October 1831-September 1833

The Collected Letters, Volume 6


TC TO ALEXANDER CARLYLE; 24 November 1831; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18311124-TC-AC-01; CL 6:53-57.


4. Ampton Street Mecklenburg Square, London, / 24th November 1831—

My dear Alick,

Your Letter1 arrived here duly, and was received and read with the heartiest welcome; as by persons long shut out from all tidings, and greatly in want of such. I would have written sooner in answer, had there been anything practical to tell that seemed worth postage: but the old Newspaper every wednesday would indicate that we were “in the old way,” which is the main business of a Letter; and I still waited for franks, for more time &c &c and did not ‘put pen to paper this night.’ It is an evil habit; do not you imitate me in it: the Letter of a Brother is always worth its postage, so long as one has money left. Today, however, there is an actual frank to Templand forthcoming (for Jeffrey who at present lives in the country, called this forenoon): so you will get this even cheaper. I suspend my Review scribbling,2 for a far more pleasant kind; and send you a hasty word before going to sleep.

The Dairlaw Hills matter must, I think, be long ago decided: this makes me the more impatient to hear from you now. Had I been at your hand, I should not have known what to advise: except this that if desirable on the score of rent, or rather if sufferable on that score, it was much to be desired for you on others. The neighbourhood to Scotsbrig, to all your friends connexions and acquaintances animate and inanimate: these are very great advantages, especially for a man of your turn; you would, in a word, be more in your home there than in almost any other region. I long much to hear how it has gone; yet simply in hearing the fact, shall not know whether to increase my anxieties for you or to diminish them. On the whole, I think I shall feel happy if you go thither: I can then fancy you settled; and in a scene where your whole power of management, industry and prudent behaviour will have the freest scope; where your friends can hope with reason that you will be victorious rather than defeated. To avoid defeat is indeed all that one can look for in these times: victory and triumph is hardly appointed for any mortal. But on the whole, my Dear Brother, whether at Dairlaw Hills or in some other (if possible Annandale) farm, I think it every way desirable that you should soon be settled. Your late way of life has been trying for you in many ways: but now were you once set agoing there is a much fairer chance; you will be altogether free; and as a Husband and Father feel new obligation to do your best and wisest. Let us be of good courage: this ever remains true; nothing but ourselves can finally beat us; it is not want of good Fortune, want of Happiness but want of wisdom that man has to dread. God keep us all, and guide us well! A toilsome stern life has been appointed the most of us; let us not falter or fall asleep by the way, but struggle forward be the road thorny or smooth.

You must have grown very still and even dead at Craigenputtoch by this day of the year: often I fancy the sepulchral silence of the spot; it comes strangely into my thoughts in this soul-and-body-deafening tumult of the ‘noble city.’ News we hope you have none (for there good news seldom arise); but that little Jane Welsh is still brisk and noisy, her Mother in motion and well; and you working, or profitably resting, and like ‘a constitutional King’ nowise like a military despot, beneficiently ruling over both. By the way, I could not but sympathize with the little creature, in her looking at you with recognition, but ‘evidently with fear.’3 Poor little foreigner! this is a very strange country it has arrived in, and it knows not what devilry may be abroad, or who means kindly who unkindly. Be thankful for the mysterious little Present; and regard it as the message of God to you, and the pledge of new blessings and new duties.

We were a little surprised to hear of Betty's having made a new arrangement for the winter;4 Jane, I think, a little vexed: but on the whole it was perhaps best; at all events, if it was her own volition and choice there was no whispering any objection to it— We will doubtless find some sort of Servant, better or worse, tho' between terms, at our return. I wrote on the Newspaper a request that you would pay Betty her wages; which I daresay you have done or will do. I hope also you have settled with the Smith, in some way that satisfies your own convictions: Corrie's5 debt for the cart-shaft had been often in my head, and I am glad that you paid it. I remember also that I owed Hiddlestone some three shillings or so for raking the seed into the front green: if you have any opportunity, you might pay him: we will settle about all these matters when you produce your list of outlays in spring. Jane finally bids me mention that she directed Betty to raise [dig] the four beds of carrots, and send the produce of two of them over to Templand for Harry:6 if Betty have not done this, will you ‘take that trouble’ by your first convenience. This, I think, is all I have to remind you of about the Moorlands; from whose stern solitude I may now turn to more populous regions.

