August 1843-March 1844

The Collected Letters, Volume 17


TC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE ; 10 March 1844; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18440310-TC-MAC-01; CL 17: 300-303


Chelsea, 10 March, 1844—

My dear Mother,

It is a shame for me if I do not write a bit of a Letter to you; there is nothing else that I can do for you at present! I will scribble you a few words of news on this paper, let other employments fare as they can for the present.

I saw your good little Note to the Doctor; Jamie's Letter for Alick came duly to hand, and was duly forwarded; I also wrote a Letter to Alick myself. Poor fellow, I suppose he has had a very solitary meditative winter of it over in America, and has no doubt had a great many reflexions in his head,—looking back and looking forward with perhaps sadness enough. But it will do him good, I really believe; perhaps this winter, seemingly one of the idlest he has had, may turn out to be one of the most profitably occupied. My own hope and persuasion is that he will now do well; that he is probably about to begin a new course of activity on better terms than before, better terms both inward and outward; and that in fine, poor fellow, he may begin to see the fruit of his labour round him, and go on with much more peace and prosperity than heretofore. That total abandonment of whisky seems to me of excellent omen; I also like the tone of [his?] Letters, which is much quieter than it used to be. He does not know, I suppose, in what direction he is to go when April arrives: I urged, as Jamie did, that a healthy quality of situation should outweigh all other considerations whatever; that, for the rest, all places seemed to me much alike; if the land was cheap, it would be unfavourably situated &c. I also hinted my notion that a small piece of good handy soil might be preferable to a large lot of untowardly outlying ground. We can only hope and pray he may be guided well; we cannot assist him with any real guidance. Difficulties beset a man everywhere under this sun; these, if he have patience, insight, energy and justness of mind he will daily conquer farther,—not otherwise, either in America or here. But, as I said, I have never lost hope of Alick; and I have now better hope than ever. We will commit him to the All-wise Governor, with many a prayer from the bottom of all our hearts, that it may be well with him! To hear and know that he does see good under the Sun, fighting his way like a true man in that new country,—what a comfort to you and to every one of us! My dear Mother, I know your heart is many a time sad about Alick; he is far away; and there are others of us gone still farther, beyond the shores of this Earth, whither our poor thoughts vainly strive to follow them, our heart's love following them still:—but we know this one thing, That God is there also, in America, in the dark Grave itself and the unseen Eternity,—even He is there too: and will not He do all things well? We have no other anchor of the soul in any of the tempests, great or little, of this world. By this let us hold fast; and piously hope in all scenes and seasons whatsoever. Amen—

You bid me “call on Patience” in this Book of mine; dear Mother, it is the best—only good advice that can be given. I do endeavour to call on Patience, and sometimes she comes; and if I keep my shoulder stiffly at the wheel withal, we shall certainly get under way by and by. The thing goes indeed, or now promises to go, a little better with me; I stand to it as I can. But it will be a terribly difficult job, and take a long time; I think, however, that it is a useful one, worthy to be done by me; and so I will do it, if permitted,—the return and earthly reward of it may be either great or small, or even nothing and abuse into the bargain, just as it likes. Thank Heaven, I can do either or any way as to that, for this time; and indeed, often when I look at it, the prizes people get in this world, and the kind of people that get them, seem but a ridiculous business: if there were not something more serious behind all that, I think it would hardly be worth while to live in such a place as this world at all!— In short, I [hold] on, the best I can;—and my good Mother's Picture, looking down on me here, seems to bid me “call on Patience,” and persevere like a man.

Jane has not been very well in these cold stormy weeks; but I think is now getting better again. It is the Spring weather, which, this year, has been the real winter: all manner of people are unwell here at present. You in the North have it still worse, far worse, than we; many a time have I asked myself, What is becoming of my good old Mother in these wild blasts? Surely you keep good fires at Scotsbrig? Surely you wear the new Hawick sloughs?1 Jane finds hers very warm and nice. But the thing you might improve greatly and never do, is your diet. I think you should live chiefly on fowls. A hen is always [fair food. D]2ivide her into four pieces, she makes you an [ex]cellent dinner of soup and meat for four days! This you know very well for others; [but?] never learn it for yourself. I am very serious: you should actually set about this reform; do now,—you will find it more important on your health than any medicine or other appliance you can think of.——— Jenny, I suppose, is still at the Gill; when you feel tired of solitude again, she will come back to you. The bairns as they grow will be quieter and give less trouble. Poor Jenny, no doubt of it she has many cares of her own: we should all be gentle with her; pity her, and help her what we can.— —

But now I suppose you are very impatient to know what is in that pasteboard roll tied with string. Open the string with your scissors, and you will see—one of the ugliest pictures ever drawn of man! A certain person here has been publishing some Book called “Spirit of the Age,” pretending to give people account of all the remarkable men of the age; he has put me into it,—better luck to him: he wrote to me several months ago requesting that I would furnish him with some Life of myself,—forsooth! This I altogether begged leave respectfully to decline: but he got hold of a Picture that a certain Painter had of me; and of this he has made an Engraving, like me in nothing, or in very little, I should flatter myself.3

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Frontispiece, CL Volume 10

Oil portrait of Thomas Carlyle by Samuel Laurence, 1838.

The original is privately owned; reproduced by kind permission of the owner.

Let Isabella roll the paper of it the contrary way, and then it will lie flat;—if indeed the Post-Office bags do not squeeze it all to pieces; which I think is fully as likely, and will be no great matter. I sent it to you as to the one that had a right to it;—much good may it do you!

Jamie said he would write; let him do so,—or else you yourself ought to write. Or both will be best!— Jack and I were at dinner together among a set of notables the night before last;4 came home together, smoking two cigars: all right. Adieu, dear Mother, my big sheet is done. My regards to Isabella, to Jamie and them all. My blessings with you, dear Mother.