January-July 1842

The Collected Letters, Volume 14


TC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE ; 15 July 1842; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18420715-TC-MAC-01; CL 14: 223-225


5. Cheyne Row, Chelsea, 15 july, 1842— / (Friday)

My dear Mother,

About a week ago, going to look in our Letter-box after tea (as I regularly do at certain seasons of the day), there lay in it your good little Letter; a very welcome sight to me! Is it not a beautiful thing (among so many ugly things as we complain of) that you can write me a line of news, and clap a penny-stamp on it in your room at Scotsbrig, whereby infallibly it will lodge itself, without a word said, in the box behind the door here at Chelsea for me? It struck me much as I took the Letter out that night.

I am very much pleased to hear from yourself, as I had already done from Jean, that you were minded to have a little sea-bathing this summer. Pray do not neglect it, dear Mother; it always does you good: the very journey to a new scene for a while will be beneficial. I have also taken order that they are to catch a small neat Portrait from you while you are at Dumfries! You must not disappoint me in this.

Isabella's illness, I am sorry to learn, still continues. Has she ever tried the Shower-bath? I am convinced it would do her good. There is nothing that has a finer effect in bracing one against weakliness, liability to cold &c. I regularly take it the first thing I do in the mornings: if I awake all in a muddy confused condition, I am down stairs forthwith, naked all but my dressing-gown; and in two minutes from awakening, the cold torrent is splashing over me,—rousing me to be as lively as a hawk! For a while after, I always feel as if I were completely well. I wish Isabella would make the experiment. The test of its doing one mischief is that one cannot get to warmth again, that the fingers continue white, and one is shivery and uncomfortable: if you get readily warm again, it has decidedly done you good. The skin is a most important part of the economy of life for all living creatures, man as well as the others. I believe all of us would be better for currying, at least for cleaning and rubbing, as much as the horses are!—

This Summer in regard to health, I think I have got on really better than any past Summer: I have never been so quiet, resolutely refusing almost all invitations, sitting solitary and silent (not altogether idle either); some times, if the weather be too hot, not so much as going out at all till towards sunset or after. In this way I have suffered but little by the heat. Indeed it has never yet been violent; I am afraid there has been far too little of it for a first-rate harvest. For the last four weeks there have fallen dirty little uncertain showers, no right bout of rain either, and the sky has generally been gray,—warm, but not warm enough for the crops; sometimes with strong winds from the west. Since Monday again the Sun has got out, and the rain all gone; but there is still a brisk air of wind, and we have nothing of the oven yet. I fear the harvest can only be of moderate goodness. Heaven knows we never had more need of a good one! The distress that reigns and spreads over many wide spaces of this country is getting absolutely frightful. I would rather sling a wallet and hawk spunks [matches], or lie down in the ditch and die, than be a Peel to keep up Corn-laws at such a time! The Landlords and their Peel seem to me to be out of their wits.— Alas, we are all far out of our right wits; not one of us but is a fool and a sluggard, and a false servant more than one way: hence that misery to one and all of us.——— I went one day to the Corn Law Conference:1 it became painfully clear to me that these poor people too had small chance to do much good. If their Corn-Law repeal were granted them, they would just go on as they had done; amassing money, fulfilling their desires, their appetites and whims; living without God in the world;2 therefore, without sympathy for man in the world; answering of their Brother as Cain did: “Am I my brother's keeper?”3 I paid my Brother his wages, no money more can he ask of me; what more have I to do with him?— These men think, and practically believe, there is no other reality but money at all. They are terribly mistaken; and will learn it by and by!—

Jack was well when he quitted us last; I left him, as usual, on the road homeward with a cigar in his cheek: he seems always very cheerful at present. Poor Jane gets but slowly better; but I think she does get better. We must have patience.——— Today I have wrapt up a great mass of insignificant Books, which are to go by Dumfries: some of them are for Jamie's new book-shelf (not such worthless books); many of them (not very worthy ones I fear) are for the Ecclefechan Library. They will be at Dumfries in a week or two. Tell Jamie I will write to him by and by without fail. I want Jenny to make me some flannel shirts too (I think); I will send her a Note about them by and by.

Farewell my dear Mother. Go to the bathing, and take good care of yourself!— My blessings with one and all of you.——— Your affectionate

T. Carlyle