April-December 1844

The Collected Letters, Volume 18


TC TO ALEXANDER CARLYLE ; 3 December 1844; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18441203-TC-AC-01; CL 18: 276-278


Chelsea, 3 decr, 1844—

My dear Brother,

Your Letter in answer to the last I sent you arrived duly, as you have already heard thro' other channels; for I sent it off immediately after we had done with it here; and since that, I have seen in my regular turn various other Letters of yours, bringing down your history to the last arrival, which occurred a few nights ago. The Doctor, who was in Annandale all summer, professed to be very constant in writing to you from the scene of all others most interesting; so that at present I, who have not been out of London at all, can have little that is new to communicate. No man can well be busier either. But I write nevertheless, were it only to assure you that there are no news which you do not know.

The account you give us of your new farming operations is to me highly promising and agreeable. No pleasanter picture have I known for a long time in your biography than that you gave us of the planting of the Indian Corn,—every soul of the establishment busy getting the grain dibbled in, the very infants, toddling about, each industrious after its kind; a little useful “dottle of a body,” already working for its little bit of bread there,—claiming from the Great Parent of us all, with a noble practical “prayer,” planted into the bosom of our general Mother Earth, “Give us this day our daily bread!”1 And then in your next Letter we had word of the reaping of that same crop; all again busy, gathering where they had sown. Such sights, whatever be the “state of markets,” the &c &c, are very blessed to me. There lies health, and truth, and solid good for a man. We can make no more of it,—few can make so much,—in any sphere of life whatever. My prediction to myself is, That whatsoever is most serious, most patient, manful, industrious, good and worthy in you, will more and more unfold itself there,—to the discouragement, to the extinction of whatever is not so;—and that you will find a sober manful existence, which you have always longed after, at length possible for you there! And if so why should we complain of anything? Life is a most grave matter; issuing in Death, and in what lies after Death;—it is not a joyous matter, it is a matter full of toil and earnest difficulty, full of sadness, I believe, to all manful men! We have to get above it; to say that we care not for its “happinesses,” that we can do with all its sorrows, and patiently front them, and work a little good even out of them,—before its comforts, such as they are, come to any evidence for us. We do not get the good of Life till we have gained the victory over it.

Be not too sad, my dear Brother, that we are parted: this too is portion of the lot of man. Every one of us has, in many stern situations to say, “Alone, alone! I tread the winepress alone!”2— My solitude here, I believe, is equal to that of Canada. I too feel that my Mother will die; the being who of all others has loved me best;—that already she is almost as if dead to me:—and I have no refuge except saying, and trying to say truly from my heart, “God made us all; God is the maker of Death too; and nothing in us or of us which He found worthy, which was noble and godlike, can die!” Courage, Courage!— Nay why should we look at it so sternly after all? You can at any time come over to England again; by the outlay of a certain sum of money and time, it is always doable; many have come, visit after visit: why should we afflict our hearts, not knowing at any time what a day may bring forth?3

Much better than all this moralising, however, is the fact which I can still assure you of, that our good old Mother is, so far as I can learn, in a really very good way at present. Jack is but an indistinct reporter; however I do gather from him that her health is reasonably good, altogether as we used to know it of late years; that she bears all things with a devout composure such as from of old we have all known and admired in her; and is in fact “mercifully dealt with” outwardly and inwardly, as she herself would say: for which we all of us have reason to thank God.——— Of Jamie's getting Scotsbrig again you have already heard. We rejoice at it for her Mother's sake withal. Some kind of rent we are now to pay to Jamie for her; and that will be the only change necessary. Did any mention to you the death of a young daughter of M'Kinnow's from Hawick?4 I forget her name. She came down to Scotsbrig when I was there last, a nice blate [timid] little woman; seeking refuge from threatened Consumption: she came again last year, I think:—and now a few weeks ago she is dead. Poor little thing; fluttering like a bird out from the talons of Death, and could not escape! The news made me very sad; made the image of her very sad to me.— The rest of them in Annandale and elsewhere are, as you hear, much about their usual way. Jenny continues very industrious, they say; one of the best-behaved little bodies: I hope she will gradually dismiss the Past out of her mind; and may yet, even legally, get loose from so fatal an entanglement as that has been. Jean's children have been unwell, but seem recovering. Mary also complains; but our Doctor reports improvement in her too. He himself as you learn has got back to this neighbourhood again; he looks well in health, shews good spirits;—has but one want, which indeed is a dreadful one, that of some real work to do! I do not now speak to him at all on that subject. But if I could assist him towards getting to work, I should esteem it the greatest blessing. I begin, however, to forsee for him a Future as it were nearly or altogether idle,—furnished with what he will call “work,” but what impartial onlookers cannot call such. But we must still hope.

As for me I struggle at my very ugly task, sometimes with a little progress, at other times with none visible. Just at present I am in a kind of crisis: the day after tomorrow I am to attempt another time the real heart of the matter! It makes me very uncomfortable;—but I have pretty good health for me; I must persevere till I do get the matter off my hands in one form or another.— Did they tell you our brave Friend, the most intimate we had in this region, John Sterling, is dead? Of consumption; he died slowly, with great heroism and composure: he is a real loss to us here, where amid regiments of acquaintances &c whom it is one's first duty to avoid, worthy friends are rare.——— — Dear Brother, you must write long descriptions about Canada thro the winter; let us thoroughly understand your locality, neighbours &c &c: one cover, you see, will hold a good deal of writing! Jane sends her affectionate remembrance to you all. My kind regards to the little ones and Jenny. Take care of that ancle!

T. Carlyle