January 1835-June 1836

The Collected Letters, Volume 8


TC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE; 25 March 1835; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18350325-TC-MAC-01; CL 8:82-87.


Chelsea, 25th March 1835—

My Dear Mother,

I purposed writing to you two nights ago, as you might perhaps notice on the Newspaper; but a little man came in, and occupied the whole evening I designed for you. It turned out, however, to be “probably just as well”: for next day there arrived Jack's Roman Letter; which now can go along with mine to make the bargain better. We are, as Jack says, very lucky; and should be thankful that we hear from one another so regularly. I will only wish now, since you have delayed so long, that our Letters may not again run into one another's mouth: however, in that case too, I will send you an answer the sooner, and make matters straight again.

Jack, as you will see, has nothing but good news for us: the best is that he is (we can hope) on the way to see us all again, “by the end of June.” I answered him last night;1 and could not but, among other things, agree with him that it were as well if his Travels ceased after that: he will have funds for attempting a settlement somewhere; and, if he see any feasibility, ought to do it. The money he speaks of will be sent forward as the last was; I will give you notice of it, and you will have to go to Dumfries; which, if Harry be in any condition, will perhaps do you no harm. As for that question about whether you got the annual (or interest) regularly, I could make no answer; but hope you do. If you do not, pray apply, and make the people pay up. I never learned either whether the Houses at Ecclefechan were got satisfactorily repaired, or how the rents come in: you complain of nothing; but have doubtless complaints that you might make;—and which I ought to know of. In the meanwhile, dear Mother, what a satisfaction for me is it to know that you are one of those that look not either to Houses in Ecclefechan, or any House or Possession on this poor Earth for your comfort and stronghold! I know well that there is nothing but such a faith that can render this Earth and her stinted allowances endurable, nay matters of thankfulness for one. The cheerful wise way in which you adjust yourself to so many vicissitudes, and are always seen to be yourself in the midst of them, should be a lesson to me and all of us.

I had some occasion lately for a portion of your faith; in a most unexpected accident (what we call accident) that befel me; of which I delayed writing till I could not only say that I would get over it, but that I had got over it. Be of good cheer, therefore, as to that: it is all right (and for the best, I am persuaded); and you shall now hear about it fully. To sum up all in a word: the First Volume of my poor Book is utterly destroyed! Mill, to whom I had lent it to read, and write Notes on (for he is skilled in that subject), and who was full of admiration for the bit of work, had left it carelessly out in his house: some of the people saw it lying; tore it up as waste paper; and when he noticed it, there were only some three or four fractions of leaves remaining. He came hither to me, in a state looking not unlike insanity; and gasped out (for he could hardly speak) his Job's-news. I am very glad that I got it borne so well; for it was a hard thing. It never got the better of me; and by next morning the bitterness of it was all over; and I had determined that there must be a finger of Providence in it; that it meant simply I was to write the thing over again truer than it was. My little Dame stood faithfully by me too, and was very good and brave. Having finished out the new Chapter I was upon therefore, I resolutely turned back to the beginning again; and have this day finished the First Chapter of all a second time, certainly no worse than it was; a thing that gives me great comfort, for I now find that I can do it; of which, before trial (so irksome was the business), I had no certainty, except in the determination to “gar [make] myself do it.” “Dinna tine [lose] heart, therefore; if thou tine heart, thou tines a'!”2 I do really believe the Book will be the better for it, and we shall all be the better.— I must not forget to say that poor Mill next day sent a passionate entreaty to be allowed to pay me, what money could pay; to which I, as to a reasonable thing, acceded; and so he sent me soon after a Draught for £200,—which however I returned that same day saying it was just twice the sum due. I have seen Mill since, and we talked of it; he this day sends me another Letter still wishing I would stand by the original sum or some intermediate one: but I had explained to him that £100 was fully my expenses during the time of writing the thing; and so I fancy we will still adhere to that computation; for if any one had asked me to throw the writing into the fire, and said, What would I take? I could have given him no definite answer—except that I would be ill, ill indeed to deal with. In this rather handsome way, has the matter been brought to a bearing. One other thing I proposed that it should never be spoken of (except to you and Jack and the Kindred) till it was all made good again.

So that you see, dear Mother, I have no chance to earn my Dressing-gown this Summer: but you will give it me on trust I daresay? My whole object now is to get the lost part made up again by the time Jack may be expected: I will then throw it by for a while, and take it up afterwards; perhaps write some part of it beside you. It really was going to be what I reckoned a reasonably good Book (and a Part of it I still have); neither will it, one may think, the rebellious heart being once subdued to work quietly at it, be worse than it was; but better, for I know it better. You cannot think what a comfort the feeling that I am doing an honest work in God's Creation, whether I be ever paid for it or not, gives me: I have not been as contented for many years. The great uproar of London is a great beautiful moving Picture for me: I say to it, with the greatest good-nature, “Go thou thy way, I am going mine.” There is no blessedness in the world equal to that.

