October 1833-December 1834

The Collected Letters, Volume 7


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE; 15 August 1834; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18340815-TC-JAC-01; CL 7:267-275.


5. Great Cheyne Row, Chelsea, London, 15th August, 1834—

My Dear Brother,

How long it is since I wrote last is not accurately in my memory; I know only that your last Letter1 has been in my hands, and indeed in my Mother's (to whom it was forthwith sent) above a fortnight; and that my last, which was all that remained due when you wrote, must be fairly digested by this time; so that now, on a day of leisure, another may be fitly despatched. The news of your welfare, your Seelen-bekenntnisse [confessions of the soul], your trustful brotherly affection: all this is ever one of the most solacing items of my lot. To address you in return and impart my satisfactions and anxieties, with the assurance of having them heartily sympathized in, is also one of my agreeablest employments. Would you were here again! But May is coming, and with it flowers. By God's blessing you will be restored to us; not to wander, we will hope, any more.

There came a letter from Alick very shortly after mine to you was sent away. All is in the usual way in Annandale; for we have heard again only yesterday from Mrs Welsh who had seen Jean and Jenny at Dumfries: nay this moment, since I began to write, the Dumfries Newspaper arrives with the mark of safety on it. Alick represents our Mother as moving about a good deal on Harry, and keeping her health very tolerably: she does not seem altogether hefted [adjusted] yet, he says, at Scotsbrig: however, the new Daughter-in-law seems to be a reasonable young woman, well disposed to do the best for all parties there: till a new Whitsunday at least there can nothing go very wrong among them. Jamie and she, it would appear, are still fond as turtle-doves, and prolonging their honey-moon. James Aitken “will be expecting an addition to his family one of these weeks”: Jenny is living with them for these two last months, at her sewing, and Mrs Welsh represents her as the very picture of health. As for Alick himself, he writes in the middle of a wet abundant hay-harvest, and dates on two successive sundays: he has signified by Letter to his Catlinns Landlord that unless they abate him £20 of the rent, he cannot keep the Farm longer than Whitsunday; and so waits, in a kind of confusing uncertainty, the slow issue; forecasting rather that he will go. I am sorry for Alick: he has a heavy burden to bear, and toils at it rather impetuously than steadfastly. There is much wisely-suppressed energy in him too; but he feels, in general, that he is not in his sphere; and has internally only an artificial kind of composure. One fearfullest precipice I still shudder to see him too near the verge of: that of learning to drink. He is not on the verge of it, but as I say too near it; or it may be, I have chanced to hear and see worse than the average of him, and he may not be even near it. But the thing even from afar is unspeakable, detestable! I will write to poor Alick very soon; and perhaps, in a distant way, if I have opportunity, hint at this: in any case, I know well, my sympathy will cheer him, invigorate him. Yours too would have the same effect: do you never think of writing to him? Perhaps at Annan, with better environment which may be possible there, he will do better.

