January 1829-September 1831

The Collected Letters, Volume 5


TC TO JANE WELSH CARLYLE; 8 September 1831; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18310908-TC-JWC-01; CL 5:404-409.


London, September 8th, 1831.

My Dearest,

There is no frank to be had today, tho' I tried for one: King William, poor fellow, is getting crowned, and the Duke is “in the Abbey”—happily of Westminster.1 So thou must just pay for it; seeing I will not disappoint thee. Farther I must study to be more concise than usual, and restrict myself to the needful. A half sheet, written last night on the usual principle, must go to waste, or lie waiting for a gratis conveyance.

The history of Dreck still sticks simply where it was. The Colburns, on Monday night, as I predicted, will not act; which I am rather glad of, seeing they are sheer villains: next morning I went over to Murray; as usual, could not see him; left a Letter saying that I was ready for such an engagement, and eager that it should be soon; and there the matter still lies. Tomorrow I will make another attempt for an interview; and on the whole press the matter forward with an incessant shouldering, till I see it thro'. That the poor Book is worth something I feel more and more convinced; that it will ever bring us any money seems less and less likely: thank God that we have been able to write it, and to write it gratis! For the rest, the hurry with the publishing of it need not now be so furious, when we have to wait on other grounds here.

On the whole, that Tuesday was but a black day for me. True, in the morning I had some good friendly conversation with Empson and Mill at breakfast, of whom some good will come for us, I think: but after quitting E's chambers all went wrong with me. Murray first to be walked to thro' miles of rain and mud, then to be waited for, then finally not in: afterwards news for me at the Duke's that two Letters had been there for me, and were there no longer. Unlucky enough! yet I strove to wait for the “Twopenny” with as much patience as I could; and bolted from my chair, at his well known knock, thinking it was all right: alas, he handed me in one letter, and that from Goethe! Where was Goody's? Patience! I said, it will be here by the last delivery sometime between this and ten at night. Thou knowest what it is to wait: and alas it was waiting in vain; I turned bedwards heavy of heart and quite feverish: blaming the poor Duke (unjustly, considering all his hurries) for not putting both the Letters under one cover. But neither yet were my misfortunes done. Winding up my Watch, as gently as usual, something in it gave way; it was evidently broken! Alas, alas! and so I went to bed, and for noises and inward agitations, and (gracious Heaven!) for bugs (I need not now conceal it longer) no sleep was to be had till two or three in the morning. It was my miserablest day since I left thee. However, I came to resolutions, and endeavoured to trample it all underfoot, and stand above it.

Happily Wednesday morning of itself brought deliverance. My first visit was from the Twopenny of the prior evening, with apologies for last night[']s mistake, and, infinitely better, with Goody's Epistle! All was forgotten when I saw it: almost did I throw down my rasor, or cut my chin, so eager was I to have done with shaving; or to do two impossible simultanieties, to read and shave. Delightful, spirit-like, kind Screamikin! And yet it was painful to me to take such pleasure; for I saw in it all the inevitable materials of a most wretched headache for the poor one herself. Festina lente [make haste slowly], my Dearest; there is time enough to see London, and what good and evil there lies in it for us: do not shatter thy poor nerves in pieces, for thou hast much to go thro', and wilt need all thy strength.— I ferretted out Stoddart the maker of the Watch, who found the chain broken (probably the spring not, but he could not look without deliberation); a new chain would be needed, for it was all quite near being rotten with rust: he could not have it ready in less than two weeks (for certain). He recognised the watch. I took a miserable pinchbeck article to wear in the interim, and left the other with strictest charges to be everyway kind to it. By the bye, bring up the silver one; for I think we must lend it to Doil, were it only to still his croaking: I partly said that I would ask this loan of it.— Besides talking immensely with Irving, and with various Insignificants about him and here; copying Goethe's Letter2 for Goody, who cannot now see it; writing part of another Letter which also she cannot see; and buying myself a flannel shirt or rather Lamb's wool Stocking shirt,—I accomplished nothing more on Wednesday. The Stocking shirt was needful, because having but two, as the Washerwoman comes only weekly, I was incessantly thrown out of a right change. I have some thoughts of treating you to one of the same: only it will be very bad for myself, nothing less than a new constellation, and a very sinister one, you wretch! As to Goethe's Letter, it contains merely a copy of the two stanzas he sent to Fraser, on the one leaf; and then, on the third page, an announcement that the Parcel came all safe, and he had begun to read in it (erfreulich [with gratification]); farther that the Seal was evidently very gratifying; also that he had gone into ‘a Consideration of the Shades (Schattenrisse [silhouettes]) and thereby an incredible Approximation of the Absent. Good old man! But I will now keep the Letter here, till I can get kisses for reading it!— This morning I went for a frank, and half incidentally saw the Coronation procession, which 70 or 80 thousand woodenheads besides were looking at. It only detained me some five or ten minutes. Mourn not Goody that thou wert absent: it was not worth a walk to Stumpy3 (even without the Gate which I hope is broken) on a dry day. Quantities of Caps and feathers, and then at last the royal carriage all made of glass and gilding, more like a huge glass Lantern than anything I ever saw; and then the poor old King and poor ugly Queen, dimly seen sitting like two foolish wax dolls (which they were) letting themselves be trailed, in their lantern go-cart. What took me I know not: but I burst into the heartiest fit of laughter I have had for some time: and perhaps one ought rather to have cried; for it was the ghost of the Past perhaps taking final leave of a world, where as body or as ghost it has now walked for some three thousand years! Poor King! They will be consecrating him and clothing him even now in that old Abbey; and what avails it to him or to me or to any man or woman! Ex nihilo nihil fit [Nothing comes of nothing].4 And so here I end my History.

