January 1835-June 1836

The Collected Letters, Volume 8


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE; 15 June 1835; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18350615-TC-JAC-01; CL 8:144-155.


Chelsea, 15th June, 1835.

My Dear Brother,

If all have gone right, you are somewhere, this hot morning, moving Westward towards Paris, where you hoped to be on the 20th of the month. To London and home from that is but a cat's-leap! I hardly think you can be so good as your word in regard to the Paris date; however, there must in me be no delay: let this sheet lie ready to greet your arrival, be it soon be it late; to tell you that we sit here counting the days that still divide you from us; hoping in the goodness of Providence that we shall all meet once again,—in thankfulness, in love and faith in the land of the living. It seems but as last week since that morning when I rode over the Bonshaw Flow1 with you; and yet we have beaten many a foreign pavement since then; and in all senses some thing has altered in us and about us; only towards one another, I think, nothing, nothing that is not for the better.—— Your Mantua-Bolzen Letter2 arrived just ten days ago; the very morning after I had given Mill a packet to get franked for our Mother: I hastened over to the City; hoping that Mill had not been too expeditious; also in answer to Stone & Martin3 who the same day had summonned me “at my early convenience” (the money-order having lain with them since the 26th of March): all turned out right; Stone tabled me £140 (in two Bank notes, which I keep here for you); Mill's frank lay unsent on his table, so I ripped it up again, introduced your Alpine news, and then despatched it,—enjoying beforehand the enjoyment they would all get from it. Scarcely could your Bologna Letter4 prove welcomer to you; tho' that too was very strange (were one not used to Post-Offices); cheerfuller than a well in the desert, for it was a winged word chained down for you there, not to fly off (into your heart) till you got to it. We have, as you say, been very lucky with our Correspondence: not one Letter lost. And now if we had poor Doil himself back; and his Pilgerstab [Pilgrim staff] laid safe up in the corner here.— We have found an “admirable Portrait” of you lately, and are both agreed that it is like: the Head of Hogarth! I declare there is a resemblance: the same solidity and honesty; the same greatness of feature, broad insight, and heartfelt love of fun; lying on earnestness tragical enough.—5 But I must not trifle.

Not above a fortnight ago, I received a Letter from Alick; reporting that all was well in Scotland; our Mother's health as good as usual; the whole Brotherhood struggling along in their old fashion. Alick dated from Howes near Annan, his new place of abode: he had quitted Catlinns some few pounds poorer (farm stock had sold so low); saw as yet no very definite activity before him at Annan; spoke of doing a little in cattle over summer, a trade which I do not like for him, but knew not how to dissuade him from, idleness seeming still painfuller and worse. The Farm of Langdike was advertised (for next year) in last Courier;6 I put a mark at it; but whether it will have any suitableness I do not know. We shall see soon, let us hope, with more distinctness what he is doing, what is possible for him. America is a sore business; but for a man with children, with nothing but his Thatkraft [energy] in husbandry to rely on, I know not but it were better at once. Our poor England, our poor Europe, has dark days in store for it. James Aitken and Jean had removed to our Uncle's late house in Academy Street, which they had purchased;7 they seem to give satisfaction and good hope to all that observe their way of procedure. Mary and her husband had also shifted (to somewhere about George Square);8 and were going on very cannily: James of Scotsbrig, according to Alick, was somewhat “great in the pride of his eagle eye.”— I had also, shortly before, a Letter from Grahame;9 full of affectionate flowing sentiment; but with little intelligence: things, I doubt, were not going well with him; but he is warm, sympathetic, hopes and endures: “Ye maun dree [bear] and maun daur [stand in awe]”; it is the hest of man.

