August 1846-June 1847

The Collected Letters, Volume 21


TC TO ALEXANDER CARLYLE; 19 April 1847; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18470419-TC-AC-01; CL 21:197-200.


Chelsea, 19 April, 1847—

My dear Brother,—About a month ago your two Brantford Newspapers came to hand; and I wrote you a little Note in return: John has since told me that the Packets did not go in the middle of March (they only begin to go twice a month in April, he says); so that you would not get the Note till after delays. But now, two days ago, your Letter has come: and I straightway address myself to write again in answer to that: this Monday, it seems, is the very day of sailing; wherefore I must not omit,—tho' I have nasty Doctor's drugs in me, and am otherwise but ill fitted for such a service!— We sent off your Letter directly to our Mother, who is still at Dumfries: you may fancy it would be right welcome to her, and to them all. I have still to report, for your satisfaction, that her health is said to be very tolerable, in spite of the cold rigorous Spring we have; that all our Friends in Dumfriesshire are struggling along much in the old fashion; what we may call “gay weel, everything considered.”— Provisions are still somewhat dear; but they are now falling, some think they will by and by be quite cheap, for in spite of the potatoes the general harvest of England, and of the world, appears to have been rather good: at any rate in Lowland Scotland generally the people have plenty of work, and all this year have been much better off than usual, owing to the railways they are busy with. The confusion of famine is nowhere traceable except in Ireland and the Highlands, in the latter of which regions it seems to prove curable, in the former not at all; the millions of money in Ireland are expended to no purpose, for the people are themselves false and mad, and God only knows what is to become of them. They are sitting idle, in this precious seed time, and refusing to dig their lands!1— I suppose it to be very certain that you will get better markets for your Indian Corn, and all your produce, by and by. That seems to me inevitable, however things may go. Nay it is likely, I should say, there may be a great increase of population brought from the old Country to those regions before many years: in any case as you increase in numbers, you may hope to improve in arrangements, for markets and for all things. In the meanwhile he that tills his field, like an honest worker, under the eternal sky, he may esteem himself very certain of his task, and a fortunate man, as things go in this mad world.

I am greatly delighted to hear that Tom and Jane are readers: bid them persevere in that, and read with attention, always trying to learn something. A few Books sent out to Bield seems to be a kind of seed-corn that may may yield very abundant fruit, in proportion to its value!— Very sorry to hear that your Cromwell had never yet got to hand. I went off straightway to the Bookseller; found that your Copy and Mr Greig's had indubitably been sent off, towards New-York, on the 22d of June last:—but I have never yet heard a word from Mr Greig about his own Copy either; wherefore I begin to think they have both miscarried; so, by this Post, I have written to Greig about it, and we shall be at the bottom of the matter by and by. For the rest, if the second American edition be out, I should not wonder if it were procurable almost cheaper than the price of the carriage will be! I have had three American reprints here (all of the first edition), and one of them in very small type sells actually for half a dollar.2— The vindication of Cromwell's memory, I think, has been almost complete here; and has surprised many a one exceedingly, and as I believe will do an immense good in time. That is something for one's pains,—nay that is all things!—— I am not got to any new work yet: I am sitting silent; often enough in a very melancholic, sad and confused state; but shall, if I live, have several things to say yet. I keep very solitary; my thoughts are abundantly austere, sorrowful often as death: but it is all nonsense to call that “miserable”; I have found that all good whatsoever has to come to one in that way. The people they call “happy” are to me not an enviable people, any more than the cattle and sheep are. The thing we call “misery” is nothing whatever but work to do, work of some kind or other, outward or inward, which we have not yet seen how to undertake and set hand to:—let us never forget that!

Dear Brother, I know not what to say to you about that new bit of land you have in view. Apparently it might be of real use to you: if the people were wise they would all save bits of their forest for fuel,—they will even have to keep the cattle out of them, if young trees are to grow, and the bit of forest is to continue. Scotland itself has got all peeled bare, simply by neglect of that.— Very useful for fuel, and perhaps for rounding off your present possessions &c; that seems to me likely: and surely if you could by your industry, prudence and energy compass the purchase of it,—yes, then, my dear Brother I should say it was worth untold gold to you; better than a whole domain that had dropped to you out of the skies, of its own accord! That is the foundation of all I at this distance can think about it, or advise about it. You yourself must decide. And if you dare purchase it, do not let the terror of “debt” stand in your way for a moment: I have spoken to Jack, and he and I are both willing to do about it whatsoever you could deliberately wish: and so, if you do purchase, the money in full tale shall be advanced to you whenever you like,—and I think you will not be put to the horn for payment of it before your time; and, in the meanwhile, three percent interest is all that anybody could lose by it: that were the whole extent of the favour done; and so you could acquire your new land, without obligation to anybody, and look upon it as a bit of victory you had gained; which we calculate would be a high satisfaction to you in your new battlefield! This, my dear Brother, is all I can specifically say. If you decide to purchase the land, the thing I have said above shall be at once and right cheerfully done;—and very glad we shall be that you have deliberately formed such a decision: and if the money be never repaid, I think that will not be our chief regret in regard to the matter. So do what you find wise, there, in your own shoes, on the spot; and may the Heavens send a blessing on it. That is all.

You get no news from me, this time: Jack, I believe, would remember far more news. In fact, for us, there are what one calls none;—which perhaps is the best news. Jack was with us last night; usually dines here on Sunday. He is very well; reading &c &c, with great bustle and ardour: poor fellow, I do not think he will ever get to any fixed employment fit for him; which is a true pity. He is perceptibly grayer since you went; I too am now getting decidedly gray,—what other can I do at these years! In fact I admit to myself the astonishing fact of old age, which never came rightly home to my door till not long since. I think one need not long much to be young again, according to the sample we had of it! My notion is, that perhaps the best of our days (if we grow wise) are still coming.

You have not said anything about Brother John for some time. Has he gone to his new place? I send him weekly an Irish Newspaper: I hope he understands that I very much detest all that mad stuff that they write in it about “Repeal” &c, and indeed I very seldom read anything of all that: but the fact is, the Paper comes to me gratis; and it contains a tolerable summary of News, apart from its mad repeal stuff; so I send it him.— The people3 are great disciples of mine; but I think I have very little credit of them: in fact, they seem not unlikely to get themselves shot, or hanged for treason, by and by!—

Dear Brother, I must now end. Jane, who is pretty well, in spite of the cold, sends you her kind love, you and all yours, her Namesake of course included. Tom, I suppose, is grown a big fellow now. A bit of good stuff, I hope! Tell him to be patient, peaceable, wise, in all ways strong, and not to discredit the kind!— Farewell, dear Brother. Tell us about your land, so soon as settled. Yours ever

T. Carlyle

“By the bye!”—I believe the way to spell “Beild” (as we now have it) is Bield (with the i before the e): let us attend to that! I have looked in the Dictionary, and found it actually so—“Bield”: and so write it on the cover here.