October 1833-December 1834

The Collected Letters, Volume 7


TC TO JANE WELSH CARLYLE; 21 May 1834; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18340521-TC-JWC-01; CL 7:167-178.


4. Ampton Street, 21st May (Wednesday Evg), 1834—

Dearest Wifekin,

I have another Frank, and still an hour of daylight and leisure; of which who better than thou deserves the benefit? I have tomorrow also all before me; but may as well take Opportunity by the front.1

The desart position of poor old Puttoch again fetters us: may it be for the last time! Two postdays in the week, and we at such a distance, and in such haste, are too small an allowance. It struck me, with a very poignant feeling, two days after my last Letter went, in which so much was left vague, that Friday first (the day after tomorrow) was the day appointed for shipment of our goods, and an essential part of my directions on that head was omitted, was postponed to a time that would be too late for you! O forgive me, forgive me: you have no conception, how I am walked and worried, and kept in a perpetual waking dream. But, in the meanwhile, what has been done by Alick and you in these confused circumstances? Did your Uncle's Letter with the mats convey guidance enough? Or did that too leave you dark; did it even never come to hand? This night, a Letter from you is already, I hope, past Penrith; and will cheer me on Friday: but till then I must remain ignorant of much.

Now that I survey the matters my head on Saturday was so full of, and examine them from a fair visual distance, it seems altogether unlikely but you should have decided, as I then thought it likely you would: namely for instantaneous shipment of Furniture and Self; that the thing we have once had the pain of beginning may with all possible despatch be ended. Mrs Austin's kind offer of her house in August is a clear nonentity; so likewise her project of your continuing (beyond two days) in Lodgings after you arrive. On the whole, however, I seem to feel as if it were worth while that you too should see our projected Home before we engage with it: the female head is not without a shrewdness of its own in these affairs; moreover, ought not my own little Coagitor to have a vote herself in the choice of an abode which is to be ours. The sweet word, Ours! The blessed ordinance (let Hunt say as he will), by which all things are forever one between us, and separation an impossibility!2— On this principle accordingly I proceed; at least till your Letter come: unless you expressly order it, no altogether final arrangement shall be made till we both make it. That we have it quite ready for making, I at the same time continue to use all diligence.

But now with regard to the Furniture; supposing (which I pray may not be, but dare not offer or even hope) that it still remain to be shipped after this arrives: You are to address every package (after the art of packing has done its utmost) to me, “London”; marking the packages by Numbers (No 1, 2, &c), and adding any note such as “Glass,” “China,” “This side uppermost” &c; of course, in the legiblest hand. Glen might perhaps assist you. Then you make out a correct List of all the Packages: writing it (I should think) in a column, with plenty of room to the right: “No 1. A chest of Drawers”; “No 2. Bedposts” (which perhaps had better be all tied together?); “No 3 Sundries” &c &c. This List Alick will take to Nicholson; who grants him (written on the first leaf of a sheet of paper), a Copy of it with an acknowledgement at the bottom that he has received all these articles, and will deliver them to—Dr Arbuckle, or your Uncle, who also cheerfully volunteered to do the service: choose thou between them, or take both. Finally on this receipted Copy of the List (got from Nicholson), or rather on the second leaf of the sheet containing it, do you address a few words to Arbuckle (4. Oxford Street, Liverpool,—or to your Uncle) explaining (what you cannot know till after passing finally thro' Dumfries) whether the Carriage from Liverpool to London will be cheaper by weight or by measure (as I set forth in last Letter), and requesting him to act accordingly. Mark, however, that as this Letter cannot be written till late on, say, the Thursday afternoon, and will not go off till Friday, and may find Arbuckle gone out, or otherwise too late, it will be best (indeed necessary) to write him a day or two before, and predict positively on what day (morning at 10 o'clock, having left Annan the evening before) a Letter will find him, or even be lying at the Post-Office if he go down for it, as he proposed doing—the Steam people being in general very impatient to get rid of their cargo. And herewith ends my poor Sweetheart's cares about our goods: the rest of it falls to my share. Oh why did I forget that all this should have been written last time!— But at worst I trust it will only delay the shipment a week; and in that case, you and the goods can come together; which will simplify several things; and indeed perhaps, on the whole, answer as well almost as the other way,—if you wish to be here two days before fixing on a house.