The grand question now is: When and How will Goody come? One thing becomes apparent to me, that without fretting herself into a fever, she should lose no time. After the Bug-discovery which took place exactly the day I wrote last (tho' they had kept my neck all red ever since I arrived) there seems great probability that this will not be a suitable lodging for Goody. Poor George has already got a Bug-destroyer (a very curious old Celt) who is earthquaking over the whole house at this hour: but what can he do? Palliate the evil for a little; scarcely by possibility eradicate it. I have fled into another bed, a thing little bigger or better than a stable-manger, where again I become acquainted with innumerable fleas,—and kill a few. The place, I fear in short, will not do. However I have resolved to pig on, for here in these circumstances it can be but pigging, till thou come; looking out for new lodgings, a little as I can: then will we choose one both together. Till then there can be no settlement to anything decided: hence the utility, rather greater than was apparent before, of speed. As to the arrangements about home, doubtless Goody will settle them all far better herself than I can advise. I think with you the cheapest and therefore the best way of settling with Betty will be to leave her there till Martinmas. Send Harry to Templand, as you propose; by no means sell him. Good also is your plan of an inventory: on the whole our rule is, endeavour to keep the poor whinstone house as nearly rehabitable at Spring as possible; in all human probability we shall both be glad to revisit it then, at all events for the warm season; with perhaps the prospect of another winter's emigration. Here, as I doubt, there is no tolerable living (for a permanency) without a house of your own: and of that, no rational hope offers itself at this juncture (eight months' hardest toil, you see, will hardly be accepted “without fee or reward”)—nay the utmost that even Irving prophecies is that “in a year or two” I might fall into something. We will hope nothing, and fear nothing. For the present season we are passably secure; and shall accomplish somewhat by living here: neither after that will our united head and heart, by God's blessing, fail to help us forward in the way wherein we should go. Come then Dearest to my arms; and I will guard thee from all evil, and thou me; from the only real evil, that of losing our inward light. The outward is but a Golgotha at best, which that other has to make alive; let us feel ourselves above it, and bid it do its worst.

Now as to the things fit for being brought hither, it is pity that I have obtained no better knowledge about the expence of carriage, and I see now that corresponding either with Liverpool or Edinr will needlessly protract matters. Perhaps (if you have not actually written) the best thing will be to make up your Barrel, and bring it to Liverpool, coute qui coute [whatever the cost], with such light as we have: your Uncle will get it forwarded by the cheapest, which must be far cheaper than 2d a lb. Doubtless certainty were better, could it be had, but if it cannot? Besides meal, and a ham, and butter, think generally that whatever is scarce in any town is far scarcer here: also consider the nature of a Lodging house; where many little things (jelly-glasses, butter-knife, for example) are not come-at-able, and yet were good to have. Dear Goody I will leave it all to thy own prophetic judgement; for truly I have now lost all talent for housekeeping, and depend wholly on thee. Warm clothes in abundance bring for thyself and me (the old frock will perhaps be my best dressing-gown, but do thou judge); stockings, the black trowsers; I think I have shirts enough; another nightshirt will be good. Nothing of that sort can be had so easily here. With Books I think at this moment I will not trouble thee. Bring me the Blads (blotting-paper Boards); thy Desk (wilt thou lend it me sometimes?): unhappily my dear old Table cannot be brought. By thy own “talent for silence,” I think we shall sit here on separate sides of the fire, all forenoon, and I will write, and thou call to see it, as of old.— This is all very dim, dear Wifekin, but I have it no clearer as yet. Do thy best, and I will praise thee for it. What wouldst thou have more? Prophecy too when I am to look for thee? Which of these Letters will be the last! O my Darling thou art half of me; and I am a poor half without thee.— Say when Alick is to come up. Of the Bullers I hear nothing; of the Austin nor the noble Lady. To Enfield I think we shall certainly go; Badams called today, is growing better.— And now “must I go?” God ever bless thee Dearest Wife!

Thy own


Write a little Line to my Mother, to say that she is to see us again in Spring; that in the meanwhile all goes tolerably on; that I will write soon, at great length, when I get time and a frank. Do this, Darling, as if I were doing it. And now again, Dearest, I must kiss thee, and go. Get some sleep, for Heaven's sake do, and dream of—

The Examiner Editor5 sends me a kind message thro' Mill; and will see me so soon as he is visible.