The Collected Letters, Volume 12


TC TO ALEXANDER CARLYLE ; 16 December 1840; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18401216-TC-AC-01; CL 12: 363-365


5. Cheyne Row, Chelsea / 16 Decr 1840—

My dear Brother,

I am far from having time or composure today for answering your last Letter as it merits. But I have a small piece of charitable business for you, which ought not to wait: you will put up with a small word for the present, expecting better some other day.

Your news of the death of poor old Jenny Lockhart has opened all manner of thoughts in me;—or rather has given a form and direction to thoughts that, in one form or another, hardly ever quit me night or day. Poor old Jenny! I can remember dimly the time when we were running about as children; when she used to bake us small rolls in her back-house,—things that she called “nods”! It must be not far from forty years ago. Ah me! One has no word to utter what all this means for us,—this strange whirlpool of a world, this ever-flowing stream of Life and of Death.— At present, however, I remember that Jenny's Daughter Mary is living near you, probably in very great distress; I want you to give her that inclosed sovereign in the quietest way you have, and say anything that is sympathetic to the poor creature. She was a merry kind of child once; and she too is grown sad enough. One can do nothing for her.— On the whole, it was a praiseworthy act in Wull to make that exertion for his poor old Mother. It ought to cover, in him, a considerable quantity of sins, the slut.1

All my news were written to Jamie almost the day after I received your Letter. We have since heard from Jack more than once; I inclose you his last Letter.2 It seems to me as if he were likely to stay where he is (I mean, in his situation) for a considerable while yet. It has this great charm, That he feels he can be off at any time; he is not obliged to resolve for more than a month or two ahead of him! The wages too are supereminent; and he begins, I imagine, to like to see his purse gather.— Yesternight (Jack's Letter had arrived in the morning) there came a beautiful little Note from my Mother.3 Tell her I will not fail to answer it. Tell her I am deeply interested with her little Letters; they give me a glimpse into the very fireside yonder where she is sitting and thinking of me.

What you say of the Ecclefechan Libra[ry] seems worth notice. The poor fellows will have to lay 45/ before they can get my Book of Miscellanies; and then perhaps a good many of them will not understand much of it! Another piece of business, therefore, that I had with you today, was to stop that enterprise of theirs if still possible,—with tidings that I will make them a present of a copy, if it be still time. I suppose I may direct it to you? Or to whom? It can be sent cost-free to Edinburgh; after which I do not well know the history of it. It will arrive some way without much cost. The only point is if they have not yet irrevocably bought it elsewhere. Pray inquire into that, and write me one word immediately about it; if you write immediately there will still be time to send it by the Magazines of this month, and it will arrive in the early days of January. I know not whether you yourself are in the Library? The like of that is good to encourage. Poor fellows! they shall have a copy of the Book, and my blessing along with it.

Dear Alick, it is a great while since I got a Letter that I liked so well from you as the last. but I will not enter into that. You are getting calmer, and clearer; all else is with me a most secondary matter in comparison. That you find yourself actually “making a livelihood” is to be accounted great success, I think, in these times. Persevere without misgiving. I see very well how true it all is that you say about the habits of successful merchants, and how different it all is from your nature: yet I say, never mind; have a faith that as, old Samuel Johnson said, “useful industry will be rewarded.”4 If a man does keep honest ware, and deal like a faithful man,—however crabbed he may be people in the long run will actually grow to like him better than any other. It is a faith all kinds of men have need of in these days.

Tell Tom his carreer [sic] will require deep studies; and if he means to preach with any birr [forcefulness] at all, it will behove him to study like a lion! Let him consider this, the obstinate dog, and set to work accordingly.—

My Lectures are never yet gone to Press. I am sweer [reluctant] about publishing them; expecting a great quantity of useless cackle if I do; and not being either tempted by money, or necessitated by the want of it, to set them forth till my own time,—which latter is a great blessing. I begin to find it probable that they will be printed now, some time in the course of the winter. We shall see.

Jane continues pretty well; but cannot go out these four days: we have a fierce frost, which is like to last for a while, it began so gradually, prefaced by three days of dry cold wind from the N. East.— I walk largely, and am warmly clad.

Adieu, dear Alick. I have written far more than I meant; than I had any time for.

Our affectionate regards to one and all.— I eat bacon every morning, and find it capital!

Your affectionate /

T. Carlyle

Has anybody sent Jean at Dumfries any word lately? I hear nothing from her.

John's Letter, I find, is too weighty!