October 1856-July 1857

The Collected Letters, Volume 32


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE ; 11 June 1857; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18570611-TC-JAC-01; CL 32: 162-166


Chelsea, 11 june, 1857—

My dear Brother,

Your kind and affectionate Note was a real pleasure to me yesterday morning: a friendly voice does a great deal of good to me in my present dilapidated state. I do not answer at all above a fifth-part of the wretched messages (mainly from fools, & with whom I have no concern) which the invaluable Penny Stamp brings me;—I in fact write no Notes but on compulsion; or at a rare time, as now, when there is invitation to it, and an accident of leisure. If you wrote oftener to me in these circumstances, it wd be the greater favour,—tho' beyond my deserts on the arithmetical account.

Probably I am rather better in health; the industrious riding, on this excellent horse, sometimes seems to myself to be slowly telling on me; but I am habitually in sombre mournful mood; conscious of great weakness,—a defeated kind of creature, with a right good load of sorrow hanging on me, and no goal that looks very glorious to aim towards now within sight. All my days and hours go to that sad task of mine; at it I keep weakly grubbing and puddling, weakly but steadily,—try to make daily some little way, as now almost the one thing useful. I refuse all invitations whatsoever, for several reasons; and may be defined as a mute solitary being at present,—comparable to an Owl on the Housetop1 in several respects. The truth is I had enough before; and find since, I have had, privately, a great loss and sorrow lately, as it were, of the one genuine Friend I had acquired in these parts, whose nobleness was more precious to me than I knew;—a loss not in any measure to be repaired in the world henceforth. That of old Johnson (common to old men in this world) often comes into my head—‘Been delayed till most of those whom I wished to please are sunk into the grave, and success and failure are empty sounds. I therefore dismiss it with frigid indifference’2— But will do it the best I can, all the same. In fact I do make a little way; and shall perhaps live to see the thing honestly done, after all.

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The garden at 5 Cheyne Row by Robert Scott Tait, 25 July 1857

Courtesy of Edinburgh University Library


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“The Late Mr. Douglas Jerrold.— From a Photograph by Dr. Diamond”

Illustrated London News, 20 June 1857


Jane is evidently better; gets out daily &c &c; but is still as weak as possible: and tho' we have the perfection of weather, warm yet never sultry, ‘a sunny June with showers,’ the poor Missus does not get even into her old strength for walking or the like. She went out to East Hampstead (Marqs of Downshire people, beyond Windsor), and got so much good of her three days there, I have been desirous she cd get to Scotland or somewhither for a couple of months. And she did seem to have some such intention,—Sunny Bank3 the place;—but that has misgone again, I fear. Meanwhile she is very busy; ornamenting the Garden, poor little soul;—has two “china seats"; speculates even upon an “Awning,” or Quasi-tent, against the blazes of July that are coming!4— Whh, you see, are good signs.

Poor Douglas Jerrold, we hear incidentally this morning, is dead; an “acrid philanthropist,” last of the “London wits” (I hope the last); a man not extremely valuable in my sight;—but an honest creature withal;5 and he has bidden us Adieu forever. Night before last in the middle of heavy rain, a great light, as of some volcano going, was visible to the n.e.;—turns out to be the Pickforddom near some railway station (Paddington I shd guess) whh went up in ruinous fire.6 You perceive I read no newspaper, and think you rarely do.— We had Brigadier Mackenzie & his Wife here last night, Twisletons, Farie, & Lushington along with them,—an exceptional night, rather heavy to me tho' not unwise. The Brigr has had the bone behind his middle finger to get cut out (up to the metacarpal), long after losing the finger itself:7—doing well; and very emphatic in talk, slightly ostentatious too, otherwise much recommendable. Blackie is going to Heidelberg I think, was here two weeks ago; but only Jane saw his Wife & him,8 not I, it being forenoon. Farie has had dreadful work buying a horse to himself; not so successful as with mine! Your little Henry is growing an eligible tight little fellow, mind and body;9 and will do well, I think. Brotherly regards to Jamie and the others. I dine now at 4; do not ride till after dinner,—now at hand. Yours ever

T. Carlyle