In our London circle, I have several things to tell you; but nothing so questionable as this, that my poor ill-starred French Revolution is lying as a mass of unformed rubbish, fairly laid by under lock and key! About a fortnight after writing to you last, this was the deliberate-desperate resolution I came to. My way was daily getting more intolerable more inconsiderable; comparable (as I say often) to a manswimming in vacuo; fluttering his pennons vain:10 there was labour nigh insufferable, but no joy, no furtherance: my poor nerves, for long months kept at the stretch, felt all too waste, distracted: I flung it by; saying, If I never write it, why it will never be written; not by Ink alone shall a man live or die. This is the first time in my life I ever did such a thing: neither do I doubt much but it was rather wise. It goes abreast with much that is coming to a crisis with me. You would feel astonished to see with what quietude I have laid down my head on its stone pillow in these circumstances, and said to Poverty, Dispiritment, Exclusion, Necessity and the Devil: Go your course, friends; behold, I lie here and rest! In fact, with all the despair that is round about me, there is not in myself I do think the least desperation: I feel rather, as if quite possibly I might be about bursting the accursed enchantment that has held me all my weary days in nameless thraldom; and actually beginning to be alive! There has been much given me to suffer, last year; to learn from. That things should come to a crisis is what I wish; also how true is it, Deux afflictions mises ensemble peuvent devenir une consolation [Two afflictions put together can become a consolation]! On the whole, I shall never regret coming to London; where if boundless confusion, some elements of order have also met me: above all things, the real faces and lives of my fellow mortals, stupid or wise so unspeakably instructive to one. “There in others look discover / What thy own life's course hath been”: this comes very often in my head of late.11— But you shall hear all and see all (if God please) ere long. Fancy me for the present reading all manner of silly Books, and for these late days one pregnant Book: Dante's Inferno;—running about among people and things; looking even, of a bright sunset, at Hyde Park and its glory: I sitting on the stump of an oak, it rolling and curvetting past me (on the “Serpentine” drive), really very superb, and given gratis. Unspeakable thoughts rise out of it: this then is the last efflorescence of the Tree of Being;12 Hengst and Horsa13 were bearded, but ye, Gentlemen, have got razors and breeches; and O my fair ones, how changed since Boadicea14 wore her own hair unfrizzled “hanging down as low as the hips”! The Queen Anne hats (and heads) have dissolved into air; and behold you here and me: prismatic lightstreak on the bosom of the sacred Night!— And so it goes on.— However, I must tell you something about some of our new people. Did I ever mention the name of the Sterlings to you? John Sterling, a man about your own age, remembers you once at Shooter's Hill:15 he has written Novels since that (one Novel rather, by which I came to knowledge of him at Craigenputtoch); has taken up a Coleridgian Christianity,16 for better or worse, and even gone into orders, become an actual preacher, and, what in these circumstances may astonish, takes greatly to me! A whole retinue of curious persons belong to him: in his hand a glass which shews us many more.17 His Father is Irish; the redoubted Sterling of the Times Newspaper, really a very notable man; who flies greatly about this place—for the time.18 Finally one “Mr Dunn,” an Irish Clergyman,19 “who refused a Bishoprick” (for Athanasius' sake),20 one of the best men I ever looked on; whom I hope to shew you. —Next do you remember Garnier,21 a German Badener; whom you used to see, with poor Becker,22 the first time you were in Paris? A huge black man, with schläger [rapier] cuts over his face; or radical-Bürschen23 aspect, fit for treasons stratagems and spoils, but also for something better; who acts and talks, as he sings, with a deep kind of bass grund-gewalt [primeval power], in which you trace some geniality! I have seen him some three times, of late; there was even a project about translating somewhat,—which came to nothing. You will see Garnier if you like. (Do not buy Heine's new Sacrilege of a Book;24 Willis has it here).— But better still, whom do you think we saw the other day? Miss Morris: returned only three weeks ago, looking much better; meaning to go soon again, but not till you all come: she seemed truly glad to hear of that return. Jane is to go and see her, one of these days. A “Mr Morley”25 was with her here, who said nothing, but looked honestly. The Gilchrists (do you remember Kate Gilchrist of the Highland Ultima Thule?) interrupted them, and they departed too soon; and left old Gilchrist, with Kate and another (sickly) daughter, aiming for the Continent; who will try all they can to meet you “somewhere.” The girls are good enough; but old G. is really not far from a monster, tho' a quite pacific one.26— How I saw O'Connell one night (at Mrs Buller's rout) and Peninsular Napier27 and multitudes of notable men and women; and said almost nothing, and thought very little: all this with much like it I must leave (till meeting!), for my paper wanes.— Let me mention only that Sterling has sent me (from near Hastings, where he resides as yet) a vituperative expostulatory criticism on Teufelk of thirteen pages; that the Americans have sent an order for “50 or a hundred copies” of the same poor Book, and could only get three (and threaten to reprint it); finally that these surprising Yankees invite me in really pressing terms to come over to them this very winter, and “lecture” on any subject, with assurance of success! As the Book-trade seems to me utterly over here, I have really been meditating that proposal: but I will decide on nothing till we have compared Notes. There is also a thing started here, about “National Education,” and a Parliament Commission, for28 which I will try and am trying; however, it is distant yet. You have now enough on our posture and speculation and non-action here: Oh when will you look at it selbst [yourself]!

