The Collected Letters, Volume 28


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE ; 15 April 1853; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18530415-TC-JAC-01; CL 28: 109-112


Chelsea, 15 April, 1853

My dear Brother,

I designed to have written to you at an earlier period of the day; but was prevented by Morgan the Carpenter coming in upon me, and turning all my enterprises heels overhead. For we are again getting under the dominion of that r[edou]btable person; he is again (on the 2d Monday hence) to get possession of us for a week: Book-cases, window apparatus; and the painting of the upper room,—to be followed, at some unknown time, by the painting and papering of this poor room in which I yet sit with bare walls, and in half gypsey fashion, all this while!—In all your arrangements of life, whatsoever you do or forbear, avoid one thing, as next to utter conflagration, “a thorough repair!” I should as soon have given my right hand to be cut off, had I known what “a thorough repair” meant, in consenting to it. However, however—

Your news about my Mother was right welcome and indispensable; I hope soon to have another little Note from you, with account of a new visit: my poor old Mother,—Heaven is very merciful to deal with us so in that respect: alas, I have grown used to the Mercy; and my imagination gives a haggard start when I think that these are not things which can continue! But let us not be ungrateful, not unhopeful, which is the worst ingratitude to a Bounteous Giver!—It seems to me, all this winter, as if we had all got dreadfully old, as if the clapsydra [water clock] were rushing rapidly out with all of us, and this sorely confused game of life were verging towards the still Eternities. I often enough think of these things: nor are they wholly sad and painful; there is a feeling of victory and stern blessedness withal in the thought that one is actually grown old. We will say no more of it just now.

I get very ill on with work; little better than for a long while past, which, God knows, is badly enough. But I do not quite give up either; I puddle along, and shall perhaps emerge out of the cesspools one day. So much labour has been expended upon Fritz, and no daylight will yet shine thro' that enterprise: however, I suppose we must persist, at this stage, and get delivered in some tolerable way if we can.—I am at present on some negociation for admission to the inner rooms of the Museum: but Panizzi, who can himself do nothing, is not encouraging; tomorrow I am to see Hallam,1 and unless he give me some heart (which the good soul will if he can), I shall quietly let the matter drop. After all, Books are not what will make one wise: it is astonishing what little profit, in any form whatever, one too often gets out of Books! With Prussian Books on Friedrich, for example, one might load a waggon; and the knowledge even Prussians have of Fk I find to be frightfully like Zero, in spite of Books. Not one genial Book yet exists on the subject.

Maccall started his Lecturing Enterprize sunday gone a week: big room in Oxford Street (once Gavazzi's), admittance 6d, subject Scotch Covenanters,—present 28!2 It takes near three score to pay expenses. The poor man did not seem to be discouraged, however; “very well for a beginning”: last sunday, another trial, with some alterations of arrangement; audience now 54. He decides to get a smaller cheaper room, and charge a shilling: that will perhaps do better. He writes to me on Monday what the issue has been; to see much of him is not very inviting, tho' once and away he is good for a monthly dialogue or so. The health of the man improves visibly: poor soul, perhaps he will get this lecturing speculation to answer a little, by and by, after all.—Fairey3 I saw on the street yesterday, who had been to hear Maccall; and professed to have business with me on that score,—but had been refused by Fanny, he said! The unfortunate Farey; “well in health,” but gloomy, aimless and idle, as is the common lot of him.

Darwin gets visibly less to visit us since he went so far away: “the inexorable law of distances,” as Taylor calls it.4 Dn has the Wedgwoods with him at present, who are shifting into another house.

Do you read the Edinburgh Review? In the last No is a scourging article (of which I read three pages today in the Library) on Disraeli,—by Hayward.5 Diamond cut diamond; Jew pull the dirty ragged pate of Jew! I agree with Hd, however, there is hardly any uglier phenomenon in these times than the political history of that uncircumcised (or circumcised) Adventurer.—I saw nothing else in the Review; but had heard the review of Alison was by one Greg, a writing Hodman of some name, once a Cottonspinner of do.6 George Cornwall Lewis, dullest of learned, mortals, is now Editor,7—more power to his elbow. I read hardly a page of any book or any pamphlet, but what turn on my own sad subject: I have enough of dulness steadily awaiting me of its own accord there. I have mostly given up the Leader Newspaper, it had got so utterly washy and frothy, the Examiner, which we get instead, is not a lively or inspired production, not it either! But one finds old Crawfurd &c in it;8 and one does not find Auguste Comte, the Spirit-rappers, Holyoake and that sad etcetera.9

What is become of Jane at Dumfries? I suppose, poor thing, she is not very active just at this time; poor Jean, I must write to her one of these days, bad as my pens are, and short as is my time.—As to accounts of mine there I can recollect nothing except a morsel of brandy taken down to Scotsbrig; however, you can inquire, pay what there is; and send me the remainder in stamps,—red stamps, no more blue at present.10— — Enough dear Brother; for I am now under candles; and tea ought to be announcing itself down below. Have you decided yet as to Summer & its movements? I wish you were going “not to stir”; but that, I know, is out of the game. Will sister Phoebe accept my and Jane's kind regards: take care of this cold weather on her account: it is very fierce indeed. Adieu, dear Brother. Yours ever T. Carlyle