Besides, I ought to say, we are not ill off, or ill used in any way, but really well. I suppose we have a little circle of society here, considerably better than his Majesty's, or his Grace of Wellington's; for it consists of really superior honest-minded men and women (most rare, as the world goes); and the respect we are held in there could not be procured by running the brightest Gig in nature, or spending daily “a Mill and a Mains.”3 One ought to be really glad of this;—but glad above all things that one could do without it too. “Mind thy own Trade!” That is the great secret: the others can “di'tha naither ill na guid.”4—— When we meet (as I trust the good Providence will permit) I will tell you all about our people: we have made acquaintance with a very excellent woman, since I wrote; a Miss Fenwick (from the North Country, Durham or Northumberland originally); an oldish woman, with a deformity in the Spine, but otherwise really rather good-looking; I often say that she is the wisest person male or female I have fallen in with in London: I am very sorry that she is but a kind of visitor here (in the house of one Henry Taylor, also a very worthy person), and is going off to Devonshire or some whither in April. At that house, Jane and I lately saw Wordsworth; reputed the greatest Literary character at present in England: a good kind of man; but “alas, gudewife, nothing but a fluff o' feathers5—when you come to weigh him! We were very glad, however, if not to see him, yet to have seen him; and so returned content.— But in truth, we have not much society; very nearly I think what is about the right stock. Night after night we can sit here quite still, over our Books or Papers, and find it a not unprofitable night; and then when a rap comes, one can with the better conscience prepare to welcome it. Besides at any time one can go out and see somebody. It is very different from Puttoch; which indeed I never think of without feeling that we did well to leave it.— For the rest, you must not think, dear Mother, that I am overworking myself: I assure you, no; I walk as regularly as possible, disregarding the foul weather, and all the rest of it: the birds are singing in the Parks, or I have people to call on; it is all very pleasant even if one do nothing but look at it. My health is surely not worse than it was but better.

This afternoon I went to Charing-Cross Post-office (which keeps longer open) with Jack's Letter: whom should I meet tripping along in Pall Mall? My Lord Jeffrey; just arrived two hours ago! I was heartily glad to see the little man; gladder I think than he to see me (for that Astronomy Professorship sticks with him, not me): however, he got my card, and will be down before returning Northward to his Judgeship again. He was looking grey and dusty: “ye may depend on't,” as an old Roxburghshire woman said, “forty years maks a great odds of a girl,”—or boy either.— Another still queerer fellow I saw not long ago in Hyde Park. It was a bright day, and the quality were all out driving and coursing; as I came down thro' the thing, one figure struck me: a lean rib of a creature buttoned in white great coat, his head and even his hat lost within the collar of it (which stood out a foot or more from his neck); eyes winking, under-jaw projected, whole face puckered into wrinkles; the whole going on at a kind of ineffectual high-trot: it was “our ain Hoddam, Sir”; General Sharpe Member for those Burghs! I actually burst into laughing, tho' grave enough before.6

Alas, my dear Mother, the Paper is done; and this wretched Pen has been so thriftless!— I wrote to Alick; Jamie would get a Note, and for you only a piece of paper. I long to hear what Alick is deciding on. Tell him to keep up his heart; for better days are coming: also to write to me by his earliest convenience, whether he have decided or not. My love to Jean, Mary, to Jenny whom I fancy still with you. Have you got the ruled paper? I did expect a Letter; and of course now do more than ever. Tell me all that you are doing: how you stand this wild Spring weather. I have nothing for it but to believe in Jean's two strokes, which are most welcome weekly. If your weather is no better than ours, the ploughers must be at a bad pass: everything is drenched here (only our subsoil is all sand); and March dust is none, only March glar [mud] what you like. It is among the rainiest springs I remember. Do you care about the Globes? I can easily send you a better share of them; but I doubt whether you would get them oftener than weekly, and then they are so old. Charlie Buller often writes the big print part: all that has any fun in it is by him. It is thought these poor Ministers will soon be thrown out; a thing which I for one neither pray much for nor against. They are [a] set of poor shambling individuals, they and their opponents; and nothing but “Lonsdeale coming” to “sittle them aw7 is to be looked for.— Jane is up to bed; or her expressed affection would have been sent to you all. She is livelier and better than formerly; has been mending my old dressing-gown!— Now do write to me soon, and tell me how you really are, and so much, much that I want to know. Good night my Dear Mother. God be with you!— Your affecte T. C.