As to Paris commissions, I now find, considering it close at hand, that there are almost none, or altogether none. If you could get me a good cheap map of France, to be pasted on a wall here, I would take it; also a map of the old Isle de France or modern Department du Seine (in which Paris stands), I would welcome: but I think d'Eichthal tried once before, and could not. Take you therefore no special trouble with it. A piano-forte score of Ça-ira29 I want rather more: the Marseillaise we have got here, but not the other: ask a little after it. Tell d'Eichthal that his two Quartos on the Collier (Diamond Necklace)30 are here; and a thing written from them, as will be seen one day.— Did I mention that Mrs Badams31 was to be, perhaps now is, remarried—to a Nephew of hers (half-sister's son)! It is verily so; a despicable-looking business: whether you see her or not will perhaps be small difference to you. The whole set is far from us here: Tom himself,32 against whom I have nothing but his noisy emptiness, and unsoundness felt to be uncanny, does not come once in 3 months. If you want any “introductions” in Paris, I fancy they were most readily procurable: Cousin33 is the only man I remember of any significance, and he not of much; Mrs Austin is in regular correspondence with him: Mill knows Carrel34 and all manner of political people. One To[c]queville (who has been writing about America) makes some noise this month; he is here I find, and Reeves (Mrs. A.'s nephew) is translating his Book.35 The “London Review” has sent me Hannah More to make an “Article” of (in this my interlunar fit); but it came too late; I cannot think of it now, perhaps never shall: the Review is coarse as potmetal; barren, not despicable, not detestable, and yet verging towards both; I like it not. Eheu! “woe's me that I in Meshach am.”36 But there is good too; even in that Book, in these people. It is now the hot hour (for I have been interrupted); I will end here, and not seal till tomorrow: Jane shall send a P.S. if she like. Write my dear Jack, the best news we can hear in the world, that you are come safe! Ever Affectionate[ly] T. Carlyle

(go back to the beginning first)37

Tuesday morning.— My dear Jack,—The Wife has gone out seeking “yellow braid” (or some sort of seamstress trimming) in great haste; cannot write a word, but sends her love over and over again, in the glad hope of seeing you soon. I will fill up this myself.— Last night we had a small tea-party: of four! George Rennie and his Wife to meet a Mr Wilson and his Sister; “quality people” these last, of good endowment every way, who come considerably about us for the past six months.38 A la bonne heure [well done]! The Tea-partykin went off well enough, and then I smoked a pipe in peace under the walnut-tree (in the Garden).— The night before, I was at the Cunninghams'; saw one “Darley”39 there, an Irishman, once of Letters, since a Continental, Italian Traveller; now seemingly a kind of disgusted, disheartened Looker-On. He is an honest pure-washed kind of creature, with delicacy, with insight, with the extreme of sensitiveness. His stutter is the strangest I ever heard: a low, sweet, long-continued anxious prelude; mixture of ticking, clucking and cooing (all pianissimo); which some attenuated sense at last follows. I am to see him again.— We have had a German (a Badener other than Garnier); and two Americans:40 all despatched now on their several routes. There was nothing in them to make one wonder. Also a “Mr Wrightson” brought me from Berlin a “Diplom”; “Freude” [delight] over Teufelk, and notice that Herr von Chamisso had given a “geistreiche Analyse” [ingenious analysis] of it: all which I readily acquiesced in.41— Did I ever tell you that I was once at Dulwich!42 I keep the Catalogue: in hope that we two shall go together some day!— Charles Buller has made a Speech on “the Ballot”: much to the satisfaction of Mill; tho' the Papers do no justice to it.43 Charlie grows a rather uncertain kind of figure to me: he is not the best of swimmers (hardly a swimmer at all), but the best of floaters: what part he is to play circumstances will determine, he will not to any great length. O'Connell was called (by a Mrs Grote, M.P.'s wife,44—as foolish a woman as was in all Mrs Bullers rout) “the great master-spirit of the age.”45 Weenderful!

