The Collected Letters, Volume 26


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE; 12 January 1851; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18510112-TC-JAC-01; CL 26: 12-14


Chelsea, 12 jany, 1851—

My dear Brother,

I am come upstairs, with the lamp, after dinner, to write you a word, according to request; in the forenoon I failed, from various causes of interruption, and had at last to take my walk re infectâ [with the thing undone].

We have got various short Notes from you; but generally your movements have succeeded each other so fast, I have not known whitherward with certainty to write,—not to say, furthermore, that I have been rather unfit and indisposed to write to any one for some time past. Nothing the matter; only general gloom &c &c. You do not say whether you received a brief Note with which I hoped to hit you at Linlathen: it was too late for that (as I found), but wd probably be sent on to you at Auchtertool.1 I have sent nothing else except Newspapers; which seem all to have arrived. I have written to Scotsbrig too, and had answers; the news going there, how our poor Mother has had toothache, and been weaklier than usual, all this you already know. Poor old Mother, it is very hard to have toothache, and no teeth left! I hope you will find her better when you get home (the day when you read this):2 for being besides her again will bring a composure into our imagination on that side.

We are not in bad health here,—not bad for us; but the weather is unnaturally close and damp and warm; I understand the bills of mortality already proclaim the season an unwholesome one. Great weakness is what I complain of; frightful weakness of body (in the regions always weak with me), which brings along with a frightful do of mind, still more to be lamented and despised! I have yet got no work vanquished into any figure of doability for myself; and guess there will some water run by before that arrive. Arrive it must, however, one wd think?— Jane, tho' weak too, seems better than her average proportion; the warm temperature, in spite of other drawbacks, being friendly to her.

We have next to no news, indeed as good as none. Neuberg wrote,—did I tell you? He is at Bonn, attending classes; is about going to Berlin, with some Ms of “translations” from the English, chiefly from me; wants Varnhagen to help him:—I have written to Varnhagen;3 and to Neuberg inclosing an introdn to Vn: a day or two ago Vn answers, Yes, surely,—in an innocent kind little Letter (chiefly in censure of Latter-day Pamphlets &c), which, if I do not send it to Neuberg, you shall see when there is a chance.— —Our “Chrystal Palace”4 (bless the mark!) i[s] nearly glazed in: you never saw such a monster of a Gigantic Birdcage in your life; it covers almost all that space of riding-ground between Rotten Row and the Horse Barracks,5 22 acres I am told; beyond question a most ingenious and appropriate structure; indeed the only clever or truly human thing about the whole business, so far as my feelings go. Never in the world's annals, I believe, was there a building of such extent finished in ten times the time by hand of men;—and here Paxton (whose ingenuity is the soul of it, and enables him to employ tens of thousands upon it at once) has got it all but ready as per contract; and once its use is over, he can build it again into two streets of dwellinghouses, into a village of iron cottages, or a world of garden greenhouses, without losing a pound of the substance employed (putty excepted). That I call clever; the rest is like to be all fudge and boisterous ostentation: I already have my own thots about flying far away from London till it is over!

Anthony Sterling does not come here now, for some time back (tho' he is in Town all this winter), Jane and he having had some tiff of quarrel, in which he behaved after the tragic model rather than the comic, and so cannot well come back. I mean that he took solemn leave as if the offence on her side were Werterean—Charlottean6 and eternal; in which sad state it is still left lying! Farie has been here once; do Masson duller even than Farie on that last occasion. 7 Kingsley and Mrs Gaskill were here,—Mary Barton, that is, and Alton Locke.8 Who more? No matter how many more, of that sort, I opine! Wm Stirling (Farie says) is here; but we have not seen him. I sent Erskine a little French Book by post, “Romieu: l'Ere des Césars,”9 with a short Note: he will send back the Book and some do, I suppose, soon.

Hearty compliments to my honest old friend Gordon,10 almost the oldest I now have. Eheu [Alas]!— The Nation will wait you at Scotsbrig; from which pray write after you have settled for a day or two. Love to my dear Mother and them all. And so good journey, dear Brother.

T. Carlyle