The Collected Letters, Volume 26


TC TO ALEXANDER CARLYLE; 24 October 1851; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18511024-TC-AC-01; CL 26: 213-215


Chelsea, 24 Oct'r, 1851.

My dear Brother,—About a fortnight ago I wrote to you intimating that I would soon send a copy of a Book called Life of John Sterling, which was just about coming out, and also that I would write soon again. Last week, in good time for the mail, said Life of Sterling did accordingly set out towards you. On enquiring practically I found such a feat was now quite handy. If the Book weighs under one pound, it will go to Canada or from it for a shilling; if under two pounds and above one, you must pay two shillings, (in stamps always), and so on for other weights. It is an immense convenience and I design if I live to make use of it on other occasions on your behalf. If all went right the book will reach you about a week before this present letter, if it do not, write to me and I will take some order in the matter. If it do come rightly you may send me an old newspaper addressed in your hand. That will be announcement enough for the purpose, and so we have finished this affair of the Book, let us hope.

Since I wrote last our “Exhibition” has dissolved itself, all gone or going to the four winds, and on our streets there is a blessed tranquillity in comparison. London is of all the year stillest at this season or a little earlier. All one's acquaintances are in the country, two or three hundred thousand of the inhabitants are in the country. Now is the time for a little study, for a little private meditation and real converse with one's self—a thing not to be neglected, however little pleasant it be. The days are getting foggy, a kind of dusky, stoory-looking, dry fog, dimmed with much thin reekover and above, not an exhilarating element at all, but it is very quiet comparatively and one ought to be thankful. I often think I will go into the country to live, out of this dirty reek and noise, but I am very feckless for making changes and find all countries (Annandale itself) grown very solitary and questionable to me. “Busy, busy, be busy with thy work:”—let that in the meanwhile suffice as commandment for me.

Within the week I have news from Scotsbrig. Our dear old Mother was reported well (for her) “better than when I was there.” Jack being now with her, that is always a considerable fact in her favor. The good old woman, she can do wonderfully when things go perfectly “straight,” but a small matter is now sufficient to over-set her. She can read, the whole day if she have any Book worth reading, and her appetite for reading is not at all sickly or squeamish, but can eagerly welcome almost anything that has, on any subject, a glimmering of human sense in it. Jamie's harvest is well over, a rather superior crop for quality, the quantity about an average, that is the account he gives—and indeed it is the general account of the country this year. Trade is good this year or more back; so that numbers of the people are or might be well off (tho' I think they mainly waste their superior wages) and huge multitudes of vagrant, distressed wretches are to be found everywhere even now. What will there be when “trade,” as it soon will do, takes another turn. Strolling Irish, hawking, begging, doing all kinds of coarse labour, are getting daily more abundant—unhappy beings! We hear from the Newspapers much absurd talk about the “Millions that have emigrated to America.” Alas, it has been to England and Scotland that they have “emigrated,” as anybody but a Stump Orator or Newspaper Editor might see—and they will produce their effects here by and by!— On the whole, dear Brother, you are right happy to have got out of this horrible welter into a quiet garden of your own over the sea. There are times coming here, and rushing on with ever faster speed, though unnoticed by the “glass palace” sages and their followers, such as none of us have ever seen for violence and misery. Church and State and all the arrangements of a rotten society, often seem to me as if they were not worth 20 years' purchase and the thing that will first follow them is nearly certain to be greatly worse than they. God mend it. We can do nothing for it but try if possible to mind our own work in the middle of it.

There came a letter lately from Sister Jenny which reports of you at Bield in a very interesting and cheering fashion. You are not much changed except (like myself) a little whiter in the happits. Tom is a stout handy looking fellow, not too tall. Jane a douce tidy lass, in short “you look all very comfortable on your two farms.” We were thankful enough for such a pictorial report, I need not tell you. As to Jenny herself there seem good omens too, and we hope her husband and she may now do well, his follies having stilled themselves with advance of years. At all events she will be more content than in Dumfries in her old position: there it was clear enough she could not abide much longer. That she is near you on any emergency is a great comfort to our Mother and the rest of us.

Adieu, dear Brother, I did not mean to write so much to-day, being hurried enough with many things. Jane sends her love to her namesake and to you all. I wish you would buy Tom an American copy of one of my books, (Translation of W. Meister? No?), and give it him as a memento of me and you, some time when his behaviour is at the best. Assure him, at any rate, of my hearty regard, him and all the household. My blessing with you all.

Affectionately, /