The Collected Letters, Volume 4


TC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE; 16 November 1826; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18261116-TC-MAC-01; CL 4:156-159.


21. Comley Bank, 16th November 1826—

My Dear Mother,

For the last three days I have been firmly purposing to write to you, in conformity with my promise; but something or other has always intervened to prevent me, and continue the suspense in which I know well you are living with regard to me. Do not think me unkind or forgetful of you; your anxieties are always present to my thoughts, and I will not now any more than of old neglect to send you tidings of me, good or bad as Providence may direct them. Today I have taken Time by the forelock, and begun writing directly after breakfast; and now mindful of your oft-repeated injunction I will tell you truly how I am, and not hide from you “the very worst.”

The chief thing I have to complain of is uncertainty. As usually happens with me, in all changes, this greatest and most important I have ever made has overset all my accustomed habitudes, and so driven me a good deal to leeward in my whole procedure: and tho' this is now the fourth week of my marriage, I am by no means “come to” [found myself], as you would say, or yet “hefted” [adjusted] to my new gang [way of life]. The consequence is considerable irregularity in regard to health, and of course to spirits and life generally. I have not yet learned to exist here without drugs; and this to you will express the whole essence of my situation. Now if I were quite certain that this was to be my fate henceforth, I think I might in some measure reconcile myself to it, and begin to live like a wise man, on the remaining portion of my resources however small: but such is by no means the case; for I still keep hoping and meeting with disappointment: I adopt resolutions of living which are beyond my power of executing, and am forced to abandon them in mortification and chagrin. Give me time, I say still, give me time! Surely, surely there is nothing so untoward and unmanageable in my circumstances as to excite despair of regulating them into happiness and order! Except this one consideration of drug-taking, I have positively nothing in the world to complain of. My good little wife is the best of all wives: I declare I am astonished at the affection she bears me, and the patience with which she listens to my doleful forebodings and turns them all into gay hopes. In every thing great and little she gives me entirely my own way; asking, as it seems, nothing more whatever of her destiny, but that in any way she could make me happy. Good little girl! Sometimes too we are very happy; in our trim quiet house, sitting by our own tea, with a good book in my hand, and a clear fire on the hearth, I feel as if all would be well, and far better than my best expectations. From her I can anticipate no hindrance in any arrangement of my life I may see good to adopt: I firmly believe, in the poorest cottage of Scotland, with me happy beside her, she would be the blithest wife in Scotland too. Courage, therefore, I say to myself: one way or other, it must and shall be ordered for good! Give me a little time to sift it and settle it all, and then to fasten on it with rigid perseverance, and the evils of my lot will at length be beneath my feet! On the whole I ought to be ashamed of complaint: a hundred times in my life I have been far worse in health than I am, and never half so well in all other particulars. In spite of my drugs, I sleep quite passably in our giant bed; and were it not that I am so overanxious to be well, I should not let my illness discompose me.1

Now this, my dear Mother, is the worst and the very worst; and so having told it you, my conscience is at rest, and I beg very earnestly that your imagination would be kind enough to exaggerate no whit of it, for in very truth if you saw me you would think far less evil of me than this letter will give rise to. Fear nothing, my dear Mother! We are all living and life-like, and honest and true, having injured no man, fearing or hating no man, and owing no man anything but love. By and by it will all be right and well, one way or other; for I feel within me strength to regulate a destiny twenty times as complex and perverse, when once I have seen clearly what it is.

Of my employments I can tell you little: sometimes I read, sometimes I write a little (generally burning it in disgust soon after), often I walk; for they are on the starving system with me, and in truth I find it better than any other. We were sadly at a loss for eggs here, and I tried to give them up; but Jane went out into the country, and found a supply of the newest; and I eat one (at the easy charge of 1½d) every morning. We have also sour milk and sweet to our porridge, as of old. The cheese and the butter came on Monday; the butter, except the top-spale [top of the box], is as good as any in Britain; and for the cheese by the votes of all eaters, no better was ever made in Dunlop itself. I for my share think it very considerably the best I ever tasted of Dumfriesshire manufacture. They have also sent us a good pot of Butter yesterday from Templand; so that we are now well supplied.

The Book is not yet published, tho' I have nothing more to do with it. Tait does not seem to have made up his mind completely as to the time, tho' I suppose it will be shortly. You shall have a copy by the earliest conveyance. When it is published I purpose sending copies of it to some of the literati here, and perhaps procuring their acquaintance. I have more than one scheme [of] employment; but I suppose none can take effect till after the “German [Ro]mance” is out. Tait is very fond of a Literary Newspaper but I have given him small encouragement. Brewster is not yet come to Town. Of other visitors we have not wanted plenty; but except news from James Johnston (who seems to be doing very well), they have told us nothing of any moment.

I despair of getting from my Mother any as satisfactory account of her affairs, as this I have now sent of mine. Will you make Alick write, and tell me all that can be told in a letter? How do you manage? Does Mary make you a cup of good tea every morning? Tell her I will never forgive her, if I learn on coming down that she has neglected it. For coming down we certainly are, early in summer to make a long visit, perhaps far longer than you are expecting. Unless we can get you rolled up hither this winter (which I do not altogether despair of), we shall get no full and satisfactory news of each other till then. But then, indeed, there will be a talking and a telling!— Jack came some day last week; tired and half-sleeping, but otherwise quite well. He strolls about reading and rambling; sometimes giving me counsel, sometimes mixing me up bitters. He is a favourite with Jane, and I think makes us happier here. He purposed taking share of this sheet to write to you: but he is gone out, and at any rate I have no room.— Alick will write the first hour he can spare, and give us news of all and [sun]dry. My trusty Alick! tell him we are not parted yet, nor ever shall be. Is Father still with you busied with the millshed? Present my kindest love to him; and to all the rest from Jenny upwards. Why should I name them, their figures, their kind faces and kind hearts are all present to me; may every blessing be with them here and hereafter!— But I must end: I promised Jane a postscript, and you see how little room is left. Good b'ye, then, my Dear Mother; consider this as a bilious letter, and you will find the purport of it not black but whitish. I am forever—

Your affecte son—

T. Carlyle

(We go to Church, and read a sermon to the household every sabbath)

My dear new Mother

Every day since we came here I have purposed writing to you, and every day have put off till a better morrow. I wished to send you glad tidings of great joy;2 that your son was well and happy beside me, and that we had got all the burble of this life unravelled and adjusted. But alas! Man proposeth, God disposeth;3 and we are still, some of us in the slough of Despond4— Nevertheless you must not let your kind heart be troubled,5 for with all its drawbacks our lot is far from unhappy. We love each other; have done ill to no one; and one of us at least is full of hope— How few in this vale of tears have it in their power to say as much— After all then there is really nothing to complain of; and it is not impossible, nay highly probable that we shall yet have great cause to rejoice. Hope with me then that all will ul[ti]mately be well— And l[ove] me as your own Daughter which I n[ow] [a]m.

Jane Carlyle—