The Collected Letters, Volume 27


TC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE ; 23 October 1852; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18521023-TC-MAC-01; CL 27: 340-342


The Grange, Alresford, Hants / 23 Octr 1852—

My dear Mother,

The day we came off hither I wrote you a hurried little Note, promising that I would write again. There is “time” enough here, one would think, for doing any amount of work in the writing way! In fact there is no place I ever saw that could surpass this in idleness, utter absence of attempted or accomplished labour. Yet somehow it happens one can here least of all find time for anything; and it requires both exertion and invention to catch any hour at which you can be free and certain to get so much as a letter written. At one time you are to ride, to walk, to go and see this thing or that; at another there is no fire in your room, and the weather too cold to dispense with that, &c &c: in short one's day is wasted away in doing laboriously altogether nothing; which is a result by no means comfortable, to one individual of us, to reflect upon, at present!

In other respects, all goes tolerably well here. Jane had a threatening whiff of cold, for two days; but it went away again, and she is now fully as well as common with her,—gone out to walk at this moment (Saturday, 11 o'clock, just after breakfast), the morning being fine, and two wet days before having prevented any exercise of that sort, at least to people with long tails and thin shoes. I myself missed riding; but took precautions against showers, and by no means missed a long stiff walk. Our weather in general is sunny and very pleasant, quite warm this morning, tho' the trees are all red, and many leaves are falling when the wind blows. There is an immense assemblage of rooks (honest crows) around the mansion here; their hoarse melody is often the first thing I hear in the morning; and at all times it invites me to pensive reflexions, and remembrances of poor old Ecclefechan and Hoddam woods where I first heard such sounds in days that are now a very great way behind me. The flight of the “craws,” far up in the sky, over Ecclefechan village, on summer evenings, towards their home in Woodcockair,1 is one of the pleasant things I recollect out of early childhood, and along with it so many persons whom I shall not see again in this world! Time, Eternity—God make us equal to these great facts, which lie in the life of every man!—

There is nothing to be sent you hence, dear Mother, in the shape of news; little happens here that is of moment, and nothing that could be interesting so far away as Annandale. We are a shifting, not very numerous party in the house; “agreeable,” that is the first law; but not otherwise doing or saying important things. The new American Ambassador (a Lawyer from Philadelphia) was here the other day; he staid two nights; had his pretty Niece and another pair of Americans with him: he looked like Ker the Clockmaker2 grown oldish; really a most mechanic-looking, tho' rather clever man, and he bustled about, as Jane said, “like a man with his pockets full of hot cinders”:—we took kind leave of him; but did not shed many tears when he went. Thackeray is coming, for whom I care nothing tho' he is a clever and friendly man; he comes today with a nobleman and a Portrait-Painter;3 comes, but is soon to go:—“di' tha naither ill na' guid!”—

From Chelsea we hear only that the Painter is still there, tho' now (thank Heaven) just about departing. The last news is that he is to have done this very evening (Saturday): Jane's prediction to me was that he would have ended on Wednesday last; but there he still is, and one knows not with certainty whether he will quite keep this second term either. One way or other he must now, in not many hours, take himself away! It appears, however, we are to stay here a full week longer than was expected: so they have settled it with Jane in these circumstances. She proposes going home by herself next Thursday or so; wanting a day or two of sorting at the house before I come: I am to follow on the Monday after (if I recollect?), and hope then at last to get myself fairly flung down to some kind of rest, if not set down to some kind of work, once more! Ah me, Ah me!—

I had a Note from John, and wrote him an answer the very morning I wrote last to Scotsbrig: he was then to be in the neighbourhood of Liverpool, and I have heard nothing from him since. Poor Jack, I sincerely wish him from the bottom of my heart all prosperity in this adventure—which of us does not?— Nor is there any reason to think it other than very fortunate for him: nevertheless, in one's serious mood, all changes are sad, and this change too is sad rather than joyful to one! I seriously think, however, he will be greatly better off for being fixed in the world, especially on those advantageous and highly opulent terms. He is likely also to be more in my neighbourhood than he would otherwise have been; which of course is another gain to me.— — Jean wrote since I came hither; all well with her: she also enclosed Jenny's Letter from Canada;—poor little Jenny, I think it possible her lodging by the side of that water may not be very wholesome; else why so many agues? She seems to make light of them; and indeed I conjecture they may partly be the price a weak newcomer has to pay on entrance, till once seasoned to the place: however, I shd rather like to hear they had got to a new place to live in, and that the poor little soul were done with these fits of liver.

Dear Mother, I cannot know how you are, tho' I ask the question daily many times,—unless Isabella will be helpful enough to write! Ask her to do so for me; I enclose a cover, within which she can soon put a little word for me, explaining what you all are about, what Jamie is doing; how you and they all are. Farewell, dear Mother, for this day; I send my heart's blessing to you all.

T. Carlyle