October 1833-December 1834

The Collected Letters, Volume 7


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE; 17 June 1834; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18340617-TC-JAC-01; CL 7:212-220.


5. Cheyne Row, Chelsea, London, 17th June, 1834—

My Dear Brother,

Tho' I have yet got no answer to my last Letter, and may be in reasonable daily expectation of such, I wait not for it, but take the earliest Postday after settlement to send you my news again. The other Letter left everything in so uncertain a state; and now in several fundamental particulars we are all fixed and at anchor.

You can fancy what weary lonesome wanderings I had, thro' the dusty suburbs and along the burning streets, under a fierce May sun with East wind; “seeking thro' the nation for some habitation”!1 At length Jane sent me comfortable tidings of innumerable difficulties overcome; and finally (in, I think, the fourth week) arrived herself; with the Furniture all close following her, in one of Pickford's Trackboats. I carried her to certain of the hopefullest-looking Houses I had fallen in with, and a toilsome time we anew had: however, it was not long; for, on the second inspection, this old Chelsea Mansion pleased very decidedly far better than any other we could see; and, the people also whom it belongs to proving reasonable, we soon struck a bargain, and in three days more (precisely this day week) a Hackney Coach, loaded to the roof and beyond it with luggage and live-passengers, tumbled us all down here about eleven in the morning. By “all” I mean my Dame and myself; Bessy Barnett, who had come the night before; and—little Chico, the Canary-bird, who, multum jactatus [much tossed about], did nevertheless arrive living and well from Puttoch, and even sang violently all the way by sea or land, nay struck up his lilt in the very London streets wherever he could see green leaves and feel the free air. There then we sat on three trunks; I, however, with a match-box, soon lit a cigar, as Bessy did a fire; and thus with a kind of cheerful solemnity we took possession by “raising reek [smoke],” and even dined in an extempore fashion, on a box lid covered with some accidental towel. At two o'clock the Pickfords did arrive; and then began the hurlyburly; which even yet has but grown quieter, will not grow quiet, for a fortnight to come. However, two rooms and two bedrooms are now in a partially civilized state; the broken Furniture is mostly mended; I have my old writing-table again (here) firm as Atlas; a large wainscotted drawing-room (which is to be my study) with the “red carpet” tightly spread on it; my Books all safe in Presses; the Belisarius Picture2 right in front of me over the mantel-piece (most suitable to its new wainscot lodging), and my beloved Segretario Ambulante [itinerant secretary]3 right behind, with the two old Italian Engravings, and others that I value less, dispersed around; and so, opposite the middle of my three windows, with little but huge Scotch Elm-trees looking in on me, and in the distance an ivied House, and a sunshiny sky bursting out from genial rain, I sit here already very much at home, and impart to my dear and true Brother a thankfulness which he is sure to share in. We have indeed much reason to be thankful every way.

