April 1848-March 1849

The Collected Letters, Volume 23


TC TO ALEXANDER CARLYLE ; 16 June 1848; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18480616-TC-AC-01; CL 23: 51-53


Chelsea, 16 june, 1848—

My dear Brother,

Before your American mail leaves today I will write you a few words, lest none other of them happen to write. I am very busy, and rather out of sorts for writing; but you will take my poor contribution as the best I have. Some weeks ago, after a good deal of delay, there arrived a short Letter, which you had written hastily at Brantford; very welcome to us, as indicating at least that you were all well; and only a few days after there came another (addressed to our Mother, I think), considerably later in date:—it would seem there is some small place in Canada itself called “London,” and in two instances now your Letters hither have gone to that poor London,1 and taken the air there a week or two before they came on! Pray put “England,” therefore, or “By Steamer,” upon your Letter;—and for the rest, especially in summer-time, the mails are so frequent now (one every fortnight, or even every week), you had better just write when you feel at leisure, any time, and put the sheet into the Post-Office to take its chance, if you have not by accident some clearer guidance. Jack also suggests that you should, once at least in every month, send our Mother a Newspaper: the address, in your hand, with two strokes (if kind Providence enable you to that) will signify the essential to her, and the thing costs only a penny here, and I suppose very little on your side either. Attend to this, if you can.— I will endeavour to ascertain better, some day, when the mails do leave your shores: but in the meanwhile, follow the above (viz. to write when you like), and we shall not be far wrong.

We had a Letter today from Scotsbrig, of Isabella's writing: she reports very comfortably indeed of our good Mother, who went home from a long visit to Dumfries and Jenny, about a month ago; and is at present very tolerably well, according to Isabella,—“much better since she got into the country air again.” Doubtless the beautiful summer is a help to her; for there was hardly ever finer weather,—warm winds and a fair proportion of soft rain;—the crops, they say, look beautiful, and are far ahead of the average for this season of the year in Annandale especially. This is all our news from that quarter. They do not write often; I write to my Mother without much reply. Jean has a new bairn lately (a girl, I think), which of course rather ties her hands in the writing way.2 Mary of the Gill has also a young child some months ago,—a boy, this time,3—as perhaps you have already heard. They are all well, or in their usual way, for anything we know or guess.

Not long since I had a Letter from Brother John, on his arriving at “Fredericksburgh near Simco,” which is a piece farther away from you than before.4 He wished to give me his new address for the Newspaper, which accordingly I have observed since then; he also lamented about some kind of argument or quarrel you and he had had, and how you said to him some thing about “selling his birth right for a mess of pottage,”5—which I wrote back to him was all nonsense; and a thing you probably meant very little by, and would have forgotten before you next met him. Poor fellow, do not be too severe on him!— Jack and I could not help laughing at the “mess of pottage,” when we figured to ourselves here how the thing had probably been. I have sent the Newspaper, and hope the poor fellow gets it duly—

We are in our usual poorish way of health here, which does not grow very brilliant in spite of the good weather: however, we still stir about in a grumbling way, and even Jane is pretty well on foot at present. Jack sticks obstinately to his task, and it proves very dreigh [slow] to get done: but I believe it will be really well done at last, and prove a useful thing.— I myself am beginning to write again,—for the wild revolutionary times urge me on;—but I do not get much under way yet; and indeed am much at a loss what form to throw the thing into: but I must bore along, “stogging and blonking [walking heavily and awkwardly]” (as you once defined Corson's6 ploughing); and nothing but persistence will find me out the right method. I once thought of writing a long set of articles for Newspapers, of which two samples I think were sent to you of late; but the thing does not well take that shape; and in fact I know not what to do with it, but shall gradually know.

I suppose you hear enough about our Chartists; and how the French, and indeed all Nations, are puddling deep in the quagmire of revolution and social distress: the Chartists do us next to no mischief here as yet (to us here at Chelsea, none at all); but the look of that concern is very ominous too, and I believe there are great miseries and confusions at no great distance for Britain generally, and bad days are coming, and must come before many years go! We cannot help it; I cannot:—nor do I see any hope of real remedy till long after our poor fight will have altogether ended, and that of our sons and grandsons perhaps too!— Much terrible distress prevails just now in the manufacturing regions; and the Irish people have got again into a large potatoe-crop this year, with which, if it fail, they will be in a bad way!— On the whole, I cannot but think you lucky, dear Brother, in spite of all your trials and sorrows, that you have got your family into a hopefuller land than this, and have a piece of soil of your own to till, and little else but Heaven to be responsible to. God keep you in his ways always, and so all will be well!—

A Captn Sterling here (John's brother, the writer's whom you know of) gave us a large map of Upper Canada, which he made while soldiering there. Here is the reduced copy of a scrap of it round Brantford; I want you to put down the exact situation of Bield, and send it back to me that we may know.— If there ever come anybody that could take a “Sketch” of the House &c— But that alas is not at all likely.

You will give our affectionate regards to Tom and Jane, and their Mother and all the rest. Let us hear soon that you continue busy and well; and describe to us as far as possible all you are occupied with. Farewell, dear Brother, for this time.

Ever your affectionate

T. Carlyle