January 1829-September 1831

The Collected Letters, Volume 5


TC TO JANE WELSH CARLYLE; 29 August 1831; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18310829-TC-JWC-01; CL 5:372-381.


London, 29th August 1831—

Dearest Wife,

This is Monday; and I have already, taking no counsel with flesh and blood, discharged two little Duties: first, gone and seen Empson (whom I had heretofore missed) before breakfast; second, arranged my washerwoman's goods, and made an invoice thereof that she may call for them; which Duty it were my dear Goody's part to do, were I not for a time goodyless:—so that now, at noontide, I can sit down with a clear conscience, and talk heartily and heartsomely with my own Child about all things and about nothing, as is my wont and my delight. Thus in this spectre-crowded Desart, I have a living Person, whose heart I can clasp to mine, and so feel that I too am alive. Do you not love me better than ever, now? I feel in my own soul that thou dost and must: therefore let us never mourn over this little separation, which is but to make the reunion more blessed and entire.1 I tell thee, my Dearest, thou art my own Wife, and I love thee more than all the world, and will forever love thee, and wear thee in my heart of hearts.— Is this like taking up with other women? “OTHER” Women! Ach Gott [Oh, Lord]!

Your two Letters are here in due season: like Angels (Angel means heavenly messenger) from a far country. The first, as I prophecied, lay waiting for me at my return: the second I found lying on the Duke's table on saturday [sic], and snatched it up from the claws of the “Twopennies,” and read it in the hubbub of Piccadilly, so soon as I could tear myself out into the solitude of crowds. Bless thee, my Darling! I could almost wish thee the pain of a ride to Dumfries weekly for the sake of such a Letter. But had you actually to faint and retch all the way up? Heaven forbid! it were too bad. And the “disease” on that fair face, how is it? If no better, never mind; I swear that it shall and will get better; or if it do not, that I will love you more than ever while it lasts. Will that make amends? It is no vain parade of rhetoric; it is a serious fact: my love for you does not depend on looks; and defies old age and decay; and, I can prophecy will grow stronger the longer we live and toil lovingly together. Yes, Jeannie, tho' I have brought you into rough rugged conditions, I feel that I have saved you: as Gigmanness you could not have lived; as Woman and Wife you need but to see your duties in order to do them, and to say from the heart: It is good for me to be here. So keep thy arms round me, and be my own Prophetess and second Self, and fear nothing, let the Devil do his very worst.

Poor Elizabeth!2 I fear, as you fear, that it is not well with her: nevertheless, who knows the issues of Life and Death? Let us hope the best. Above all, do not you be a coward: I love you for your bravery, and because you have the heart of a valiant woman. O my Darling, is it conceivable that we should live divided in this unfriendly scene! Crown me with all laurels that ever decorated man's brow; were it other than the bitterest of bitter mockeries, if she who had struggled with me, were not there to share it? O merciful God!— But let us trust in His mercy, let us be united in submission, in reverence, to the Highest; and live here as in the Place of Hope! Are we not alive; has not God hitherto been good to us? Has He not given us one another?—

I grieve to figure you alone, this week, as I doubt you are: poor Miss Macturk was still something better than bare walls. Perverse enough is it too that Harry's sides are not roadworthy yet: I could then conceive you gallopping [sic] over to Templand when the solitude grew insupportable. However, after all, Patience is the best. Possess thy soul in patience. Time brings roses: brings us together again! Then O then—!

But I must check this lyrical tendency; so fast is my Paper waning. Of History indeed there is little to be told: slowly, slowly does the business of poor Dreck get along let me push it as I may. Heaven bless my own Prophetess, who has from the first prophecied only good of it. Yes, good will come of it, for it was honestly meant, and the best we could do. Meanwhile do but mark how sluggishly it loiters.

