1854-June 1855

The Collected Letters, Volume 29


TC TO JAMES CARLYLE; 11 May 1854; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18540511-TC-JC-01; CL 29: 96-98


Chelsea, 11 May, 1854—

My dear Brother,

You get your Newspaper very irregularly; this week, for example, you do not get it all, for it has never come to me: I know you will excuse the irregularity, and will understand even, without my telling you, that it does not come from me, but from Thornhill; and that I have not, for my poor share, contributed to it at all,— nor mean to contribute, but will send off the poor dud whenever it does arrive, the very same day in general.1 This I wished once to tell you, that there might be no suspicion of my bad behaviour in so small a matter. The use of the Herald is as near as possible nothing, I doubt; to me it is about absolutely nothing except as a kind of hank upon Scotsbrig; and I would not fail in that small but real employment of it.

You have heard nothing from me direct, this long while; no Letter since we parted in the frost, in that sad mood and situation!2 I take it for certain that John, to whom I write pretty often, keeps on a level with our occurrences here; he does not fail to give us a notice pretty frequently of what is going on in your circle; a very welcome service to us always. I sometimes think you might take a pen, and give me a few words of your own; but that, I know, is a sweer kind of task with you, so we do not insist on it,—except on rare occasions.

You have been no strangers to trouble, I fear, since the time I left you, with one great trouble fallen on us all. Poor Martha Park!3 I was very sorry for her: a tragic fate; which indeed I already anticipated from what I heard while still in the neighbourhood. It was just the history of poor “Aunt Jeannie,” as we called the good Templand Daughter of Walter whom you remember.4 I felt for poor Isabella too; who has now a sad blank on that side of her world. As to Robert Park and the poor Bairns, the sorrowful bereaved condition they are suddenly left in is too evident.

John tells me of bad accidents in the Farm lately; first one very heavy indeed then another, if not so bad, yet too bad (if one could have helped it): one never can help such things; they come always, tho' at irregular times, and are to be accounted a piece of the history of farming and indeed of all human enterprises.

I have not been very prosperous either, since you parted with me: generally in rather poorish health (at least in very poor spirits) even for me; and making no right way in my work, which is the only consolation left now. Sad smearing and glarring I do generally make of my day's work, and leave it in sad humour for most part; but I do begin again next day, and always stick to the thing in a languid helpless but obstinate way: so I hope there may one day, be some improved symptoms reported of me and it. With or without success, I must ever hold on: all chance itself is gone without that.

The “room” up aloft, which you heard so much about, is now pretty well finished, and there is even some furniture (four chairs, half a table) and some books &c placed up there: but I very seldom visit the place, and only contemplate trying it perhaps when the weather is grown too hot for these lower stories and this western exposure. As a room that was to be silent, inaccessible to sound, it is a most perfect failure, one of the undeniablest misses ever made! So that all my labour and suffering, and £200 or more of ready money has been quite thrown away, so far as that grand intention goes: only a little experience of London workers and Builders (which indeed I did not want before) has been my conquest in that adventure! However, our noises are already (thank Heaven) nearly all but away otherwise; and I have one of the quietest bedrooms I ever had in my life, which is the only noiselessness quite essential to me: so we will put up with the disappointments;—and reflect only that a man has to “eat a very great deal of dirt”5 in this world! Nay the room is really not unhandsome; large enough, and quite admirably lighted: I believe I shall by and by get some good of it after all.

Jane had a little cold some day or two back, but it is now so far gone again that she has ventured out today, tho' the weather is none of the favourablest to her. Dampish and cold, after great falls of rain with thunder &c; the wet was greatly needed, and even with it there will now, I should think, be great scarcity of hay for next year.— Jane is generally about the old pitch of health: not worse, I should say; always very weakly, but very active too, and seldom or never giving in.— My poor Welsh friend Redwood (whom you remember my going to visit more than once) is suddenly dead. The news came quite unexpectedly about 10 days ago; poor fellow, he had been ailing a little for some six months or more, but went to Spa-wells, went hither and thither, and considered he got benefit;— I myself suspect he had produced some flow of blood to his brain by all these bathings and well-drinkings:— at last he went for a week to Bath; thought himself somewhat better, and decided to stay another week,— the other week was not half done, when he suddenly died one morning. It was among strangers, and in an inn,6 poor soul! After his mother's death,7 I think he was never heartily familiar with anybody; he had half-brothers; but they were of a different course and way of thinking, so he never saw much of them. He was kindhearted, full of affection; but led the loneliest life, withdrawn from men and their bad ways, which he hated in his heart, but hated also to quarrel about. He had got the name of the “honest lawyer” in the countryside; indeed there was hardly to be found a more perfectly truthful and honest man. I never got much good by speaking with him: but he loved me well, was infinitely patient with me; and his death will be long felt as a loss here.

Dear Jamie, my pen is very bad; or my two pens, the iron and the goose one,—hardly know which suits worst, on this miserable paper: many thing are bad;— and almost all things (as I often say) in the way of furniture for writing! But indeed I had to end at any rate, the hour being come.

John will talk to you, next time he comes, about a small sad and pious matter, a duty we have still to do to one who is gone from us; you and I talked of it, I remember, before my leaving; but it was not then ready. I hope it will now be done without delay.

Give my best regards to Isabella (in which Jane sure enough would join, were she present); my continual wishes for you and all yours. I hope to write again soonish, even if nobody answers. Your affecte Brother / T. Carlyle