As to thy own voyage, poor Goody, I have only to advise that thou take some finest ham sandwiches, or other the like ware, with a thimbleful of good brandy; and depend as little on the dirty little Highland Steward, or Cumberland Stewardess (a good body nevertheless) as may be; also that thou take abundance of wrappages, and sit as much on deck as possible (there sickness can be in general escaped); and finally commend thyself with hopeful Patience to God's guidance, and think that every bound of the boat is bringing thee nearer to me, to thy home my heart. If there is any waiting at Liverpool, thou shalt have a Letter: and for Letters this way, Buller (as I explained) has cheerfully given us full liberty with him. Could not you rest a little if you were with Mrs Martin? Could not you so order it? But, in any case, I trust you will do far better in Maryland Street than you tremulously anticipate: Mrs Moodie3 and her snoring-apparatus are no longer there, neither will the bugs hurt you (perhaps there are none at present); and, for the people, they were really a great deal quieter with me than formerly, and, except Porcus M'Minn, some Carsonlets,4 and other the like fixtures of no account, hardly troubled me with any stranger. Arbuckle will run for you to the world's end. Another four-and-twenty hours (I suppose) in the Umpire or some such Coach must be endured; and then—thou shalt sleep in thy husband[']s arms. Courage, Courage, my little Heartkin! We will be thro' it all; and I will take thee safe to my bosom, and kiss away all sorrow from thy eye.

As to Houses, I continue wandering like the Shoemaker of Jerusalem,5 and realise for a day of wearied bones, wonderfully little. This place is among the worst for me in point of position; but so comfortable otherwise I will not dream of changing it. Yesterday I examined all the East side of the Regent's Park, with Park Village, Camden Town &c, and came home sniftering and blubbering (with a cold I had, which tonight is nearly gone), as wearied as Hercules after his labours. I found nothing, or next to nothing. One smart little Cottage only, close by the Park itself, very compact, tidy, well-situated; but so small, so inconceivably small! Rent 45 guineas. A Garden which in my spleen I likened to something between a bedquilt and a pancake: unjustly; for it was bigger than either. In the course of my travel, however, I met with adventurekins: saw a pitched battle a-fighting; dined (for 7d and had 2d more for drink) in a chophouse; talked a long time, and rested, in Regent Street with Fraser, &c &c. On the previous day (Monday) I went down to Brompton a second time, and made a most minute re-inspection of the cottage. I found myself mistaken in several things, particularly the size and the pavilion-roof; but on the whole, I still consider it nearly the likeliest thing we can expect to get; tho' that same day as you shall hear there started up a kind of rival to it in Chelsea. I also waited on the Proprietress, a very decent woman, of prepossessing physiognomy (as I saw her in the dusk, in a Court of the Strand); a Wine-Merchant's Widow, who built the House himself, and resided in it for years, as she till these very weeks did after him. Both the front rooms are smaller than ours, the big Bed may stand in the back-room (Library) but will have little height to spare; the 4 upper rooms 8f 6 inches high; the dressing-room, alas, is but a box to ours; on the other hand the stairhead press is what you wanted ours to be, a kind of closet with shelves. There is a pump in the kitchen (with clear hard water, which I tasted); a tank (worked by another handle of the same pump) under the kitchen for rain-water which “never fails.” There are Larders cellars &c adjoining; and you have access to the kitchen by a back-door also, or rather side-door (for coals &c; rather a rarer convenience than I expected): the whole house has an air of tightness, cleanliness, modesty and sufficiency, much according to our humour. As built for the owner's use I fancy it may be the best-built house in Brompton, and have most of a cosy character. The back-garden has gooseberries and apple-trees; a space is flagged between the house and it, a door issues direct upon this from the lobby (if you should wish to avoid the kitchen in going out); a green painted nick-nacky kind of porch (with mat and two seats in it) defends this: the front garden is in two sectionlets divided by railing and a flagged passage; looks really, or might very easily look, modest and snug. A high wall, as I said surrounds us all; the gables of the House are part of this wall. Now do you understand it? (There are Bells, in both stories, only in the front rooms).— Finally Brompton boasts of being a “genteel neighbourhood,” but except that it would look better on a card, I see no symptoms of superior gentility: there is a large Public House at small distance, yet invisible from the House; Baker, Butcher and all Etceteras are close enough at hand: the ground generally is laid out in nurseries, and looks tolerable enough, in good wholesome order, nowise affectedly neat. You are a good half mile from Mrs A. a little nearer Mill, about the same from Hunt: the Cunninghams are also within reach; but hardly on any of our routes. To Mrs A. you go thro' Kensington Gardens.

