The Collected Letters, Volume 12


TC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE ; 12 September 1840; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18400912-TC-MAC-01; CL 12: 251-255


Chelsea, 12 Septr, 1840—

My dear Mother,

Your good little Letter, with a Postscript from Alick, came to hand yesterday. I was wae enough for the disappointment that was on the way towards you; it will reach you today;—wherefore I console myself with writing you a word about the same period of time. You must not disturb yourself about my not coming. You ought to rejoice rather that I am sitting so snug here; no coach-horn, steamboat-rumbling, or other the like confusion, to make me afraid! You know what I suffer in these cases. Then with short days coming on me, harvest-work all about me, and the quick prospect of travelling back, sad at parting with you all, thro' the stormy weather of hind-harvest [the time between harvest and winter];—it is really better as it is. Next year, as I told Alick, I calculate on making amends. I shall bring a bit of work in my pocket too perhaps; and so be better content with the country. Our weather here is as pleasant as need be, sunshine not oppressive, with sharp clear air: the best of harvest-weather; and good also for the like of me in these streets. London is at no season so agreeable is [sic] in late autumn, and the corresponding season of Spring. I have got my Books, all sorts of thoughts in me about a new Book; I sit quiet, disturbed by almost nobody. I am fast recovering out of the biliousness produced by my Lecture-writing; I have just one way of recovering: that of sitting quiet. And so, in my upstairs room here, with my winter dressing-gown on but no fire in the grate yet, my Books and Work will be better company than Coach-guards; and perhaps I shall be in better case to start the winter again than the hundred thousand that are at present “clatching [squelching] athwart the country on cuddy asses,” or other conveyances,—“gay [very] idle of work!” They seem to me a set of great fools here, in regard to these things; I need not follow their example. Except that I must not see my dear good Mother this season, but have to content myself with thinking daily of her as before,—I do not in the least regret anything else I have missed sight of: most things and most persons I could have seen are perhaps as well waiting still to be seen!

The inclosed money is to buy you a suit of winter clothes: it would have been all spent before I could have got up to you by almost the cheapest way; and now if I fancy you, all winter, well wrapt up on the produce of that, will it not be a comfortable thrift? I know you do not need it; thank Heaven you do not: but from me it will have a particular gusto nevertheless. Get yourself, over and above, dear Mother, something you wished to get: a little keg of beer over winter, a little this or a little that; stir yourself about, more at ease than you would have done! It will be my greatest luxury. I meant to get you a brave new cloak, of grey frieze or the like, from the front-end of the little purse; but Jane says you can buy such things cheaper there than here; and perhaps you may have some choice that will please yourself better than mine could have done. Let me know that you are warmly-clad at any rate! Get a good stock of coals, and put them in the new peat-house. I hope to send you up my Lectures in print by and by; and you must read them with a good fire.

Jack's last Letter was about a week since or more.1 It appeared not improbable that he might shift towards the Ayrshire Coast; within reach of you by a day's journey. I wrote to him yesterday; enclosing your Letter; advising him to see you if he could. His Patient seems to be rather improving, a good man sunk in that sad distress; Jack in that case might the better reconcile himself to his work.

I have had wearisome Americans here: they are sent by kind friends, and I study to receive them as well as I can. They claim nothing of me but a little of my company, poor fellows! We had certain American Women in the summer-time; they had come over here as “delegates,” to discourse and speculate in a grand assemblage gathered in London from all the world to civilize Africa, and look after the black slaves Female delegates were a class of persons the Assemblage did not understand, but rather scunner'd at [viewed with disgust], and finally had to reject.2 The good women were very angry; and determined to preach for their own behoof still, they themselves, in a meeting-house they borrowed. The audience met accordingly; the main female delegate got up to discourse, and, sad enough,—could find nothing to say, but sat down again in a very broken manner!3 People thought her also “gay idle of work.” Yet I think she was a good kind of woman. She had been here with us before that, she and three others her bottle-holders; rigid-looking elderly Quakeresses;—terribly disappointed that I would not crusade with them in favour of the black slaves, as the one thing needful; I told them, as usual, that the green and yellow slaves, grown green with sheer hunger in my own neighbourhood, were far more interesting to me! I added moreover that I myself had been a slave all the days of my life; and had still a hard battle to fight, at all moments, to get any portion of my own just will made good. In fine I did not hide from them that I considered their black-slave concern a business lying in their parish, not in mine.4

We have great work with Temperance here: ballad-singers satirizing it on the streets; on the other hand, rough earnest men, reformed-drunkards as they profess themselves, speaking to great crowds about it on the Sundays, who listen very considerately. I understand it is making real progress. The very Irish, poor wretches, are abjuring drink by the million.5 I say, it is the first beginning of emancipation to them. I could almost weep to hear these poor rude workmen zealously calling on their fellow-creatures, in such way as they can, to awake into manhood, and abjure the slavery of Gin! They speak evidently from the heart: this is something practical and true they are talking of,—while nothing but organ psalmody and vague jinnerjanner [idle talk] is going on all round them from those hired to speak. A Scotch Bricklayer in this quarter is said to be one of the most zealous: a head man among the Teetotallers from the North Country was telling us this Bricklayer's history, a while ago.6 He had sunk into tippling habits, saw his affairs gradually crumbling to ruin; his Wife made no complaint in words, but her silent sorrow maddened the man, as he thought of himself and of it; coming home one night from the tavern, mazed, mad, given up to the Devil, he determined to kill her: she was asleep with the child beside her; he took the carving-knife; had his hand raised to strike,—when by God's great mercy she awoke, the look she gave him cut his heart asunder; he burst into tears, into prayer; and considers himself now (for his worldly affairs are all prospering again) as consecrated by Heaven to warn his fellow creatures as to this matter by all means in all places and times.— — Surely we will wish these poor people prosperity more and more.—

—I have this moment received a Letter from Jack; which I will now enclose.7 I have other Letters to answer. I must be off for the present without delay! I wrote a little Note to Jean yesterday. Before long I am about to send off a Box by Liverpool with all manner of old duds and etceteras. Jane is gradually getting it packed. She is well, she salutes you all. Jamie, I hope, will get brave weather for his harvest: no weather could be better than we have here: I wish him well thro' it, poor fellow.— — On the whole, as Jack's Letter contains no new thing whatever, I think I need not enclose it. They have wet weather at Oban, he says; they are not going to Orkney (which you will rejoice at) but to “Dundee” perhaps: an Irish friend is come over to them for a day or two, and all goes well. He still goes on at £100 per month, or £500 for six months,—a most excellent salary!

Adieu my dear Mother for this day. I will write again before long. My blessings with you all.

Ever your affectionate /

T. Carlyle