October 1833-December 1834

The Collected Letters, Volume 7


TC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE; 12 June 1834; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18340612-TC-MAC-01; CL 7:205-211.


5. Great Cheyne Row, Chelsea, London, / Thursday 12th June, 1834—

My Dear Mother,

I promised you that the first frank I filled from our new House should be for you; and here I am, in the middle of a most miscellaneous collection of operative men and women, accomplishing that promise. It is not only the first Letter I have written, but the first time I have put pen to paper. However, I have for the present (while the Bell-hangers are absent) a room to myself; I have my old firm writing-table, firm as a rock; my old inkbottle and penholder; and the quietest outlook, thro' an open window, into green fields and trees; I have even my old Highland bonnet on: so I will tell you the completest story I can, with moderate composure after all.

Jane gave me, in a Letter from Liverpool,1 a sad tale of your parting at Annan, and how you stood waving your handkerchief to her, in front of a great crowd of people, to make amends for your tears, and keep up her heart. All that is past, and too sad to dwell on. Carlyle of Waterbeck2 was abundantly civil to the poor Traveller; as indeed all people had been and continued to be helpful and civil: so finally, on I think the Wednesday afternoon, as I returned to Frederick Street from Mrs Austin's (where they had kept me to dinner), I was met by the chirling of a little Canary-bird (the same as I hear even now, from the under-story), and in the next room safe in bed, and already well-rested, lay my little Wife, “actually” engaged in drinking tea! She was well, she assured me, and all was well. Let us be thankful; and trust that the rest too will be well!

With our renewed house-huntings, and how we dashed up and down for three or four days, in all manner of conveyances, where such were to be had cheap, and on our legs where not,—I need not detain you here. We saw various Houses; but the Chelsea House (tho' our Dame did not think so at first, but thought and thinks doubly so afterwards) seemed nearly twice as good as any other we could get at the money: so, on Saturday afternoon we finally fixed; and moved hither, according to appointment, on Tuesday forenoon, Bessy Barnett had joined us from Birmingham the night before; and we came all down in a Hackney Coach, loaded with luggage, and Chico (the Canary-bird) singing on Bessy's knee. Jane says the little atom put great heart into her frequently thro' the journey: he sang aloud, wherever he might be; praising, in his way, the Maker that had given him Life and Food and fine weather. How much more should we!

About two hours after our arrival, one of Pickford's huge waggons came lumbering along, and half a dozen stout men began to haul in our Furniture. It had arrived the saturday night before; they had sent it by canal from Liverpool, as some pounds the cheaper way, and also the safer. Their charge was something under seventeen pounds (porterage and all etceteras included); so that, on the whole, we have got the things brought all the way from Annan for at most £20; which is below the lowest I ever calculated on. As for the damage, it was not considerable; and had been done I rather conjecture mainly at Annan that night, when (as Waterbeck said) the sailors got weary and impatient, and tumbled in the packages too much in the head-foremost style. But, indeed, there is wonderfully little ill done; the Canal people are exceedingly careful; the weather was wholly in our favour,—and did not begin raining till five minutes after everything was fairly within doors. The “six stout men” lifted their very best and carefullest; but, as Jane said when she saw them perform, were not equal to the four Craigenputtochers. Our dining-room Table (you remember it, the little oval favourite) had got one of the legs smitten out of it; but in the handsomest way; so that it glued in again positively without any detriment. The Piano-press had its cornices all ruffled, and will require a new coat of paint: this too, however, is trifling. Four of the chairs had got their lugs (you remember the broad upper belt on the back) knocked away: but glue and screw-nails will restore all that also at no great loss. The cornice of this writing-table and of one of the chests-of-drawers was ruffled and broken; but there again glue has helped us. Of the crockery one tumbler and one dram-glass alone were injured; of all the other articles there was absolutely nothing either hurt or lost, but all lay in its place as if it had never stirred from Puttoch! The meal-pokes were both broken, and a bowl of meal lost: tell “James of Scotsbrig” that!3 We reckon that we have come very cheaply off. We owe much to all that had a charge and a hand in the Departure; and Jamie Aitken's Packer may, by universal consent, almost be called “the best in the world.”