As for myself, I go on here almost without adventure of any kind. All of us have tolerable health: Jane generally better than before; I certainly not worse, and now more in the ancient accustomed fashion. I am diligent with the Showerbath; my pilgrimages to the Museum and on other Town-errands keep me in walking enough; once or twice weekly, on an evening, Jane and I stroll out along the Bank of the River, or about “the College,”2 and see white shirted Cockneys in their green canoes, or old Pensioners pensively smoking tobacco. I long much for a hill, but unhappily there is no such thing; only knolls, and these with difficulty, are attainable. The London Street tumult has become a kind of marching music to me: I walk along, following my own meditations, without thinking of it. Company comes in desirable quantity, not deficient, not excessive, and there is talk enough from time to time: I myself however, when I consider it, find the whole all-too thin, unnutritive, unavailing, and that I am alone still under the high vault. All London-born men without exception seem to me narrow-built, considerably perverted men, rather fractions of a man. Hunt, by nature a very clever man, is one instance; Mill in quite another manner, is another. These and others continue to come about me, as with the cheering sound of temporary music, and are right welcome so: a higher cooperation will perhaps somewhere else or sometime hence disclose itself. “There was a Piper had a Cow / / And he had nought to give her; / / He took his pipes and play'd a spring / And bade the Cow consider!3 Allan Cunningham was here two nights ago; very friendly, very full of Nithsdale, a pleasant Naturmensch [natural person]. Mill gives me logical developments of how men act (chiefly in Politics); Hunt tricksy devices, and crotchetty whimsicalities on the same theme: what they act is a thing neither of them much sympathizes in, much seems to know. I sometimes long greatly for Irving, for the old Irving of fifteen years ago: nay the poor actual gift-of-tongues Irving has seemed desirable to me; and I have actually as you shall hear made my way thro' to him again. We dined with Mrs (Platonica) Taylor and the Unitarian Fox (of the Repos[i]tory, if you know it), one day: Mill also was of the party, and the Husband, an obtuse most joyous-natured man, the pink of social hospitality. Fox is a little thickset bushy-locked man of five-and-forty, with bright sympathetic-thoughtful eyes (the whole face reminded me of Æneas Rait's,4 compressed, and well buttressed out into broadness), with a tendency to pot-belly, and snuffiness: from these hints you can construe him; the best Socinian Philosophist going, but not a whit more. I shall like well enough to meet the man again; but I doubt he will not me: he professed to be unwell (as I too was), and rather “sang small.”5 Mrs Taylor herself did not yield unmixed satisfaction, I think, or receive it: she affects, with a kind of Sultana noblemindedness a certain girlish petulance, and felt that it did not wholly prosper. We walked home however, even Jane did, all the way from the Regent's Park, and felt that we had done a duty. For me, from the Socinians, as I take it, wird Nichts [will come nothing]. Here too let me wind up the Radical Periodical Editorship,6 which your last Letter naturally speculates on. Mill I seem to discern has given it to this same Fox (who has just quitted his Preachership, and will like myself be out on the world); partly I should fancy by Mrs Taylor's influence, partly as himself thinking him the safer man. Ebbene [oh well]! I can already picture to myself the Radical Periodical, and even prophecy its destiny: with myself it had not been so; the only thing certain would have been difficulty, pain and contradiction; which I should probably have undertaken; which I am far from breaking my heart that I have missed. I may mention too that Mill is so taken with the Diamond Necklace, he in a covert way offered the other night to print it at his own expense, if I would give it him, that he might have the pleasure and profit of reviewing it! Mill likes me well; and on his embarrassed face when Fox happened to be talked of, I read both that Editorship business, and also that Mill had known my want of it; which latter was all I desired to read. As you well say, disappointment on disappointment only simplifies one's course; your possibilities become diminished, your choice is rendered easier. In general I bate no jot of confidence in myself and in my cause. Nay it often seems to me as if the old extremity of suffering, if such were appointed me, might bring out an extremity of energy as yet unknown to myself. God grant me faith; clearness and peaceableness of heart! I make no other prayer.— As to Literary work there is still no offer made that promises to bring in a penny; tho' I foresee that probably such will come, and, as they often do, all in a rush. Mill will want if his Fox concern go on; nay poor Heraud was here the other day endeavouring to bespeak me for a Periodical of his; for even he is to have a dud of a Periodical.7 Cheeriest and emptiest of all the sons of men! Yet in his emptiness, as in that of a dried bladder, he keeps triumphantly jingling his Coleridgean long-gnawed metaphysical cherry-stones, and even “makes a kind of martial music” for himself thereby. I do not remember that I ever met a more ridiculous-harmless froth-lather of a creature in all my Travels. He lets you tumble him hither and thither, and cut him in two as you like; but in the cheerfullest way joins again, and is brisk froth-lather as before. One should surely learn by him.—— The Diamond Necklace I should have told you has been refused by Moxon: shall I let Mill print it? I do not know, and really hardly care. As to Moxon I reckon that we are not only done with this, but with all, and need not for the present come into contact again. The man is civility itself, but the civility of a Turk in grain: he glances out on you with the eye of a famished hound crunching a stolen bone; an eye I do nowise like. Fraser, tho' in an environment I utterly despise and even abhor, is so much a clearer, heartier, honester character that for the present I must decidedly prefer him. He has finished Teufelk, and paid me for it instantly (in all £82"1); and got me 58 perfect-copies (really readable pamphlets of 107 pages, and all made up without break), which I was yesterday despatching far and wide from his shop. Some twenty copies yet remain, which I am in no haste to dispose of. There is of course one for my dear Doctor; but how to get it to Rome is now the question. Black sends off a parcel only once a quarter to Florence, and the last went only [a] few weeks ago. Fraser has had opportunities; has now none. Panizzi8 at the British Museum (who claims a personal acquaintance with both you and me) was to be consulted; but could not be found last day I was there. One Rennie, a Sculptor (an old friend of Jane's whom we have seen) who lives near this, and has relations with Rome, I will also apply to. Do you on your side endeavour, and between us we shall make it out. The Book is worth little, now that I see it; yet not worth nothing, and will perhaps amuse you. I rejoice heartily in having done with it.— My grand task as you already know, is the French Revolution; which, alas, perplexes me much. More Books on it, I find, are but a repitition [sic] of those before read; I learn nothing or almost nothing farther by Books: yet am I as far as possible from understanding it. Bedenklichkeiten [Doubts] of all kinds environ me. To be true or not be true? There is the There is the risk. And then, To be popular or not to be popular? that too is a question that plays most complexly into the other. We shall see, we shall try: Par ma tète seule [By my head alone]!— Before quitting this of Literature I must tell you, among numberless discouragements, of two most encouraging messages I have had. The first is from an unknown Irishman from Cork or rather in Cork:9 did I tell you of him before? The second is from that American Craigenputtoch friend of ours, from whom there came a Letter and Books lately. Both the two, in the most authentic and credible tho' exaggerated manner, cry out Euge [God speed]! for which I am heartily obliged to them. It is in regard to Teufelsk, and they both make their objections too. The day of small things!10 For which however one cannot but be thankful. And so enough of my endeavourings and my cares and little pleasures: my good Jack has now as clear a view of me all as in a single sheet he could expect. We may say in the words of the Sansculotte Deputy writing to the Convention, of the progress of right principles: Tout va bien ici, LE PAIN MANQUE! [All goes well here, bread is lacking!]11 Jane and I often repeat this with laughter. But in truth we live very cheap here (perhaps not much above £50 a year dearer than at Puttoch), and so can hold out a long while independent of chance. Utter poverty itself (if I hold fast by the faith) has no terrors for me, should it even come.