I have just read a Life of Kean by Procter:46 very thin indeed; yet not unamusing.— The Noble Lady came down hither some weeks ago: alas, seldom have I seen so wrecked a poor noble lady, as she is. All is going to staves [falling to pieces] there. Ever since we made out that she actually barefacedly made and uttered lies, our relation with her has been as good as done.47 Peace to her, and pity!

Yesterday while I was writing there came a Letter from Mrs Welsh; reporting that all, as far as she knew, was well. She had sent down to Dumfries for news from Jean, but got none; supposed Jean to be still busy with the flitting and its consequences.— Thomas Murray who styles himself “Lecturer on Political Economy” has been lecturing in Edinburgh48— as he could, not without “celebrity.”

No news about Glen; an old Newspaper from him lately, addressed in the most faultless hand.— George Welsh is partially recovered; not finally, as himself believes.49 Wm Gray50 (you remember his whisky at Puttoch) is said to be returned to London, and lying perdu; we wish to know and do know almost nothing of him: he is of the unaidable.— There is a third Newspaper started in Dumfries:51 on the conservative side! It is edited by one Aird,52 a very ingenious, ignorant young man, whom I knew when last in Edinburgh: I have seen it thrice; not good in itself; bearing no marks of encouragement from without.— Mrs Irving53 continues in Newman Street among the Tongue people; I saw Hamilton54 the other week: you and I will walk out to Highgate, and breakfast some morning? Mrs I. is not a good woman: I have55 found her out fairly lying, and have hovered quite aloof always since. The Tongues are sure to go mute soon: I strongly urged on Hamilton to get her money rescued from them; after that, she might and must, take her chance: he was much of the same mind.

Will you go to the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Antoine, and see if you can discover a certain Tree there; an Elm, planted (as Tree of Liberty) in the Federation of 1790?56 I am told, it is still growing, tho' few know it now: I feel a real interest in it.— Will you inquire if there is any Book on Danton worth reading, new or old? I heard of one last year (a Novel),57 but concluded it was nothing.— Were you ever out at Versailles? I had laboriously to get an idea of it. Go to the Hôtel de Ville, and look at the Lanterne58 (corner of the Place de Grève): I am told it is still there.

There is a new Translation of Faust sent me yesterday! I think it is the sixth: by an “Honble Mr Talbot”:59 nichts, ganz und gar nichts [nothing, and worse than nothing]!

I will stop here; for I am but darkening paper by words without wisdom: it is hot, and I am feckless. Adieu dear Jack!

We dined with a Countess degli Antoni60 at the Sterlings' one day; a Bologna liberal and banished:61 a beautiful Lombard woman, with the finest Lombard grey eyes: she had no English; I answered: che sciagura [how unlucky]!—and then followed the prettiest “dungues!62 and we talked in French jargon and dumb shew. The poor Countess, once rich, is obliged to teach music here, and sing! Of Politics she hinted nothing; and seemed to have an appetite.

There was a Letter from Arbuckle63 last week; in the kindest, mimmest [most unassuming] manner, inquiring when you and we were to be there. He would “wait for us.”

Mill's Platonica64 has gone off to Germany with her husband; M. can now see his friends.

Ganz und gar
Bin ich ein armer wicht
Meine Träume sind nicht wahr
Meine Gedanken gerathen nicht.65

I am sure much is forgotten; but I cannot recall it at this point. My adieu is under and around the sealing wax.

And so finally, my dear Boy, send us news that you are safe in Paris; that you are coming home to us! We shall sit on the watch for you: at the latest hour of the night, how welcome will your knock be; how glad we, looking over the window, to find that it is Doil! May the good God grant us this blessing. Come and let us front the world together, Boy, some way or other. I begin to as good as despise the world, and will like it all the better for that: it has terrified me long enough; and shall not again. What is it? Schall und Rauch [echo and smoke]: the Reality is under it, and beyond it. Adieu dear Brother. Our prayers are with you, always: come soon and safe. Ever your affectionate— T. Carlyle.

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