Jack, as you have doubtless heard, continues to progress and prosper. I sent two Letters from him forward to Scotsbrig; the last dated from Turin in the North of Italy: about this very time I expect he may be reading a Letter from me in safety at Florence, where he expected to make some more considerable stay. All seemed to be going well with him: his Patient tractable and amiable; his own health and spirits good; everyway a fair outlook. Let us pray that it may continue with him.

As for ourselves we are struggling on here without notable adventure of any kind. Our lodging and way of life continues quite passable; far better than one could hope; the only thing I complain of is want of room, I am sadly at a loss for a smoking place, having no resource for it but roasting myself over the fire in a close apartment, or retiring out of a window, and there standing like ‘a sign of the times’ on the top of a leaden cistern. After dark, I take the streets (which are very solitary, comparatively, in these quarters), or station myself on the balcony (a projection from the sill) of the front window, and there smoke contemplatively looking on the stars, which are the same Northern ones I used to see at Craigenputtoch. Jane has had a cold and been rather unwell for these ten days, but seems now recovering; otherwise our health is not to be complained of; neither does the ‘Cholera Pestilence’ give us much terror: we will fly from it, if it come into our neighbourhood, and grow perilous; but otherwise, as I often say, “what is the good of Fear? The whole solar system were it to fall together about our ears could kill us only once.”— People are all quiet as yet; in great anxieties about their Reform Bill; and not unlikely, as I calculate, to get into some convulsions, one day, before all be done: but for the present there are no symptoms of it, neither is it I chiefly that need apprehend such a thing: so long as they leave me the head standing on my shoulders, my main possessions in this world are left uninjured. God knows what will be the end of all this; the end will not be seen in our day.

Nothing has been done yet about the Book; except speaking a little from afar. However, the publishing season is now begun, and I mean soon to make a new trial. I shall still be disappointed, if I do not bring it home to you printed: it will only be that I could not get a printer. Meanwhile, I am not altogether idle: we see plenty of people, and get some slight knowledge of their ways (tho' this is very difficult to come at); we have been out visiting the Badamses, whom we found very kind and agreeable, Badams himself apparently in the way of rallying again, at all events much healthier; of the Montagues we see enough; of the Jeffreys less (for Jeffrey has been very unwell lately); Charles Buller is here sometimes; one Mill (writer of those Papers on the “Spirit of the Age” in the Examiner) comes much about me; a youth named Glen (from Glasgow, a friend of Jack's): mostly young men; for the old Author-class are utterly given up to the Devil, and no good can be got of them, or is in them. I still think of opening my closed lips to the people here one day; but find it will require courage, they are used to nothing of the sort. Perhaps my best plan will be to spend the summer in writing out my ‘Notes’ at Puttoch, and then come hither next winter, and speak aloud in defiance of all men and things.— For the present I am busy enough with a Paper (of no great length) for the Edinburgh Review; which straitens me greatly; my hand is quite out, and “this is not my ain house,” where I can work as I was wont, in any sense. However, after struggling and floundering enough, I am at last getting on; and hope to be thro' in some three weeks. O that I were!— Grahame of Burnswark came popping in, the other night: he has come hither about his American Patent business, which he seems to reckon prosperous: he lives within a few doors of us, and we shall likely see him often.— Of Irving I have got little good for the last two months; have not had so much as a sight for these three weeks: he does not come hither, and to go to him, and find the “Holy Ghost” raging about him like Bedlam is no inviting journey. Poor Irving! I am in real anxiety about him: it is thought that he will soon lose his Church (the sane part of his people being quite shocked); and actually runs a risk himself of ending in the Madhouse! God prevent it! One is struck with a painful mixture of grief scorn and indignation to think of the end he seems hastening toward, and the company he has chosen.— But now, dear Alick, I must draw bridle, for obvious reasons. Indeed, it is far in the night: I could not afford to wait till tomorrow, having a daily task to do, which of itself will perhaps excel my ability. So good night, my dear Brother! May nothing worse than poor little Jane Welsh Carlyle ever wake your sleep. Also do not like Selkirk forget to Speak.7 Write to me soon, very soon. Jane sends her kindest wishes to both of you. All good be ever with you all! Your Brother,

T. Carlyle.

I hope the Scotsbrig people send you up the old Examiner? I will continue to despatch you the Courier for wednesdays: it goes first to Scotsbrig now. I hope they will be able to send it off on Thursdays; but even on Saturdays it will still do: I get it for a few hours, and can read enough of it.