January 1835-June 1836

The Collected Letters, Volume 8


TC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE; 20 April 1835; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18350420-TC-MAC-01; CL 8:95-100.


Cheyne Row, Chelsea, 20th April, 1835—

My Dear Mother,

I had been thinking, for some two days, of writing to you, when your Letter came.1 I was beginning to weary not a little for the first of the ruled sheets, to fancy that you had got some Spring Influenza, or other the like dainty of the season; tho' Jane's Letter which went as you had calculated, did still me a little. Let me be thankful once more that you and the rest of them are well; that I can still send you the like tidings.

There is no order about Money here: for none has yet come to hand. Till it do come there can be no money drawn by any body; so that if the Order were even lost on the way hither, there were no harm done. But I think you had better not put off your Dumfries visit any longer waiting for this: go over to them as you propose; let James indicate by a word on the Newspaper that you are with him, and I can direct the Order if it arrive to Dumfries as well as Ecclefechan. From Jean's account, they seemed to be wearying very considerably for you. I sent Jean a Letter in a frank that was going to Templand: but on calculating I find she would not get it till the day before yesterday; and the news (which she is charged to send out to you) will scarcely be well perused till this fresh dispatch comes in the rear. Do not blame Jean, nor even me; for both of us did what we could. An old Letter and a new Letter are always two Letters; which I know my good Mother reckons two “blessings.”

I am struggling along with my second-edition Manuscript, in the best spirit I can. The second Chapter is done again; after a really tough battle; and the Third goes along much more sweetly. I was seized with some kind of bilious humour, which exhibited itself mainly in the shape of Stupidity, the most inconvenient shape of all for me; so that I had my own ados [difficulties]; and would have run over into Annandale (and given it up for a while),—had I been near enough! There came farther a most extraordinary succession of Parties, which with the talk and tea of them wore me quite down; till at last I stuck up, and refused to go out anywhere, even to the simplest cup of tea; and lay at home, resting in the evenings, with the full conviction that to get on with my work was the only good for me, and better than tea-ing with Queen Adelaide (poor old touchan),2 had even she condescended to invite me. So I got thro' the business; and am now afloat again, and going on, as I said, far more prosperously. It requires really great Christian virtue to hold patiently by this sad work: but I shall get thro' it before long, and be all the better for such trial of my patience. Sometimes I think it will be better (as surely on the whole it must be); but sometimes too I think it worse: and then what a thought is that! Every one of us is buckled into his harness, and must on, be the road smooth or rough. You need not, my dear Mother, let it “come into your mind like fire” that I am working too hard!3 I assure you, no; I take it very deliberately; even on a principle of thrift; for always Too-much today produces an overbalancing Too-little tomorrow. But I have stood long to it, and shall be glad enough to have a little rest in Annandale.

For the rest, we are very content here, and have reason to be so. There are really some worthy people about us; we have work in hand, and endeavour to hold by it faithfully, not heeding the future over much. It is a good while since I have, with wonderful good humour, desired it to do its worst against me: “They CANNA hinder thee of God's providence”;4 that is a great and proud truth, which ough[t] to keep one's heart easy at all times. If one can say to the world, as it runs there all on wheels, in new-gilt coaches or otherwise: “Good world, I do in some measure know what ground I stand on; thou probably dost the like?”—it is verily a blessing beyond price for one. Poor world! It is a wretched Phantasm, flickering like a cobweb on the bosom of Eternity; and too forgetful of that. The dust it raises here and elsewhere will be all laid one day; and the work it was doing in the inside of that be inquired into. We will not quarrel with it, but love it, pity it, and live not as it liveth.

I think I told you, last time, that I met my Lord Jeffrey on the street. He came down soon after, and has been here often since, tho' he gets “naa encooragement,” or very little. I have sedulously abstained from speech whenever he alluded to that Promotion of ours; and have no other that I can do. The worthy Lord dreads that one almost may despise him; which really is not so impossible, tho' to show it were thriftless. He even started the subject to Jane the other day, spoke of Carlyle's “never applying himself to any profession,” never “taking the way for promotion,” &c &c: but got only a scorching (of hot language) for his pains; and notice that he was not the man who knew best about Carlyle, who by the blessing of God trusted to get along without either profession or promotion—of his giving at least. I feel a real forgiveness of his poor Lordship, and pity for him; and remember always with quite another feeling my Mother's commentary on his work. He is grown wizzened and old, body and mind, and gives one another mournful proof of what grey hairs with frivolity lead to.— He goes this week; we are to see him only one other time.

“Sandy Donaldson” of Haddington is also here: Jane went with him one day to a place called Wandsworth, and there met with a whole “Haddington Colony”; an old acquaintance of hers wife of Dunlop the Distiller,5 who has just come to settle there. Dunlop is Walter's brother; was a mighty Distiller in Haddington; but became Bankrupt, and has now got some overseership in a “Still-house” (Stillus) here; distills gin (called also blue ruin), and may easily come to make a figure again, for he is really a clever fellow.— Allan Cunningham is coming over to us tomorrow night; he has a Brother a Dr Cunningham (author of a very good Book about New Holland), who comes pretty often to us, and takes a bowl of porridge; a most innocent intelligent man, of singular blateness [shyness], but very amusing when you get him to tell you of the things he has seen, for his sailings have extended round and round the world. I see the Bullers sometimes, who are always very kind: Charlie tells me about Political things, and is a very agreeable fellow, and getting on well so far. He had some expectation of a kind of place in this New Ministry, but has got none, and contents himself. What is to come out of him ultimately I can never guess: he seems too loose-made for mastering much, but has great cheerfulness and lightness of heart; far worse men are wafted along to considerable lengths.—— Mill's new Review is out: but it is really a very infirm thing; and must mend, or go to the wall. I have no hand in it hitherto; but they seem to have much need of me, or the like of me.