After surveying all this on Monday I went down to Chelsea; found Hunt, avoided all Huntesses and Huntlets, indeed never asked after them, but smoked a pipe with Hunt, and then went out again for Houses,—tho' with comparatively little care about them. Not a gunshot from Hunt's I came upon another house, greatly the best in quality and quantity I had yet seen. I went down again today (by a new route from Buller's and Westminster bridge: Millbank, Vauxhall, and confused causeways of shot rubbish, a dusty, sultry, squalid, detestable road, but not ours in general), and took the minutest survey. It is notable how at every new visit, your opinion gets a little hitch the contrary way from its former tendency; imagination has outgone the reality. I nevertheless still feel a great liking for this excellent old House, and it almost balances the Brompton one. Chelsea is unfashionable; it was once the resort of the Court and great, however; hence numerous old houses in it, at once cheap and excellent.— But behold the end of my sheet; the clocks all striking eleven, and Eliza coming up with a gruel for me!— Good night my dearest own Jeannie! Sleep well, and dream of me. God be with all of you! T. C.

Thursday morning.—Sey mir gegrüsst, mein Herzchen [Greetings to you, my dearest]! Hast thou slept, and breakfasted; art strong for the toils before thee? O that I were there to take thee on my knee, in my arms, and rest thee one five minutes;—or even “to be scolded” a little! It would “do me so much good.” But it will not be long: by Heaven's blessing, my little Dame will be here in few days; and Heaven already knows how precious she is to me; that I would not think of exchanging her with the Best in London,—not even with “the celebrated Mrs Jamieson”! Himmel und Erde [Heaven and earth]! In fact, Goody, it seems to me I have been especially lucky in marriage, and wedded simply the best Wife of this age (considering all things), which is a great comfort to me.

