January 1835-June 1836

The Collected Letters, Volume 8


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE; 23 September 1835; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18350923-TC-JAC-01; CL 8:208-214.


Chelsea, London, 23d September, 1835—

Your [sic] are doubtless longing, My dear Brother, to have another Letter from me; and will open this at Munich, I hope, safe and sound, with considerable impatience. I have not delayed wilfully; but only till I could send you decisive news. This is literally the first day, in which I could have specified my future whereabout in Time and Space, for the nearest Future, with any kind of completeness.

Tho' you are a sharp-tempered man, Jack, like the rest of us; yet I know you certainly for the placablest of all men: so I doubt not whatsoever of natural wrath you felt went fairly up the chimney with that sacrificed Letter, and there was again peace between us, nay better peace than before. Well when a small holocaust of that kind will do the business!— I did not write in irritation against Her Ladyship or indeed anybody so far as I remember; but expressed in such words as came readiest the deliberate permanent opinion I had been led to form of her from such imperfect data as I had. If my reading was wrong, I recant it not only willingly but joyfully. To you at any rate such defence of your rather skittish and peculiar co-partner in this wayward business is very creditable: continue forever to take the best view of all mortals which your understanding will admit; nay it is often also truer than the surly one. But, for myself, all buckram grows more and more a kind of weariness to me: there perhaps has not been these two thousand years or thereby any mortal to whom man stood more completely as an unclothed animal than he (unluckily and luckily) does to me. It makes a strange world of it for one; and gives and will give one work enough: for often the buckram crackles amazingly when you treat it like mere cloth.— However (“'o.v.a”),1 let me tell you my history.

First then, by the real blessing and favour of Heaven, I got done with that unutterable Manuscript, on Monday last;2 and have wrapped it up, there to lie, “for a monument o' hees [his] injustice,”3 or other purposes, till the other two volumes be complete. The work does not seem to myself to be very much worse than it was; it is worse in the style of expression, but better compacted in the thought: as it goes thro' the Press I may help it somewhat. On the whole I feel like a man that had “nearly killed himself accomplishing zero.”4 But zero or not zero, what a deliverance! I shall never without a kind of sacred shudder look back at the detestable state of enchantment I have worked in for these six months, and am now blessedly delivered from. The rest of the Book shall go on quite like child's play in comparison: also I do think it will be a queer Book; one of the queerest published in this Century, and can, tho it cannot be popular, be better than that. My Teufelsdröckh humour, no voluntary one, of looking “thro' the clothes” finds singular scope in this subject. Remarkable also is the “still death-defiance”5 I have settled into; equivalent to the most absolute sovereignty conceivable by the mind. I say “still death-defiance”; yet it is not unblended with a Greek-fire of Hope, unquenchable, which glows up silent, steady, brighter and brighter. My one thought is to be done with this Book. Innumerable things point all that way: my whole destiny seems as if it lost itself in chaos there (for my Money also gets done then, &c &c) in chaos, which I am to re-create, or to perish miserably,—an arrangement which I really regard as blessed comparatively. So I sit here and write, composed in mood; responsible to no man or to no thing; only to God and my own conscience: with publishers, reviewers, hawkers, bill-stickers, indeed, on the Earth round me; but with the stars and the azure Eternity above me in the Heaven. Let us be thankful!— On the whole, I am rather stupid; or rather I am not stupid (for I feel a fierce glare of insight in me into many things); not stupid,—but I have no sleight of hand. A raw untrained savage; for every trained civilized man has that sleight, and is a bred workman by having it: the bricklayer with his trowel, the painter with his brush, the writer with his pen. The result of the whole is: “one must just do the best he can for a living, Boy.”6 Or in my Mother's phrase, [“]never tine heart,”7—or even get provoked heart, which likewise is a danger.

But am I coming to Munich? Dear Jack, I have meditated considerably on that; and have figured out all your brotherly love and sorrow; but after all I find, things being accurately weighed, my spirits, our cash, it is better for me and a kind of duty, to go to Scotland rather. Our poor Mother has had a most disappointed summer; I promised to go and see her yearly while I could: God knows whether it may be long possible: I feel that I must to Scotland, and leave you far away. Besides I say to myself, if you are coming home in November (in a month!), what good were it? On the other hand, if by any unforeseen chance, poor Jack should not get home as he expects, I hereby engage that after this Book is done, I will cheerfully set out to see him, towards any point of Europe! I give you that promise; and mean, if needful which I hope it will not be, to keep it to the Letter. The Book might be done in March: alas, it is not likely so; but we will hope and try.

