TC TO ALEXANDER CARLYLE; 28 January 1835; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18350128-TC-AC-01; CL 8:16-19.
TC TO ALEXANDER CARLYLE
5. Cheyne Row, Chelsea, London, / 28th Jany, 1835—
My dear Alick
It is long since I got you written to with any deliberation; I know not how long. I have been so busy; nothing but flying slips of paper, and blotting and scribbling all round me for week after week. However, now for the last eight days, I have been making a sort of pause; occupied only with reading and reflecting: so before falling-to again, I will send you a small word. You may well fancy, judging no doubt by yourself, that I am often, often thinking of you while no writing goes between us: indeed, whither should my mind turn, when it has leisure to meditate, if not towards Annandale, where so much of my possessions in this lower world lies? Believe it, my dear Brother, there is nothing that can banish you out of my thoughts; as I know there is nothing can banish me out of yours. However, a line of writing now and then is indispensable too; and if there is any request I have to make of you, it is that you would stir yourself up a little in that matter; for sometimes I feel myself rather scantily furnished, or at least have felt, for I think we are getting better on of late. You need not say at any time that you are not in the mood, that you have nothing to say &c &c: all these are devices of the Evil Principle; your plan is to seize the moment such as it may be; to sit down and say that same “nothing,” which you will find on trial to be a very tolerable “Something.”
My Mother's last Letter came the very day I had sent off a hasty scrap to her. The various postscripts, and notices contained in that welcome sheet gave me a clear notion of Scotsbrig, with the winter work you were all busy in: I was particularly glad to hear you had been down shortly before, and that “singing” had been going on among you. Long be the like among us! You cannot imagine how quiet and cheery all that looks from amid the confused din of this Metropolitan Monstrosity! Here, least of all places on Earth's surface, quiet never is; a raging and a roaring; all men hunted or hunting; all things “made like unto a wheel”1—that turns and turns. I have grown greatly used to it now; and for most part walk the London Streets as if they were peopled only with Images, and the noise were that of some Niagara waterfall, or distracted universal carding-mill. There is something animating in it too; so that in my walks I generally turn Townwards, and go up thro' a larger or shorter circuit of real London Tumult (hereabouts we are not much noisier than in the stiller parts of Edinburgh, and in our street at 10 at night and later there is no noise at all): for “man likes to see the face of man”;2 one's very dispiritment in these peopled spaces is nothing to the gloom of Puttoch. My shortest turn (for I have various of various lengths) is to Hyde Park Corner; where I see Quality Carriages, six-horse waggons (horses all jingling with little bells), mail coaches &c &c; and the Duke of Wellington's House, the windows all barred with iron (since the Reform-bill time), and huge iron railing twenty feet high between him and the street, which, as the railing is lined with wood too, he does not seem to like: there are carriages sometimes about his gate now; and I bless myself that I am not he.3 Let me mention also that there is a waggoner occasionally passes this door (of Cheyne Row), whose voice to his horses “Way-ho!” infallibly brings me in mind of one I have heard 300 miles off and more.— Alas this will never do; the sheet almost done!
Has the Catlinns business got itself settled yet? I was very glad to learn that there was some prospect of its soon being settled; and, on the whole, not sorry that you expected they might make it eligible for you to stay there.4 Staying is always best, if one can stay; there is such waste every way in removing; waste of time, of money, of habit and connexions: “three flittings [movings] are equal to a fire.”5 But any way you seem to take it in the right mood: that of courage and patient faith. There is no fear in that case. The world is wide as you say; and there is a Heaven above us go where we will.— Make my respects to little Tom; and have him speaking a mouthful of Annandale Scotch when I come back: Jane I daresay is a strapping hizzy [lassie] by this time, and able to bear her share in any dialogue. Be careful of them, poor creatures; and, above and before all things, study to train them in the way that they should go.
My own history here may be summed up in very few words. I have finished my “First Part,” which may possibly make a First Volume; and am about beginning [the] Second and then the Third. On the whole, I am about half done; for a great dea[l of] the stuff is laid in. I shall have a tough struggle however; all the way till the summer be come. Other work or thought I do not much occupy myself with: this is the day's task and is sufficient for the day. The hopes I have of it are not very high; tho' I firmly believe with old Johnson that “useful diligence will at last prevail”;6 and in that spirit I work. We have money to go on with for some twelve months yet; and I calculate that several other shifts may open before then. Literature generally, I am sorry to see, continues as unproductive, distracted, as I fancied it would: my own private surmise is that no honest and reasonably comfortable living can henceforth be made of it: in which case, however, one must simply wish it good day, and try another thing. The poor people all round me are very silly people for most part, and do not work more stiffly than I: yet do not I see them all live? By God's blessing I calculate that the Spirit of Dishonesty shall not get dominion over me; nor the Spirit of Despondency, nor any other evil Spirit; in which case all will and must be well. There are many people kind to me, and many that seem to think far more of me than I merit; but it is not in them I trust. On the whole, I do often feel as if all that hindered one were in reality a blessed furtherance towards something better. Let a man toil diligently; cast his bread upon the waters, he shall find it after many days.7— But, alas, my dear Boy, the sheet is done. I will hope for another chance soon; and in the meantime pray you to bear in mind that you are now clearly my debtor, and that before the ploughing get too hot, you are actually bound to write to me. Send all manner of news: about yourself and household, about my Mother, about every one dear to me. My Mother said you had got her a “cask of good ale.” It was right well done: I thank you as if you had given myself a puncheon. I hope you go and see her often; and will get her in motion again now when the days are lengthening. This spring weather brings me in mind of many things. Jane is gone to bed; or she would expressly send her love. She had a baddish time of it with that foot but is better now.— We have not seen Leigh Hunt for almost 3 months! There was no quarrel either; but I believe the poor man is very miserable, and feels shocked at my rigorous Presbyterian principles; in short is afraid of me! I pity him much; but think too, he is perhaps as well where he is, and I where I am. Good night my dear Alick! Love to Jenny and the Bairns.
Ever your affectionate Brother /
You should by all means go and see Grahame: you will find [him] most kindly disposed towards you. If you meet him soon, say I got the Dumfries Courier (last week) which I knew to be from him. The beggarly Election is done; so be it!8— Do you get your Paper regularly on Monday? It is there almost uniformly on Sabbath day; but on Monday I think you get it.— We have not broken into the ham yet; but will by and by—to Middlesex veal.— Now smoke; and then to bed!—Good Night again!—