August 1846-June 1847

The Collected Letters, Volume 21


TC TO ALEXANDER CARLYLE; 3 December 1846; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18461203-TC-AC-01; CL 21:103-105.


Chelsea, 3 Decr, 1846—

My dear Brother,

Just before going out today I bethink me of some slight intimation I had that perhaps none of our Annandale friends will write to you by this Packet. Lest you should suppose there was anything wrong on that account, I throw you off a hurried line to signify that all is still well (thank Heaven) both there and here: I had a Note from Jack at Scotsbrig this very morning, who had been at Dumfries &c and reported to that welcome effect. Our dear old Mother, he says, holds out wonderfully against the cold weather,— frost at present with them as with us;—and she and they are all doing quite tolerably well. Farm prices are very high, Jamie's sheep selling “higher than he ever knew them”: yet, owing to the Railway, I believe there is such abundance of labour and of wages that the poor people suffer less in that quarter than they have done in many better years bygone. There is nowhere yet any real dearth, except here and there in Ireland; where also one is much consoled to see that at last the Landlords have been peremptorily told (by act of Parliament last autumn) that the people must not be allowed to starve; that the Landlords will have to assess themselves, and raise money to keep the people everywhere at work and alive!1 And so, in a very confused way, that legal assessment is now going on all over Ireland; Landlords meeting in “Barony-Courts” &c &c, with much speechifying and complaining; but with the miseries of actual starvation kept at a distance hitherto:2—and my guess is, the Irish Landlords (if the potatoe, as is like, refuse to grow farther) will all be ruined, and in a few years obliged to sell out, and give place to better Landlords; and thereby, with infinite difficulty and confusion, some better state of things will be worked out for the poor wretches in that country. Scotland, and the Scotch Landlords, I believe, will follow next,—directly after these Railways are done: and in the rear of them the English Landlords will come also: and, on the whole, this destruction of the potatoe will perhaps bring very blessed consequences to us by and by!—

Some three weeks ago or so your Letter to me arrived; I sent it on directly after reading it to our other Friends. We all rejoice to see you still doing well; still struggling manfully along, which I thinks is all the wellness anybody can look for in this world. The Liverpool Box had not then got to hand; but must surely have been at no great distance then? We hope to hear by and by that it is safe in the house of Bield. But do not weary for it; you will find it worth little (except as a sign of our brotherhood) when it does come; and the routes to that Western Quarter are no doubt very longsome.

We have a kind of small domestic revolution going on here: namely, our old servant Helen is gone away to keep house for a fortunate brother of hers; and a new fit servant has not yet been found;—which little puddle becomes considerable in our quiet quarters; the rather as poor Jane has got a cold, as she oftenest does in frosty London fog (the nastiest weather, I believe, in all the climates of the Earth), and is not so able as usual to bear a hand. But of course there are tolerable Servants; and doubtless we shall by and by get one,—and be right again, so far as that goes! I myself am in very fair health, rather superior health for me; but have not yet got to any definite work hitherto; and begin to feel now and then that I ought to be up, and at it again.— Tomorrow I shall be Fifty-one! That is a consideration that should keep one a little quieter, I think. Half a century of life ought to teach one a thing or two!— Dear Brother, I must end here. I will send my affectionate regards and love to all your household young and old; my heart's prayer that blessings may rest on you and them forevermore.— Adieu. Your Brother

T. Carlyle