October 1831-September 1833

The Collected Letters, Volume 6


TC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE; 13 February 1833; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18330213-TC-MAC-01; CL 6:323-327.


Edinr 18. Carlton Street, Stockbridge, / 13th Feby, 1833—

My Dear Mother,

Tho' it will be a week and more before you receive this Parcel, I will not miss the opportunity of sending you a Line or two along with it, if merely to quiet your anxieties about us, which I judge will as usual err not in defect but in excess. Be of good comfort then, my dear Mother; nothing ails us: we are going on in the usual way, better rather than worse.

This Thomas à Kempis1 I promised you at Craigenputtoch: it is a cheap edition, and I believe a tolerably correct one. No Book, I believe, except the Bible, has been so universally read and loved by Christians of all tongues and sects: it gives me pleasure to fancy that the Christian heart of my good Mother may also derive nourishment and strengthening from what has already nourished and strengthened so many. The Parcel comes by Thornhill, and then thro' Watson and Notman; Jane is sending off some Miscellanies to her Mother, and I take advantage of the chance. I believe I can get you a Cloud of Witnesses2 here too, on moderate terms, and should like to do it: but I know not whether it is this or the Worthies3 that you already have. Tell Jean to by no means neglect informing me. Chalmers's Introduction to Kempis seems to me wholly, or in great part, a dud. So much for our Book business.

I hinted, on the Newspaper, that there was a Letter from Jack; this you now see before you: it will occupy Jean a good while, and very agreeably, in reading; I cannot but reckon it a very wise-looking comfortable Letter; of good promise for our poor Doctor's welfare inward and outward. That he has Patients shows him to be considered fit by those acquainted with him: there is indeed generally a tone of discretion and calm diligence in business with calm fervour in spirit, over the whole Letter; fair symptoms that my often-repeated prophecies about poor Jack will in due time be a realized [fact]. It now rather appears, I think, that the Lady Countess is not for coming home this year; at least that this or the contrary is quite uncertain: one cannot well tell which to wish. We should be ready for both. I wrote yesterday at great length to Rome; and mentioned among other things about Scotsbrig that you would soon have the last Roman Letter in your possession, and had safely received the former one.

This is a wretched Pen, one can hardly even spell with it;4 however, there is no help; you must just take matters, as it will yield you them. Our Life in Edinburgh has now got in some measure familiar to us; we go on quietly, in weekday fashion, as if we were at home in it. Indeed, always from the first, the appearance of the place, as contrasted with the boiling uproar of London has seemed almost stagnant to me; there is no such thing as getting yourself properly elbowed in a “flood of life”;5 the noise too (except that of the Watchmen while we slept in the front room) is quite trifling and inadequate. As for the people, they are now as formerly, all of one sort; meet twenty of them in a day, they are all most probably talking of the same subject; and that mostly an insignificant one, and handled in an insignificant way. And yet, poor fellows, how are they to be blamed? It is “more their misfortune than their crime”;6 what sense is in them they no doubt honestly exhibit. Some cheering exceptions too one now and then falls in with: indeed, for my own small share, I can nowise complain that honest sympathy, even love, and respect far beyond desert, is withheld from me here; this I receive with the greater clearness of appreciation that (hardened by long custom) I had from of old learned to do without it. Nevertheless that also is a Mercy, and should be thankfully made use of. I think I have seen few new people of note since I last wrote: I met Wilson on the street one day, and exchanged civilities with him; he is looking a little older, was wrapt in a cloak for cold, and undertook to come and talk an hour with me, “if I would allow him,” the very first day he had leisure. I am glad we met, since now there need be no awkwardness or grudge between us; whether we meet a second time or not is of little or no moment. Henry Inglis has had my Book reading (the Manuscript one), and returns it with a most extatic exaggerated Letter; wherein this is comfortable, that he has seized the drift of the Speculation, and can if he pleases lay it to heart. There are perhaps many such in this Island, whom it may profit; so that I stand by the old resolution to print at my own risk, so soon as I have £60 to spare, but not till then.

