January 1835-June 1836

The Collected Letters, Volume 8


TC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE; 17 February 1835; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18350217-TC-MAC-01; CL 8:53-56.


Chelsea, 17th Feby 1835—

My Dear Mother,

I am afraid I do not keep my promise and purpose to you so well as I ought in the writing way: it is the weakness of the ability not of the will. I sit here of late so very motionless over my task-sheet, that the world is almost foreign to me: I take no note of its ways; the flight of days and of weeks goes on unmarked, and I am astonished to find them departed. You get the Newspaper, happily still with its two strokes; and will not be uneasy about me. Besides I think you know so much of my old punctuality as to be pretty sure that if anything really bad were happening, I would not keep you in ignorance. As to the fash [bother] of putting the Newspaper into the Post-Office, that is literally nothing; I go out to walk daily, and nearly always from choice go up towards the press of the Town (close past the Post-Office): the tumult of these my brethren, sons of Adam, amuses me. How different from the lone musing stroll along the Glaisters Hill side! I never think of that now without a kind of shudder at it; of thankfulness that I am away from it.— But indeed I ought to write to you more deliberately, and will (were this villainous Book once done): nay; there is hope that I shall see you again before very long, which will be far better!

Jack's letter when it came in reminded me that I had heard nothing from Annandale since the last time of writing to him; also that I had not written to you again as I meant.— He is well, the worthy Doctor, and talks of home-coming! That late illness of Lady Clare's seems to have been a trying kind of predicament for him; and I think he managed with great honesty and discretion; really very well. The “Homoepathic Medicine” he talks of is a thing the poor Gomerals [Blockheads] are making a noise about here too: it is probably among the most perfect delusions of its day, as far as I can see into it. Neither for love nor for money let a man have anything to do with delusions in any place or at any time! Jack I trust will come back to us grown in many respects: I hope we shall all meet again, for the better and not for the worse.

As to my own proceedings here, they amount to almost nothing, except the slow but determined progress my poor Book is making. I cannot write it fast; I could write it fast enough, if I would write it ill: but that I have determined not to do—wilfully. It will be bad enough against one's will. O that I was done with it! But Patience! Patience! One must go on,—as we did at the Cressfield shearing [reaping]: were it but a sheaf cut, it will not “loup in again.”1 Hurry after all is of no use; one does nothing of any weight by hurrying. Many a time I think of my good Father's method of working, how he went on “without haste, without rest”;2 and did in that way the very most, I must believe, that he could do. I am not so wise in my trade; which indeed is more difficult to manage wisely.

However, you are not to suppose that I work myself into ill health. No; I really am not under my usual condition in that particular; rather above, I should say; for I take no drugs now; and, for example, yesterday I walked upwards of eight miles (to and from the Bullers's old house; they are in a new one now, a mile and half nearer us) before dinner, and was not a whit exhausted. I am still in a new sort of health, not as I used to be; nay I sometimes think, I shall get heartily healthy once more, and be a young brisk man—turned of forty! In my mind I feel quite young yet; and growing, as when I was eighteen: this is the greatest blessing.— As to my outlooks here, and indeed as to the world and the ways of it, and its usage of me better or worse, I cannot say that my heart is distressed, or will distress itself about it: it is God's world, and I am God's worker in it; well for me if I can be that! I seem to see better and better that I have not wholly mistaken my calling, in that point of view; and as to the rest—Good is our Maker; He will give us strength according to our burden.— Hitherto the look of Literature as a trade is full of the wretchedest contradictions; nor do I see how any man that has more than meat to look for, and would Keep, not a carriage, but a Conscience, can do much good in it as a getter of money. I have not found it very blessed in the way of ease either as I worked at it: on the whole, if it do not show a fairer side, I will fling it from me, and seek bread otherwise: there is bread to be had elsewhere; and I will think my thought, and write it down (as the Heavens enable me), and ask only Heaven's permission to do that. Accordingly I question if there is any man in London with as small a “fixed capital,” who carries his head as free, and will take fewer dunts [blows] from man or thing than “one Carlyle3 of Craigenputtoch,” worthy man,—one of whose toes is sore at this moment; which is his grand grievance. The truth is, dear Mother, I am full of my task, and see it getting on; and think that is more than perhaps his Majesty can say: for me it ought to be enough. The Book will probably bring me no money; but I can do without that; and were it done and my hands free, I can write an “Article” or two again. They say it is going to be a tolerable enough Book; a queer Book, yes a very queer Book.— Jane's foot is quite whole, and her health, I think, as good as it has been for long. We go on very quietly here: “indulge” in a cup of hot coffee at eight o'clock by way of breakfast: she then goes down stairs and leaves me the room to scribble in till one or two; then I walk or dig till four: dinner next of simple mutton chop and 'tatie; a little music, reading, or by a time some solid friendly visitor (no quack is at the pains to come so far), and so at ten our porridge come in, and “all is by” in a very innocent manner. You will be surprised to hear that I am fast losing my appetite for tea! The truth is, for one thing, good tea is an article I have never tasted in London: the water is all hard, full of solutions, salts &c &c; only strong coffee covers it right. When we put soda in ours here, it hisses like an effervescing draught. But besides I do think my abstract love of Tea is diminishing; which I dare say you rejoice at, as at my declining consumpt[ion] of Tobacco. I have a set of Pipes here; of which I should so like to send you a gross (for they are your very kind): b[ut] alas, it is too far.

Dear Mother, I am a great fool. I find I have written to you within the prescribed time; that Jean's frank intervened since yours!— Did she send you the ruled sheets? If so, you will not play me foul. Did you go to Annan? Jane is to write Mary a little Note tomorrow. We hear that poor old Mrs Irving seems not to be in a very strong state of mind: if you saw her, you would get little out of her but clatter. Poor body! it is perhaps a kind of mercy; for her trials, if she saw them, have been sore. Young Mrs Irving,4 I understand is here: but we keep on the other side of the causeway from her wishing her well from the distance. She is not a woman one can do good with: a woman that even wanting to be sincere cannot be it. When I think what a hand she too (unconsciously and unwillingly) had in the ruin of my poor Friend, it fills me with pain.

Now when is the ruled sheet to come? I long to know all about you, how you are, what you are doing: I have still no right conjecture about all that. This I doubt is a wild time of weather with you: would you were here to see and feel these bright blue days, far the finest I ever saw in February! We had rigorous frost too for a day lately; Spring is Spring. Does Harry carry you; I mean can you ride in such wind and cold as you will have. Keep on a good fire, dear Mother! It is a damp wall that, and very unwholesome if you do not beat it back. O what a blessing that you are still able to go on so well. That you have a reasonable, acquiescing, hoping spirit! I thank you dear Mother a thousand times for the lessons you and my Father taught me; they are more precious than fine gold.— I must write to Alick about the letting of his farm (this was the day set for it): will Jamie excuse me another time. Jane's love to you all. Good night, dear Mother!

Ever your affectionate, /

T. Carlyle