April-December 1844

The Collected Letters, Volume 18


TC TO ALEXANDER CARLYLE ; 3 May 1844; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18440503-TC-AC-01; CL 18: 30-33


Chelsea, 3 May, 1844—

My dear Brother,

Probably Jack may write to you today; but it was not quite indisputably fixed between us, to my remembrance, at our last meeting: therefore, lest you should be short of a Letter altogether by this mail, I will scribble you a word;—better are repetitions in this case than no tidings at all!

We duly got your Letter announcing that you were just about to move off for a trial of Canada. The news was most welcome to one and all of us. We had got no favourable notion of those deep western Countries: aguish, swampy, hot, far-distant regions, the scene of diseases, ‘shinplaster banks,’1 uncertainties, sorrows and confusions! Better that you did not venture thither. Canada too you will no doubt find a place of difficulties, of drawbacks,—what place on this Earth is not such? But you are nearer hand in all senses; you are among people of your own blood and kin: you know much better what you are about there. On the whole, if you can avoid getting an unhealthy place, I do not otherwise care much what place it is. If it be a favourable fertile place, you will have less extent of it for your money; if you get a large place, it must needs be that it is unfavourable. On the whole we wish you to be settled “on a healthy place of your own”; that is all the length our wishes have light to go. A piece of God's earth committed to your own free charge; it is a real blessing for a man that lives by tilling of the soil! Were it ugly as sin, every stroke of good labour you bestow on it, will make the place beautifuller;—what “beauty” is there in Fairyland itself compared with the aspect of Order produced out of Disorder by one's own faithful toil? That is the real beauty that will make a man feel some reconcilement to his ugly lot, however ugly it look. Next Letter, or some Letter soon, we hope to address you in some hadding [holding] of your own! It will be as a little spot of light for us in that dim Continent. We will think always of our brave Alick struggling manfully along there; and bid with our whole hearts the Heavenly Powers be favourable to him. Courage; courage, my Brother: perhaps the worst of our days are over; and calmer and better days are coming!—

Nothing new has taken place here since you heard last. Our dear old Mother is still reported to be in her usual health; or rather I should say, is again so reported;—for she has had, I think, rather a sickly winter of it, and has been a degree oftener ailing than was her wont: the warm summer will now help her:—alas, we cannot have our brave old Mother always; it is the saddest thought I have in this world, the sternest to accustom myself to! Already I seem almost to have as good as lost her: it is but a few times, and then in sickliness, unnameable dispiritment, embarrassment, that I can hope to see her in this world.2 Why do I awaken these feelings in you? Surely you are farther gone from her than I! My dear Brother, we must look to a Higher than aught earthly for comfort in such matters. God is above us; surely there is no love in our hearts that He has not made,—our holiest affections, surely with them too He will do what is wise, what is good and best!

Jenny has gone over to Scotsbrig after a considerable absence at Gill; she reports Jamie as being rather unwell, with some influenza or the like, I suppose; he is “busy sowing” too. At Dumfries, at Gill, all things go on as heretofore; except that Jamie Aitken, I think, has abandoned Thornhill, having found his man there not trustworthy, and the trouble of the thing greater than its profit.— Jack, still here, begins to talk now of “going to the country somewhere,” probably to Annandale when he first stirs. But he has not stirred yet. He is terribly in want of employment, I believe; but shews hitherto little increase of symptoms of fixing on any. Years ago, I have ceased to speak with him on that subject, poor fellow, having in truth no a[uthor]ity in it, no power to throw light on it. I am often heartily sorry for h[im, liv]ing “in lodgings,” with a grey head, which he has not where to lay otherwise: one is angry that he cannot with these excellent talents and means take to work; but on the whole he cannot, there is something that prevents him, his hard fortune is such. You need not say anything about all this; for it does but provoke him, and that serves no purpose, and less than none.

As for myself I make very bad progress, the work is so chaotic, unimaginably confused, and I am so bilious, irregular in sleep &c &c: however I do get a little under way of late, and hope to struggle out the Book yet by and by. A piece of it is now fairly written,—thank Heaven: the first stone is more than half the building, when you have such quagmires to found in! All goes well with me otherwise: indeed nothing can go ill; I keep out of the way of all men and things, so far as possible, except this one thing; and feel that the whole world cannot much help me or much hinder me.3 Jane is growing strong as the sun grows. She sends you all her affectionate wishes. When once you have a place, we must get up a Box and have it shipped for you with odd things;—it will shew that we are far nearer one another than you or we fancy; nearer than London & Edinr once were.

Dear Brother, the sheet is done; no room for more! You will give my kind wishes to Jenny and the Bairns, my affectionate regards to them all. Poor little Jane, poor little Tom; say I expect to hear that they shew themselves good stuff in that new country. They will not disgrace the gang, I should hope?— Remember me also, in all affection to our Brother John and his Peggy. It will be a comfort to us to hear that you are near one another. I saw a Letter from Clow to Graham of Burnswark; I suppose he is far over the Mountains by this time.— God bless you, my dear Brother; may all Good be ever with you. Your affectionate

T. Carlyle

I have no time to read over what I have written; I had to write my days' task first, and now the time is “just agoing.”— — Two nights [ago]4 there was a woman killed on Battersea Bridge, about a gunshot from this. A wretched man who had been courting her cut her throat; he was about 50, she 43; a widower and widow! He was mad, it does seem.5

John Sterling has had a terrible fit of sickness; the danger is supposed to be past now.———— I must end.6