October 1833-December 1834

The Collected Letters, Volume 7


TC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE; 24 December 1834; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18341224-TC-MAC-01; CL 7:353-359.


Chelsea, London, 24th Decr, 1834—

My Dear Mother,

I did intend writing to you one of these days; and here is Jack's Letter,1 which says plainly, Let it be tonight! My day's work is done, better or worse, and also my day's walking: we have a clear cinder-and-coal fire here, a room almost as quiet as the Scotsbrig one; Jane sits “writing to her Mother” on the one side of the table; I, on the other, sit writing to mine.

Jack you will find is still well; and has farther got that great enterprise of asking leave to practice happily transacted, nay is actually practising; which I am very glad to hear of. He seems to me to want nothing but work: his whole life is in danger of becoming too speculative; and those “good advices” (not mine but the Apostle Paul's, brethren2) will be much better when translated into good deeds. I am very thankful for poor Jack; as I know, you are, and as we all should be: if he is spared alive, and we with him, we may look for more and more comfort on his part. These are great blessings; which how many want! Let us be grateful for them, and improve them[.]3

Poor Edward Irving, as you have heard, has ended his pilgrimage. I had been expecting that issue; but not so soon: the news of his death, which Fraser the Bookseller (once a hearer of his) communicated quite on a sudden, struck me deeply; and the wae feeling of what it has all been, and what it has all ended in, kept increasing with me for the next ten days. O what a wild weltering mass of confusion is this world; how its softest flatterings are but bewitchments, and lead men down to the gates of Darkness! Nothing is clearer to me than that Irving was driven half mad and finally killed simply by what once seemed his enviable fortune, and by the hold it took of him. Killed as certainly (only a little more slowly) as if it had been a draught of sweetened arsenic! I am very sad about him: ten years ago (when I was first here), what a rushing and running; his house never empty of idle or half-earnest wondering people with their carriages and equipments: and now,—alas, it is all gone, marched on like a deceitful vision, and all is emptiness, desertion, and his place knows him no more! He was a good man too; that I do heartily believe: his faults we may hope were abundantly expiated in this life; and now his memory, as that of the just ought, shall be hallowed with us. One thing with another, I have not found another such man. I shall never forget these last times I saw him: I longed much to help him, to deliver him; but could not do it. My poor first Friend, my first and best!—— Bookseller Fraser applied to me to write a word about him; which I did, and after much hithering and thithering I ascertain today that it is at last to be printed (in some tolerable neighbourhood, for we discorded about that) in his Magazine. I will send you a copy of it, and another for his Mother, which you may deliver her yourself. Go and see the poor old forsaken widow; it will do her good, and yourself: tell her that her son did not live for Time only but for Eternity too; that he has fought the good fight,4 as we humbly trust, and is not dead but sleepeth.5 There are few women whom I pity more than poor old Mrs Irving at this moment: few years ago all was prosperous with her; she had sons, a cheerful household; could say: O Edward I'm proud of ye: Now “Ruin's ploughshare”6 has passed over her, and it is all fled.— I must mention that David Hope of Glasgow wrote to me; requesting something about the Deceased too, for a Glasgow Newspaper. I now (by bargain with Fraser) enclose him a copy of that piece with liberty to print it anywhere; which somewhere he will likely do. It is only two Pages, and in the shape of a kind of funeral oration. Mr Johnstone (“John Johnstone”)7 had agreed with Hope that I should be applied to for this end. I have written David's Letter this night, enclosing the thing in it; and now have no more to do.

