January 1829-September 1831

The Collected Letters, Volume 5


TC TO JANE WELSH CARLYLE; 15 August 1831; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18310815-TC-JWC-01; CL 5:327-333.


6. Woburn Buildings, Tavistock Square / 15th August 1831—

My own Dearest,

Your kind precious Letter came to me on Friday, like a cup of water in the hot desart. It is all like yourself: so clear, precise loving, and true to the death. I see poor Craigenputtoch thro' it, and the best little Goodykin sitting there, hourly meditating on me, and watching my return. Oh I am very rich, were I without a penny in the world!— But the Herzens-Goody must not fret herself, and torment her poor sick head: I will be back to her, not an hour will I lose: Heaven knows the sun shines not on the spot that could be pleasant to me where she were not. So be of comfort, my Jeannie; and with thy own sweet orderly spirit make calmness out of confusion, and the dawn (as it does in summer climates) to shine thro' the whole Night, till it be morning, and the ‘Sun’ once more embrace his fair kind Earth.— For the rest thou canst not be too ‘Theresa-like’:1 it is this very fidelity to practical Nature that makes the charm of the picture; write every thing (every Tuesday and Saturday), and I will answer in kind. Be loving to the red-nightcap, till the head come back to fill it, and lie again on the bosom where is its home. Oh it seems as if a thousand kisses were too few for the moment when I see my own again. Patience! Patience! Die Zeit bringt Rosen [Time brings roses].

I am getting a little more composed in this whirlpool, and can tell you better how it whirls. I bring up my narrative or rather No-narrative (for nothing has transpired) with all minuteness to this date. Is not my gossip better to her than all other men's eloquence? The Duke's franks too cheat the Post-office; and I have shut myself up for leisure (it is yet but half past 2): allons donc [let's go then]!

On Friday morning the day after I wrote, Jack walked down with me to Longman's and I delivered Napier's note to a staid cautious business-like man, who read it with an approving smile; listened to my description of the German Literary History with the same smile in a fixed state; and then (like a barbarian as he was)—‘declined the article.’2 He was polite as possible, but seemed determined on risking nothing. If Murray fail me (as Wednesday will probably show) I have calculated that it will hardly be worth while to take up time with offering these people Dreck; but that I must try some other course with him. I hope not at all; therefore hardly think that Murray will accept (so lucky were it); and am already looking out what I can for other resources in the worst issue. Dreck shall be printed if a man in London will do it: if not with, then without ‘fee or reward.’ I even conjecture still that this is the time for him: everybody I see participates in the feeling that Society is nigh done; that she is a Phoenix perhaps not so many conjecture. I agree with my Prophetess3 in thinking that some young adventurous Bookseller were the hopefullest. We shall see soon.

As Paternoster Row lies in the neighbourhood of the India House, we went thither, and found Strachey,4 very glad to see me; full of Radical Reform and so forth; by whom we were invited to come and see Shooter's Hill, on Saturday and Sunday, his wife being at home &c &c, which we agreed to do. Returning I searched out Bowring;5 found that his family were in the country, and he coming and going: I left my card, and have since had a Note inviting me to breakfast on Tuesday (tomorrow) morning. The Bullers are all at Looe;6 Mrs B. dying of terror for the cholera; sick of Germany, sick of the world in general did not Hope continue to flatter her with the foolishest lies. There had been no quarrel with the Cornwall Uncle: it was the Looe Burghers themselves that would not ‘act’:7 for the rest, Strachey described Charles as still an idle fellow that would not stand tightly to his task, and so would accomplish little.— In the evening we steered off to Allan Cunningham's, and were welcomed with vociferous joy: the first question, as it always is, ‘Where is your Wife?’ (Alas! There is no Wife here.) The finale was that Allan squeezed my hand in both of his, and took my promise of dining with them ‘next week’;—where I suppose I shall meet certain of the craft. I forgot about Rennie;8 but shall try to remember next time.— I may mention here that William Fraser has married a Widow, with ‘some fortune’ (perhaps unfortunate here as in all things); and taken him a house in the country for a year; after which he talks of beginning or resuming the study of Law. I want him here, partly as a kind of Cicerone.

