August 1843-March 1844

The Collected Letters, Volume 17


TC TO JAMES CARLYLE ; 23 January 1844; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18440123-TC-JC-01; CL 17: 246-248


Chelsea, Tuesday, 23 jany, 1844—

Dear Jamie,

It is a long time indeed since I got your Letter, and many a time have I been minded to answer you, had not some paltry thing or other always come in the way. I have been terribly beset, of late; my work getting on as ill as need be, among endless intricacies,—sometimes not getting on at all. It will be useless to trouble you with all those things: it is better that I write now, now that I have actually shoved away my business, reason or none, and got paper before me.

Here you perceive is a Letter from Alick,—or rather half of one; for the Letter was addressed to Jenny, and she has cut off the half that specially belonged to her (probably had news about her Luckless1), and sent Jean nothing but the leaf that was rigorously hers. Jean sends it me yesterday; Jack saw it last night, and today I forward it to you.— Alick seems to be very quiet thro' the winter, and writes in fully a wholesomer way, I think, than we have seen heretofore. He has improved greatly too in spelling and penmanship. I find some trace of his giving lessons to little Boys and Girls thro' the dead of the year; but whether they are only his own children or those of others too is not entirely clear by his expression. In either case I think it an altogether wise plan. The winter there is totally dead; steady ice and snow heaped up around all dwellings for many weeks and months: a man ought really to see in such circumstances what he can occupy himself in. You should write to Alick; the time is directly after you receive this Letter! If put into the Post-Office at Ecclefechan on or before the 2nd of next month, he will get it, and find a great comfort in it. You at Ecclefechan pay a shilling with it; he for a few pence more has it handed in to him,—safe over so many thousand miles of sea and land. It is a shame for people that have pens and paper, and are parted from one another, that they do not write.

And our good Mother, as we learn, is at Dumfries, and tolerably well; how long she is to continue there remains, of course, unsettled; so long as she can find it supportable for health, it will of course be cheerier for her. You too, it appears, have a mild winter; it has been quite unpleasantly warm and clammy here, occassionally2 dry and bright, however, as well as warm; and now in the figure of the sky and fields, when I go into the country, there is a distinct prophecy of spring.

Jean speaks of a Package coming to us, with flannel dresses; still more questionable, with “plucked fowls”: we have not seen it yet, but may expect to do so in a few days!— We ought to have thanked Isabella more expressly for our Butter: it is and continues to be of as good quality as I ever tasted that I remember; great praise! Nightly too the meal gets praises,—often with some censure of the injudicious cook; and every morning the Bacon Ham, which has stood an immensity of cutting, and still holds on, really with altogether superior excellence. Many thanks to you again for all those good things.

Your account of farming business is sufficiently distressing; it is a general story over the Empire at present. But manufactures are now brisker, for a time; there will be better prices for a time,—tho' only for a time. People here predict that the Corn-Laws, which are evidently fast going, will have gone altogether “in two years.”3 It depends on circumstances; but “two years” is the time the weather-prophets set.— Of course you are now and then making anxious question of yourself, What is to be done when your lease is out? Dear Brother, I can very well sympathize with you; but I can give you almost no advice. I think, however, in your own calm honest thought, you will be likely to settle somewhere near the real truth of the case,—to ascertain, namely, what it is that you, there as you stand, ought to do or try to do; and that well ascertained, is the whole mystery. I need not say that whatever help lies in me is always sure to you; upon this you can always depend. Indeed I have great comfort in looking at the steady way you bear your burdens: all of us are loaded: as much as we can carry, in this world; and it behooves us to go steady, to go canny, or we shall stumble in the quagmires and never get along! There are many bad and sad things in poor Annandale at present; but the worst and saddest of all I do deliberately define to be whisky; other things are mixed, of God and the Devil; but this, as matters go, is well-nigh wholly of the Devil! By far the best news Alick sends of himself is that of his abandonment of drink. You, I think, were never in any danger from it; for God's sake have no trade whatever with it, keep a suspicious eye on every drop of it!—

In autumn we were talking together about a House for our Mother, which, if it please God, she may need when your Lease is out. This thing really ought to be attended to, and taken thought of, during the year that is. I have heard her say, she thought she should like Ecclefechan: indeed she ought not to be in a House without attendance any more; among neighbours too is indispensable. I have more than once remembered something you said to me about Farish's Property in Ecclefechan; that it was to be sold this year,4 and was likely to go dog-cheap Will you now, if it be still time, take more serious consideration of this. I would build my Mother a House, or repair some old one and make it comfortable for her with very great readiness; to build on her own ground will not be safe for Hanning.5 Nay, I should like very well indeed to have a snug apartment in my Mother's habitation, such as I could dwell in with comfort myself, not for a few weeks but for months and months if I liked,—bringing my Papers and work with me, whenever the din of this place grew too severe on me. I believe if there were such a place I should bundle and run even now!— Farther it is a safe investment for money, much safer than the American funds!6 I rather think I should dislike Ecclefechan for my own share, and greatly prefer a green nook somewhere among the fields: but that need not go for much or anything.

Pray think of all this, dear Jamie, and let me hear your word about it soon. I have not another moment today. With kind love to Isabella from us both,

Ever your affectionate

T. Carlyle