The Collected Letters, Volume 12


TC TO JAMES CARLYLE ; 9 December 1840; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18401209-TC-JC-01; CL 12: 356-358


Chelsea, 9 Decr, 1840—

My dear Brother,

I send you a short line today; a line to you, tho' I doubt you are none of the faithfullest correspondents, and I rather think my own last Letter to you is still unanswered. Nevertheless here goes.

Our good Mother would get a short Letter from the Doctor one of these days; it will not be new to you therefore that we have met here. He walked in, on Sunday morning last, altogether unannounced, while the coffee stood just about ready; a most joyful apparition, you many fancy. I thought him looking fatter and healthier somewhat; not changed otherwise. His situation too I could now better understand and appreciate. I find it preferable to what I had supposed. In the first place an Aunt of the Patient's, an old maiden dame,1 stays always with them, travels always with them; shares the responsibility: this is a considerable point. Then the Patient himself is really an inoffensive, almost an amiable interesting kind of man: he seemed to me by no means insane, not at all, rather a clever man even and polite and mild to a degree: his disease seems chiefly an excess of timid sensitiveness: Jack brought him down hither, the first forenoon, and I talked with him again in their Hôtel: you would have said, it was an interesting delicate-minded man, much oppressed with blateness and entirely distrustful of himself; this was all. I believe it is all; and, alas, enough; and that in very fact if Jack left him, and another were not found to do a similar duty for him, the poor young man, possessed of immense wealth depending on his sanity, would soon get into such a state of nervous tremour and excitement as would actually amount to confusion of head,—be submitted to investigation by jury, be sent into Bedlam, and have his money given over to others to manage! It is frightful to think of. I never in my life have seen money such a malison to any man. Had this man no money, above all had he his bread to work for, I believe all were mended with him: as it is, with thousands and tens of thousands in his pocket, he has to hover always on the verge of the miserablest doom.— Jack seems to like him and pity him somewhat: I doubt not he feels the situation irksome for him; but no man can gain £1000 a-year without working: besides it has the advantage of being always open to him to quit at a month's warning, and yet free to him to stay in, I calculate, probably as long as he likes! On the whole, till he fix his own purposes some way or other, what better situation could one devise for him? I think he will talk often about going away, yet perhaps hardly go till he either do fix himself, or find the thing more tiresome than it yet is.— What alarming indiscretions are these things I am now telling you! Really I believe it is understood that a Doctor does tell nothing good or bad; but I thought you would all be interested to learn so much: and now if I charge you all not to whisper a syllable of it to any one, will it not be all as if you had never been told it?

We could get no very long interview with one another, poor Jack and I,—for we were both occupied in unlucky ways; but we did what was possible; walked up and down together; had flying meetings at tea; talked a very great deal; and parted in the hope of meeting soon again. Poor Ogilby the Patient was much “pleased with his reception here,” he said: in a most blate [shy], but most interesting way, he asked me to come down and see them at Wight. Unless they return before long, I mean to do it. They went the night before last. I have written to Jack today, sending forward Alick's last Letter,2 which had come, but been inadvertently left, on the Dr's last flying call here. Their Hôtel, a grand place, as big as all the Inns in Dumfries put into one, was some three miles off. Ogilby is a sonsy[pleasant]-faced gentleman-like person, of short stature, inclining very slightly to fatness, about 29 years of age, and already considerably gray. Jack had a dark surtout on him, doublebreasted shawl-waistcoat, massive wool trowsers, longish hair and a broadbrimmed hat. Do you not thank me for all these details?

Alick's Letter you can tell him was among the best I ever got from him; I mean the cheerfullest for me to read. He spoke like a wise man, settled or settling: if so, he will be rich enough; poor fellow, and all his sore sufferings will in the end turn to profit for him. Tell him no more of this than you see good (if you object to any of it); but say I will certainly write. Poor old Jenny Lockhart! Mrs Irving too of Bogside that was; George Dalgliesh, and old Mrs Henry, these three stood all, one week, in the same list of the Dead!3 Life is not much, at any rate or time: Death is.

For the present, dear Jamie, I must away. My hand is verily sore with writing—I have written some seven Letters today. For above a week past I was kept in the dolefullest state of imprisonment; hanging about the Law Courts here, summoned to act as Special Juryman, obliged to go under terror of penalties. Penalty or no penalty I decidedly will not go back again: it is like a frightful kennel of wild beasts; hateful to me to look upon: One of the men said, when we did at last get away (the poor man's cause not a whit decided yet, or seemingly nearer decision): “Now gentlemen, you will give us your word of honour to come back when summoned for this cause!”— “For my own share,” answered I, “I will give you my word of honour not to come back for that or for any other Cause!”

I enclose the half of a sovereign to buy a frock for poor little Tom my namesake. I am afraid his leg is never whole yet; but I have told myself of late always that it was getting better.— Your harvest is good this year for once! Well, let us be thankful.

If our Mother want anything that you or any of you could do for her,—ah me, need I charge you on your life to do it! Adieu dear Jamie: Jane salutes my Mother Isabella and you all. Your affecte Brother

T. Carlyle