April-December 1844

The Collected Letters, Volume 18


TC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE ; 13 May 1844; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18440513-TC-MAC-01; CL 18: 41-43


Chelsea, 13 May, 1844—

My dear Mother,

I have felt myself to owe you a bit of a Letter for this week past; and I must pay it now, let the time be convenient or not. There never comes any “convenient time,”—unless one seek it!

My labour goes on here in such a confused unsuccessful way, I really have no free time almost; and no news to write except that monotonous continuance of “getting badly on,” which is not worth writing, except to my dear Mother only.——— But after all I should not say my work is getting on so badly; upon the whole all work will get on exactly according to the quality of the work itself. If it be right good work, its result, seen or unseen, will also be good. There is not a doubt of it! My ill success is but this, that I have got a quagmire to build a house upon; and many a good cartload of stones, when laid on the “peat-pot [hole from which peat has been dug]” never so gently, has sunk out of sight,—and seemed to all men to be lost! There must be more stones, and ever more, carted in, till the “pot” do at last get a little solid under one!—

Besides Jenny's Letter to myself, John showed me one of hers to him; and yesterday I had a Note from Jean who had seen you lately. You are not well, dear Mother, and have not been well; Jean strives to assure me that you are getting to your usual strength again;—I wish I heard it confirmed! The weather still, I suppose, is rather unfavourable to you. We have had it harsh, cold, easterly with blazing sun; not a drop of rain for many weeks: the fields in many places are getting brown, or have never fairly been green yet. A great plunge of good rain, then westerly winds, and green times of it, for us! “Jenny is very attentive to you,” Jean says; which is a very great comfort and obligation to me.

I have been out twice riding; a man (who wants to hear me talk) came with two horses, by volunteer appointment of his; and we scoured away together, by Richmond Park1 and beautiful leafy places,—a useful thing for me. I keep myself very solitary in general. I am a little plagued with sleeplessness now and then,—according to my old style of procedure; otherwise have nothing to complain of. Yes—I have to complain of laziness often, dog that I am; I cannot get work out of myself, I do not deserve to have sleep!

The other night we were with a great body of gaping Americans, men and women; I talked a good while with the American Ambassador,2 a really sensible wellbred man, and got thro' the business as smoothly as I could. Yesterday I went to a Public Meeting which Lord Ashley (the “Ten-hours Bill” Ashley) had got together for “Improving the condition of the Working Classes.”3 The details they gave were somewhat ominous; the Meeting itself was an interesting object. The people were all Tories, many of them Clergymen of the Church; but it came out of everyone of them that matters were got into a state in which they could not continue,—that either help and improvement or frightful issues of all sorts were inevitable. Jack was there too; I am to see him again tonight.

Jack begins to speak seriously about getting into the country, setting off on a course of visits &c. I think you will have him at Scotsbrig by and by, perhaps before very long. As to me, I can predict nothing yet; if I can stay where I am, I ought decidedly to do it. When I ask myself, “How much work done since you came last from the Country?” the answer is most beggarly.—

Dear Mother, we were the ungratefullest wretches if we forgot always to acknowledge the excellence of our two hams, which we do practically recognise every one of these mornings! All thanks to you and Jamie; it is to you we owe this among other good things. Better bacon ham I do not remember to have eaten, in general. Some of it is too salt, far more salt than other pieces of the same ham, which in general is very fresh: I mention this that Jamie, or whoever the curer was, may know, if he do not already know, this property of curing— As to the piece or pieces that were too salt, we merely turn aside from them to a fresher end (for it is very fresh almost all); and what is too salt for frying we will boil in due season. I find it very wholesome food; Jane's main breakfast, I often think, consists of a little patch of it.

Jenny said Jamie was unwell at the time she wrote; I supposed it to be some influenza or Spring cold; as Jean says nothing of it, we hope it has withdrawn itself again.

John Sterling still continues in a rather precarious state; greatly dependent on the change of the east wind, I fancy. Poor Sterling, his friends are all in alarm about him; he himself will admit of no alarm,— declares that he expects and is ready to die. His poor old Father is in a rather bad way too for the present; hurt by the agitation &c. I still hope it will all turn out well.

Adieu dear Mother; I must go and walk, or it will be worse for me. Take care of yourself, we all beg of you! Jenny understands that she cannot so oblige us all as by taking care of you.— Give our kind regards to Isabella; tell Jamie I know myself to owe him a Letter, at least such is my feeling,—unless he will admit that he is the debtor; or be generous, and lend again?

We saw John Gordon the other night, he is now a kind of Public Officer, connected with the General Assembly and Schools; he was here with some Residuary-Kirk people on business of theirs.4 Jeffrey, of whom we hear nothing these three weeks, is said to be very unwell; at his Son-in-law's some twenty miles off.5— Farewell, dear Mother, once more. You shall hear from me again soon. Ever Your affectionate / T. Carlyle.