With the House we are all highly pleased, and, I think, the better, the longer we know it hitherto. I know not if you ever were at Chelsea, especially at old Chelsea, of which this is portion. It stretches from Battersea Bridge (a queer old wooden structure, where they charge you a halfpenny) along the bank of the River, westward a little way; and eastward (which is our side) some quarter of a mile, forming a “Cheyne Walk” (pronounced Chainie Walk) of really grand old brick mansions, dating perhaps from Charles II's time (“Don Saltero's Coffeehouse” of the Tatler is still fresh and brisk among them),4 with flagged pavement; carriage way between two rows of stubborn-looking high old pollarded trees; and then the River with its varied small-craft, fast-moving or safe-moored, and the wholesome smell (among the breezes) of sea Tar. Cheyne Row (or Great Cheyne Row, when we wish to be grand) runs up at right angles from this; has some twenty Houses of the same fashion; Upper Cheyne Row (where Hunt lives) turning again at right angles, some stone-cast from this door. Frontwards we have the outlook I have described already (or if we shove out our head, the River is disclosed some hundred paces to the left); backwards, from the ground floor, our own gardenkin (which I with new garden-tools am actually re-trimming every morning), and, from all the other floors, nothing but leafy clumps, and green fields and red high-peaked roofs glimmering thro' them: a most clear, pleasant prospect, in these fresh westerly airs! Of London nothing visible but Westminster Abbey and the topmost dome of St Pauls; other faint ghosts of spires (one other at least) disclose themselves, as the smoke-cloud shifts; but I have not yet made out what they are. At night we are pure and silent, almost as at Puttoch; and the gas-light shimmer of the great Babylon hangs stretched from side to side of our horizon. To Buckingham Gate it is 32 minutes of my walking (Allan Cunningham's door about half way); nearly the very same to Hyde Park Corner, to which latter point we have Omnibuses every quarter of an hour (they say) that carry you to Whitehorse Cellar, or even to Coventry Street, for sixpence; calling for you at the very threshold. Nothing was ever so discrepant in my experience as the Craigenputtoch silence of this House and then the world-hubbub of London and its people into which a few minutes bring you: I feel as if a day spent between the two must be the epitome of a month. Within doors we have also every reason to be satisfied. There are three floors, besides the sunk kitchen-floor; three rooms on every floor, the backmost, narrow one, being a “delightful” china-closet on the ground-floor, and in each of the two other floors a delightful dressing-room. We sleep aloft, in our old Bed, which is all rehabilitated; only the toilet-tables are not yet come, and for toilet-table we have a box set on end. The big red bed, also quite safe and entire, stands behind this drawing-room, much in its place: I did not see another bedroom in London that would have taken it in. The other two Beds and the folding-bed were well sold at Puttoch; we have bought a new folding-bed for Bessy, which stands in the topmost floor (where, by the bye, are four rooms or roomkins, the space of the drawing-room being parted into two); a vacant front bedroom there will hold a shower-bath, and another bed when we like. The whole House has been thoroughly repaired; new-painted, and, on the ground-floor, papered down to the chairbelts where the old wainscot again appears: all seems tight and right. The rent is £35; which really seems £10 cheaper than such a House could be had for in Dumfries or Annan. The secret is our old friend, “Gigmanity:” Chelsea is unfashionable; it is also reputed unhealthy. The former quality we rather like (for our neighbours still are all polite-living people); the latter we do not in the faintest degree believe in, remembering that Chelsea was once considered the “London Montpelier,”5 and knowing that in these matters now as formerly the Cockneys “know nothing,” only rush in masses blindly and sheepwise. Our worst fault is the want of a good free rustic walk, like Kensington Gardens, which are above a mile off: however, we have the “College” or Hospital Grounds,6 with their withered old Pensioners; we have open carriage-ways, and lanes, and really a very pretty route to Piccadilly (different from the Omnibus route) thro' the new Grosvenor edifices, Eaton Square, Belgrave Place &c: I have also walked to Westminster Hall by Vauxhall Bridge-end, Millbank &c; but the road is squalid, confused, dusty and detestable, and happily need not be returned to. To conclude, we are here on literary classical ground, as Hunt is continually ready to declare and unfold:7 not a stone-cast from this House Smollet[t] wrote his Count Fathom (the house is ruined and we happily do not see it);8 hardly another stone-cast off, old More9 entertained Erasmus: to say nothing of Bolingbroke St. John,10 of Paradise Row11 and the Count de Grammont,12 for in truth we care almost nothing for them. On the whole we are exceedingly content so far; & have reason to be so: I add only that our Furniture came with wonderfully little breakage, and for less than £20 Annan included; that Jane sold all her odd things to Nanny Macqueen on really fair terms; and that we find new furniture of all sorts exceedingly cheap here, and have already got what we need, or nearly so, for less than our own old good [sic] brought on the spot. Poor old Puttoch is still to be taken care of by a woman reputed faithful to a degree, old Nanny herself, who came the day after Jane departed; is to pay us £10 a year for House and Park, leaving the shooting to be otherwise disposed of it offer present itself, the former offerer being (in time) discovered to be a skyte [rascal]. Thus, dear Jack, it is all better than we hoped.

