January 1829-September 1831

The Collected Letters, Volume 5


TC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE; 19 September 1831; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18310919-TC-MAC-01; CL 5:435-439.


London, 19th September, 1831—

My Dear Mother,

Jane, who I hope and believe has been a diligent correspondent to you of late, told me in her last Letter not to write today, that she might not have the pain of expecting with the risk of expecting in vain. I had previously been of mind to have a Letter waiting for her at Ecclefechan; fancying, as I still partly do, that she must be at Scotsbrig when this arrives: however, I will now address the whole to you, so that if she be not there, we may still find ourselves in the right. The little Note, which I put in along with this for my good Wifie,1 is not of any special moment: if she have left you, it can lie safely till we come back to seek it,—which period, I trust, is not at any very great distance. Let us hope also that we shall come back with no evil tidings, and not to hear any!

These are strange wanderings and shiftings we have in this world; where indeed, as was long ago written, there is “no continuing City”2 to be looked for. At this very hour, as I calculate, my Jane and my “little Jane” will be journeying (I hope under some sort of escort) towards Scotsbrig, to be there against tea-time; Jack is down below making ready for a Journey to Italy (getting his Italian lesson even now); Alick is somewhere between Craigenputtoch and Scotsbrig, or at one or the other; the rest are perhaps thatching ricks, or perhaps there are several still to build, this fine day: and here am I, sitting towards the summit of this monstrous brick wilderness (for this is among the highest points of it) uttering a sort of “gathering cry” to remind us all of one another! Happily the great Father is near us all, unless we wilfully withdraw from him.

Jane will have told you how languidly everything proceeds here with me; how the “people are all out of town;” everything stagnating because of this Reform Bill; the book-trade in particular nearly altogether at a stand-still; and lastly how I, as the best thing I could do, have been obliged to give my poor Book away (that is the first Edition of it; whether there will ever be a second is to try for), and am even glad to see it printed on these terms. This is not very flattering news of the encouragement for men of my craft: nevertheless I study to say with as much cheerfulness as I can, Be it so! The Giver of all Good has enabled me to write the thing: and also to do without any pay for it: the pay would have wasted away, and “flitted out of the bit” [disappeared], as other pay does; but if there stand any Truth recorded there, it will not “flit” [go away]. Nay, if there be even no Truth (as where is the man that can say with confidence, The inspiration of the Almighty has given me understanding), yet it was the nearest approach to such that I could make, and so, in God's name, let it take its fortune in the world, and sink or swim, as the All-disposer orders. True remains forever the maxim: In all thy ways acknowledge Him.

I am earnestly expecting Jane; that some sort of establishment may be formed here, where we can spend the winter with more regularity and composure than I have hitherto enjoyed. This Lodging does not look to me as if it would do; but I form no positive scheme till she come and look at it. Some comfortable enough place can be had for about the same money: there we can look about us over this Whirlpool; superintend the printing of our “bit [small] Book”; and I, in the mean time, shall most probably write some considerable essay for the Edinburgh Review; that so, when we return, Mall may not be altogether out of shaft,3 but capable of being wedged in again, and lustily beaten with. Of any permanent appointment here I as yet see (with my own eyes) not the slightest outlook: neither indeed is my heart set on such; for I feel that the King's Palace with all it holds would in good truth do little for me; and the Prayer I ever endeavour to make is: Shew me my Duty, and enable me to do it. If my Duty be to endure a life of Poverty, and what “light afflictions” attend on it, this also will not terrify me. However I have some friends here, and reckon that there must be various capabilities in such a scene: all these I will endeavour to see better before I leave it.

Meanwhile I am not without my comforts: one of the greatest of which is to have found various well-disposed men, most of them young men, who even feel a sort of scholarship towards me. My poor performances in the writing way are better known here than I expected: clearly enough also there is want of instruction and light in this mirk midnight of human affairs, such want as probably for eighteen hundred years there has not been: if I have any light to give, then let me give it; if none then what is to be done but seek for it, and hold my peace till I find it?

