January 1835-June 1836

The Collected Letters, Volume 8


TC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE; 18 January 1836; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18360118-TC-MAC-01; CL 8:280-285.


Cheyne Row, Chelsea, 18th January 1836—

My Dear Mother,

I am sure the full time for a Letter to you has come and gone since I wrote last; and, tho' there is nothing particular to be treated of, another Letter will be welcome. I must not let “want of time” be an excuse any longer; but write this night; flinging all to the right and left till I have done it.

Jenny,1 or more probably Mary, sent me a Manchester Newspaper last week with the Notice that you had heard from Jack, and that with you and him all was well: for which brief notice, as for a most welcome one, I pray you thank the sender. It is good, compared with none at all! Yet I hope soon to hear it more specifically, and at large. Jack has not written to me since the Letter you got; nor have I to him; waiting always till I heard from him again (for a Letter of mine was on the road when he wrote last), that so our Correspondence might get clear, and delivered from what I call the overlapping impediment, that is, one Letter always having to be written and despatched before the answer to the last has come. I feel pretty sure, tho' the Newspaper said nothing of it, that Jack would desire me to write now forthwith; and I accordingly shall do it, without waiting for instruction from you, or for any other prompting or furtherance: the night after tomorrow is the time I appoint for that duty. If indeed a Letter from Scotsbrig should arrive in the interim, it would be a great accession! But I fear there is little likelihood of that. Jack, as I conjecture, is going on in the old very tolerable way at Munich; not unpleasantly for the meantime, and with the hope of seeing us all in April, which hope we too can indulge. Let us be thankful; that we are all struggling on, better or worse, in a reasonable course; that prosperity shines on any of us, and adversity has yet beaten none of us down.

As for myself, I have nothing to relate except that I travel forward in my task, daily by little and little; at a frightfully slow rate, yet never absolutely lying down. The Fable says, The Hare, swiftest of animals, set out to run a race with the Tortoise, which is the slowest: Hare, after a while, looking over his shoulder, saw Tortoise at such an immeasurable distance that he thought it was of no use running, he might sport a little, or even go to sleep; he slept accordingly; and awoke to see what crawling, continual perseverant crawling, had done: the Tortoise was within few yards of the goal; the Hare spanged [leaped] and jumped, but could not get in first, only second, and had lost like a fool!2 Thus it is with the perseverant man. Or as you said when shearing that time, “Do never so little, it will not jump in again.”— On the whole, however, I have no reason to be very sour with myself: I have a Second Chapter done off; and a Third or perhaps a Third and Fourth mostly lying out on the paper, needing only to be polished off more or less. I am also very quiet, and content; in general almost happy; quite careless what becomes of me, so I had done with this Task. It was a Task I could do; I, even I: no crossness of circumstances, unfriendliness of things or men could hinder me from doing it, but I finished it off in the name of Heaven! This is what I will say, one day; and look again, with what faith I can, to my Great Taskmaster, as to what is next to be done. The Book will be a very queer one; and blessed to me beyond measure,—were it in this only, that I shall have no more to do with it.