Another piece of good news is that I am actually got to writing. There is a small thing I have signified to Fraser that I will finish for him against the end of this month; with which sullen determination, I accordingly sit with pen in hand, whether much come from it or little. It is to be the first fruits of my new camp-desk: for after trying most of the tables in the house (as is my custom in new houses) I at length decided that a new Desk (from Trotter the great Upholsterer) were the best resource; and accordingly I now sit at one, coarse, strong, large, and very much what I wanted. If I here produce nothing but nonsense, the fault will be mainly my own.— My other employment (and not amusement) is hunting out Books in the Advocates' Library; where I find store of curious matters.

Jeffrey went away about a fortnight ago, “to attend his parliamentary duties.” They are making a braw curbaudie [fine show] of it there; a jarring of vain loud words, when actions were so much wanted. I heard from Mill; and thro' him, got Badams' address, still in London, to whom I have despatched a Note of inquiry.— Did I tell you that there was an Anti-patronage Society (in which are many churchmen) formed here, having for object to abolish Patronage in the Church?7 I think, I did; but might have added that there was another society set agoing, entitled the “Church Society,” of which Dr Peddie was President, the open aim of which is to do away with all Church Establishments whatsoever;8 and let every man pay his own priest; and I suppose pay him as he proves. The working men too (such as journeyman masons) are forming themselves into “Unions,”9 for mutual protection, “against the Masters,” who again need protection almost equally if they are not to seek it in jail. I hear also that a number of people, among them some substantial shopkeepers and such like are about emigrating to America, which really seems one of the wisest determinations. It is a diseased Time; and we, I prophecy, shall never see it mend. Well, if the third generation do!

To come far nearer home I must not neglect to say that our Cold is gone its ways, tho' I still for precaution wear a great-coat on the windy days, and both of us are very dietetic, and refuse invitations wherever we conveniently can. Jane has her old Doctor still coming; seems not to be any worse than her usual Craigenputtoch way, in general I might rather say better. The Winter seems gone; but the weather as usual in this season is unwholesome, and many colds are noticeable. Jane talks of a ride to Haddington by and by; I rather think I shall stay and write. We hear from some people there that James Johnston is externally doing very well; but that himself and still more his Wife is in rather weak health. Whether at this special time they are improving or otherwise we do not learn. I daresay I ought to write to the worthy James, and try if he would come and see me.

But now really, in spite of my bad Pen, I think I have given you news enough: at all events this sheet will hold little more. About you, on the other hand, I am left to my own conjectures, which are not always of a quite flattering complexion. The time for Jean's writing will soon be here, and then I shall learn correctly; meanwhile I study to hope the best. My dear Mother, I beg you again and again to take care of yourself; especially in this wild gusty February weather; consider your welfare not as your own, but as that of others to whom it is precious beyond price. I hope they are all kind submissive and helpful to you; it well beseems them and me. Forgive them, if any of them offend; for I know well, no offence is intended; it is but the sinful infirmity of nature, wherein mortals should bear with one another. Oh! ought we not to live in mutual love and unity; as a thing seemly for men; pleasing in the sight of God! We shall so soon be parted; and then Happy is he who has forgiven much!— The Paper is done. God be with you all.

Ever affectionately,

T. Carlyle—

P.S. Tell Jane that her toed stockings are a great blessing to me; I wear them every day.

Alick and Jamie I suppose to be both ploughing “double yokings”; and all hands alert for the coming seed-time. Tell them to write me a sentence when they have leisure (Alick at least has inclination): “the smallest contributions thankfully received.”

If anything is settled or like settlement with the Austins, let me know. At all rates how they are, how Mary is.

Jane has been writing five pages to her Mother;10 and declares herself so utterly exhausted that she cannot write another word to any body. She sends her regards and affection to every one of you, beginning with that sensible friend of mine “little Jenny,” and proce[e]ding upwards. Be good bairns. And now farewell; for the Porridge has been here (since last sheet), and it is now bed time, at least packing time. Good night to all!


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