January 1835-June 1836

The Collected Letters, Volume 8


TC TO JANE WELSH CARLYLE; 2 November 1835; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18351102-TC-JWC-01; CL 8:252-255.


Scotsbrig, 2nd November, 1835—

Dear Bairn,—The Newspaper said, Brief in drey Tage [Letter in three days]; and accordingly I have my boards spread out again today in this thoroughfare Bedroom and Sittingroom; probably for the last time in the present visit. Could I make proper despatch, and have no delay after sealing, there were even a possibility of saving this day's post, and being a day better than my word. We shall see: but interruptions are many, and liabilities to interruption. The thing I have to write, however, is of the briefest, and best: that thou shalt see me again by the first conveyance southward; that this day week, if all go right, we shall be sitting together.

No steamboat leaves Annan till Friday; but on Friday,1 some time about noon, it is the purpose of Anne Cook and me to put to sea: on Saturday morning we shall be in the Docks of Liverpool; I will leave my Misfortunate at the Umpire Coach-Office in Dale Street, taking places (an outside and an inside probably, that we may alternate) for both of us; go myself in the interim to Maryland Street to breakfast; then finally start that same day about noon; and so, making that sorrowful fire-bath of travelling the shortest possible, hope to be at home to dine with my own Goody on the Sunday afternoon! Would I were there; for all is a burden to me, in this humour. We suppose, you see, that there are seats in the Umpire on our arrival; likewise that it proves possible to merely call on our kind Maryland Street friends2 without offence. I hope and almost believe it may turn out so; “my soul longs to be free”3 of all that sort of thing, and straight home again: but one cannot certainly prophecy [sic]. About four o'clock on Sunday great will be the Coagitor's agitation, as I shall well know, whether there myself or not: however, if four o'clock bring nothing of us, give it up for that day; and, unless a Newspaper with more precise tidings to the contrary arrive next morning, expect us with double assurance on the Monday. I told Mill (for my given promise forced me to scrawl something to him last week) that if he came to Chelsea on Sunday morning, he would probably find me: there is almost no likelihood that he will come; but if he do, consider only that I made a mistake and oversight in calculating, and nothing is wrong. O Goody, my own dear Goody!— But all is glad-waeness, dispiritment defiance, and on the whole unspeakableness within me. Silence, and no attempt to speak, is therefore seemingly the best.

All people say, and what is more to the purpose I myself rather feel, that my health is greatly improved since I got hither. Alas, the state of wreckage I was in, “fretted,” as thou sayest, “to fiddlestrings,”4 was enormous. Even yet, after a month's idleness, and much recovery, I feel it all so well. Silence for a solar year: this, were it possible, would be my blessedness! All is so black confused about me, streaked with splendours too as of Heaven; and I the most helpless of mortals in the middle of it. I could say with Job of old: Have pity upon me, have pity upon me, O my friends!5 And thou, my poor Goody, depending on cheerful looks of mine for thy cheerfulness! For God's sake, do not; or do so as little as possible[.] How I love thee, what I think of thee, it is not probable that thou or any mortal will know; but cheerful looks, when the heart feels slowly dying in floods of confusion and obstruction, are not the thing I have to give. Courage, however! Courage to the last! One thing, in the middle of this chaos, I can more and more determine to adhere to; it is now almost my sole rule of life: to clear myself of Cants and formulas, as of poisonous Nessus' shirts;6 to strip them off me, by what name soever called; and follow, were it down to Hades, what I myself know and see. Pray God only that sight be given me, freedom of eyes to see with: I fear nothing then; nay hope infinite things. It is a great misery however for a man to lie, even unconsciously, even to himself. Also I feel at this time as if I should never laugh more! Or rather say never sniff and whiffle and pretend to laugh more. The despicable titter of a “Duke,”7 for example, seems to me quite criminally small. Life is no frivolity, or hypothetical coquetry or whifflery: it is a great world of a truth that we are alive; that I am alive;—that I saw the “Sweet Milk Well”8 yesterday; flowing (for the last four thousand years) from its three sources on the hillside; the origin of Middlebie Burn; and noted the little dell it had hollowed out all the way, and the huts of Adam's Posterity built sluttishly on its course; and a Sun shining overhead, ninety millions of miles off; and Eternity all round; and Life a vision, dream and yet fact,—woven, with uproar, on the Loom of Time!9— Withal it should be noted that my biliousness is considerable today; that I am not so unhappy as I talk; nay perhaps rather happy: in one word that my Mother this morning indulged me in a cup of——! I am actually very considerably better than when we parted.

