1854-June 1855

The Collected Letters, Volume 29


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE; 6 January 1855; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18550106-TC-JAC-01; CL 29: 232-234


Chelsea, 6 jany, 1855—

My dear Brother,—We are still going on here in the old way, nothing very particular occurring; but I will send you my “wishes,” as due by the season, before this first week of the New Year terminate. “A happy New Year!” alas, what a mockery that seems to one, in the mood that is too frequent at present. I will say, with poor Edward Irving: “May the worst of our years be past”;1—may, at all events, a good and better genius inspire us for the remainder of them. That will be the best kind of “happiness”; and that is still possible for us.

Our “Merry Christmas” here was profound stillness within these doors; interrupted only, and by no means cheeringly, by the loud and not very wise rejoicing of our neighbours all round. The Chalmers people had a dinner party (poor souls), and their Pianoforte pierced somewhat thro' our thin walls; the Roncas danced, sang glees, supped (with probably a touch of punch,—which who could grudge the poor puddling creatures?):2—at length past mid-night all these and all other noises died away; and one's own sad thoughts went whither you will well guess. For some days there were, so to speak, nothing but drunk people in the street; all manner of mechanics and poor people fitted out with beer; stumbling agt one; threatening to quarrel occasionally, if one had not walked on, as a mere extraneous accident,—as a live sane figure among spectral walpurgis people,3 of the alcoholic goblin species. All which is now past; fled like an ugly nightmare; and oxen sheep and camels once more grazing in their places.

I have got on rather better with my work of late,—tho' today I am come to a boghole in the road, whh I am not fit for, in this state of the inner man and outer. But I do sometimes believe myself to be getting into the business; and hope to finish it one day,—the last heavy job I mean to undertake at this time of life. An ill-chosen job, and difficult exceedingly, in this country, in this position and humour: but there is no remedy, no help possible, or hope, except in tearing forward, to get done with it, if we can!— Our weather is to an extraordinary degree soft, and mild in temperature; not the least suspicion of frost this long while. I have also succeeded moderately in getting my garret made habitable & even comfortable,—the amount of pasting I have achieved is really great, pasting and caulking and calfentring to an immense extent; and my grate has been out some three times before it could be got right. But now really I am warm enough, can even be too warm; and have such a place for light and for silence as rarely falls to man's lot. If I were only in a little better health of liver! But that too will perhaps come; or we must even dispense with that.

Yesternight I heard from Jean, and this morning from Mary,4 about formal New years points: they are both well, and all is in the usual state, or better, with them;—only Jean complains still of that miserable finger: there is now a sinew that draws it athwart, across the palm, towards the little finger, and plagues her a good deal, when the hand is hard worked. Poor creature, I cannot reconcile myself, to that unblessed blockhead of a quack-surgeon by whom she lost her finger on those terms: it is one of the miserablest provoking jobs I have heard of for a long while. Young Jamie, it appears, has not got a place yet; has written to Glen, being very anxious about it, but got no answer for ten days.5 I wish much the poor lad were suited; but know not how to help in it.

Poor Mrs Edward Irving, did you hear, is dead;—died, it seems, some time in the end of last month:6 we shd never have heard of it at present, had not a certain burgheress “Mrs Snowden,” (once Eliza Miles, in a Lodging we had),7 who belongs to that sect,8 called one day. We got no particulars of poor Mrs I.'s Death; only the fact very certainly conveyed, and that she was 56 years old,—her two children, son and daughter, disposed of we know not how: they are said to be of her or the Martin type, not at all resembling their Father in appearance or turn.9 Ay de mi,10 what a Chapter is there too to look back upon! I remember, as if of yesterday, the walk Miss Martin and I took, over Raith woods &c,11 the morning after I had first seen her in 1816;—and now, after 38 years, the scene is getting greatly cleared indeed.— Bookseller Bosworth (Fraser's Successor)12 told me, one day my synonym, Thos Carlyle the “Angel,” was just dying or dead: I heard no farther account whether it proved so or not.13

Twice last week I have heard from Grahame of Burnswark,—about Newspapers, about little or nothing:—poor old fellow, he flows on with a full current of pepticity and social affection to the very last; and is interesting and good, tho' getting extremely dim now. He breaks into lyrical recognition of you in both letters; but I did not fancy you wd be other than partly bored by either of them (for there was no particle of news, & in both were repititions); so they went into the fire.

Jean tells me the Boys are to be with you, and Clifton the place, “till the end of january.” Give my kind regards to the brave little fellows; tell them not to omit Cheyne Row when they come within wind of it; and to understand certainly that they have a constant wellwisher there.— Send me a word as soon and as often as you have leisure and charity.

Ever your affectionate /

T. Carlyle