The Collected Letters, Volume 2


TC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE; 18 December 1822; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18221218-TC-MAC-01; CL 2:234-236.


3. Moray-street, 18th December 1822.

My dear Mother,

I have still a few minutes' time, and I cannot let the Carrier go without writing you a line or two which however dull or barren may at least gratify you by the conviction that I would amuse and interest you, if I could. Having written so largely and lately, I can have little new to tell you about my situation or history; and I have already mentioned to Sandy that, if without good intelligence, we have at least none bad to communicate; being in fact circumstanced in that fortunate style of monotony and quietude, which yields often the more materials for enjoyment the less it yields for narration. I am improving in health slowly, but yet I think steadily; I keep generally busy, and therefore at all times moderately happy.

I wish you had learned to write1 as you proposed last harvest: we should in that case hear more precisely and fully of your situation, than we usually do; a circumstance which would greatly inhance the pleasure we always feel at the sight of a packet from home. As it is, I must content myself with general conjectures—trusting that you go on as happily as could be expected, bustling and fighting away as usual, having many things to suffer and do, but also possessing many resources for suffering them and doing them with courage and equanimity. My dear Mother, I am vexed that you never tell me of any thing I can do for you: always doing for me, busying yourself for my sake, never shewing me the means to add in any respect to your happiness. This is not fair: I am sure you know me well enough to be assured that you could not promote my comfort, in the truest sense of the word, more effectually, than putting it within my power to serve you in some shape. Do think, and tell me what you want. Are you in the habit of taking tea yet? I fear it: and I again charge you to begin forthwith, and I will be answerable for the result. Now mind these are not words, but real injunctions, which you must not disregard. It would be such a thing, if you, who have toiled among us so long and faithfully, were restricted from any comfort—become a necessary to one in your situation—which we could procure for you. My dear Mother, this thought would be gall and wormwood to me long afterwards: no sum of hundreds would make me amends for the presence of it. Do not heap it upon my head! consider what I am telling you, and do as I bid you—for it comes earnestly from the heart. Tell me next time that you have begun the tea-system—if you do not wish me to send you half-a-stone2 of the article down by the first opportunity.

But I am wasting away the paper in this lecture; my time too is all but run, Jack being nearly finished and just on the wing for Candlemaker-row.3 I wish you would try to write me yourself—however indifferently: you can never learn younger; and I rejoice to see your hand however rude and crabbed.

What ails all the young people that no soul of them thinks of writing? We might suppose they had all got Palsy or some such distemper. Have they a fear of touching goose-feathers, or are they careless about their Brothers? No! I feel that they are not but they want some motive to rouse them from their slumber. Tell Mag and Jamie and Mary that I expect to hear from them next time—if it were but with the “compliments of the season.” Are Jane and Jenny at any school? Give my love to all the honest little creatures: I know that all of them like me tho' they have not tongues to say it. When is my Father going to write? We half-expected to hear from him by this opportunity.— But Jack is grunting! I must bid my dear Mother farewell!

Thomas Carlyle—