August 1846-June 1847

The Collected Letters, Volume 21


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE; 8 October 1846; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18461008-TC-JAC-01; CL 21:71-74.


Chelsea, 8 octr, 1846—

My dear Brother,

Tonight there has just come a mysterious little Note, addressed to yourself in your own hand, apparently from Oxford Street, and so far as one can guess by the feel, containing a small key: what to do with it, except announce that it is here and will be kept safe, one does not know! Tell us if you want it, or rather what you want with it at Scotsbrig or here, and we will instantly endeavour to obey.

Jane had a Letter from you this morning. No news have yet come as to the Edinr serving-maid whether we are to have her or not; but a few days will decide that; and directly thereafter the question of Jenny Park will come on, and hasten to settlement.1 Your inamorato seems rather in a pickle, and one cannot augur much victory for him as matters look!2

You did altogether right about the Chapmans and Dante; I hope you will get some good deliverance soon: at lowest you may expect to have done with the matter speedily, in one way or other; and that of itself will be something for you.3— I have just been reading Hunt's Labour on that same matter (Italian Poets, which the Bookseller's sent me a while ago):4 his Translation, where he restricts himself to that, seems wonderfully felicitous, and much in the style I should like for you; but his commentary is little other than a shriek at once lamentable and ridiculous. I certainly do not think that this precludes a farther work on Dante for the English!— You will have a great deal of trouble if the business go on; but I have no doubt you will strenuously front it, and doing your very best produce something good. Brevity and clearness: these are the two poles of the enterprize; the cardinal qualities both of version and commentary. Let us hope the Booksellers will answer you soon, and wisely. They are punctual fellows; and will endeavour to do it.

I am still very idle; doing nothing but read, read. I do not yet begin to grudge that nothing comes upon the paper; paper is not always a symptom that one is making progress. I feel my head and heart, and whole life at present, too abstruse for anything but silence. Dull Books, or even by chance not-so-dull: these are my best company for a time. What writing I am to do next, or whether ever any other writing, is very much a secret to me hitherto!—

The Town is getting fuller again; but we see almost nobody still,—at least nobody to speak of. Yesternight there came a bevy of Americans from Emerson; one Margaret Fuller the chief figure of them: a strange lilting lean old-maid, not nearly such a bore as I expected: we are to see them again.5— Miss Martineau was here, and is gone,—to Norwich, after which to Egypt. Broken into utter wearisomeness: a mind reduced to these three elements, Imbecillity, Dogmatism and unlimited Hope. I never in my life was more heartily bored with any creature.— Anthony Sterling has been taking himself a Farm; country-quarters for himself and John's children (permanent quarters for them, incidental for him): down in Surrey, not far from Leatherhead; by accounts a fine house and place. Old Sterling, poor man, is getting worse and worse.

We have made continued experiments on Indian Meal; have settled upon it, and today bought two stones,—tho' at an extravagant rate, of 2d a-pound! Jane cooks it thus: makes it first into porridge like oatmeal, then boils it in a bag for four or five hours: this makes a really eatable article; and the more boiling it gets, it seems the better.— We also got a small loaf of bread from Indian meal today: very yellow and strange, but not unpleasant to eat, tho' much inferior to good wheaten bread. The nutritive virtue of this grain, I hear, is about equal to that of oats weight for weight,—rather inferior if anything; and stands to that of wheat as 10 to 15. It is therefore out of all proportion dear at its present London price; but we understand it will fall to about one penny a-pound by and by.— Being on Statistics I may mention another thing to you,—as to “Railway Shares” on which we were speaking once. The railway Paper (scrip, or whatever they call it) now in the market over all England is less in value than the same Paper this time twelve month, by a sum of 60 millions,—says the Times! There are 8 millions of loss in the City of Exeter alone!6 Foul may care.—

I wrote a Letter to Alick by the last Steamer; told him my last news of you all.— My dear Mother, you must keep out of cold and winter wet;—do, you cannot stand that now! I am very much relieved to hear that she is out of that attack; but her readiness to catch such injury is a sad thing. I wish with all my heart there were some way of taking better care of her! Our good old Mother, surely it well behoves us all to return the care she faithfully bestowed on us, so far as we can!—

Jane joins with me in affectionate regards to her, to Jamie and Isabella, and you all. We too have rain enough here, and winter clearly announcing that it is under way. Good night.

Ever affectionately /

T. Carlyle