My arrangement then is this. I went yesterday into the City to inquire for Scotch Conveyances; I found there were smacks to Leith every Thursday and Sunday, a Steamboat to Newcastle every Tuesday: I have as good as resolved in favour of the next Sunday smack; it is cheapest (the whole charge only £2); the accomodation best, as all agree and my own experience agrees; the sea-air promised blessed freshness to me; I will smoke and sleep for the four or five days we sail;—and finally there is the Mail to Dumfries that very night you arrive in Edinburgh. I write to my Mother announcing this, tonight or tomorrow. I feel as if I could fling my trunks on board, and then fling down myself, and sleep. I will have a dip in the Solway yet; see what they are all doing; and return a new-made man to my winter's work before November set in. To give you a better notion of it, you are to understand that Mrs Welsh is here: so that Jane, whom it otherwise would not suit to travel at this season, can still have the best company in my absence. Mrs Welsh has been here some three weeks, and spoke of returning in November. She does not take very much to London or its ways; but seems happy enough to be beside her child again. She has told me much about my Mother and Jenny. whom she had up at Templand before her departure: they were the happiest party; jaunting, cuddy-carts, Mrs Glendinning,8 &c, &c.— Poor Jane has been very unwell; especially ever since her Mother came, when she seemed as it were to give way; and broke down into the most violent series of headaches (with colic too) she has had for long. The hot weather had withered us all up: I never lived-thro' (erlebte [experienced]) such a two-months for weather; the stew and smoulder was as the breath of kiln-drying, choking and palsying[:] one felt as a certain Irishman told us he did at Munich, one summer, “as if the spine were all gone; as if one were a serpent trying to stand on its tail.”9 That is happily all over now, and we have even wet weather (still most grateful, by contrast); the Parks are springing up again like leek-beds: the little Dame will do well enough now. Especially, she says, as the Manuscript is over too! We have moreover had trouble on trouble with servants: two Irishwomen in succession, each half-distracted, tho' in different styles of distraction, filled up the series; the latter of whom, jingling down plates on the tea-table (for she had gone, an ugly woman too, with the face of a Polar Bear all week), and shattering the female and even the male nerves by it, had the luck to explode me upon her (just last night) at the fatal instant, and in two instants more was packing up her duds for march,—being desired “in God's name and even in the Devil's name” either to do that, or conduct herself like a rational creature, and preferring the former alternative. She is gone, I lit the fire myself this morning, our two Mistresses became their own housemaid; and we have perfectly a Heaven-on-Earth since. Shifty Jane has already found a little g[irl] of suitable promise, who will come at four o'clock; and I am to try my whole industry, and bri[ng some] kind of damsel from Scotland with me. Nothing was ever more miserable than the arrangement of [tha]t universal relation, Master and Servant, here at this time. Society, of all kinds, in fact seems rapidly rushing towards unknown changes and consummations. We, meanwhile, have got a quiet house; and I have declared, what I deliberately feel, that I will rather get some small apartment, and sweep it out and arrange it for myself with my own hands (as my brave Uncle Tom10 did) than be bedevilled with such a set of unfortunates any more.—— I have said nothing about our society &c; which, however, you fancy much as it was, only thinned somewhat by desertions to the country. The only new man I have seen is one Craik from Fife who “desired my acquaintance,” and has made it, thro' Miss Hunter (one of the Jeffrey, Edinburgh, St Andrews people, a very resolute distinct kind of woman) whom Jane had brought over from Edmonton to spend a few days with us. Craik is a solid fellow; edits “the Printing Machine,” and otherwise bakes bricks for the Diffusion Society, with an honest oxlike strength and steadiness, not unworthy of praise. The honest ox is no Pegasus, but he is honest, and shall have crib and provender.11 Dunn the Clergyman sees us more and more, and loves us, himself loved: you will call him one of the best men you ever met with. They have all great fervour for me, and tolerance really wonderful. Lastly il Comte Pepoli comes hither every Wednesday night, with Italian for Jane; with Babelic speculation, reading of Dante and so forth for me: a really superior sort of foreign product; vivacity, decision, grace even harmony (for I have read some of his verses); a very en[ter]taining man. We had a great burst of bravura together, over that class of Damned Souls in Dante, infesti a Dio ed a i suin Nemici [harmful to God and to his Enemies], precisely “the respectable people” of this present generation of the world! Dante says, Non han speranza di morte.12 They have not the hope to die! A grand old Puritan this Dante; depth and Ferocity without limit; implacable, composed; as if covered with winter and ice, and like Hecla, his interior is molten fire!13—Of Mill, Sterling, and others—nothing. Mill's Review is called the London Review, makes no figure or way, and will in all human probability, trake [waste away] by and by.