On Thursday, as indicated, we set off to Badams; and finding no Coach had to walk the whole distance, some twelve miles. Badams was considerably better, I had much talk with him, saw his house, taken but not entered upon; one of the nicest situations, and the cheapest I have met with in this neighbourhood: his large sufficient house with shrubberies, offices, garden &c will cost less than £20. Were there such another in Enfield, I should be tempted to lay hold of it for a year (had she once seen it and approved of it): but there is not such another, and this is a mere lucky chance, having stood unoccupied for four years, and the owner eager to let it. Badams seemed to me a man of whom was still great hope; neither can I reckon him worse than I anticipated but better: the Montagues, I cannot but think, are very savage to him; they alone, he says, of 150 persons concerned in these misfortunes have turned an evil eye on him. He resents it not, except by silence and forgivenness [sic]: I think you will like him, and he is prepared to like you. But, alas, a fearful possibility lies in the matter that his Bodily constitution may be altogether ruined, and his heart broken by these past torments. He, with his customary vehemence, had renounced brandy (which he took to relieve him first from a horrible tic do[u]loureux)3 totally and at once the day we arrived: on Sunday morning (yesterday) came two Expresses one galloping for Jack to hasten out directly “for God's sake”; Jack was off before I got out of bed, or of sleep; and I have heard no more of him since. Poor Badams! But my theory is that this may be a return of the tic; and that the perhaps excess of alarm may proceed from his Wife, who loves him tenderly, has little experience, immense vehemence; and herself labours (as he tells me) under a painful, irritating, incurable malady. Poor creatures! they are a care to me among so much other care.

They had provided beds for us (they live at present in lodgings) and would not hear of our going that night. I thought of Goody's Letter lying silent on the table: and resisted to the very verge of unfriendliness; but being deserted of Jack was forced to give in. We saw Charlie Lamb (Elia) at tea: a miserable, drink-besotted, spindle-shanked skeleton of a body; whose “humour,” as it is called, seemed to me neither more nor less than a fibre of genius shining thro' positive delirium and crackbrainedness (verrücktheit), and would be to me the most intolerable of all nuisances.4 Next noon we were at home, and found the dear Goody5 waiting for us. Fraser, who was to sound Colbourn [sic]6 about Dreck, had never called, and did not call: not till next day came a Letter (from the Country) stating that the Puff-Publishers were prepared to consider my Manuscript as soon as might be. I have not yet been near them; and, as you shall see, cannot well go.

Next morning after entertaining a certain Dr Füssli (nephew of Fuseli the late Artist)7 from Zürich, who at breakfast said innumerable things about “ta frend of Goethe”; about “my Lady,” and our “Landseat” &c, and was indeed a very warm-hearted looking fellow,—I wended on to Mrs Kater's;8 delivered Mrs Richardson's Letter with my card, learned that “the family was daily expected from the Continent”; and then after a four miles' voyage of discovery landed at the Dukes, forced my way up stairs, tho' none but “sayme relish”9 was there; and found my own Letter lying, the first thing I set eyes on. My errand had been twofold, to hear of Dreck, and get a frank for my Father: neither of which was now possible. On the morrow, however, (that is yesterday) I returned: found the family Coach at the door, and all in the act of drawing on gloves to go out, except the Duke; with whom after some gabblement with the others, I had the unwonted satisfaction of a private conversation—for ten minutes. The poor little dear is so hurried he cannot help it; besides he has little or nothing to say that were of moment.— Inquiring for Teufelk as I was privileged to do, the Critic professed that he had “honestly read” 28 pages of it (surprising feat!) that he objected to the dilatoriness of the introductory part (as we both did also), and very much admired the scene of the sleeping City: farther that he would write to Murray that very day (as I gather from Empson he has since done) to appoint a meeting with him, and if possible attain some finish with that individual at least.10 He (Jeffrey) would look thro' the Book farther in the interim &c &c. Alas! What could I do, but consent to let him have that “other week,” tho' nigh three are now gone, and next to no way made, beyond ascertaining that way is highly difficult to make. Patience! Patience! He shall have till Sunday: on Wednesday morning I will show myself (also for your frank,—and your Letter!) thereby to fillip him; and so at last we shall see what he makes of it. Hard times for literary men!— (Confound all these pens! saw you ever such? And to fail me even now, with my knife blunt!)— Hard times, I said, Dearest, for Literary men: nevertheless let us take them as they come. Nay, Allan Cunningham advises me that it were almost “madness” to press forward a literary work at this so inauspicious season, and not to wait for a while. Which nevertheless I cannot listen to. Why wait? Rusticus expectat [The countryman waits]:11 besides Dreck must be printed as the first condition; whether we get any money for him, or how much is a quite secondary question. I have nothing for it but to try, try to the uttermost; and in the villainous interval of expectation to explore this wild immeasurable chaos, and ascertain whether I can build aught in it. Such remains my outlook hitherto. Jeffrey and I also spoke about the “place under Government.” Davon wird Nichis [Nothing will come of it]. “All filled up”; “applicants”; “economical Ministry” &c &c: all which the Devil is welcome to, if he like. Aide-toi, le ciel t'aidera [Help yourself, heaven will help you]. I think of these things with considerable composure; at times with a certain silent ferocity. “That my Wife should walk on foot!” Yet is she not my Wife, and shall I not love her the more, that she shares evil with me as if it were good? Let us fear nothing, Lovekin: I have the strength of twenty thousand Cockneys; while thou art with me. Let hard come to hard, as it will; we will study to be ready for it.

