January 1835-June 1836

The Collected Letters, Volume 8


TC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE; 12 May 1835; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18350512-TC-MAC-01; CL 8:114-118.


Chelsea, Tuesday 12th May, 1835—

My Dear Mother,

Tho' I have written to you very often of late, yet, recollecting what Jean tells me about the “Bills pinned up in your pockets,”1 I believe it will be well for me to send you another hasty scratch of the pen today. Tomorrow, as I compute, you may by the Carrier get that last Packet with Jack's Letter2 in it, which was sent off to Ecclefechan; you shall then have some kind of respite from reading Letters (tho' I know well it is reckoned no great fash by you): after which, as we trust and hope, we shall see you once more face to face, and get on by speech not paper.

But first with regard to those Bills, let me explain to you that all you have to do is to go with them any day to the Bank; and, laying the Papers down on the counter, request the people to pay your annual. James Aitken will go with you, to testify if need be, that you are Mrs Carlyle: the interest is made expressly payable to her. What it will amount to I know not; but whatever it is, you are to take it, and get for yourself necessary or convenient things with it: that was Jack's meaning. As to the other draught for money, I now make no doubt but it is lying payable for me at some bank in Lombard Street here; but that between Lady Clare and her Banker the expressed intention of warning me that it so lay has fallen thro'; and so till new notice from the Doctor, these Lombard Street men durst not pay it to me (even if I had not forgotten what their name is, and could speak to them); for, in case of paying it to the wrong man, the loss would be theirs, which they would have to make good again. It will therefore have to lie over till we hear farther; or what were better till our good Doctor make his appearance in person here. There is little ill done, or next to none; and no danger at all.

Jean's Letter gave us a kind of alarm till we got it burst up: I saw that it was white inside, and bad possibilities occurred to me; it was very considerate in her to put “nothing wrong” at the top,—whereby one could read without trepidation whatsoever was written.3 Let us be thankful still, for the great mercies of continued Life and Health to all of us; we have more to be thankful for than we shall ever understand till we have lost it. “Good fortune,” as it is called in the world, may be in itself either good or indifferent or even bad: but the light of Life with peace and affection added to the means of living; this is a blessing one ought to prize as the truest of all. I often think, in my forlornest moments, what part of his revenue many a Duke might offer for such affection as comes to me un bought,—and not get it with all the revenue he has.

You will learn without regret that I am idling, or nearly so, for these last two days. My poor Work, the dreariest of its sort I ever undertook, was getting more and more untoward on me; I began to feel that toil and effort not only did not perceptibly advance it, but was even, by disheartening and disgusting me, retarding it. I gathered my papers together, therefore; sealed them up, and locked them in a drawer, with the determination not to touch them again for one week from that date. I flatter myself it was a very meritorious determination. A man must not only be able to work, but to give over working. I have many times stood doggedly to work; but this is the first time I ever deliberately laid it down without finishing it. In fact, it is the strangest thing I ever tried that of re-writing my first Volume; one must vary his methods according to the task he has: take it gently, take it fiercely; you cannot tickle trouts in the way you spear whales. On the whole, it has given me very great trouble this poor Book, and Providence (in the shape of human Mismanagement) sent me the severest check of all: however, I still trust to get it written sufficiently: and if thou even canst not write it (as I have said to myself in late days), why then be content with that too: God's Creation will get along, exactly as it should do, without the writing of it. At all events, my head shall settle itself, and my face clear itself in the pure May air of these days: I shall then be readier for this work, or for whatever else. There are other proposals hovering about me; but not worth speaking of yet. The “Literary World” here is a thing which I have had no other course left but to defy—in the Name of God! Man's imagination can fancy few things madder; but me (if God will) it shall not madden. I will take a knapping-hammer4 first.

Meantime see what cheer comes to me from over the water! This is another Letter of the American's; introducing a Friend;5 whom we expect this night at ten. The good Yankees seem smit with some strange fatuity about me; which will abate in good time. Fraser, whom I saw yesterday, has no hope that an Edition of the Book6 would sell here: so they must just provide themselves with copies, these worthy souls. Nothing gives me such indubitable satisfaction about any of my Books as the fact always: That I have done with them. That blessing was nearly all I expected from this poor Revolution; and, alas, that is not so near as I expected. However, we will have patience. You can read this good Emerson's Letter, and put it by the other;7 and tell nobody of it: to you it will give real pleasure, and that perhaps is the chief good of it.

Everything is confused here with the everlasting jabber of Politics; in which I struggle altogether to hold my peace. The Radicals have made an enormous advance by this little Tory interregnum;8 it is not unlikely the Tories will try it one other time; they would even fight, if they had anybody to fight for them: meanwhile these poor Melbourne people will be obliged to walk on at a much quicker pace than formerly (considerably against their will, I believe) with the Radical bayonets pricking them behind; and so whether the Tories stay out, or whether they try to come in again, it will all be for the advance of Radicalism; which means revolt against innumerable things, and (as I construe it) Dissolution and Confusion, at no great distance, and a Darkness which no man can see thro. Let them take it, and the thickest skin hold longest out! Everybody, radical and other, every body here tells me that the condition of the Poor people is—improving! My astonishment was great at first, but I now look for nothing else than this: “improving daily.” “Well gentlemen,” I answered once, “the Poor I think will get up some day, and tell you how improved their condition is.” It seems to me the vainest jangling, this of the Peels and Russells,9 that ever the peaceful air was beaten into dispeace by. But we are used to it from of old. Leave it alone; permit it, while God permits it. And so for work and hope—else whither!

Poor Alick will be stirring himself to get shifted once more: I fancy his hands full. May it prove good for him, poor fellow! He has had shifting enough of late years. But he must not “tine [lose] heart.” If thou tine heart—the consequences are known. But we will, by God's blessing, all keep and keep up our hearts, dear Mother; and so accomplish this world's struggle in a handsome manner. It is on the whole a despicable triviality of a struggle for a man to lose heart in: a Man,—that was made by a God; whom God, if he call to Him, will not forsake!

I have thoughts of scribbling a line to Mary at Annan; but know not whether I shall make it out. Tell her of the purpose at any rate; which will be all but as good. I hope her little lassie is getting right again; or even got right, since Jean does not mention it last time. You must thank James your present landlord for his beech-wood laid up to win' [season], and for the trouble he has taken: the Last-maker and I shall surely contrive some mould that will save me from one misery henceforth. It is a thing for which the Sultan of Turkey would think nothing to hang two or three deacons of the Cordwainer Craft from time to time, that they pretend to be Makers of Shoes (that is, defences for the feet), and are makers of torments for the feet,—and of “money by false pretences”! My own lamed foot, however, is well: Shaw's boots saved it; tho' they were baddish ones, and are holed already: however, I have now (when the foot is well) got another pair of shoes that I can wear.10—— I send you Newspapers enough; which I do not expect to be of much use: the sending of them gives me no trouble. Stay where you are dear Mother, and enjoy yourself as long as you can. Do not sit too much in the house, but stir almost continually. My brotherly regards to Jean and her James. Jane nearly well of her cold, or altogether well, salutes you all. God be with you, dear Mother!

Ever your affectionate

T. Carlyle