The Collected Letters, Volume 4


TC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE; 9 December 1826; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18261209-TC-MAC-01; CL 4:164-169.


Comley Bank, 9th December 1826—

My Dear Mother,

Tho' I have not had the smallest particle of intelligence from Scotsbrig since I wrote to you, and long before, yet I know well it is not your blame; but that you are day after day insisting upon Alick to inquire after me, and day after day sending many an anxious wish after me. What ails the recreant that he will not write? Is his time so filled that he cannot spare me an hour? By and by I shall begin to get positively uneasy; half angry at his dilatoriness, and half anxious about your welfare. Meanwhile, I give place to no such thought; but continue to persuade myself that nothing has changed for the worse since I heard; and study to do what little I can for making things better with you, that is to say removing some part of the cares which too much occupy you about myself. I write as usual, the truth and the whole truth.

In fact, my dear Mother, since last letter, I reckon myself to be considerably improved. I am getting more and more habituated to my new condition of life, and discovering more and more how much reason I have to be thankful that my lines have fallen to me in such happy places. My health, which for the first few weeks had suffered considerably by the agitations and disquietudes of such a change, seems now to be restored to something like its former state; at least to a state quite as good, for certainly a considerable alteration has taken place in my digestive habitudes, yet such as I do not by any means reckon for the worse; on the contrary I often feel as if I were much better, nay as if in process of time I should grow quite well. I have learned to sleep as perfectly as ever; I have nearly discontinued the use of drugs again, and really estimating by the scale which I have long been used to, on this point I have no reason to complain. Doubt not, my dear Mother that all will yet be for the best, and that the good purposes of Providence shall not fail to be fulfilled in me. I feel as if I had much to do in this world; not in the vain pursuit of wealth and worldly honours, which are fleeting as the breath that can bestow them; but in the search and declaration of Truth, in such measure as the All-wise shall see meet to impart it to me, and give me means of showing it to others. With such views of my vocation, I have good reason to rejoice in it, and often instead of envying the blind slothful comfort of the men of the world I bless Heaven that I have had strength to see and make choice of the better part. Why should we be troubled about many things, when there is but one thing needful? This one thing you and I call by different names perhaps; but the meaning of both, I have always asserted, is the same.

Jane continues generally well, and we live in peace and unity, so that it were a pleasure for you to behold us. She is the most compliant and best-hearted of wives; and even in the matter of housekeeping she is gathering science and perfection far faster than any one could have anticipated. Nay already I see not that she is much behind the most expert of those that have all along made those matters their chief study. We are not wealthy, far from it; but then you know as King David sings: “the little that a just man hath”1 &c. We go to church pretty regularly, tho' we failed in getting a seat of our own; and every Sabbath-night (last night, for example) we fail not to read some sermon or other piece of that kind to the assembled household. These are little matters, but to you they will not be indifferent. “By the bye,” have you got any religious Magazine yet? I have some notion that I could get you a Christian Instructor on moderate terms: but indeed I do not think it would interest you very much; for it is nearly quite full of what Andrew Thomson calls the “Apocrypha Controversy”; a controversy in which the Reverend Doctor,2 bullying scolding and treading under foot the members of the London Bible Society, shews talents and a spirit much more suitable for a cocker or a horse-couper than a minister of the Gospel. Tell me if there is aught I can do in regard to getting you a Book of this or any other sort.

We have had immense quantities of visitors here, all calling down upon us with one accord the most unexampled blessings of Heaven: some of them are agreeable persons, and with these we purpose keeping up some little quiet intercourse; the rest are of the butterfly tribe, and these we dismiss with fair speeches to flutter forth into some more genial climate. Dr Brewster I have seen more than once; he and his wife were even civil enough to call for us here. The Doctor is in the blackest humour about the “badness of the times”; as in truth he has some reason to be, being involved in lawsuits with his booksellers, perplexed with delays in his Encyclopedia, and finding publishers so shy of embarking in any of his schemes. These things do not distress me very much: when I hear people mourning over the gloom and misery of the times, I think: Poor fellows, there is a far more pitiable stock of material within ourselves than in the times; of which so long as we get food and raiment, we have no right to complain. Is there not “aye life for a living body”?

