April 1848-March 1849

The Collected Letters, Volume 23


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE ; 26 August 1848; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18480826-TC-JAC-01; CL 23: 98-100


Chelsea, Saty (26 Augt), 1848—

My dear Brother,

You had a very short return from me to your last Letter; wherefore I determine to take the top of the morning today before the week end, and fling you off a word or two in addition to what you had. We have no news at all; but our good Mother and the rest of you may be gratified by hearing even that.

Laurence did not succeed with my portrait; after four laborious sittings, he yesterday decided to abandon it, and to resume another (laid by formerly), which another sitting now will rid me of! Poor Laurence works terribly; but a vein of ineffectuality, a trying to do the impossible, is apt to run thro' his enterprises. For the rest, these sittings do me little or no mischief at present; he lets me even smoke while he paints; I have a good walk to and from, and my day otherwise, I am sorry to say, is still very much of an idle one. In fact, I still sit upon the brink here, and feel loth and uncertain about plunging in. Things, one may hope, will ripen with me; alas, I feel I shall have to be very miserable again before they do! For the present, I sit in the utmost attainable silence; alone with my own thoughts and remembrances great part of every day, and certainly in as secluded a scene as the autumn could well offer me anywhere. Till after that visit to the Grange, which is to begin about the 1st Septr (day not yet fixed), I feel there will nothing be done, but at best a little reading. The weather too continues moist and cool; far from unpleasant to me, if it were not so unpromising to others.— Little Jeannie enjoys herself very well here, and seems to be as cheery a little creature as ever, able to do well and employ herself on nothing here as well as elsewhere. On Thursday last Forster gave us (her at least) an invaluable treat: an Opera box namely, to hear Jenny Lind sing farewell. Illustrious indeed. We dined with Fuz at five, the hospitablest of men; at eight, found the Temple of the Muses all a-shine for Lind and Co,—the piece, La Sonnambula, a chosen bit of nonsense from beginning to end,1—and, I suppose, an audience of some three thousand expensive-looking fools male and female come to see this Swedish Nightingale “hop the twig,” as I phrased it. Nothing could exceed my ennui; especially as we staid till the very finish, little Jeannie being quite delighted. Lind seemed to me a very true, clear, genuine little creature, with a voice of extraordinary extent and little richness of tone; who sang, acted &c with consummate fidelity,—but had unfortunately nothing but mere nonsense to sing or act; a defect not much felt by the audience, as would appear, but very heavily pressing upon me for one. “Depend upon it,” I said to Fuz, “the Devil is busy here tonight, wherever he may be idle!”— Old Wellington had come staggering in to attend the thing.2 Thackeray was there; d'Orsay, Lady Blessington,3 to all of whom (Welln excepted!) I had to be presented, and grin some kind of foolery,—much agt the grain. It was one o'clock when we got home: on the whole, I do not design to hear Lind again; it would not bring me sixpence worth of benefit, I think, to hear her sing six months in that kind of material! Ah, me; the Sons of Adam are a strange fraternity!— We are next to go and dine with Thackeray, who has been at Spa4 and back again; not a lovely outlook either. Yesternight Lewis and his Wife came in:5 spite of the “emptiness” of London, there is still company enough and to spare, as would seem,—if it were worth anything!

Hunter has been here;6 but did not find us in, neither had his card any address on it so that matter rests there. Chorley I see sometimes, who punctually inquires after you.7 Masson and Edinburgh people also were here.8 Chorley volunteered (shd occasion offer) to speak to the Caledonian-Railway Engineer, whom he knows, about that “Station” business at Ecclefechan. I hope you are going on with that? It should decidedly be mended; and now is the time for it.— I found “the white owl” sitting solitary the other day, but could get no Books from him,9—all “out, unfortunately.” Craik does not turn up since you went away; Fergus has never returned:10 Tom Holcroft wrote to me to recommend him to Buller ("for an Inspectorship,” alas!)11— I did so, to the length of stating accurately what I thought his qualities were; Buller, of course, had to give a civil No. Poor Tom is an honest sound-hearted kind of man, but not very wise.

Dear Brother, I must prepare to end my foolish screed here. I have read Knox's second volume, sent by Laing; an excellent Book. Tell my Mother, I have also found a Copy of old John Welsh's Sermons, which I think are very good articles.12 Jane, as the Book contains a Life too, has seized it as a descendent; but Mother can have a loan of this, or I will get her another copy somewhere, if she have any notion to read it.13 Pray tell me more and more about how she does, how you all get on,—my dear old Mother, she knows always that of all the houses in this world that house is the interesting one to me! Jamie, I suppose, has begun his harvest by this time? Tell me about his health too; and about Mary's, now that you have seen her. On the whole, write at leng[th] dear Brother, when you [lines missing]. Forward this wretched “Spirit of the Age” to John in Canada14 (Fredericksburgh, Simco, Ca West): I have nothing better to send him now that the Nation is stopt,15—and sometimes think I had better not send this either, such rubbish as it is.

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