January 1835-June 1836

The Collected Letters, Volume 8


TC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE; 9 September 1835; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18350909-TC-MAC-01; CL 8:199-203.


Cheyne Row, Chelsea, 9th September 1835—

My Dear Mother,

I daresay you are wearying to hear from me; and certainly I am wearying very much to write to you; for it is a long time since I have had any free exposition with you about much that is lying dubious. I must give you tonight, in very brief hurried terms some light as to what you are to expect about our Annandale visit, and other procedure;—or rather, alas, not light so much as “darkness visible”;1 since it is still all the most confused dubious business I almost ever had to do with. How we have been driven hither and thither these many weeks; and, after all, have passed the summer not in green breezy Scotland, but in this Nebuchadnezzar's Furnace of a London! Greatly to all our sorrow. Had Her Ladyship of Clare but been able to make up her mind, and let us know it from the beginning! I, as one individual, would have set out without asking leave of her. But it seems we are to have nothing but confusion of her to the very end of the Chapter.

However, before you read that Letter, the most confused that Jack almost ever sent us,2 I must tell you a little about what is fixed and positive, what I can tell you of. Understand then that, by Heaven's blessing, I shall in three or four days, be done with that burnt Manuscript; have it off my hands again, and so be quit of the ugliest burden that ever lay on me in that kind! My progress has been difficult, small, and sorely interrupted; but to that length I have got, and am thankful. The moment I am done, which will surely be next week, I am resolute for getting out of the dust and reck of this City for a week or two. To get out of it, whither could I go so willingly as home to my Mother? I still hope, it may be so, nay almost believe so: but you will see, Jack's new plans have deranged both himself and us all.

Another sure thing I must mention: that there is a sum of One hundred and forty-five pounds lying for your lifting at the Commercial Bank in Dumfries, on or after Wednesday first; arranged in the old way (payable to Mrs Margaret on the part of Mr Thomas Carlyle), and to be treated in the old way; namely to have a receipt taken for it in the name of Dr Carlyle, the interest payable to the said Mrs Margaret,—all as you did formerly, more than once. I settled that today; I think you may get this Letter about Monday or earlier; you will then perhaps be able to get to Dumfries on the Wednesday; but any day will do: if none of you can write, James Aitken may put “right” on the Newspaper (as he did formerly), and it will put me off for a while.— And now this is all the certain good news I have this time: I must come to the uncertain, and let you see at least what an uncertainty it is.

The last time I wrote any word was to Jean at Dumfries, and it then seemed pretty sure that Jack was to be here on the first of September, and directly thereafter he and I were to be in Annandale. Well, so it stood, when above a fortnight ago, this new Letter of Jack's came to hand; which you will hardly be able to read: for it is literally a double Letter, and one end of it totally contradicts the other! It happened to arrive on the very day it speaks of as the day of Jack's own arrival; and was read with the thought that perhaps the poor Doctor himself would in a moment knock at the door! Alas! We turn up the sheet and the whole matter alters; the Doctor first parts in a kind of huff with her Ladyship; then goes back on that, makes a new engagement (apparently short in duration and not clear in tenor), arranges and disarranges; and ends by inviting me to come and see him at Munich! Both Jane and I were inclined to be nettled that he had not left that cold, starched, seemingly quite heartless Ladyship of hers to go her gate; and come, for his share, home when his time was done. She, I think, will never disturb herself (in this world or the next) to do a kindness or service to anybody. However, Jack ordered it otherwise, and perhaps it is better: it is good at least not to part with any person, if one can help it, in a pet.— But the grand question is now: What shall we do? Poor Jack seems very anxious to see me, and advise with me: I was obliged to decline going to Munich, as too far, and as an enterprise that would cost too much both of money and time; but I proposed, if he were still at liberty, that we might meet in Paris,—which lies as a sort of half-way house between us at present, not farther from me than Scotsbrig is, and not above twice that distance from him at Geneva. I said, we might spend ten days together there; that I could see many things there, which might be useful in my French Revolution Book, &c &c.3 There might have been an answer back from him by this time, and I thought I would not write to you till I had heard: however, no answer has yet come, and as the money was waiting, and I guessed your impatience, it seemed better to write at any rate.4 It has never seemed to me likely that the Paris Journey would take effect; in which case I am pretty clear for Annandale, and you may see me in not many days! But we will fix nothing; and even not confidently hope anything, after so many disappointments. I am very anxious to see you all; and even feel that it will do myself a real benefit. I have Two long volumes (all but a Chapter) if this sorry task were done; and shall get much better on after a rest. So soon as Jack's Letter comes, it will be settled; and I will write and say.