I have spent much of my sheet in description; but this time you will not grudge me, and it will not need to be repeated. A few words are still due for our internal social arrangements. Bessy, as I said, had arrived: she quite charmed her new mistress; and really seems a most sensible, affectionate, honourable girl; certainly far the orderliest, cleverest servant we have ever had; and with a character and manners which would be an improvement for most ladies of our acquaintance. I think, by judicious management, she will really do well, and be a very great blessing to us. It is settled between Jane and me that she shall have tea with us every Sunday evening, and conversation, and perhaps a few chapters of good reading: were all servants Bessies, I think it were a plan fit for universal adoption. Here, however, I must give you a new trait of Montaguedom and the Noble Lady. The night before Bessy was to arrive, Jane went to drink tea there; at her answer to the question, Have you got a servant? great eyes were made; and then the direfullest narration opened, of Bessy having been Badams' kept mistress “for years and years,” and the artfullest, wretchedest, wickedest creature on Earth; as a whole sheaf of Letters in the hand of Montague and two others (agents in B's affairs) would prove to the blind; which Agents Mr Carlyle would of course instantly go to, and so put far from him the accursed thing: otherwise consequences without end would ensue; for example, being cut by all respectable women, especially by the respectable women of No 25! My good Dame was much shocked and staggered: for my own share, I confess I was struck with a kind of horror at the infernal temper of these poor persons, persecuting beyond the very Grave; and decided not on going to Mr Sanson (or whatever his name is),13 but on not going to Bedford Square again except on the most urgent call; if not again at all so much the better. Nothing is to be gained, much may be lost by contact with a temper of mind which, however decorated, is once for all damnable, and of the Devil devilish. We fancy that we understand the truth of that scandal (and love poor Bessy rather the more for it); and, at any rate, not being minded to wed Bessy but only to hire her, have almost nothing to do with it: respectable women take servants out of the Magdalen Asylum;14 and are still visited by respectable women,—or even, with unspeakable composure, see them pass by unvisiting. But Oh, from that spirit of Hatred and horrid Cruelty good Lord deliver us!15

There is now a word to be said on Economics, and the Commissariat Department. Bookselling is still at its lowest ebb; yet on the whole better than I expected to find it. Fraser is the only Craftsman I have yet seen: he talks still of loss by his Magazine; and I think will not willingly employ me much, were I never so ready, at the old rate of writing. He seems a well-intentioned creature; I can really pity him in the place he occupies. I went yesterday with a project of a series of Articles on French Revolution matters; chiefly to be translated from Mémoires: but he could not take them, at my rate, or indeed at almost any rate; for he spoke of £10 a sheet as quite a ransom. He has got my name (such as it is), and can do better without me. However, he will cheerfully print (for “half-profits,” that is, zero) a projected Book of mine on the French Revolution; to which accordingly, if no new thing occur, I shall probably very soon with all my heart address myself, in full purpose to do my best, and put my name to it.16 The Diamond Necklace Paper his Boy got from me, by appointment, this morning; to be examined whether it will make a Book: as an Article I shall perhaps hardly think of giving it to him[.] For, you are to understand, that Radical Review of Mill's, after seeming to be quite abandoned, has now a far fairer chance of getting started: a Sir W. Molesworth, a young man whom I have seen at Buller's and liked, offers to furnish all the money himself (and can do it, being very rich), and to take no farther hand in it, once a Manager that will please Mill is found for it. Mill is to be here tomorrow evening: I think, I must appoint some meeting with Molesworth, and give him my whole views of it, and express my readiness to take a most hearty hold of it; having the prospect of right companions; none yet but Mill and Buller, and such as we may farther approve of and add. It seems likely something may come of this.17 In any other case, Periodical Authorship, like all other forms of it, seems done in the economical sense: I think of abandoning it; of writing my Book; and then, with such name as it may give me, starting some new course, or courses, to make honest wages by. A poor Fanny Wright (whom we are to hear tonight in Freemason's Hall) goes lecturing over the whole world:18 before sight, I will engage to lecture twice as well; being, as Glen once said, with great violence, to me, “the more gigantic spirit of the two.” On the whole, I fear nothing. There are funds here already to keep us going above a year, independently of all incomings: before that we may have seen into much, tried much, and succeeded in somewhat. “God's providence they cannot hinder thee of”: that is the thing I always repeat to myself, or know without repeating.