I told you I had seen Irving. It was but yesterday, in Newman Street, after four prior ineffectual attempts. William Hamilton who with his Wife was here on Saturday told me Irving was grown worse again, and Mrs Irving had been extremely ill: he too seemed to think my cards had been withheld. Much grieved at this news I called once more on Monday: a new failure. Yesterday I went again with an insuppressible indignation mixed with my pity: after some shying, I was admitted! Poor Irving! he lay there on a sofa, begged my pardon for not rising; his Wife, who also did not and probably could not well rise, sat at his feet, and watched all the time I was there, miserable haggard, like a watchful Hysperides [sic] dragon. I was civil to her, but could not be more: I never in my time was concerned in another such despicability as I was forced to suspect her of. Irving once lovingly ordered her away; but she lovingly excused herself, and sat still. He complains of biliousness, of a pain at his right short-rib; has a short thick cough which comes on at the smallest irritation. Poor fellow! I brought a short gleam of old Scottish laughter into his face into his voice, and that too set him coughing. He said it was the Lord's will; looked weak, dispirited, partly embarrassed. He continues toiling daily, tho' the Doctor (Darling) says, rest only can cure him. Is it not mournful, hyper-tragical? There are moments when I determine on sweeping in upon all Tongue-work and Martindoms and accursed choking Cobwebberies, and snatching away my old best Friend, to save him from Death and the Grave! It seems too likely he will die there. At lowest I will go again soon and often: I cannot think of it with patience.