Dear Brother, what a scrap I have left you! Your brother-heart wearies not with these details of us; you are a great possession, for me, really; such as Nature has given gratis; such as Potosi could not buy!—I like this new footing you have placed yourself on, much better. At Munich one almost thinks of you as at home. Hurry not; be still, and deliberate. Above all, my brave Jack, do not fear. Be of good cheer, my brave fellow; there is stuff in a man, and God (if he will look to God) sends him not “a-warfare on his own charges.”14 Attend to your Hospitals; profit by Munich: you will get no permanent good of your Lady, I think; yet attend her truly while that is your task. Nay, if you should feel it a convenience to lengthen your engagement with her, why not? Her Convenience, it seems to me, is a thing I would not go out of my way to consult much farther. “Way” brings me in mind of salary: I got your £145; carried it over to Lothbury to the proper man there, and already I have had warning from our Mother (by James Aitken on a Newspaper) that she settled it all as you wanted. I think, nothing beyond Newspapers has come out of Annandale since I wrote; except it be Mrs Welsh's verbal report: but the weekly “two strokes” satisfy us that nothing material is wrong. “My Mother was looking very well indeed”: such is the statement; which I long much to credit to the very letter. You shall hear farther, in a letter perhaps from the spot. Now write you my Boy, the instant you get this; to Scotsbrig: there will still be time, tho' we are farther apart now. I hope and indeed believe there is nothing wrong in this address. I shall delight to fancy you a free man, were it in your “own hired dog-hutch”—like Jean Paul.15 Do not regret me, my dear Brother; we shall meet when the time is, and be the gladder to meet.— My health for I had forgot it is really not at all bad; I have appetite, strength; want sleep a very little (fail of it I mean), am sensitive irritable; I have often been far worse after work. Annandale will make me new again. God bless you, dear Jack! Auf ewig [for ever]!

T. Carlyle.

You can tell Herr Schelling when you see him that he has more friends here than he wots of; that the thing he has thought in his solitary soul has passed or is ready to pass into many souls, of British speech, and do its work there. “Not like water spilt on the ground.”!16

I doubt you will find this a very thin Letter, but I am in a hurry and flurry; besides I swallowed ol. ricin17 (for the first time in years) this morning; and am weakish. I will now out and to the office.— Remember me kindly to Lichthentaler dem wackeren [the valiant one]!

You would hear of Dr M'Crie's18 death? Ein Tüchtiger ist hingegan gen [A capable man has passed on].— It seems to me always you ought to meet Teufelsdröckh in some of the Coffeehouses of Munich! Do they meet at that one yet, and drink beer?19—O'Connel[l] is the dining man of this recess, as Brougham of last. He schmaust und plaudert [feasts and gossips]—thro the world.

We go to Allan Cunningham's on friday [sic] night: I (after deliberation) have to dine with Fraser tomorrow.

There is not the smallest word of Grahame, whom I have long owed a Letter to.— I finish here. Adieu!—

[JWC's postscript:]

Dear John— Headachy and without domestic you may figure I am not in a promising frame for writing even so much as a postscript—but I can at least give you my kind love and my Mothers best remembrances under my own hand—

God bless you [.] I hope to be well now that the weather is cooler and the accursed disaster repaired—your affection[ate]

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