1854-June 1855

The Collected Letters, Volume 29


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE; 23 December 1854; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18541223-TC-JAC-01; CL 29: 223-224


Chelsea, 23 decr, 1854—

My dear Brother,

It is very possible you may have yourself heard from Jean; but if not, or even any way, the enclosed Note may be worth sending you: the little sketch of the Mason working over his “Ezechiel Wheel,”1 to shorten labour, or abolish pain, and bring in the new Era, gives us a very curious glimpse into the “sin and misery” of this epoch!— At lowest this patch of paper will be a message from me to the Boys and you before the week terminate.

I have been busy enough, often, but very seldom with almost any perceptible success: I see nobody; I sit all day here, sally rapidly out about dusk; read, not often with much speech all evening;—determine to try to the uttermost whether this beggarly thing shall quite best me in my old days! On the whole, I feel it will not and shall not. And that is really all the good of it.— Except that, and multifarious thoughts, which have a certain sad greatness while kept in the silent state, but are apt to explode into the angry form if I utter them, I have no history at present. Thoughts enough;—and the thought of a certain “Christmas” we once saw, and shall none of us ever forget, is vivid enough among them.2 Ah me, ah me! But that surely is all peaceable and well; safe in the still and pure Eternity, where we too, with our work or no-work, shall soon be!— Much is gone this Christmas: but we must not murmur over the Past; the Present and the Future, these still make offers to us; our one business is, to profit wisely by these.

Jane continues to improve a little; but has not gone to The Grange; which probably was a judicious determination. There is a great cohue [clamorous gathering] of people there, ever-shifting figures, mostly unprofitable and even wearisome to me: I suppose we may still go at some future time, but it shall be when the house is empty or nearly so.3

A Professor Vaughan came last night; an accomplished, serious and able Oxford man, whom I think you do not know. Better worth talking to than anybody I have tried for weeks. T. Ballantyne was also here; going to do a Chrestomathic (“Select Passages from the Writings of” &c) for which Chapman is to give him a £50, poor soul, and I have given my leave.4 Neuberg, too, has been corresponding for me with a Bookseller of Stuttgard, who is set on bringing out a Sä¯tliche Ausgabe [collected edition] in German (none yet in English, such is lazy Chapman's will);5 towards which, as there is no money or other clear call in it, I mean to contribute nothing. However, the man seems to have some sense, and some reality of earnestness; and I will let him be doing, with my good wishes.

I know not if I ever told you about a certain Old Tithe-Register, kept by successive parsons, 3 or 2, in the Parish of Ecton in Northamptonshire (about 1660–1700), which came into my possession, presented by a certain gaunt admirer, who had picked it up in Smith's Old-Book shop for a few shillings. The charm of it was that Ecton was the native Parish of Benjamin Franklin's Father and Ancestors. There accordingly they all figure; sturdy Blacksmiths of the Village, who keep so many sheep, and have so many pence to pay quarterly to the Parson: Franklins and no mistake, down to Benjamin's Father, whom he mentions in his Autobiography as the Emigrant to New England.6 -duce7 it at the inauguration of some Franklin Statue,—and in short, work wonders with it, after their sort! I was sensibly entertained, and somewhat gratified, by all this small affair; which is the chief event of the present week for me. A Pamphlet has come from the poor Glasgow Boys, too, about their Lord Rectorship (poor souls), and the calumnies of certain too-orthodox Able Editors, &c &c: but of that at least I will say nothing.

Jane is gone out; and I ought also to have been gone. The Smith is due before this,—to operate on my weary dreary “grate” again. I shall get it right at last! For once in the week it will do me no harm to see an hour of daylight;—it is now getting towards 3, and fine weather, amid our miserable mud. Clifton I dare say is very rainy too; but you have a clearer atmosphere there than we.8 No doubt