Irving told me yesterday that “Ben Nelson had been to Glasgow about his eyes”: I had never heard of such a thing and knew not what to make of it. Alick even mentioned Ben in his Letter, but only as having been swindled out of £16 by some scamp from Kirkcudbright. I shall be anxious to learn more.— I wrote to W. Grahame by my Mother's Frank. Irving (the old Edinr Schoolmaster) of Swaughhead had died very suddenly: he was getting up a dinner, Alick says, for Menzies the new Minister of Hoddam, his old pupil. Mary & her husband were doing well enough at Annan; work rather scarce, yet some always to be had: they had come up to Alick's on their fast-day: I sent poor Mary a copy of the Pamphlet (Teufelk). Andrew Anderson12 is not only to lecture on Surgery, but has married an heiress, niece of Milligan the late Edinr Grinder,13 who died in winter last. It may perhaps set Andrew on his legs. Mrs Welsh was up at Craigenputtoch; it looks all very wild and made her greet [weep] “not that we were gone”: she had escorted thither a certain Indian friend who has (thro' M'Diarmid) taking the shooting, with right to lodging, for £10 a-year: old Nanny M'Queen pays us other £10 for the Park and right of living in the House, with charge of taking care of it, and admitting any decent “gunner body” of that kind. Both sums I believe will be faithfully paid; and old Nanny is said to be the carefullest of women. Mrs Welsh called and saw Glen: he was looking fat and rosy, his dressing-gown out at elbows, and with your old German hair-cap on him; spoke very politely and without blunder, but seemed no sounder intrinsically than before. In recognition of my Note he sent me a Newspaper; which he also mentioned to Mrs W.— Alas the Paper is quite done. Attend me in the margins.— Ever your faithful Brother

T. C.

I have not said a word about Italy; for indeed, my Dear Brother, except you there is nothing there that my thought turns upon; and your position has in it the happy monotony (happy for your friends) of one at rest. Well do I understand those meditations of yours, those goings forth into the uttmost [sic] shores of being, those soundings into dim depths[.] Indulge not too much in them[.] For the rest, rejoice always that you have found footing; prepare yourself not only to stand on it, but to build on it. I wish much you had some more decisive occupation; but such is not appointed yet for a time[.] Meanwhile you are not idle, you are active as the scene allows; many future years I trust, will be the better for this leisure. Have you any company? Tell me whom. Give me descriptions of them, and “how they ack i' the vaarious pleaces.”14— Do you know Thorwaldsen15 at Rome personally? This Rennie seems to be intimate with him, and to love him well: he has cut a head of him, and has it here: the head of a man of energy and sensibility, with a nose of most honest simplicity. Go and see him, and try to get speech of him[:] a man of genius is always the best worth confessing with[.]

Cor ne edito [Do not eat your own heart]!16 Neither will I.—Finis!

Jane who is not very well this particular day sends you her sisterly love. She takes well with Chelsea, and seems to be cheerfuller than she was wont. The noble lady is at St Alban's; has not called yet, but has written a superb Letter to herald a call. “Merchant! you figure well!17

Black had got a Parcel from Weimar for me, when I called: 10 vols. of Goethe's Nachgelassene Werke [Posthumous Works], with a short letter from Eckermann. I asked about your Convn Lexicon Supplement, and whether you had left order about it? The result was, he has sent me some 7 or 8 Nos unbound, nearly the whole we are to have—but two, I think! The price is 19/: was it right? Shall I keep them?

I got your two Book-boxes; they are all safe here: I shall perhaps soon open them. Many people inquire for you, some with a real tone of kindness[.] I have no room for names.

And so my dear Brother here must I end, Gehab' Dich wohl; leb' heiter, lieb' mich [Farewell; live cheerfully, love me] may all good things be with you— I must to Charing Cross where the Post is still open. Felicissima Notte!

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