Saturday morning I wrote to Goethe (with kindest love from you too); also to Charles Buller, and W. Fraser (notifying my presence): then off for Shooter's Hill, some ten miles away; where without other adventures than those of every swimmer in this vortex of men and coaches we arrived in time for dinner. Strachey is as alert as ever: in his poor Lady I had room to mark the doings of Time; she wore a sad, secluded look; I learned she had for three years been violently dyspeptical. Our recognition was franker on my part than on hers; only her eyes spoke of gladness; nay she seemed to have a kind of fear of me, and in our little special conversation, I had it all to myself. She inquired kindly for you, whom I described as one that she would like: a hater of Lies to begin with. Poor Julia Strachey: she is like a flower frozen among ice; and now contented with such soil: a hitherto unnoticed girl (her daughter)9 had rushed up to be a woman; and in the long black locks I noticed a streak of grey! Fleeting Time! Here too might I partly discern that my place was changed, tho' still empty. A ‘female Friend’ skilled, it is said, in the Greek Tragedians (credat Apella)10 was there: brimfull of intolerant Church-of-Englandism; a little grey-eyed ill-bred fat button of a creature (very like a certain white-semstress in Ecclefechan): with her in the course of the evening I was provoked for one moment, so pert was she, to run tilt, and I fear transfix her. Strachey was beginning a horselaugh, but suddenly checked himself as a Landlord should; the little Button went off to bed without goodnight, but was blithe again next morning.11 That such should be the only ‘Friend’ of such! Let not us, dear Jeannie, complain of solitude: I have still you with really a priceless talent for silence (as Mrs S. too has): I say, priceless; for this Button wants it wholly, and thereby I felt would have driven me in three days to blank despair.— We set off at mid afternoon; rowed up the River12 (the cheapest way as well as finest in such weather), and got here to tea; where I did nothing afterwards but rest and scribble some lines in my commonplace book.

But where is the orator13 all this while? you ask. He was at Leamington Spa (in Warwickshire) when I arrived; he only returned on Saturday night: has already been up here to see me, and left a message that he would be at home all day. I am to go over for a while were this Letter finished—if any time remain. From all I can yet see Irving seems to have taken his part: is forgotten by the intellectual classes; but still flourishes as a green bay tree (or rather green cabbage tree) among the fanatical classes, whose ornament and beacon he is. Strangely enough is it all fashioned among these people: a certain everlasting Truth, even new Truth, reveals itself in them, but with a Body of mere froth, and soap-suds and other the like ephemeral impurities. Yet I love the man, and can trustfully take counsel of him. His wife I saw some nights ago: leaner, clearer-complexioned, I should say clearer-hearted also, and clearer-headed; but alas very strait-laced, and living in the Suds-element as her native one. Mrs Hamilton14 I believe has taken nerves: she has no children, wishes (as John ‘really believes’) ‘principally to have a gig’: and so, I doubt, leads her poor man not the best of lives: it was she that had taken the party to Leamington; I care not tho' I miss seeing her.