I proceed with a description of the Chelsea House. It is within a gunshot of Hunt's; but tho' tinkerish-nomadic, I find the Hunts are not intrusive; the sick old woman would perhaps of her own accord steer clear of us. The street makes a right-angle with Hunt's, and runs down upon the River, which I suppose you might see, by stretching out your neck from our front windows, at a distance of 50 yards on the left. We are called “Cheyne Row” proper (pronounced, Chainie Row), and are a “genteel neighbourhood,” two old Ladies on the one side, unknown character on the other but with “pianos” as Hunt said. The street is flag-pathed, sunk-storied, iron-railed, all old-fashioned and tightly done up; looks out on a rank of sturdy old pollarded (that is beheaded) Lime-trees, standing there like giants in tawtie [matted, shaggy] wigs (for the new boughs are still young) beyond this a high brick-wall, on the inside of which, from our upper stories, appear a garden surrounded with rather dim houses and questionable miscellanea, among other things, clothes drying. Backwards, a Garden (the size of our back one at Comely Bank) with trees &c, in bad culture; beyond this green hayfields and tree-avenues (once a Bishop's pleasure-grounds) an unpicturesque, yet rather cheerful outlook. The House itself is eminent, antique; wainscotted to the very ceiling, and has been all new-painted and repaired; broadish stair, with massive balustrade (in the old style) corniced and as thick as one's thigh; floors firm as a rock, wood of them here and there worm-eaten, yet capable of cleanness, and still with thrice the strength of a modern floor. And then as to room, Goody! There is room for a Mrs Dr Maxwell.6 Three stories besides the sunk story; in every one of them three apartments in depth (something like 40 feet in all; for it was 13 of my steps!): Thus there is a front dining room (marble chimney-piece &c); then a back dining-room (or breakfast-room) a little narrower (by reason of the kitchen stair); then out from this, and narrower still (to allow a back-window, you consider), a china-room, or pantry, or I know not what, all shelved, and fit to hold crockery for the whole street. Such is the ground-area, which of course continues to the top, and furnishes every Bedroom with a dressing room, or even with a second bedroom. Red Bed will stand behind the drawing room; might have the shower-bath beyond it: the height of this story is 10 feet; of the ground floor 9 but some inches; of the topmost floor 8 feet 6; of the kitchen (where is a Pump and room forever) about the same. Neither this nor the Brompton house have a kitchen-range (that is, Grate like the Miles's), but only a grate with moveable niggards &c. In Chelsea is, or lies ready for being, a kitchen-jack; from the boiler-house the boiler (“Coppa”) is taken out, but “would be replaced.” No back-door (communicating with the street); bells in disorder but would be rectified; new locks, some of which threatened to act à la Puttoch, but seemed very oilless. On the whole a most massive, roomy, sufficient old house; with places, for example, to hang say three dozen hats or cloaks on; and as many crevices, and queer old presses, and shelved closets (all tight and new painted in their way) as would gratify the most covetous Goody. Rent £35! I confess I am strongly tempted; yet again incline rather towards the Brompton place (for what use have we for so much room?), and so go wavering between the two. Chelsea is a singular, heterogeneous kind of spot; very dirty and confused in some places, quite beautiful in others; abounding with antiquities and the traces of great men: Sir T. More, Steele, Smollett,7 &c &c. Our Row (which for the last three doors or so is a street, and none of the noblest) runs out upon a beautiful “Parade” (perhaps they call it) running along the shore of the River: shops &c, a broad highway, with huge shady trees; boats lying moored, and a smell of shipping and tar; Battersea Bridge (of wood) a few yards off; the broad River, with white-trowsered, white-shirted Cockneys dashing by like arrows in their long Canoes of Boats; beyond, the green beautiful knolls of Surr[e]y with their villages: on the whole a most artificial, green-painted, yet lively, fresh, almost opera-looking business, such as you can fancy. We are not a mile from the Cunninghams, above a mile from all the rest; and, alas, the Cunninghams I dread are hardly worth being near. I found them as I came up the first time from Chelsea; had a loud guffawing reception, was more struck then ever with the Wife's unerfreuliches Wesen [disagreeable nature]! Allan himself is a good fellow on the whole. They said tea would be ready before long; but alas, I had to walk farther on some mile and half to seek a chop for dinner.— Finally, Chelsea abounds more than any place in Omnibii (Bayswater least), and they take you to Coventry-street (within a mile of this) for sixpence. Revolve all this in thy fancy and judgement, my child; and see what thou canst make of it. Some amusement, on the journey, at worst.—

No Newspaper has come this morning. Was there none at hand; or did you think it superfluous having already sent one; or has something gone wrong? I will not think that.

