August 1843-March 1844

The Collected Letters, Volume 17


TC TO JAMES CARLYLE ; 21 February 1844; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18440221-TC-JC-01; CL 17: 279-281


Chelsea, 21 feby, 1844—

Dear Jamie,

Your Letter came safe to hand; many thanks for it. I hope you did all your business successfully at the fair; my imagination often visited you there on the Wednesday after your Letter.

Last night there came a Note from Jenny; intimating that our Mother had got home again to Scotsbrig, and was in as fair health as usual. Really it is to be accounted at1 great thing this, considering what weather she has had: I pray you see that see that she be kept warm now, and snug within doors, the good Mother, till these wild Spring blasts be over! Tell her also that I will send her some scrape of a pen before many days.

Did you get Alick's Letter? You were to send it on straightway I suppose to Dumfries: Jack had some notion of sending it to Dumfries first, but I suggested to him that our Mother would be most impatient of all to see it, and that her impatience had the best right of all to be attended to! We liked the Letter very well; a clear quiet account: some of us will write at the beginning of March: they cannot set out, I believe, Clow and he, for any travel, till about the beginning of April.— Yesternight too there came a Letter from Jean, and enclosed in it, the blackest piece of written paper I ever saw,—a Letter seemingly from James Brand to Alick: I have in vain tried to read it; human nature never before, to my knowledge, brought forth such an attempt! I do not consider that it can be worth sending to Alick; if anybody knows this James Brand's address (for I cannot in the least read it there), we will send that on, with notice that such a Letter has arrived; and remains to all persons dark as Egyptian Hieroglyphics.—

What you undertake with regard to Farries's property is all right:2 our Mother should be consulted herself—her view of the matter, if you can by assiduous cautious inquiry ascertain it, will be our chief direction. Consider it, examine it and her; Time will gradually bring us some light upon it.

But the chief meaning of my Note today is about those Tanned Sheepskins! Not that I want more of them at present; but that I want to account with you for those we have. The biggest of them all lies round my feet at this moment, and is daily throughout the winter a real accommodation to me;—and a certain remorse often strikes me that to this hour I have never properly settled with you about them. Well, we will finish that business in the way of lumping,—what is called “slumping [considering together].” Here is a sovereign enclosed, which you must give to Isabella with my regards, to buy the youngest bairn a frock with, or herself a cap with;—and now I shall enjoy the warmth of my sheepskin with unmixed thankfulness.— You can add by way of news that the Butter still continues to do an excellent duty, really excellent; and that the ham—has left an honourable remembrance of itself.— —

My struggles with my poor Book are manifold; but I study to take them coolly: it will be a long, long story, I find, and I must just plod forward as quietly as I may. My health is not to be complained of at all,—if I were to grow worse, I could get myself a horse again: but indeed I rather consider that I am slowly changing rather for the better in that respect. Jane too keeps tolerably well, tho' frightened always for cold. Jack is attending as a Witness on a certain trial between one Fraser (whom you may remember as my Editor in old days) and his poor Wife—whom, poor scoundrel, he had used, and is using in the unworthiest way.3 She was a young widow with £500 a-year; he a broken young man, having wasted his £15,000 of fortune to the last penny,—chiefly by getting into the hands of needy scamps, Irishmen &c, for he was never an unkind creature, and could not say No to anybody. They married some 10 or 12 years ago: he started again in hand, and seemed at first to prosper exceedingly; but ‘Attorneys,’ scoundrels of one or the other hungry sort, again got him in lending; he fell into embarrassments,—at last, he walked off to some obscure quarter of London, and left his poor fidgetting anxious wife to shift with her 4 children as she liked. She supposed him to be living with other women &c; spent much of her time in crying. Last year he wrote to her in the depths of abasement to advance him £200, and he would go out to India, and then retrieve himself with it. He got the £200; staid where he was; and now, it being all eaten, he has started a public suit against his Wife for improper conduct with one of his friends who had assisted her sometimes in her distresses! There is no shadow of likelihood in the charge,—and tomorrow, Jack hopes, he will be condemned—to perpetual public disgrace at least.


Adieu, dear Brother, I have not a moment more. Ever with my whole heart yours, T.C.