October 1833-December 1834

The Collected Letters, Volume 7


TC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE; 1 September 1834; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18340901-TC-MAC-01; CL 7:283-286.


Chelsea, London, 1st September, 1834—

My Dear Mother,

It is long since I have been so much delighted with anything as I was with your affectionate, good humoured excellent little Letter:1 indeed, I think it was one of the blithest moments it gave me that I have had since I left you. Now at last I can fancy that I shall not want for Letters; you with the matter in your own hand will duly think of my necessities in that way, and may at all times be depended on for punctuality. For I calculate that “having put your hand to the plough”2 you will not in any wise draw back! No, no. Let them rule you a piece of paper, or what were better make you a set of permanently ruled lines, and then, with a pen and an inkbottle, you can at any moment tell me your own story independent of any one: were it nothing but “half a drop,” it will be welcomer to me than any whole drop, or whole flood, that can come from any other quarter. You speak with so much hope and kindliness about everything, and take with such a cheerful patience all the changes appointed you (of which in late years there have been enough and too many), and ever are found waiting to welcome the new time, and make the most of it, with glad submission to the will of Him that appointed it,—I confess, my dear Mother, you might be a lesson and a wholesome reproof to the best of us. May the Father of all be thanked that it is so well with you! Nay, while He gives you that spirit, it can never be ill with you. Whatever can betide, for Time or for Eternity, is not He there, the All-powerful but also the All-loving, All-pitying!—— I have endeavoured from your description, and Jean's former one, to picture out your two Scotsbrig Rooms, with the red curtains and the new window, and fancy that in the pleasant season you will be very braw [handsomely fixed] and not uncomfortable: when the winter comes, as it is fast doing, you must keep a good fire, and if the weather detain you from stirring out, yet I know your hand will not lie idle; and with work to do, one need not weary. Let me find you well, dear Mother, when I come back. And if I bring you a good new Book in my hand, will not you have that new plaid dressing-gown ready for me! Grahame of Burnswark tells me that you are looking “admirably well”: he adds that in your ways of speech and acting, you bring him, more than I could imagine, in mind of his own beloved Mother,—which I do believe is the highest compliment he could pay you. His Letter is full of the most overflowing friendliness, and was very welcome to me.

We suppose you come to stay with Jean till a certain event be over, about which, poor thing, she is naturally anxious enough. We trust, it will all prove right and joyful, and disappoint her apprehension. Tell them to write to us directly; or do it yourself if you are not too slow. Give my thanks to Jean for her share of the Letter, and say that the only reason why she does not also receive a Note to-day, is that the Frank will not hold one; that American Letter3 being already a double one. The Newspaper comes regularly on Friday about noon; and on Saturday I as regularly forward it to Alick, who will thus find it waiting for him on Monday. Tell Jean, she must not again write on it with so coarse a pen, lest they detect us, and come out with their fine of fifty pounds! A small crow-quill stroke, which cannot be so cunning as to escape me, and then a wafer introduced to prevent the cover from slipping: that, in cases of extremity that justify a fraud on the ravenous Post-office, is the method for doing it. Jack's Letter unfortunately cannot be sent me, but I gather that he is well, and hope ere long to have a Letter of my own confirming it.— Have you got the Books; I mean, a set of Teufelsdröckhs, which I despatched for you, all in a heap to Jean's care, thro' M'Kinnel the Bookseller,4 by way of Edinburgh? Your Names are on them; but I could put nothing more, having to leave them open on Fraser's counter. This American Letter is on the same subject: I thought it would be worth your reading; for is not all the good that happens to me a possession of yours also? Read the Letter in this sense, and do not show it to any one else; that were but a wretched vanity, in which, as I have found long since there is little thrif[t] for me or any one.

Of Chelsea news we have as good as none to send you; which indeed means intrinsically good enough news. We go on in the old fashion, adhering pretty steadily to our work, and looking for our main happiness in that. This is the dull season in London, and several of our friends are fled to the country; however, we have still a fair allowance of company left us; and, what is best, the company we have is none of it bad or merely “a consuming of time,” but rational, and leads to something. The best news I have is that, this day, I mean to begin writing my Book; nay, had it not been for the present sheet, would already have been at it! Wish me good speed: I have meditated the business as I could, and must surely strive to do my best. With a kind of trembling hope I calculate that the Enterprise may prosper with me, that the Book may be at least a true one, and tend to do God's service not the Devil's. It will keep me greatly on the stretch for these winter months; but I hope to have it printed and out early in spring: what is to be done next we shall then see. The world must be a tougher article than even I have ever found it, if it altogether beat me. I have defied it, and set my trust elsewhere, and so it can do whatsoever is permitted and appointed it. As to our other doings and outlooks, I have written of them all at great length to Alick, the other day; so that, as you are likely to see his Letter very soon, I need not dwell on them here. I have seen Mill and various other agreeable persons since (for our company comes often in rushes), but met with no farther adventure.

The sheet is fading very fast; Jane's little Note too is ready; and I have still some business to do. We spoke long ago about a freight of eatable goods we wan[t]ed out of Annandale in the fall of the year. As you are the punctuallest of all, I will now specify the whole to you, that you may bestir yourself and stir up others in the proper quarter [to] be getting them ready: I suppose, it will be some five weeks before they can go off; but I shall have get minuter knowledge, and shall write again, before that. Here is the list of our wants, as I have extracted it by questions out of Jane. First sixty pounds of Butter in two equal pigs (the butter here is 16 pence a pound!); secondly a moderately-sized sweet-milk cheese; next two smallish Bacon-hams (your Beef-ham was just broken into last week and is in the best condition); next, about 15 stone of right Satur oatmeal5 (or even more, for we are to give Hunt some stones of it, and need almost a pound daily, there is not now above a stone left); and after that, as many hundredweights of Potatoes as you think will keep (for the rule of it is this: we take 2 pounds daily, and they sell here at 1½d or at lowest a penny a pound, and are seldom good): all this got ready and packed into a hogshead, or into two, will reach us by Whitehaven, and we will see how it answers. You may stir up Alick and James then; and say, The sooner the better[.]

I have just had a Letter (from Henry Inglis) that the Books are got to Edinburgh: so you will likely see yours on Wednesday next. Mill has undertaken to get me this franked; which is more than I hoped, for the “Members” are nearly all off. Write to me soon, with your own hand “Half a drop,” if more may not be. Give my brotherly love to Jean and Jenny, and all of them, and their several households, wheresoever they struggle and toil[.] Tell them all to stand true and fear nothing[.] I shall hope soon to hear of you, and still that it may be good news. God grant it [obliterated] Take great care of yourself at this unhealthy season; keep well, and love us[.] I am ever (My D[ear Mo]ther) your affectionate,——

T. Carlyle.

Thomson (of Spital-riding-hill) and Macqueen, a strange sight here, came floundering in since I began to write this: it seemed as if they had just come “thro' the burn,” and Hoddam and London were contiguous parishes! Macqueen paid some “mistaken money” (thirty shillings), and went, with good wishes.