January 1835-June 1836

The Collected Letters, Volume 8


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE; 27 November 1835; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18351127-TC-JAC-01; CL 8:256-263.


Chelsea, London, 27th November, 1835—

My Dear Brother,—It is now full time that I should write to you: I have been here some three or even four weeks in safety; your Letter to our Mother arrived some days before my leaving Scotsbrig; the Letter by a private hand to myself has been lying in the Drawer for above a week. I wished to have attained some kind of fixation before writing, and to be able to inform you that I was fairly at work again. This evening (for Jane declares she will not let me work in the evenings) I propose to spend with you, be the fixation as it may: I feel how impatient you must be getting to hear of me fixed or unfixed.

I quitted Scotsbrig on the first friday morning of the month:1 very drizzly weather, and all of us naturally dispirited; yet none absolutely giving way to vain sorrow. My Mother took sad leave of me at the door in the murky drizzle of the morning; I saw her again as Alick and I rode up the Purdamstown brae on the other side of the burn: the faint figure of her was standing watching us within the window; silent, dimly visible: one of those sights, as I said then to myself, that thro' all time one never will forget. At Annan Ben Nelson insisted, in spite of the rain, on accompanying me to Waterfoot; Alick and Jamie walked with us over the Hill-End; Jamie Austin had gone before with the luggage. As ill-luck, grounded on Ben's false tidings would have it, the Steamboat was clearly in motion when we got sight of her: it became a racing, a hailing of boats; a jumping in and steering in hot hurlyburly: when my luggage, saved from the jaws of the flood lay on deck, and I turned round to wave farewell, my Friends were all faded from my eyes, I was looking on the dull sandhills of Newbie. Annandale and what it held was gone in that hasty fashion; lost to me, one other time. We reached Liverpool next morning; waited only some three hours; then off by a famed Coach called the Umpire to London at one stretch. On Sunday night about dusk, a wretched vehicle landed us here; as wholly wretched, at least me wholly so, tho' the kind welcome, a cup of excellent Madeira and dinner partially set me up again. The Annan serving woman (for it is she that makes the plural number) had stood the whole business with the humour of a Chactaw Squaw, and needed only a glass of rum punch to make her better than ever: a hardy, impassive, shifty piece of true Annandale stuff, who promises to do excellently well here, and be a very great accommodation to us. Cockney helps, of all colours, had grown nigh unsufferable to us. I do not think you know this young woman: she is called Cook, her father was a tanner with old Gavin Irving and now “carries the Letters” of the Borough: the creature herself is dusky of skin, loud Annandale-melodious of speech, and had “a misfortune”! However she is whole of heart, deft of hand, an appurtenance of the household, and will last for a year, the length of her term, with advantage to us.