For the rest be not afraid, Dear Mother, that I am not well “taken care of.” I have the inestimable possession (for inestimable it truly is) to have a Wife that faithfully loves me, and faithfully loves what is Right so far as she can see it: assure yourself she will take good care of me; such care as was never taken by any but you. She is also a gleg [sharp], little, managing, orderly creature, beyond almost any other: doubt not she will sweep and garnish our little cell, and we shall sit as warm there as any pair can expect or require. The great duty for you therefore is to forward her on her way: if she is with you when this comes, help her swiftly and smoothly forward by the first steamboat, and let her hasten to me with your blessing. Perhaps about this day week I shall have her here!

So soon as we get into lodgings and see ourselves in any measure settled I will write to you again; and regularly thro the winter; once in the month at seldomest, oftener if there be any occurrence of moment. What I want much to impress upon you, at the same time, is the great necessity of your also writing to me. I sent a little Note to Jane, stipulating that she was to fill me a sheet monthly, with such help as she could get, or with her own hand if she could get none: I beg of you to insist upon this, if it be practicable; however, my writing shall not depend on hers; for I know how she is situated, and how short the deed must fall of the will. Once a month nevertheless I think she may manage; and I know that if she undertake she will perform. From Alick I expect to learn all that passes at Craigenputtoch: if Jamie were not a man among ten thousand, he also would take up the pen for me; tell him that he must and shall, it is a true shame for him otherwise.

There is little room here to tell you about any one save myself; Jack is now, his Italian master being gone, writing to my Father, as I understand, an account of all his goings, which I hope will prove satisfactory. I can still say that I think him much improved; grown indeed, in several respects, into a man; and that I look forward to much good for him. He seems to me to have in him the elements of a valuable Physician, which next to a Teacher or Priest who is a Physician of the soul, I reckon the highest character in this world: what you will prize still higher, he seems to have some Reverence of the Highest in him, and has been looking into his eternal interests with much more seriousness than I had seen him do before. Let us hope good of poor Doil, and that all these aberrations and endurances, of which he has had his share, may turn to his great profit. His Countess still pleases him well, he has a pleasant prospect before him for the present, and some distinct outlook into the future.

My Leddy and I are talking of some trip into Cornwall, to see the Bullers for a week or two, till the Town get busy again: but this is very problematic, and will depend some little on the Letter I get from them; which, having written again, I now expect this week. At all events we shall go out to Badam's for a few days; it is only twelve miles off, and they are honestly desirous to see us. Edward Irving I meet with very often. He is kinder, stiller than usual; a very good man, and not at all what I can name an unwise one, tho' surely but ill-informed, with such a crowd of crackbrained zealots and “silly women” about him, shrieking out at his prayer-meetings, and clavering [talking foolishly] downright jargon, which they name Gift of the Holy Ghost, and Speaking with Tongues!

I must now, my dear Mother, bid you again good day. Fear not that I shall forget to write: it is among my best duties, and best pleasures. Remember me in kindest love to all of them from my Father down to Jenny. God bless you all, and be ever near you!— Your affectionate Son,

T. Carlyle

I send the Examiner direct to Scotsbrig today; supposing Alick to be still with you. The Editor of it is unwell, but I am to see him when he recovers.4— My Book is fairly at Press.

A Letter has come from Mr Grahame of Burnswark since I began writing; of which Jack and I (for he has read it to me) are very glad. I suppose it will soon get an answer—

We are talking of going to see a Reform Meeting of the Citizens today:5 but whether we shall get off or not in time seems uncertain. It is [the] richer class of the Merchants I believe, who are weary of this slow progress of the Bill. I myself am utterly sick of it: but want to see how these Principalities will conduct themselves—

Be sure to send us word about the Harvest; which my Jeannie has never had opportunity to inform me of. The weather has been very bad here for harvest work (which however is all over in these parts); and I have many times been thinking of your rigs [fields], not without anxiety.