Meanwhile hear what farther surveys I have made. On friday [sic] came a Note from the noble lady; inquiring after you (she had “written you a Letter calling for a speedy answer” and was anxious &c); also apologising to me for Montague's excessive occupancy, and finishing with a general invitation to breakfast. I called next day, in returning from the Duke's; mentioned the purport of her “anxious letter” to you with the indifference which so insignificant a proposal merited: withal assuring her that you would most probably be here, and were not in use to keep any secret for me, not even for the purpose of “surprises.” The rest of our conversation turned on the signs of the times, and was trivial enough. Poor noble Lady, so lonely in her old days, and nothing but a little edge-gilding of “Sentiment” to beautify her lot! I grieve for the disappointment that awaits you: except in the way of helping her, there can no relation spring up between you. Montague's is like a House of Atreus; a curse seems to rest on it; all things go round and round.12 His sons are all mad, or worse than in madhouses, namely devil-possessed villains. God pity them! My Goody is not for such a brotherhood. I learned however that Anne Procter will be home tomorrow: with her you can communicate; for like yourself (unlike in many other points) she will not lie.

On Sunday night I walked over to Allan Cunningham's; was warmly welcomed, with inquiries enough for the “Lady at the Hill top”; talked all and sundry for two hours, and then was led (not of the spirit, but of Allan) up to the renowned Dylk's (who had expressed a wish to meet me again); declined roast-veal and wine from his laughing pudding of a Wife; declined dining there on Tuesday night; agreed to drink tea then; and so Allan escorting me thro' the Park, returned home, to muse on human disappointments, and go sulkily to my solitary bed; no Goody to say Let me sleep in thy arms!— I may add that I found Mrs Gray13 at Allan's; a prodigiously fine Lady, speaking “Dock English,”14 and rather detested by Allan. Happily she soon went away. The young couple promise to return but are not believed. It seems to be calculated that the whole batch are journeying Devilward; under mutual vituperations and vexations. Gray does nothing; dangles on Newspaper Editings a mere onlooker; his Wife is a “girl.” Schade um ihn [Too bad about him]!

But of all the deplorables and despicables of this City and time the saddest are the “literary men.” Infandum! Infandum! [Unspeakable! Unspeakable!] It makes my heart sick and wae. Except the “drunken Henry Inglis” (Churchill)15 and perhaps chiefly because he liked me,—I have hardly found a man of common sense or common honesty! They are the Devil's own vermin, whom the Devil in his good time will snare and successively eat. The creature Heraud called again; the most insignificant haddock in nature; a dirty greasy Cockney-apprentice; altogether empty and non-extant except for one or two metaphysical quibbles (about “every Lawr of Nature being an idear of the mind &c”) and the completest outfit of innocent, bland self-conceit I ever in life chanced to witness. He is a blown bladder, wherein no substance is to be sought. And yet a curious figure: intrinsically small, small; yet with a touch of geniality, which far apart from Coleridge and Cockneyism might have made him a small reality. God be with him! He was almost as wearisome as “Chrayst”;16 and very much detached, as it struck me; knew nothing of men or things more than a sucking dove: at the same time, looked out with an occasional gleam of geniality in his eyes; seemed even to like me, tho' I had barbarously enough entreated him[.]

The more comfortable was it to meet Empson this morning; in whom I at least found sanity, and what I have all along had to dispense with, the bearing of at least a gentleman. I am glad I went to Empson. I thought this morning when I awoke about eight: now would not she advise thee to go out, and do this work, which seems to lie nearest? I went accordingly, thro' two miles of tumultuous streets; found Empson in the solitude of the Temple, reading a Newspaper in a flannel Nightgown (which reminded me of Goody's for it had a belt; only it was all twice as large); who welcomed me in his choicest mood. A tall broad thin man with wrinkled face, baldish head, and large mild melancholy dreamy blue-eyes under bushy brows: more like Johnstone of Grange (only much looser) than any man you know. He has a defect in his trachea (save the mark!) and can only mumble in speech, which he does with great copiousness, in a very kindly style, confused enough; at the same time listening with the profoundest attention and toleration in whatever you offer in reply. He is, as I thought, in the threshold of mysticism; but I think will go deeper. Probably enough one might grow to like such a man; at all events I will try: and so I think will you; with your Mother (were she more cultivated, or he more ignorant) he were the man according to God's heart. Of young Mill17 (the Spirit of the Age man) he speaks very highly, as of a converted Utilitarian, who is studying German: so we are all to meet, along with a certain Mrs Austen18 a young Germanist and mutual intercessor (between Mill and Empson), and breakfast some day in the Templar's lodgings. Quod faustum felixque sit [may it turn out favorably and happily]!19 It does my soul good to meet a true soul. Poor inexperienced Glen is the only phenomenon of that sort I have yet seen here: but I will “riddle creation” till I find more. Thus too before your arrival (if such be our decision) I may perhaps have a little pleasant circle to present you to: for of the old there is very little to be made; Irving alone stands true, and he (poor fellow!) is working miracles; while the Montagues, Stracheys &c have mostly (I fear) drifted quite to leeward.—