How the sheet goes, in mere froth and ineptitude! But indeed there is hardly anything of the narrative sort I have to give since writing last: I seem to have done nothing but lie and sleep (I reach to eight now every morning). There have two Barrels gone off for Chelsea, by way of Whitehaven and the Land's End. One is full of new oatmeal; the second and larger, of potatoes; with two hams, with etceteras. The “keg of herrings” could have been got, had we known one day sooner; but the Barrels were gone the day before your Letter came. If that conveyance prove as cheap as I expect, we may apply to it again more readily than to the other. I have had two Letters, in answer to two of mine (for it seemed a duty, and I forced myself): one from Henry Inglis, one from your Uncle Robert. It was about poor Cousin Tom,10 wanting to be a Lawyer's clerk in Edinr. Robert writes with promptitude, with the cle[arness] of a business man, with unusual cordiality for him. It is even possible that he himself may have room for Tom, which I should reckon fortunate, and likely to be suitable; at all events, he explains, directs, promises, in an authentic kind of way, to help. Henry Inglis would if he could; with zeal, but with less knowledge. The poor Boy Tom must do with it what he can: he is a very good sensible fellow, and promises to do well; tho' sorely bested at present, without adviser in the world, with but small means of money, his Mother gone quite crazy &c. I saw him last night, and gave him my final advices.— Except twice to Annan, about clothes &c, I have been nowhere. Graham of Burnswark has missed me ever since that day; neither were Aitken11 nor Menzies there then: only a Letter from Aitken, inviting me—to Minto. No Craigenputtoch, no Templand. On Wednesday last there came a bundle from Jean, or rather thro' Jean's hands and from Mary Milligan,12 as I judged. There were three sufficient Night-shirts, and a small note directed “Mrs Welsh,” which I keep; both of which, for their respective owners. Four stocking-boards have come; of the amplest size! Shoes and lasts I expect by Annan tomorrow. The Misfortunate is all ready for packing: I will take my Good Janekin in my arms (and to my heart) if the Powers allow on the day I said.— The sheet is all but done, and no word of thanks for your fine Italian-English Letter;13 which I read three times (actually), and did not burn. It is the best news to me that you are getting better, that you feel cheerful as your writing indicated. My poor Goody! It seems as if she could so easily be happy; and the easy means are so seldom there. Let us take it bravely, honestly; it will not beat us both. What you say of the Sofa is interesting more than I like to confess. May it be good for us! I feel as if an immeasurable everlasting sofa were precisely the thing I wanted even now. O dear, I wish I were there, on the “simple greatness” of that one such as it is, and Goody might be as near me as she liked.— Hadere nicht mit deinem Mutter, Liebstes! Trage, trage! Es wird bald enden!14 I beg of you both to keep yourselves warm in this cold damp weather; warm and goodhumoured. Salute La Signora Madre [Greet the lady Mother] from me: the Apothecary's “gross” is not forgotten. My Mother, being asked, has “muckle word to you but canna put it into words,”—which is precisely my own case.— Why should I linger writing longer, when I am so “sick, sick,” and all is said till we meet? God bless thee my poor little darling! I think we shall be happier some time, and O how happy! If God above will.— In the mean time, no more palabra, till I speak to thee face to face. Ever Affectionate

T. Carlyle.

Harry was seen last “considerably sleeker,” feeding on soft boiled meat, “with a sheet over him;” tended by the ancient smith. We shall leave him there.— Will you be greatly shocked at my Misfortunate if you detect in her face a decided similarity to Mrs Hunt's!15 It is verily so; but without the sensuality, the obesity, the glazed leer. I hope no worse of the creature; better if anything by what farther I learn.— This Letter is in full time for the Post: but a Messenger? That is the difficulty. All are busy with Potatoe-digging; I am far too “sick sick” for going. Perish all senna!16 Again farewell, dearest

Jean & James Aitken were out here for a day taking leave of me. Many regards to you! The Boots were an inch too long: so I kept them, and took an accurate measure. Piccola [Little] “Jane” is the best of all that race yet.