April-December 1844

The Collected Letters, Volume 18


TC TO ALEXANDER CARLYLE ; 17 June 1844; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18440617-TC-AC-01; CL 18: 68-71


Chelsea, London, 17 june, 1844—

My dear Brother,

It was with very great pleasure that we received your Letter written from Brother John's the other night. Our impatience to hear something of you was fast growing somewhat unpleasant; our good Mother's had already reached to a continual anxiety. Jamie endeavoured, and Jack and I endeavoured to convince her good heart that the failure of Letters from you was but accident; that you had (as it actually has proved) mistaken the post-day, or some such thing: we silenced her arguments, but her motherly anxieties and secret misgivings there was no silencing. Pray be very punctual in writing every month, less or more! There is no need of filling your sheet; we will take cheerfully the smallest line: but do let us have some line, if it were but one. You know how our good old Mother takes it, in these cases!

Jack has gone out of Town; I despatched your Letter towards Scotsbrig within an hour: I do not know whether any of them will write to you, by this Packet; therefore I will, at any rate, tho' in great haste.

Dear Brother, you have had a sad travelling hither and thither; with the two children ill beside you, no wonder your spirits are sometimes low. That is a sad business of the poor Bairns; we trust to receive better news of them better news of them1 before long, poor things. Try, whatever you do, to get a dry house, in a situation airy and remote from swamps! It is really the most indispensable of all the conditions of settlement you have to look after. Spare no pains upon that. Perhaps this thing may be a new monition to you how important it is: if so, poor Tom and little Jane will not have been suffering in vain.— Your wanderings up and down Canada, presided over by mere Uncertainty and Interrogation, I can well conceive to be the most unpleasant. It is the one thing that makes a man's lot insupportable, That he cannot know it clearly, cannot give it battle manfully! But it will soon be over, this part of it; once seated on your own soil, with your axe and plough in your hands, a whole jungle of confusions will fall away from you, as it were at once. I am glad you have advanced so far as to ascertain that Brantford district is decidedly the best. Stand by that; your problem is already greatly narrowed. Perhaps you have got this Farm you were in treaty for? If you refused it, it would be in clear expectations of getting a better in the same region. I clearly applaud your project of purchasing; a man should anchor himself, especially on land. There is, as you say, less pressure now, no need to be in such haste, the seed being all in for this year. You will at any rate feel much more comfortable in your own house; and have, at worst, due deliberation there. God guide you, my dear Brother! For the rest, be not too anxious about a choice. Study as you will, no man can make a perfect choice, he can only do his best towards that. Really I suppose there are drawbacks and compensations in every place whatever: I should be for choosing a healthy situation, that first; then good convenient land in small quantity, rather than inferior and inconvenient in large quantity; and above all having chosen, let it be finished; adieu to all regrets; look forward then, and not behind at all! There is nothing more fatal to the poor Emigrant, as you wisely remark, than that dim groping condition of his; regretting that he did not do otherwise, changing and fluctuating in false hope &c &c. Wherever you are, Mother Earth is under you, God's sky above; and a blessing waits on manful constancy there, even there. My dear Brother, I will again with my whole soul wish you a Good Guidance in this choice of yours; and anticipate a great alleviation so soon as you have fairly chosen,—well knowing that you have ingenuity in you to make even an imperfect choice available.— But now for some news; my sheet is going so fast!

We have had and have a most parched barren year on this side the Sea; very unwholesome for fruits and for living things. Six weeks of the withering east wind, changed only of late days into a strong West, and North-West, as yet without almost a drop of rain. The hay-harvest is ruined, and the barley; all round here is as brown as a fox: much sickness withal. It is partly to the season that I impute the increase of ailments which, I can trace thro' their Letters, our dear Mother has been subject to, this Spring. They report her now, and she reports herself, “as well as her old usual,” but I do not know exactly that it is so. Digestion &c is not so good, I think:—but Jack is gone thitherward now, and will probably do her good. Jamie the other day, reports her as “over at the Gill”; but your Letter, which would arrive at Scotsbrig yesterday, would bring her back in a hurry again!— Jack went off about a fortnight ago, to “pay visits,” and stroll about; he had got to Darlington lately, to an old Roman friend thereabouts, and meant to be at Scotsbrig “on Tuesday or Wednesday.” He will probably not stay long there. He is without rest, as yet, poor fellow;—you need not surprise yourself if you see him in Canada yet before all is done!— Jamie seems to be well, and his farm does better with drought than with wet: I think he knows not what to do when his lease expires. Jamie Austin too, they said, was doing better. Jean and her people are quite right.

Tom Carlyle,2 the disgraceful slut, has vanished from Dumfries, leaving debts and even frauds there,—gone to Australia, or none knows whither: he too is one of those to be suppressed from mention!— Frank Little, as you would perhaps notice in the Courier, is off again to New South Wales;3 I wrote to him to call for me here, but nothing came.— As for our two selves here, all is as well as usual. Jane still keeps afoot in spite of the influenzas: I, tho' very bilious sometimes, get on better with my Book than before, and that consoles me for all things. Jane is for going to Liverpool to see her Uncle, a couple of weeks: I do not yet talk of leaving London at all,—so ill did my work speed for a long while. We are an awful brattle [noisy confusion] here; 150,000 strangers this month, rushing along as if Devils drove them! I keep well out of it here; as well as I can.

John Sterling, of whom you have heard me speak as a dear friend, is dangerously sick; a terrible attack in the lungs, spitting of blood &c; his friends seem to have the worst apprehensions. One Scott too, Irving's old Assistant, is understood to be in a dangerous state,—a good fellow he too, and a brave-struggling, tho' with little uccess!— Dear Brother, you see I must end. I wonder if they would not let one write to Canada in a cover, by the half-ounce; that would be handier: I will inquire! May we hear good news of Jane & Tom,—our love to them, poor things. Ever yours, T. Carlyle

Jane's regards to Jenny and you and all of you [who]4 are not mentioned; but they may be confidently understood. Adieu, dear Brother. God bless you.

You will not neglect my kind regards to John Carlyle and Peggy. I remember right well that day I found them on the moor at Cocker-mouth,5 many long years ago.