As to Jack's new engagement, it seems of the vaguest kind, dependent on Cholera in Italy, and other contingencies; neither does it seem likely to last above a month or two at longest. He has had some speculation about settling in Rome to practice for his own behoof; but I hardly think that will come to anything. He will probably, I think, attend the Lady to Munich, or till she meet her Brother; and then, one would really incline to say, he ought to shake hands with her, and follow his own course,—towards some kind of permanent work. We shall see how it all turns; and trust that the uncertainty may settle into some certainly that shall prove for the best to all of us.— I pity you with that Letter of Jack's; but if you cannot make it out, do not mind much: you have got the purport of it here.

I have whole bundles of things to tell you; but must not so much as begin at present. We have had the wretchedest summer in regard to hot dry weather that I have seen since 1826; and then this was in the Brick Wilderness! It was really very uncomfortable and unwholesome. The blistering drought and fire stewing up from great leagues of pavement! All grass has been brown for many weeks; the soil of the Parks rent into great cracks; the garden-soil dry as snuff, down almost as far as the spade would go. However, we have got a little rain now; and have that all behind us. My health did not suffer so much as many a one's: I did not overwork myself; I really am quite tolerably well. I even feel very considerably happier than I used to do: I care for one thing only, the getting done with this weary Book; I wish to be done with it, and let the rest all shape itself exactly as it likes. The longer I live here, the more sure I feel of my ground; the world may wag this way or that way; I, by God's grace, will hold on, whither my loadstars direct me. It is the very madness of Bedlam, much of the work that goes on here; I provoke not myself with it: I also find very great friendship from several very excellent people: I have great reason to rejoice that we ventured hither.— But dear Mother, do I not hope to tell you all this, so soon?

Mrs Welsh came on Monday gone a week:5 I found her far away to the East in an Edinburgh Steamboat, and brought her up the River (5 or 6 miles) triumphantly home in a Boat. She sends you her kindest regards; bids me say, she is neither swallowed with whales nor otherwise injured, but well and mindful of you.— Poor Jane, all the time of the hot weather, had been getting more and more bilious and weak: when her Mother came, she seemed to surrender, and had a very miserable fit of sick headache next day, and was and is still very feckless, tho' I do think better: Mrs Sterling (a most worthy Irishwoman) has taken her out this day (Wednesday) some twenty miles into the country on a visit to her (Mrs S's) Mother; not to return till Saturday: I think it likely to do her a great deal of good. Mrs Welsh and I, meanwhile, are left alone, to keep house ourselves, and do very well. She has told me much about your and Jenny's visit, naturally among the most interesting of all topics to me.— I will not finish till tomorrow, after work. Good night, dear Mother! May Good be near you now & always!


Thursday—3 o'clock [10 September]

My dear Mother,

I have done a little piece of work, and send you Good-day before I close this, and go out. Mrs Welsh is writing a small Note to Mary at Templand; which you can get sent up by Andrew Watson.6 There is no Letter yet from Jack; but I hardly expect that many days will pass, till one come.

Tell Alick that there is no man or creature I am more desirous to hear about than him. I would have written; but could not, this time.— My kind brotherly wishes to him, and them all. Jock Thomson (and Macqueen)7 came here the other day; said he had seen both Alick and Jemmy; but could say little or nothing more.— You may tell Jean (for I do not think James plays such tricks) that, one week, there came no Cou[rier] I suppose, by insufficient wafering! That piece of wood for shoe-lasts must be dry now and I will use it!— Mary, I think, sent me a Manchester Newspaper? We could not very certainly specify the hand, but thought it hers. Mrs Welsh had Jenny's last Letterkin in her bags and showed it me.

O my dear Mother, how many thousand questions I should wish to ask you, and have no space for one! We will hope there is a time coming.— Why do you not write? Surely your right hand has forgotten its cunning.8 There is new rain today in deep showers, which I hear with singular joy. Wet weather never so wet is nothing in the world to excessive drought.— Alas, alas, bairn! I am quite done; my time and my paper.

Take care of yourself, my dear good Mother; and be well when I see you! This weary Manuscript will and must be done. Did I tell you of a new American Letter; which would put even you to the blush. In his opinion (he is a Clergyman) “it is gey weel wurote”!9

All good be with you dear Mother!

Your affe /


Tell Grahame of Burnswark that I have in no wise forgotten him, tho' I seem to have done it. He will soon hear.