October 1833-December 1834

The Collected Letters, Volume 7


TC TO JOHN WELSH; 4 March 1834; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18340304-TC-JWE-01; CL 7:110-113.


Craigenputtoch, Dumfries, 4th March, 1834—

My Dear Sir,

The Liverpool Boxes, which we had heard of at Dumfries a week before, did at length extricate themselves from the claws of Tidewaiters, the delays of Carriers; and, safe after perils by land and perils by water, were welcomed here last Thursday. The Package of the Books seemed to have been expressly made for them, and had altogether answered its end; for, in spite of rains and perhaps rude tumbling enough, the whole Registers1 lie arranged here, not a leaf of them injured. I will look over the volumes, and pick out of them what I want; and hope to return them still without damage. The loan will be a great benefit to me: there is so much in the Work that you cannot find elsewhere; and many Libraries as I have been in, I never before could get my eye on a complete Annual Register all at once, but always some unhappy volume or other was sure to be “lent out.” Many thanks to you.

The Pipe-box must surely be regarded as a most considerate present: pipeclay lies bedded in Devonshire, yet is called for daily in the wilderness of Dunscore! Those Lancashire Pipes shall take rank with my Edinburgh ones, and alternate and in the kindest manner fraternize with them; and so promoting Meditation and friendly Remembrances, do good in the world and not evil. For them, however, there is no return to their native country; but an honourable grave in our Peat-bogs. There let them slumber till the Annus Magnus [Great Year]2 come round!

We rejoice to learn that you are all well, and moving along in the usual fashion. There are so many thousands, in these, and indeed in all times, of whom this cannot be said. Mrs Welsh, otherwise called “Grizzie,” otherwise “Aunt,” and “My Mother,” arrived here yesterday, still safe and sound, tho' in muddy weather: we are striving by all manner of judicious cross-questions to make out for ourselves a picture of Liverpool as it is, or rather of that very small fraction of Liverpool that we take interest in. Nothing in this world will stand still for a single second: happy when you find it moving in the right course; or even not absolutely in the wrong one.

Here there has been the most somnolent, wind-rocked, bedeluged winter that I ever passed. We cowered close, and let it blow by. I remember little of it; once or twice I find myself galloping, much oftener walking in the teeth of furious tempests; the rest is an indistinct many-shaded mass, almost like a kind of dream. I wrote but little; read very generally; and smoked most of all. However, it is now past; our old Planet has weathered her “Cape of Hope” again, and we shall have another Spring. Our poor little Birds are all chirping or singing out their thankfulness: I heard the Wheaps [curlews], last Sunday, on the moor, quite musical; taking counsel (I supposed) about matrimonial establishments.

We, for our part, are meanwhile meditating a great Enterprise: no less than removing with bag and baggage to London next Whitsunday! We have advertised our House here, and employed some friends to look out one for us yonder. It is a bold step; but I still rather think a necessary one. I have passed six of the strangest years here that ever fell to the lot of any mortal. I do not call them bad or worthless years; for all is good or is bad as you employ it: nevertheless, it is quite clear that such a course ought not to last always. Farther, as one has little chance, I fear, to grow younger or stronger by waiting, it were perhaps best to wait no longer. One of the consequences most clear to me at present is that I am likely to see you all at Liverpool ere long. We must do nothing rashly, yet also nothing sluggishly. My little Dame is fully as warm in the project as I.

Brother John writes to us regularly from Rome. He seems contented and successful in his position; but leads, for the rest, a rather lonely life, associating mostly with Germans and perhaps a native Roman or two. The English, of whom Rome is full, he describes as the most unproductive of men; hollow as blown eggs; men without basis or aim; driven from post to pillar by lifeweariness, and the wretchedest tho' the absurdest of all wants, want of something to do. These we shall leave revolving, as the Prophet Ezekiel says, “like unto a wheel.”3— It is one of my secret hopes that Jack too may finally settle in London, and be neighbour and brother to us there. He has had his own perversities, but promises more and more clearly to be a good Physician and a good Man: great rarities, wherever I have travelled, both the one and the other.

In the shape of external news I can naturally tell you nothing. This is the region of Heath and Whinstone and everlasting Solitude. Properly we are nearer Charing-cross than the Mid-steeple;4 nay I might say, nearer the Dog-star and Orion's Ellwand5 than either the one or the other.

You must remember me very affectionately to Mrs Welsh, to Miss and Alick and all the others down to “Scots wha hae.”6 “Cousin” in all this warmly joins me. Say to Mrs Welsh that she shall have a copy of the first Book I realize; my only fear is she will find it a hard nut, an[d] alas too probably a deaf one.7 Helen, if a communicative fit came over her, might seize the pen, and write,—with all the copiousness of “Woman the Angel of Life (a Poem in Six Cantos).” Why not?

If you see Arbuckle8 give him my kind regards, my assurances of unabated interest. I cannot but think so well-conditioned a man must finally surmount all obstructions in so reasonable a Course. My other poor Ecclefechan Surgeon,9 I think has gone out of sight. One Annandale Johnstone you still see: him of the Confusion of Tongues: pray remember me kindly to him10— “Aunt”11 bids me send you all her love, and say she is well.

I remain, / My Dear Sir, / Ever faithfully Yours, /

T. Carlyle—