The state of Scotsbrig, I think, was pretty fully delineated to you last Letter. Nothing new had happened; all seemed settled for the winter. Our good Mother you may fancy as sitting in warm enough quarters yonder, with blazing Whitehaven coal amid the piping winds; reading, nursing the young Jamie (a tremendously heavy fellow of his months) or otherwise peaceably filling up her time. I got a frank, and wrote to her fully the week after my arrival: I have since sent an old stout folio “Baker's Chronicle,”2 according to agreement, for winter reading (she liked it at Craigenputtoch formerly); a Newspaper or two go weekly; I have had one from Jenny, and three from Jean, acknowledging my news, and signifying that all is as I left it. Alick, reserving America as the last shift, had begun again looking out for farms: “the Orchard” (Wurchit), Gullielands near Annan, and other small farms were to let; which he was clear for trying after.3 Nothing can exceed the depression of Agricultural things there at this time, no one thing to help another; wheat selling at 14 shillings the Carlisle bushel, which has been seen at three guineas, and in “the dear years” was as high as five. Jamie says he can do, but will be very tight hadden [hard going]. The American backwoods are a blessed Goshen,4 tho' a wild one, for many. My heart bleeds to think of the unrhymed Tragedies of the Poor; and how able Editors and Customhouse Statistic men on all hands cry out, “Prosperity unexampled”; and Peace, Peace, when there is no peace,5—and cannot and ought not to be any. God turn it all to good! To me the contemplation of it is actually very painful.— I saw old Cressfield once, and meant honestly to go and visit him some evening; but did not make it out; to my regret now. He is quite brisk in faculty tho' looking very old: his son Frank has lost his wife in Australia;6 otherwise all is well with them. Doubtless I told you of Grahame, how friendly he was, how thick, stagnant and wearisome; full of his Mr Men-sies (Menzies the new Minister of Hoddam), whom I absolutely would not ride over to visit; not even tho' David Aitken (dried to a Kipper, soul and body, as I had seen him in London) was to be there. Poor Grahame! and yet I do like that friendly heart of his, the general home of all visible sons of Adam. He was very special inquiring your address &c; our Mother's Letter from you coming in while he was there, I read it nearly all to him. His good friend Johnstone of Grange, as perhaps I told you, was dead suddenly, and all was change and sorrow there. Worthy Tom Beattie7 whom you recollect was thought to be dying of consumption; was making ready for Madiera, or Devonshire thro' winter. By the last Dumfries Newspaper I find that James Hogg the Ettrick Shepherd is also gone;8 would be buried this day in the church yard of Ettrick: dark mountain solitude covers up his grave then at this hour; the foolish guileless chirping or singing son of rough Scottish Nature is gone silent forever. The last time I saw him was in Bookseller Fraser's,9 where also William Fraser was.— At Annan I met with Tom Grahame, returned from a long tour in America; a withered, straggling, sceptico-pragmatical individual; of small value. Also, one night at Alick's, Wull of the Breconhill!10 He is fat, fat, inclining to baldness; a snoring, attitudinizing sack of a man, greatly apprehensive of being laughed at: but on the whole incredibly improved; grown “the honest lawyer,” not distracted as one might have dreaded at seeing him of old. Poor Glen11 was the likest to him, tho' of far deeper gift; and we see how he has gone: “no improvement or change” they answered me when I inquired. Waugh too was at Alick's that night; lisping mincing, an absurd mass of conceited inertia, not so much as looking sorry for himself; writing “theories of Medicine” rather, and speculating about the instantaneous “success of a comedy.” Ben Nelson is said to be deeply embarrassed in pecuniary matters: the son Edward took down your address, and talked of writing from Edinburgh. Here ends Annandale. I found a little bundle of medical Books left by Arbuckle for you at Liverpool: I suppose, borrowed; he himself was gone for S. America, and calculated to be there by that time. I brought the little Book parcel with me; I did not see George Johnstone, who has a house and his Mother: this brings me to London,—something of the latest considering how my sheet looks! Let me add however here that your Miss Elliott had safely delivered her box to Fraser, by whom it was forthwith forwarded: she had sent her address and “exchanged threepennies” with Jane; all in great civility, with the sorrow &c, with the hope &c “when she returned to town.” I will call for her, the first word of notice I get. Mrs Jameson should have had her lithographs before now; but I learnt on inquiring that she was at Weimar. Your lady will find her by a simple address thither, I should think: the lithographs lie eating no bread. Finally let me mention that your money in the Dumfries Bank amounts to £541, for which Mother will not take the interest, let me speak to her as I would.

Your arrangement at Munich turns out as we expected it would: a stay for the winter, rejoiced at by all of us, since no better might be. We like to fancy you in that half-home, among your honest German brethren; it is far homelier, honester, nearer hand, than there by the Woman on Seven Hills. Doubly glad are we to find that you have medical employment: it is precisely the one thing needful for you there. Suppose you should see continued practice inviting you at Munich? Or as you say, a few years longer of patience, and a reasonable annuity for life? The latter plan I like worse; but can dissuade or persuade on no side. England surely, except that it is one's country, is of all countries the least inviting at this moment; torn asunder with mean rabid factions, which will not get settled for a century; a country eating itself, and without other work; the SUPREME QUACK, in all departments, like to inherit it so long! One has to keep silence; and be dumb, not opening his mouth.— Meanwhile enjoy Munich, my Boy, and do what the day gives to be done there: das weitere wird [anything further will …] &c. That you have met William Fraser was naturally most interesting news to me. I have inquired often, very often about him, almost without result till now; the monster “Jerdan,” of the “Gazette,”12 had not “heard a word of him,” two months ago,—and was and remained a satyr-cannibal Literary Gazetteer; who shall live (leben hoch [live high] if he like and can), only far from me. I sent Fraser a Teufelk to Boulogne, and many remembrances; but neither they nor it seem to have reached him. Say all friendly things to him on my part; and bid him go on towards well doing unweariedly, not looking behind, not to this hand nor to that, but ever more resolutely towards the mark of the prize. It will give me the truest pleasure to learn that he is making the best of the much good that is in him; that past sorrows have all been precious lessons to him. I envy you the Speech of Schelling: there are few men in Europe I would go farther to see.13