Alas, the Bell-hanger is come, and keeps pudging [puttering about] and boring away, at my very ear! However, I will still strive to tell you a thing or two as I can. “Ye maun just excuse us, this day.”4— The House, which we have now inhabited (in the Gillha' style)5 for two days and nights, is certainly by many degrees the suitablest I could find far or near; so that in this also we may reckon Mrs Austin's disappointment a blessing in disguise. The rent of her House was about the very same (rather more, all things included); and I would not exchange with the old faithless Landlady for £20 a year to boot,—had I money to lay out on houses. Chelsea is an “unfashionable place”; that is the secret of it: a quality, as you may well imagine, rather in its favour with Anti-gigmen like us. We lie safe down in a little bend of the river, away from all the great roads; have air and quiet hardly inferior to Craigenputtoch, an outlook from the back windows into mere leafy regions, with here and there a red high-peaked old roof looking thro'; and see nothing of London, except by day the summits of St Paul's Cathedral and Westminster Abbey, and by night the gleam of the great Babylon affronting the peaceful skies. Yet in half an hour (for it is under two miles to Piccadilly) we can be, with a pair of stout legs, in the most crowded part of the whole habitable Earth; and, even without legs, every quarter of an hour from sun to sun, a Coach will take you for sixpence from your own threshold, and set you down there again for another. We are southwest from the smoke; so during great part of the year we shall have no more to do with it than you. Nay even, in East winds, we are near five miles from the old, manufacturing part of London, and the smoke is all but gone before it reaches us.— As for the House itself, it is probably the best we ever lived in: a right old strong roomy brick-house, built near 150 years ago, and likely to see three races of their modern fashionables fall before it come down: it has all been put in perfect repair, and has closets and conveniences without end. Our furniture suits it too; being all of a strong weighty sort. The big Bed is up (at my back here); there was no bedroom I saw hereabouts would take it in: the other bed is right above it: bedrooms just about equal to the Puttoch ones; and each has a large dressing-closet behind it. There are two other bedrooms in front (or one and a dressing-room); one may be Bessy's; and the other hold a shower-bath,—or another bed if we have visitors. I have a large drawing-room (up one pair of stairs) for my “study” (where if I don't write well, it will not be the room's fault); there are two dining-rooms (which can be made one, by folding doors) below, with the “most delightful china-closet”; and under all (in the sunk story) a fore and a back kitchen, with cellars, “copper” (that is, washing Boiler; which the Bricklayer is now setting anew), a Pump of clear hard water within the house, and a water-barrel for soft without it. To conclude, they say this morning, the Carpets are likely to fit without much trouble; and our House-Agent (who serves us for Landlord) is a very innocent, polite-looking man, in whose little dealings with us there is not likely to be needless annoyance.— Here is Dinner announced: so good b'ye, dear Mother, for half an hour!—— 5 o'clock. They are still running about me, tho' I have been away two hours; I must just finish off without much composure. In addition to the many properties of our House, I should have mentioned a little Garden behind; where all is as yet barren or weedy, except a cherry-tree with almost ripe cherries on it, and two miserable rose-bushes: however, I have got a new set of Garden-tools (for six shillings), and will soon give it at least a clean face. It is of admirable comfort to me, in the smoking way: I can wander about in dressing-gown and straw-hat in it, as of old, and take my pipe in peace.— I think, were the Railways done, you must see it all with your own eyes, my dear Mother; that were the shortest way.

Of Bessy Barnett I dare not yet say much: we have seen so little of her; and that little seems so very favourable. She is by far the orderliest, cleverest worker we ever had in the house (hardly even excepting Grace Macdonald), and has manners and an appearance of character totally beyond the servant class: if she go on as we hope, and as she has begun, it will be our duty and pleasure to treat her not as a servant but as a friend. On this side too, therefore, we have as yet great reason to be thankful.

You see all things painted here in the colours of Hope: there is no doubt but by and by we shall have them (House, Place, servant and all) painted in the dingier colours of Reality: nevertheless I think and calculate there will still be much more than Tolerability to boast of; much which, with graceful hearts, we should thank the Giver for, and above all study to improve by welldoing, which is the acceptablest sort of thanks.— I write all to you; because I know there is not anything (down to our very water-barrel) that you do not feel a motherly interest in for our sake.