All the rest of London goes as it was wont; I heeding it comparatively little. The great grinding roar of it discomposes not my ear, as I walk thro it; I see much to pity, something to love; almost nothing I can be at the trouble to hate. John Mill has had a fever of some kind, and is still very weakly: I see little of him for long, as he cannot come out at nights: his Father also is confined all winter with illness;3 there have been very many people sick. I wonder often how it is with you at Scotsbrig in that respect: I fear it has been very boisterous and rigorous upon you; but you never complain. Spring will be here by and by, and brighter sun. It is our pleasantest season in London: indeed I fear nothing here in the shape of weather, if it be not the scorching of such a summer as our last was.— I see all my other old good friends, kind to me as ever. Tomorrow we are to dine with Mr Dunn,4 that worthiest of Irish Clergymen: he is a good man, and does me good; his very face is a lesson of patient suffrance, of peace and goodwill towards men. I also see the Wilsons;5 who have now got back from Paris. Various others: but somewhat oftener than any I walk with John Sterling, debating much with the man, loving him for his young hope, some ten years younger than mine. All these people are partial blessings to me: pleasant to look after, when one has done with his days work, and goes out “at two o'clock.” On the other hand, it is also pleasant enough to be left quite quiet with your own thoughts and a Book in the evening: I often enjoy myself very handsomely that way. Men cannot help me much, men cannot hinder me much,—to get on with my poor French Revolution, which is the grand thing at present!— Jane has had a cold, and has often breakfasted in bed in the frosts; but otherwise she has been pretty well, and indeed is now done with that complaint too; and sits writing, at this moment, behind me, at her own table and desk; busy with a short French Translation I got for her to do. Whether she will “make three guineas by it,” or not, is still a kind of problem; but it has been useful otherwise of itself.6 She has made the tartan: into what think you? No dressing-gown, but a Gown proper; with black silk sleeves (large as bushel-sacks), and wears it daily,—very dashing I assure you.—— I mentioned on a Newspaper that the Barrels had come, “just the night before.” Perhaps a hundred times, when any waggon wheels stopped near us, we had thought, There now at last, there they are!—till finally so often disappointed we had almost renounced hope of our poor Barrels, so that their actual arrival was a surprise. The carriage from Whitehaven to London Docks was some 11/; from the Docks hither—some additional 9/; a pound all but twopence (I think) in all. Nothing was spoiled, nothing wrong: the Customhouse beagles had broken up both, to see that there was nothing contraband; they had taken the bottom too, the cunning dogs; but coming to the Hams and their wrappage, which were unwilling to come out that way, they had most luckily stopt; had they gone an inch farther, there lay the whisky; and the whole had been condemned with penalties!7 We drew off the Graybeard8 however, and drank Alick's health in it, rare stuff as it is: but never more may liquor travel with such risk. On the whole, I think we will not plague you again with Barrels and stuff sent hither. One can get all here to buy; if it be not the oatmeal, and I found I could sup on arrow-root and milk almost as well. This year, however, we eat Scotsbrig potatoes to dinner; eat Annan Ham to breakfast; which is curious enough. Isabella's Cheese, so far as the eye can judge, had stood its journey, to Belfast and round the Land's End, very well. The sides of it were dimpled all over with pressure of potatoes; but the skin was unbroken: it is scraped clean, and lies high and dry, on a bra[c]ket up stairs, seasoning. We hope to eat it, and honour the sisterly maker, in due time.— I must also tell you a word about the housemaid Ann; who is now writing a morsel of Letter to go by this to her Mother. The lass is hardy, cheerful, unwearied; rough and ready! No servant we have ever had gets me breakfast so soon prepared in the mornings: I usually sit down at eight o'clock,—such a dadding hizzy [speedy girl] is this Ann, and stours [bustles] along,—not of course in the most particular way. We have great cause to think her a lucky change against London women; and will very cheerfully let her dadd [dash] about there with ready hand and will.— I said you would get the Letter sent down before many days.

This sheet, which is the last I chance to have, will not stand much more; and surely there were whole volumes to write yet. How are you, dear Mother? I wish Jenny would take the pen up again; why does not she? I feel certified now about the fire; and fancy often that you sit warm enough “when rocking winds are piping loud.”9 It is all very clear to my eye: the new Coal-box, the saddle riding there at the bedhead! Stuff the window-seams with paper; tell Jenny to do it, she will find it keep out the wind. Did Mrs Welsh send you the Book yet? We have no tidings of her for a week or two; but fancy she must now be got home.— I would give something to know how Alick gets on with his Bacon-trade; I can only guess, and fear that it is not of the best, all things continuing so ill.10 Tell that I know he did write a line to me last; but that I am in great want of another. He gets all my news thro' you. The like excuse you must make to every individual of the family, for really I am very busy, and like scribbling badly, having enough of it to do by compulsion. