January-July 1842

The Collected Letters, Volume 14


TC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE ; 18 May 1842; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18420518-TC-MAC-01; CL 14: 190-192


Chelsea, 18 May, 1842—

My dear Mother,

I have been very idle all this morning; called off by one thing after another, and alas by my own laziness most of all: I will not throw-by the pen till I have accomplished at least one small good-action, the writing of a few words to my Mother! You have heard nothing of me since I wrote to you from Rugby: Jack in[d]eed told me he wrote last week, and you have had Newspapers indicating that nothing material was wrong: nevertheless a Letter I know is always a Letter for you. Perhaps Jean too did forward a Letter I wrote to Dumfries? I rather encouraged her to do so.

On the day after my last Letter, having actually visited Oliver Cromwell's battle-ground &c, I did arrive safe here towards midnight. All was correct in the house; myself still partly expected there: poor Jane was worn away far thinner than I had expected, than I ever saw her before. She continues still very weakly, very mournful; but, I trust, is gathering strength nevertheless. Some days she looks much better; then she relapses again. She gets out daily for most part, but is a very poor walker at present. She keeps herself very silent; does not seem to incline speaking much even with me about her Mother. Poor thing, she has got a deep wound, which only Time can heal somewhat. Her Liverpool Cousin, a cheery little creature, is very useful here at present.

Not the smallest news has yet come about Templand Farm: one is at least not disturbed with clatter about it here. A Letter came this morning, inclosed in a few lines from Alick, the first word I have yet got out of Annandale,—for which thank him in my name. The Letter itself is a very useless one; a man talking of engaging the House at Craigenputtoch as a “genteel residence,” with the adjuncts of hunting and fishing. He evidently does not know the ground, except by some transitory clatter of M'Diarmid's:1 I have written to say that Corson has the place for this year; and that in no year do I think it would fit him.

My Books, I found on coming here, had gone a curious road: out of my hands altogether; the new Booksellers had been obliged to buy them up at once from the sharkish Attorney, Fraser's Brother: so they pay me down at once some four hundred pounds (in all) which is less than the half, I think, of what the Books were calculated “in the course of years” to have yielded. But I have actually got the money; I am out of the Shark Fraser's hands; have nothing more to, nor ever shall I trust have more to do, with Bookseller's “half-profits” and burbles: and so, on the whole, am not at all displeased at this result. These new Booksellers will probably get the Books sold off much sooner than Fraser would have done; I shall then have liberty to publish again, and will make a new bargain for ready-money down, if I can.— Having now done with all my past Books, I look forward with more and more anxiety to my future Book, which is not written yet! Alas, the steam is quite low, and it will take a terrible getting up again. But I hope to make a good Book nevertheless.

I have got my Shower-bath mounted here, and in a still simpler way than the Scotsbrig one: pullies are screwed into the joists of the back kitchen, and a little square frame of wood is fixed against the ceiling round them: to the pullies the mere tin-work of the bath is hung; a suggle2 of old crumb-cloth, nailed round the frame, hangs like a long square sack down to the very ground, or near it; into the bottom of this we set a big tub, at the top of it hangs the bath; the suggle of a square sack keeps the water about one very well, and there is but little spilt at the mouth of the tub, and that little in a back-kitchen. We have an eminent winch too, or windlass; whereby Helen herself can manage the filling of the thing. And so it promises to be very useful during the hot months.— As yet, however, we have had very little to do with heat; today, for example, with east-wind and no sun, is decidedly what one calls a cold day. In Annandale I fear it fares little better. However, we will not yet predict a new “cold summer.”

From Alick's Letter I learn that Jenny is with you; which gives me real satisfaction. Jean, I expect, will have the shirt-cloth ready for her by the time she gets back to Gill.— Poor Isabella, it seems, is worse than she was; I am very sorry to hear it. She must pick up a heart; by degrees she will learn that nothing really deadly does lie in those miserable stomach-ailments, which depress one down to the very dust: she will become her own Doctor, and understand it far better. Meanwhile it is certainly one of the most entirely distressing diseases; and fills one's whole mind with misery,—which however one must rally against, resist, and valiantly cast out! Courage, Isabella!—

Recommend me to Jamie, whose face looking over the railing of the jetty is very plain to me just now! My kindest love to one and all of you. Let me know, dear Mother, that you are as well as when I left you,—alas, I wish you may be able.— Ever your affectionate

T. Carlyle