It is getting close upon supper-time, and I am weary of stooping and driving this assiduous Pen. How much more convenient were it, had we word of mouth! But we should be right grateful for the Pen too.— I will give it up for this night, while the ply [state of mind, fettle] is good, I think. Except Supper starken [strengthen] me a little, and I be tempted to resume. Good night, my dear Mother; may all that is Good be round you always.—

Tuesday 21st April (2 o'clock P.M.).—My dear Mother, having got over my day's task, better or worse, I will now before walking out, dash you off another word or two.—— —Wednesday, 22nd April.—Alas, dear Mother, there is much comes between the cup and the lip. I had just got these words written down, when there came, tit-tit-tat, a knock to the door; and two lady visiters [sic] announced themselves (one of them Miss Fenwick, whom I think I mentioned to you), who sat talking till it was absolutely time to go out, if one meant to have a breath of free air at all; and then before dinner was well over, came the Cunninghams, with a certain Dr Willis (a good Edinburgh man) and his Wife, nay at last, John Mill with an English Radical friend of his, and so they sat talking, and keeping me on the stretch, till towards midnight, and with the trouble of it I was quite done. This morning however I determine not to be baulked; and so set to work and finish this first, let my task prosper afterwards as it can. The outlook for that is not good; so stupid do I feel today, with the over-much of talk last night; but we will be patient, and hope the next day may prove more productive.— Yesterday, as we walked out (for Jane went with me), we saw on Sloane-Street a very sad sight: a poor but decent-looking middle-aged woman, fallen down dead! She seemed to have dropt instantaneously by some stroke of apoplexy; a Policeman and a quick-shifting crowd were round the spot; and there the poor woman lay, nobody knowing who she was: as we came back, four other Policemen were bearing the body to their Watch-house to lie there till it should be claimed.— You will likely see a coroner's inquest about it in the Newspaper. Life is always “fearful and wonderful”;6 Death always hovering nigh.

I learnt from Jane (Jean), what you mention in your Letter, that Alick is going to the Howes. So far as I can judge from this distance,it seems the reasonablest thing he could do: he will see what Annan is, there; and whether there is not something in it which he could hopefully put out hand to. Give my brotherly love to him, and best encouragements: he has had a rough struggle hitherto, with no great return in money or in comfort; but tell him, there are better returns than that. If he keep his eyes open and his heart free and clear, there is no ultimate defeat to be apprehended. I hope he will write soon, and tell me freely all that he fears, hopes, purposes.— I am sorry to hear they did not get the Houses at Ecclefechan repaired last year; it is a thing that must be done, and will only be so much the worse to do this year. Oh I have many things to ask you about, and see into; but by and by I hope to be there with my own eyes. If this sorrowful Manuscript would only get on a little faster! But I must not fret myself with that either; the softlier I go to work, in such business, I find it the better.

I hope the two little Newcomers are taking kindly to the singular new quarters they have got into. May the Author of all Being be good to them! Life is made up of black and white for us all; and yet it is a Gift the highest we know of in this universe.— I am sorry to hear that poor Mary's lassie has been out of order, but hope matters have now taken a favourable turn. Jean tells me that James Austin gets plenty of work; in which case, I cannot but think they have reason to feel rather snug in their upputting, a much quieter one than most people have in these times. I look upon it as wise in them not to think of Farming, as matters go at present: every trade has its sorrows; but none is so bad as that of a man who must work and not only get no wages, but be thrown into jail over and above; which is the case with many a Farmer at present.

My good little Jenny must be thanked very heartily for her portion of a Letter. I would answer it by a Letter in full; but she sees how I am situated! James also you must greet [for] me with brotherly salutation; and the like excuse. Tell him however to bestir himself, and get the Houses repaired: I shall be very sorry to see them still un-repaired when I come to you. Our friendliest regards to the young Mother and her son.— Do you ever see Grahame of Burnswark? He sent me a very kind Letter not long since; says he called, with the Hoddam Minister, but found you out. If I can scrape together any time today, I ought to send him a word of answer. He is a good friendly man.7— I have wrapped you up the last Globe: if Buller prove to be at home, you may get them both on the same day: at [s]lowest you will get this with the Examiner, on Sabbath. Our old Melbourne Ministry, you will see, is in again: they will not continue long unchanged; nor can any ministry in these times: the poor King is by some said not to be quite right in the head; and the Country is all at sixes and sevens. Good cannot come of it. For us, our trade lies not in that struggle. The thickest skin hold[s] longest out!8— Jane has a disagreeable headache today, and can send you no light message; only the assurance of her true love. She is in general decidedly better than she used to be, and happier; a very resolute, true, little dame.— I will not turn the leaf. May God bless you, dear Mother! Take care of yourself; and pray that we may all meet for good.— Your Ever affectionate

T. Carlyle.

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