To continue my narrative, I forced myself out this morning (by way of an act of principle) to go and breakfast with the Advocate:15 piloted my way thro' unknown streets, and was there before any one was up. Charlotte the younger and the elder received me in succession in their choicest mood. Presently appeared a—Miss Hunter, and directly thereafter Mr John Jeffrey!16 They came the other day to taste life's glad moments, in a sight of London: John is as ever; ‘enjoying his beef-steak with the sayme relish’; terrified about cholera, and almost openly and with the best humour despised by Mrs. J. In the middle of the breakfast, a side door opened; and the poor Duke looked in in his Nightgown (for they have made the back drawing room into a bedroom) to ask for me; and with the old quizzicality in his little face declared ‘why Charly I've got the cholera I believe’:17 he called me afterwards into his bedroom, to ask how I was progressing; thought it likely ‘Murray would publish on some terms or other’; spoke of John, asked for your health, and ‘what I had prescribed for you.’ Letters arriving, and his blear-eyed Scotch Clerk, I got your frank and withdrew; straitly charged to return.— I had an enormous walk home: for I took Empsom's18 Lodgings in; but found him gone, and could only pop in my card thro' a slit in the door: he is always out of town from Tuesday to Friday, so I shall not hear of him till the end of the week. (About the other political characters I have made no inquiry.) Next I took in another long circuit to find a certain Seal-cutter, recommended by Allan Cunningham to cut your Seal: alas! there was no such man in that quarter. You would smile if you knew what trotting I have had to seek for the best in this matter, and perhaps one is just as good as another. Before this time tomorrow, it shall be in the hands of some one or other, should I walk into a shop by chance. The cost I have already learned will be some 15/. The impression (of which I carry the specimen) seems to be generally approved of: the Seal, warmly abused by Mrs Montague, is well spoken of by the most; the Duke, who had seen it, among the number. I must mention too that there appeared a (puff) notice of it in the Athenaeum:19 ‘quite a gem’, sent to so and so, by so and so (among which latter, Wordsworth, Scott, Rogers and your unfortunate Husband). Procter conjectured that the Seal-maker himself had procured it to be inserted; for it was expressly prohibited by the parties interested.— Let me add only that I am to take tea this evening at Badams's, where Godwin20 is promised; and therewith conclude my flood of talkee-talkee.

—Dinner summoned me at that point, and I must here bring my tedious tale (to Janekin not tedious) to an end. I had some ‘general reflexions’ to make, for to you I literally think aloud: but shall forbear them today. Mrs Montague whom I have not seen since last Letter has given me some pain: I grieved to see herself so lonely-looking, so unhappy; still more to see her conduct herself in so very commonplace a style. Her violent vindictive vituperation of Badams was no better than the bitterness of vulgar Love of Money: I wished much to avoid the subject altogether, as she should have wished. She seems to have positively quarrelled with John, because he could not enter into her feelings. It is really quite pitiable and pitiful: neither wilt thou, my dear Truth, ever find in this ‘noble’ but factitious ‘Lady’ the heart that will respond to thee. I believe in truth that now when she finds us well, she cares not two straws for us: farther on the whole that the Montagues are—‘a mixture of good and evil, mother’;21 the latter in pretty large proportion. Not one old friend I used to see there now makes his appearance: the poor Lady herself looks proud, sullen, unhappy. God help them and us!— I will ‘take up with no other women’; for I believe in my heart I have the best woman of them all to myself— That is, if she were a mystic, as she will one day be: nay already is.— And so here good night my own Jane and Wife! May all good Spirits watch round thee my Darling, and keep thee till I come again! Does she think of me? Yes, always.

I should say here whether I would write for Saturday. Consider that I will try it, if I can get a frank, I will: but the no-news are hardly worth a shilling. Do thou write by every post. Why not write every day, and send them all.— Is Mrs Richardson coming up? Tell her I put all her Letters into the Post Office; the huge Goldie22 I got franked: the introductions I still purpose to deliver; but fancy the people will be gone.

What of Alick? Is he to Scotsbrig? If not you can read to him, and relate to him as usual. He feels as true an interest in the matter as man can do. I charged him to ‘be good to you’ when I was away: does he do what little lies in his power? If not, still forgive; for the longer I live, the more I see that the Devil is busy.— Poor Badams, for example— But we will not speak of him at present.— I expect your Letter then on Thursday (the Duke is quite willing to frank): till then, there is nothing for me. A thousand times I kiss thee, and bless thee, my own Wife; and am as ever, thy affectionate,

T. Carlyle—

No Examiner was got on Sunday (Jack has been in the habit of purchasing it on the street): so I got the Scotsman at Jeffrey's and send it.—

Jack returned me 20 of the Pounds; I had spent some four: but here they go (I fear). I have yet got no new duck-trowsers [sic], but must: they are a very great blessing: walking abroad in one's nightshirt were a still greater.— Farewell, dear Jeannie, dearest of all Jeannies! May God keep thee always!—— Did you write to Scotsbrig?

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