We have no “news” here; nothing but miserable Roebuck duellings,14 O'Connell vituperatings:15 “trash, trash, the penny-vriter”; of which probably you hear too much thro' the very newspapers of Munich. Silence of that! As for our own household there is this to be said, that we are all in fair health, that I am (most feebly) beginning to scribble again; that our friends are mostly gathering round us, and all is as you have known it before. Jane I found greatly improved; she still keeps well; amuses herself much speaking and writing Italian. I myself am feeblish, but clear: I mean to work cunningly, not by main force; I shall surely get done with this Book; and print it; and then—? Why then, we shall see what is to be done.— On the whole, I could live very patiently amid this circle of London people,—had I anything to live on. They are greatly the best people I ever walked with; one is freer than anywhere else in the world; esteemed, without being questioned; more at home than one has been. I will stay here, and try it out to the last. But indeed often my soul is like to grow quite sick (it is that weary, weary body rather); and I feel as if no resting place waited me on this side the Great Ocean. It is a petulant weak thought; neither do I long to die till I have done my task. I think however I will quit Literature.— Alas, here is Anne Cook with the porridge; puts an end to all speculation! This sheet cannot go tomorrow I believe, nor next day: I will fill the margins at my leisure: I have to see people, to do things; I shall still have somewhat to tell you. Good night my dear Brother. Your ever affectionate—

T. Carlyle (very weary). 10 o'clock

Monday Night, 30th Novr— My dear Jack, this Letter which was written so far on friday must be finished tonight, to be off tomorrow. I am not in the best spirits, yet might have been in worse. On Saturday I went to dine at the Mrs Taylors, expecting probably to meet Mill and a French Republican called Cavaignac;16 only the former of whom was there. Worse still, the fret and excitement &c of the thing (tho' I dine most moderately) brought a cholic on me yesterday afternoon, pain, depression and an abstinence from food (a loathing of it) for some twenty hours. Today I have sat quite still, wrapt in a fleecy plaid night gown which my Mother gave me, and now feel as if I shd be even considerably improved by the adventure. A dark green cloud of bile had been hanging over me for long: in my left eye was occasionally a small speck of a mote (very ugly to have coming dancing before you), which I do not notice now. My work also it is to be hoped will proceed better, and all be well that ends well. Tonight we were to go to the Rennies', but of course declined: tomorrow night to the Bullers', but that has been postponed. That burnt volume has been a real misery to me; but I shall get stronger, and I have nothing but natural work now.— Today whom should we see here but Miss Morris! We had called twice at Bayswr [Bayswater], since summer, but not found her. The young lady is looking well; making all sorts of inquiries about you, wondering when you are to get home. She is for Brighton again, till January. We propose to make her acquainted with Mr Dunn when she returns. An innocence and schuchternheit [shyness] seem to be her main characteristics; but she has never yet got to any freedom of utterance with us. An aged devout “Miss Hudson” (I think) accompanied her hither.

As journeys this Earth, her eye on a Sun, thro' the Heavenly spaces,
And, radiant, in azure, or sunless, swallowed in tempests,
Falters not, alters not; journeying equal, sunlit or stormgirt:
So thou, Child of Earth, who hast Sun, Goal and Time,——and no fixed kind of weather!— Voss17 (how do you like it?)

Is the pain quite gone from the knee? That might have been a bad business.— I impute my sickliness here to the bad water we have, which I am not yet got accustomed to. We have taken to using the Thames, and mean to get a filter.

Mrs Welsh (as I think I have not mentioned) went away, by Liverpool, about a week ago: we had a Letter some days ago indicating that she was safe, was to stay there about a week, and then proceed. She did not take greatly to London; but managed tolerably nevertheless. The day of parting comes: each must go his own road!

Of all the people I see here John Sterling (the young clergyman) is the one I love most, different as our tempers and life-theories are in all points. He is a frank brotherly all-hoping, most childlike mortal, of very considerable genius; one feels as if he were “too good to live;” which indeed his bodily constitn makes one anxious about. He has fixed himself at Bayswater and comes often down to me.

Mill is getting more and more confirmed into a Logician, and Utilitarian of larger growth. One esteems him exceedingly: but to love him? It were like loving the 47th of Euclid.18 In several respects, he is the strangest human creature I have ever in my life seen.

Tomorrow or next day I get a frank, and send your Letter forward to Scotsbrig.

good night dear Jack! I need not seal bis Morgen [till Morning].

Tuesday morning.— I feel stronger, as I expected, this morning; and fully as well as usual. To work now; with fair prospects! Jane was to write you a P.S.; but was so vertieft [absorbed] in Italian at the moment that she had to put it off till “the morrow”; and now there is no room, except for her love.

Nun wird gesiegelt. Lebewohl! [Now it will be sealed. Farewell!]

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