Calumny itself, dear Wifekin, cannot say that this is not a long letter; and yet, mournful enough, there is no conclusion come to on the thing most of all worth concluding about: your journey to London. I myself know not well what to say of it. The persuasion grows more and more upon me that we should spend the winter here; and you are of the same mind with me, I think we should look forward to it as a distinct probability, to become a certainty if no new light arise in the interim. Say, Goody, would it not be pleasant to thee? Tell me distinctly; and yet I already know it would; but that (as beseems a good Wife) you subordinate your wishes to the common good, and will not even speak of them. Well, but here in this Lodging, we live actually (Jack and I) for some two guineas a week: or suppose, in the winter season, and with many little gracefulnesses which Goody would superadd, it cost us two 3 guineas, what then? It is little more than we used to spend in Edinburgh, including rent: and we can thoroughly investigate London. I cannot promise you the comforts of our own poor Craig: yet it is a handsome Lodging, and with purely honest people. These foolish Criers also (of lettuces, milk, beer &c &c) who awake me too early almost every morning will not be out so soon in the short days. Besides, confess, thy sleep is always soundest beside me. Our drawing-room (for such it is) will be of the coldest I doubt: but coals are not so very dear, and the female mind can devise thicker clothes. How then? Shall it be decided on? We have to go somewhither; why not come hither, where my part of the going is already finished? Thyself shalt say it! Use thy prophetic gift: if it answer yes, then will I strive to obey it,—or “moderate” it. Dear Goody! she is so patient with me; goes whither I list and makes the best of every thing. Heaven will reward her; and I trust thro' me.

The worst of it is that I had not tarried where I was till the latter end of October. The Town is quite vacant for the next six weeks; everybody hastening to the Country, which indeed is far pleasanter. Now what is to be done with that? Suppose I hurry home again, after this villainous Book business were settled: why there is some £8 or £10 consumed; just about the sum that would keep me here. And yet the thought of wanting you till the end of October is insupportable nearly; altogether insupportable if I fancied you also pining in loneliness. Would I had known! Tell me, however, honestly tell me are you quite unhappy? Is such a thing frightful to you?— I sometimes think it were better, as I once said, to make some excursion from hence; as say, out to Enfield; perhaps to Cornwall (from which I yet hear nothing); or even to stay here tho' alone. Say thy word, my Darling: for I am sure it will be wise.

Here is the Post hour, and tho' I have written like fury, I am not ready. Next time I will be briefer; that is, compress my meaning more (if I can): but any way my meaning thou shalt have. It is the jewel of the whole week's history that I can write it all home. Depend, therefore, on the twice a week system. A Newspaper at least will come (by the by, there is none today, not by my blame, but partly by Jack's): and do thou, Dearest, continue to send the like. Also remember, if it be a convenience, that two or even three sheets will go by the Twopenny as well as one. Throw the poor Duke a word sometimes; for his franks are very precious.

A Letter arrives from Jack that Badams is growing better, and resolute on continuing his abstinence. Jack will return tonight. He is studying Italian &c to make ready for his journey.

I wrote to my Mother and Father yesterday. Poor Alick, I was very sorry but “how can we help it.” And Jenny—jealous! The Devil is busy.

Wardrop has invited me to dine this night at seven: so having breakfasted at twelve, I can stand him, and (after much reluctance of the flesh) will go. I am here to see men; and should look on them where they are to be seen—such as they are.

Alas! Five is striking: I shall hardly get this off by running out and paying a penny. There is the Postman's Bell. Adieu! Adieu! God ever bless thee Dearest! Thy own Husband,

T. Carlyle

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