The sheet is just done; and both Scotsbrig and Rome are yet to be treated of! With regard to Scotsbrig little includes my all: except Jane's general assurance that all was right when she left, I know nothing. My Mother came down to Mary's to meet her; slept with her at the Battery there; came down to the beach between three and four in the morning; was weeping do what she could to hinder it; but stood in front of a great crowd of people (for there were 150 Emigrants going too) waving her handkerchief to make amends and encourage her. Jamie must be married a fortnight ago. But not one of them has sent me the smallest stroke of a pen since I came off: the very Newspaper, which they get among them, has not been forwarded for 3 weeks. I impute it to some not real but imagined uncertainty about my receiving. I have written a Note and two long Letters to my Mother (the last from this house), and hope to have some token of their wellbeing before this week end. She was cheerful, Jane assured me; and looking forward to the new arrangement without fear or sorrow. I fancy her oftenest with Alick, or at seabathing with Mary. Her health seemed decidedly better than when you were here. You must write to her; but remember that I shall not now see your Letters.— As to Rome, what can I say but that a Letter thence is necessary to make me feel as if I were rightly settled. We shall have a better chance now; and may account ourselves at least fully a week nearer. We shall meet too, by and by, if it be God's will; my Brother shall be in his Brother's house in this Babylon, there to inquire and take counsel and determine. So be it! Amen!— In any case, as you say, “we are together.”

[In margins:]

I managed to see Irving again since I wrote; I dined one day with him at 1 o'clock, and staid till four. He was looking greatly better, tho' still feeble and agitated; was very friendly; and I steered clear of his Tongues. His Wife was there, which cramped us much. W. Hamilton (who kindly asked for you) tells me since that he has had a fall from his horse; but is still considered as recovering. I have not seen him again; he now lies so far out of all my courses: but I will soon see him.— Mrs Strachey is gone (to the neighbourhood of Bristol); and tho' I saw her twice or thrice, I got little comparatively from her, except her friendly looks. She seemed in a kind of awe of me; and on the whole more self-sustained and self-contained than of old. Whether she ever met Miss Morris I could not learn. Buller is getting well fast: his parents still with him. I have a general invitation for the evenings but seldom take advantage of it; being busy yet with flitting. Other friends are hardly interesting in this dearth of available space. Jane in breathless haste (nailing carpets) sends her Sisterly love. She is wonderfully well. Finis!

Now when will you write, dear Jack? I beg, unless you have already written as I bade you, that it be the very day this comes. I am really getting impatient to hear of you: to hear even of your whereabout, for I can only guess that you are about Naples now. You have my address. I stand by your old Roman one till I hear more. God bless you dear Brother! Vale mei memor [Farewell remember me]. T. Carlyle

Arbuckle had a Letter of yours, as Jane passed thro' Liverpool: he was well; in high spirits and prospects.

The Dutchess [sic] of Kent has what the woman called to Jane a “feat shampetrie” [fête champêtre: an outdoor entertainment] here today: I hear the bells ring.

This Document
Right arrow Similar letters
Right arrow Alert me to new volumes
Right arrow Add to My Carlyle Folder
Right arrow Download to citation manager
Right arrow Purchase a volume of the print edition
Right arrowSubject terms: