The Collected Letters, Volume 13


TC TO ALEXANDER CARLYLE ; 27 December 1841; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18411227-TC-AC-01; CL 13: 331-332


Chelsea, 27 Decr, 1841—

My dear Brother,

Inclosed along with this you will find an order on the Ecclefechan Post-Office for two sovereigns; which I want you to dispose of as follows. The first sovereign you are to break into two halves; and present a half-sovereign each to your little Tom1 and little Jane as a newyear's gift from their Uncle at London, with the strict injunction that they are “to be good bairns.” So much for the first. The second sovereign I want you [to]2 take and distribute among the neediest objects in Ecclefechan, at this bitter season of the year, in this bitter time of general want, which I doubt not is felt as keenly with you as in almost any other part of the Kingdom. Poor unfortunate bodies, shivering with cold and hunger! I wish I had a hundred sovereigns to send them; but alas I have not. You are to follow your own judgement in regard to this poor unit of a coin; and distribute it in shillings, or how you like, so as to relieve the most misery with it that you can. Every mortal who is not himself starving ought, in this time, to do what is in him for alleviating the fierce distress of his fellow creatures.

Today I find a very melancholy Note from Jamie. Tell him I sympathize deeply with what he and all of them are suffering; that I wait with anxiety for farther tidings about poor little suffering Tom!3— Jack, who was as usual with us last night, and was speaking about the matter, shall see the Note today.

I am trying to be busy writing; and shall get forward, I dare say, by and by. Meanwhile it is but confused puddling work;—a terrible cairn of stones and rubbish to sort, and see what building you can make of it! I must persist, in spite of discouragements, disappointments, difficulties never so many. Here as elsewhere a man is set down to conquer difficulties; to shovel rubbish out of his way, and pick what stones will suit him for building, and build with them!4

We know not whether you persist in your emigration scheme;—or perhaps you keep it lying silent, not speaking of it to anybody till it come to more ripeness either for Yes or No?5 My dear Brother, may a good Guidance assist and direct you! That is all I can say. A man's life, more especially in such days as ours, is beset with impediments, confusions, sins and miseries: it behoves him now if ever to stand up to it like a man. Not with mad violence, which will profit nothing, but with sober valour and determination,—with patience, humility, in which alone will true light arise for him.— It is thought the Government have a scheme of emigration: but without removal of the Corn-Laws it will not be supported well.— Adieu, dear Brother. Jane is well, and salutes you all. Yours ever

T. Carlyle