The Collected Letters, Volume 12


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE ; 29 October 1840; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18401029-TC-JAC-01; CL 12: 305-308


Chelsea, 29 Octr, 1840—

My dear Brother,

I meant to write yesterday, and the day before yesterday; much more today! And yet it is as it were perforce, and more to the semblance than the reality, that I am able to accomplish even this latter. Captain Sterling (just home from Canada) came in upon me when I was getting out the pen; and sat here, Jane being out, till 4 o'clock struck, and dinner was at hand.— I am down stairs altogether today; Jane is gone on some dramatic expedition to the Macreadys' whither I could not be persuaded;1 I have dined here, and am to read here (more convenient for my folios);—so while tea is not yet come, I fling you a word, right sorry that half a post if not a whole one is again lost.

Except a snivelling little vermin of a cold which plagued me for a while, I do not recollect that there is any new thing since you heard last. I had to attack the cold with ol. ricin [castor oil] my old friend; I have still to go buttoned rather close. Today I have not gone out at all, the dirty foggy rain having fallen almost incessantly till Sterling went away. Health makes considerable difference in my reading work; tho' I sit at the book well or unwell, the liveliness of one's attention is of course various.— On the whole I do not find that I make great progress in this new enterprise, sometimes no progress at all,—or even retrogress; that is to say, my interest in it threatens sometimes to decline and die! It is not tenth part such a subject as the French Revolution; nor can the art of man ever make such a Book out of it. However we must hold on. One dreadful circumstance is, that the Books, without exception, the documents &c one has to read are of a dulness to threaten locked-jaw; I never read such jumbling, drowsy, endless stupidities: “seventhly and lastly”!— Yet I say to myself a Great Man does lie buried under this waste continent of cinders, and a Great Action: canst thou not unbury them, present them visible, and so help as it were in the creation of them? We shall see.

Aird was not the writer of that Article, it seems; but one Gilfillan, a young Burgher Minister at Dundee.2 How he contrives to hold such notions, and be a Burgher Minister, one cannot well say.— In the Révue [sic] des Deux Mondes I find a still more striking piece, on the same great topic, by one Chasles;3 who, I remember, is the Translator of Jean Paul's Titan: it is really a remarkable Article; I did not think any Frenchman would have understood the Book so well. And now, verily it may be hoped, we are reviewed enough!— Jane is bargaining with Fraser about the Lectures; she, not I: if no money can be had for them, they shall not be printed at present.

The inclosed Note, from Jean two days ago, is all my Scotch news. The Box she speaks of is understood to have oatmeal in it; a thing immensely wanted here. “Miss Grahame” is the little Leghorn-Plait woman; who is bent on sending Jane a bonnet, out of gratitude.4

Mill seems to have gone to Normandy for a few weeks of rustication. I have not heard of him or of his little Brother5 since your message about the latter. I see very few people at present; I walk countryward, not townward, when the roads will allow: I find the clatter of most men that I meet heartily oppressive to me. I gain nothing, and never did gain much, except by myself. By Heaven's mercy, I shall get into the country yet, one day, and live there till once I am tired of it at least. On Sunday last, I fell in with Lockhart in the Park; who walked with me about an hour. A sensible man, with shrewd insight, tho' dandiacally given; I could like well to talk with such a man two hours weekly. The generality of men are actually far inferior to silence. I strive at present after silence.

Did you notice in the Times that Cavaignac has had a Pamphlet seized at the Press in Paris? One is much afraid there will be mad work by and by with these French Gentlemen. Unless there be a fund of sense in the F. Nation very different from what shews itself in the F. Newspapers and printed Literature, one may predict that such Nation will fall into puddles before long, and ever into worse puddles,—to one knows not what extremity! They seem to me the vainest maddest people in Europe, by far, at present.6 Like the man who “by the quickset hedge” (by Bonapartism, let us say) had “scratched out both his eyes,” they are determined by the same quickset hedge to “scratch them in again!”7 Faustum sit [Good luck to them].

Garnier is playing the fool sadly. By great industry last year (wherein I was very happy to contribute, Charles Buller being principal), a little place was got for him in the Record Commission:8 he has already been “insulted” almost to duelling there; has departed with execrations in his throat, to die of poverty, and has begun a controversy in the Spectator. He has written two Letters to me. I fear he is incurably mad; alas, perhaps too literally mad.

Well, dear Jack, I hope you are safe at Linton;9 which I have sought out on my map; and also that you will come nearer us by and by! The West is too wet for you. At Wight, if you are not pulmonary as I think neither of you are, you will surely be better in the foggy time. The fogs are a considerable misery here. The worst too is, one loses the summer here: alas, here is not the best climate!— John Sterling does not go to Italy this winter; perhaps to Falmouth.10 He is writing like a Steamengine,—I take care not to know very well what. I saw Calvert on his pony yesterday; a good man; but commence m'ennuyer [begins to bore me].— I end here, dear Brother, and send you many true goodnights. I had tea two pages ago!— Yours ever truly,

T. Carlyle