Let me now treat thee to a budget of small news. Mill I have not seen again; we could make no appointment, being so unfixed as yet. Mrs Austin had a tragical story of his having fallen desperately in love with some young ill-married philosophic Beauty (yet with the innocence of two sucking doves), and being lost to all his friends and to himself, and what not; but I traced nothing of this in poor Mill; and even incline to think that what truth there is or was in his adventure may have done him good.8 Buller also spoke of it; but in the comic vein— Irving I have not again seen, tho' I have tried four times; yesterday twice (at Bayswater), and the second time with great disappointment. He seems to be under the care of a Scotch sick-nurse there; was said to be “asleep” when I called first, then gone (contrary to my appointment) when I called the second time: he rides twice a day down to that Domdaniel9 in Newman-Street; rises at 5 in the morning, goes to bed at 9; is “very weak.” I felt extremely sad. I had refused my dinner at the Austin's for his sake; it seemed to me as if I might have clutched him from perdition and death, and now we were to not meet again. My poor Edward; heu quantum mutatus [alas, how greatly changed]! But I will make a new trial. Heraud said to me quite in the cursory style: “Aaving (Irving) is dying, and—a—”! Heraud himself (“mad as a March hare,” Fraser said) lives now close by here, and is exceedingly kedge [eagerly friendly] about me; anxious beyond measure for golden opinions of his god-dedicated Epic10 (of which I would not tell him any lie, greatly as he tempted me); talking in a wealthy strain, yet with grim shadowings of cleanness of teeth; wants me much in some as yet unrevealed “Literary Project”; is threatened by Fraser with being “thrown overboard”; has the same old greasy grey complexion, which nitre and much soap will not whiten, the same empty-animated eyes; fears and reverences me much: the innocentest of Duds. Not without the air of an endlich toll-werdenden [one who finally goes mad], really!— Fraser did not open freely to me, yet was opening: Literature still all a mystery; nothing “paying”; Teufelk beyond measure unpopular; an oldest subscriber came in and said, “If there is any more of that d——d stuff, I will &c”; on the other hand, an order from America (Boston or Philadelphia) to send a copy of the Magazine so long as there was anything of Carlyle's in it. “One spake up, and the other spake down.”11 On the whole, Goody, I have a great defiance of all that. A much “more gigantic spirit of the two” is a fellow with whom here in London I declare to thee with much indifference I have not yet fallen in: yet do not all these live? As to “fame” and the like, in very truth, in this state of the Public, it is a thing one is all ways better without: so I really saw and felt the other night, clearly for the first time. Miss Martineau, for example, is done again; going to America,12 to try a new tack when she returns. So are they all, or will they inevitably all be, done; extinguished and abolished, for they are—Nothing, and were only called (and made to fancy themselves) Something.— Mrs Austin herself seems to me in a kind of trial-state; risen or rising to where she cannot hope to stand, where it will be well if she feel no giddiness; as indeed I really trust she will. A most excellent creature; of surveyable limits: her goodness I think will in all cases save her. I had a long talk with Austin on Sunday night: he is evidently very unhealthy, little likely to be healthy, a painful, faithful, pitiable man. Lucy is growing a large massive girl, with three-plaited hair, in two long tails, very strange-looking; strives (with incomplete success) not to be affected. I was there yesterday, as I said; she had sent a Letter for me to dine that day; but, alas, it had not come till I went off, and so I had dined at Chelsea—on a penny loaf. Eliza finally (after another hour's walking) got me two “three-farthings eggs” at home, and I took tea in that fashion, not without appetite. This morning, finding the eggs eatable I had the like for I am to dine with the Bullers tonight at six, and will fast till then. Buller is better, and went yesterday (I fancy) to “the House,” tho' he has his operation still before him. We have had two long talks, on occasion of the Franks; with great mutual delight. An intelligent, clear, honest, most kindly-vivacious creature: the genialest radical I have ever met. He throws light for me on many things, being very ready to speak. Mrs Austin spoke ominously of his health; but to my seeing, without much ground. Charlie, I think, will be among my little comforts here. Mrs Buller's hand I saw, with a Letter in it held thro' the door for me; but not yet her face.— Mrs Strachey was waiting for me on Monday night; but I was so wearied and worn out (it was the Chelsea and Cunningham day) and with the snifter [head cold] already beginning on me, I spoke much rather than well, and was not happy. She is already settled at Bristol; one of the best women. Of Miss Morris no more. The Books13 were from Mrs Badams, who is off to France, I suppose yesterday, to dissipate herself: I went, and saw her, with Kenneys and muslin-clippings near the Regent's Park; in pallor and tears, in flushes and light-giggling sprightlinesses: ist und bleibt eine Narrinn [sic: is and remains a fool]! Poor Badams was insensible, and died mildly.— By the way, a Letter is here from Bessy Barnet,14 in the old vein: she will be here any day[.]