Jean (or James rather) sent me a welcome little assurance about you one week; Grahame of Burnswark has since that written a most cheerful Letter, in which not the least cheerful thing was an account that you seemed to “stand out admirably.” Good Grahame, I know, paints in flattering colours, where he loves; but I may believe at least that you were in your ordinary way. When is another Letter coming? You must not let your talent sleep: you can now be independent of any of them. Mrs Welsh had seen Jean lately, and sent comfortable word: she is the punctuallest Correspondent we have, and gives a most faithful picture of everything. The great thing and the small thing are alike interesting at this distance: nay to know what you are daily doing, what kind of gown you are wearing, &c &c: that is precisely the most interesting of all.— You never tell me whether your rooms are any way comfortable. That end one was always damp since I knew it: I think you should really shift into the big one, and even shift your bed. Above all things, keep a good fire, and plenty of hap [warm clothing]. Shall I write to Ben Nelson about the Books? Or are you spinning; or what are you doing? Harry will be nearly useless in this hard weather: but you see we are round the corner again; and the day will lengthen, and give us light, if also cold, for

“As the day begins to lengthen
The cold begins to strengthen.”8

Never was finer winter weather than we have had here; hardly a drop of rain, hardly a day of blustering, and now it is the finest frost.— We are come up stairs now (into my writing-room), which is warmer and cheerier: the under apartment is two rooms, with folding doors for making them into one, and answers best in Summer. This is really a fine spacious place; as broad as your Scotsbrig big room, and somewhat longer; all lined with wainscot, a curiously carved mantle-piece; quite a venerable looking old piece of sufficiency, with three windows, looking to the South-west, over the street, into potherb gardens, then houses, and when (the wind is blowing) clear blue sky. There are houses here, let at £300 a-year, not intrinsically better than this; or so good, for they have all bugs in them; and the very Duke of Wellington has to sleep in an iron bed! So much goes by fashion,—which let them follow that have a call to do it.

I am fighting away at my Book; have got the Bastille all comfortably laid flat; and am determined (alas I fear in vain!) to have my First Section finished on Saturday Night.9 My progress is slower than I expected, and the work grows on my hands; so that I fear I must make two volumes of it.10 But if the quality be not bad, that will be no disadvantage. We must “do the best we can.”11 Do not fear my overworking myself: I am very regular; get breakfast about nine; work till two; then go walking till four; and after dinner seldom work more, except reading and the like. The populous roads, Parks and streets are very amusing to walk on: such a bustling flood of life. I have got me a cloak (of brown cloth, with fur neck), a most comfortable article, in which I walk, in sharpest weather, as warm as a pie: I have also a new hat; and on Friday morning am to have a new frock-coat (of very dark “rifle-green”): really a most smart man!— Poor Jane has got her foot burnt: the Maid poured boiling water on it instead of into the coffee-pot, and so the poor Dame sits prisoner; but is getting better. Our maid, who accomplished this feat is the best-natured, most laborious of Pluisters [careless women]; whom after all we reckon far better than a thief or swingler [swindler], as very many of them are. No more tonight dear Mother! I will soon write again; nay perhaps still add a word on the cover. Good be with you dear Mother! Your affectionate T. Carlyl[e]

Thursday Morning

My dear Mother,—Before going to work, I seal you up; my midday walk will then be to Charles Buller's for a frank: he is four miles off me, in the centre of the Town.12

Jane's foot is very sore this morning: it seemed quite a contemptible burn at first; but I think got itself cankered: a Doctor Willis13 of my acquaintance recommended something, but it seems to have produced no benefit as yet. I wish we had you at it! Patience and Time, these must be our resources.

You get the Globe Newspapers when I send them? I could send them [often] if I knew any certainty of your being at the Post Office. I sent one to Mary: will you remember us lovingly to her, and tell us next time specially how they come on at Annan. Alick I doubt has got nothing settled yet about his Farm: give him my brotherly remembrances; say I expect a Letter from him. Mr Cairlill14 will not write to me; but I will to him. Tell him I meant to despatch a Note this very time; but the frank will not carry it now.

Grahame's Letter you can deliver any time. Go up and see Burnswark with it on Harry yourself! The two Mistresses will be very glad to see you, and are really worthy persons.— The Parliament is nearly over: but I hope still to get one other frank for you or some of you. Very soon!—Adieu dear Mother! Good be with you


Our frost has got very faint this morning: it could not hold three days. Peel will dissolve the Parlt, they say, directly after the New Year.15 I wish him luck of his place! No man supposes he can, by possibility, hold it many months. They seem to me little short of mad.