The Literary craft is bad, tho' hardly so bad, as I expected. I find I shall get my Book (on the French Revolution) printed without cost; but probably nothing more. In the meantime I have some Magazine things in my eye, of a slight kind, to work at, and keep “mall in shaft6 by; and then if my Book were well written, and out, I shall have a better name to start Lecturing &c with; and so, on the whole, we shall make it out, by God's help, better or worse. If to “His glory and my own eternal good,” all else will be as dust on the balance, and an exceeding little thing. “They cannot hinder thee of God's Providence”:7 that is the beautiful part of it.

For the rest, my Friends here continues all very kind, and do more for me than I had any right to expect, or even to wish: I who profess to depend on no friend, but only on God and myself. Hunt who lives close by is not only the kindest but the politest of men; has never yet been near us (which we reckon very civil), but will always be delighted when I go and rouse him for a walk; and indeed a sprightly sensible talker he is, and very pleasant company for a stroll. Jane greatly preferred his “poetical Tinkerdom” to any of the unpoetical Gigmandoms (even Mrs Austin's) which I showed her. The Hunts, I think, will not trouble us, and indeed be a pleasure so far as they go.

And now, my Dear Mother, here surely is enough about London and me for once. As for you and Scotsbrig, I begin to feel exceedingly disheartened about my prospects of news thence. Not one scrape of a pen have I yet realized from any of you; not so much as a Newspaper: the very Courier has not come, I think, for three weeks. You really must not treat me so; nay I know it is not you, dear Mother: but do you, if none else will, get the Courier Newspaper yourself, and in your own hand as you can write our address upon it: that, with two strokes8 (if happily you can still send them) will be a great comfort to me. But, indeed, I do wrong to accuse the rest of negligence; for surely there is some mistake in it: they are too much occupied otherwise, or perhaps had not rightly understood how to direct to me. Give my love to them all; and not reproaches but entreaties.

That Jamie's marriage had already taken place was new to me when Jane came.9 I pray you wish him all happiness in our name; salute also our new Sister, and say that I hope she will learn to like me yet. To Alick I am soon going to write, and therefore shall send no message except my love. The same to Jean, and Mary, whom I picture now beside the Battery,10 and long [to] hear good news of.

You got no newspaper this week; and the reason is, “my Leddy,” that Holcroft and I cannot go on at this distance, without some new arrangement, and none has been yet fallen upon. Perhaps you may get no Newspaper next week either: so do not be disappointed at it, if it prove so. But I mean to write to Alick in about a fortnight; which will be better than many Newspapers. Suppose you go up to Catlinns and hear sermon at Lockerby on Sabbath fortnight, and try the Post-Office when you come out! If there is not one there then, there will be one soon: I cannot, or need not, engage for a day: franks are a little uncertain were there nothing else; and generally detain one at least another Post.

O my dear Mother! how much there was to say, which there is now no time for! May the Almighty Father of us all bless you, and guide all your footsteps! thro' Time and thro' Eternity.— Blessings with you all!

Ever your Affectionate, /

T. Carlyle.

The address is written thus:

5. Cheyne Row

It is pronounced “Chainie Row”: a fine, quiet old street of about 20 houses, with huge old trees opposite us in front, and then a most silent——brick-wall. The river is near, and very gay.

I meant to walk up with this to Buller's tonight, and get it franked; Mrs Buller gave me a general invitation to come any night or all nights, and have tea with them. But now (about 7 o'clock) it has come on the heartiest June rain, so that I am quite shut in for the evening, and must be content with tomorrow forenoon. It will “fill our water-barrel,” and do immense good otherwise. The people have all done with their hay; they were in the heart of it when I came! The wheat has been shot for perhaps a fortnight: the “new garden-peas” are almost over.

I mean to write again to Jack in a few days; perhaps in two.

Give my kind compliments to W. Grahame: say, he shall have a Letter very soon.

Jane might have taken a new sheet. She is off now; and you must read her as you can. Can you read me, dear Mother? Persevere, and you will improve.— And so at last good night!

[JWC's postscript:]

Is not all this very satisfactory my dear Mother and have we not great cause of thankfulness— I declare to you I could not have made myself a better house if I had had money at command and for my servant—I expect she will be sister to me as well as servant— No fear but we shall get a living and my Husband will be healthier and happier than he has been for long years— I will write you a long letter “with my own hand” when I am a little settled at present I am so busy fettling up things [putting things in order]! but Bessy is equal to all and Eliza Miles is come to help me besides

Every body is kind to me—and has been kind to me. I shall ever remember you all with gratitude—as well as love— God be with you every one— your affectionate Jane

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