The Duke, now plain Mr Jeffrey, but soon to be Lord Jeffrey, is still here for a week: he had left his address for me with Mrs Austin; I determined to call some morning in passing, and did it on Monday. Reception anxiously cordial from all three; hurried insignificant talk from him still at the breakfast table; kindness playing over “iron gravity” from me. I felt it to be a farewell visit, and that it should be “hallowed in our choicest mood.” The poor Duke was so tremulous, he bade me “good evening” at the door; immense jerking from Mrs Jeffrey, yet many kind words, and invitations back; silent smiling Unbedeutendheit [trifles] from Miss, who is grown no beauty, but a numb blowse [fat-faced girl], with, I think, a large shelf-underlip. And so ends our dealing with bright Jeffreydom; once so sparkling cheerful, now gone out into darkness—which has not become foul candlesnuff vapour, but darkness only. Empson is still alive; but I surely will not seek him. Napier too is here or was; him too I will nowise make or meddle with; the hungry Simulacrum.

Now Goody is not this enough of news? They are blessed things these Franks. But why has my Newspaper not come? I wish Friday were here. Or will it not be till Saturday? Patience! Patience!

This house is nearly all dismantled; I am driven in to the little Stocking-bed room, and sit there and write; sleeping above. They are all gone but Eliza and a new maid; but only into the next street; and keep up a continual ringing, and running to and fro. The Montagues I understand to be come, and already lodged there; but ask or see nothing of them. Why the people all do not move, except perhaps that they have painting in their new house, I do not know, and cannot give poor Eliza the trouble of running up to tell me. For us, they know, any place will do till we get a place of our own.

Do not forget my Pipes, my Tobacco from Mundell. Such Pipes, such Tobacco as is here! I positively have not had one right smoke since I came away.— You have brought the Lobby chairs? Bring them, Dearie, since you like them; whatever thing you like, ought it not to come? They will find a place, and merit it, somewhere. Also forget not the Shower-bath; the upper part of it; we can make a tub do for the rest. Bring even Chico, if you dare undertake it. Poor little Chico; my poor Dame's Pet, and dear to me for her sake too! Do you remember the West-Bow15 Snuff-mull? My own poor Darling!

I go about here, in my new blue Coat, which does quite rarely; with my common grey trowsers, and in the old Puttoch shoes, now at last even without gaiters. Is not that a Beauty!— The whirl of this monstrous place looks more and more poetic to me, now that we have made it our home. We will do the best in it, Lassie, and better than we have ever yet done. The Parks are the beautifullest thing you ever saw: all spotted with party-coloured bright children and promenaders on a ground of the purest green. The people have mown their first crop of hay! Hot sunshine, cold Eastwind; you know it: “hi from the East doth blow so clear, that hi is felt both far and near.”16

Say all that is kind for me to your Mother. She may or rather must come and see us, with amusement to herself, without considerable fatigue. She might even take up her abode here, if she liked it. Das weitere wird sich geben [Further developments will fall into place]. Have you managed the Barjarg keys?17 Is Hugh18 with you? O what hosts of questions, [wer]e there any hope of answer.

Tell my brave Alick he shall have a Letter to himself, and the longest he ever read; and many of them, only he must answer. My Mother should have had a Note today again; but I reflect that you will be there probably as soon as any Note could be. You will read her these two Letters (except fractions of your own); and bring her up to the present with me. The first Frank from our new House shall be hers. Give my heart's blessing to them all; my assurance that distance shall not divide us.— I have written to Jack: his next Letter will probably be my Mother's.

How we are to order about my next Letter to you? What you tell me tomorrow must settle it; I will endeavour in all things to conform. But as yet it is wholly vague with me. Above all things, when are you to be here? Tuesday come-a-week? Lose no time, my Own: I know thou wilt not.

My good Jean was to call on Saturday, and see this given to the Minnyhive Carrier.19 Or, if you have Hugh, who knows but you may send him specially. May it come happily, and find you happy! Thousand blessings be with you! Bring me safe what is mine,—as I am thine

Auf ewig! /

T. Carlyle.

If you see Grahame give him my regards

Mrs Austin's Newspaper came (thanks for it!); and I by sagacity understood you to be at Dumfries when it came off[.]

Bring all the window-blinds. They fit in neither house, but can be made to do it.

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