In fact however I am rather ill off for something to do at present, and I feel convinced clearly enough that this is the great evil I have at present to complain of. I read and study, and keep myself from being idle; but this is not the kind of thing I want; and to do what I want, or even to commence it, I find to be no easy enterprise. Tait3 also encumbers me a little: the body lingers and hangs off in publishing this Book, which is now quite ready, and waiting only for those everlasting “better times”; and till it come out there are several of my projected enterprises that cannot take effect. However I suppose he must move in a little while; and then I shall move too. Perhaps it is better as it is: for if I could heartily commence some book of my own, of the sort I wished, it would do far more for me than any mere publishing or editorial engagement, how promising soever. Brewster still talks of his Literary Newspaper; but I somehow feel as if it would never take effect. I have two or three other things in my eye: of these you may hear more as they assume a clearer shape to myself.

But I have told you enough about Edinburgh: I surely deserve to hear something about you and Scotsbrig. I would ask if you are well, tho' I can scarcely hope to hear any better tidings than that you are still in the old state, which I too clearly know is far from well. God grant it be no worse! Does Mary still tend you carefully, and mind the tea night and morning? Tell her I will never forgive her if she neglect. Tell her this, and she will observe it. How are the rest? What has my Father done with His Honour's moderate demand of £100 for damages at Mainhill? What is Alick doing? About to “change his state,” or to continue as he is? Who stays at Mainhill: Jenny and Mag? There is a purse for Jamie here, if we had any conveyance for it. To Jane I know not what to say: we are still bent on having her here: but my unsettled habits and our whole precarious condition here seem to require our waiting a little till the hurlyburly have completely subsided. Jane, I believe, will write to her when the Book comes down. Can Jenny work muffatees?4 I wear Jean's every frosty day.— I hope you get the newspaper on Saturday: henceforth it will come regularly on Monday morning; it is to go round by Templand, and they will send it over to you; it will still be better than none; and my ganz wohl [all's well] (if it please Providence) shall not be wanting. Jack is gone out; but I suppose will add a line or two before the sheet departs. Again and again I desire a letter. May blessings be with you all! I am ever

Your affectionate son—

T. Carlyle

[John Carlyle's postscript:] My dear Mother, This small scrap of the sheet is left me to assure you of my continued welfare. I have not done much since I came hither and am still uncertain about my future employments but I live in some degree of contentment with the hope of better times. You must not be anxious about us[.] Tom is much better in every respect since last letter was written and nothing but some suitable employment is wanting to make him quite well. Tell Alick to write immediately and tell us all about your concerns. he has already delayed too long. You must tell me about your own health and whether you need any more medicines[.] I think I shall remain in Edinr till after New-Year's day at any rate. Make my best love to all and tell them to write when you send the meal by the Carrier (the last supply is done) [.] I have no room to say any thing more but that I am your affectionate son

J A Carlyle

[Jane Welsh Carlyle's postscript:] My dear Mother

I must not let this letter go without adding my “be of good cheer.” You would rejoice to see how much better my Husband is, than when we came hither. And we are really very happy; when he falls upon some work we shall be still happier.5 Indeed I should be very stupid or very thankless, if I did not congratulate myself every hour of the day on the lot which it has pleased Providence to assign me: my husband is so kind! so, in all respects, after my own heart! I was sick one day, and he nursed me as well as my own Mother could have done, and he never says a hard word to me—unless I richly deserve it. We see great numbers of people here, but are always most content alone: My Husband reads then, and I read or work, or just sit and look at him, which I really find as profitable an employment as any other. God ble[ss you], and my little Jane whom I hope to see at [no] very distant date—

Ever affection[ately]

yours Jane B Welsh