Windbag of the Lecturing sort seemingly, did not get me at home.

Adieu dear Jack / Yours ever / T. Carlyle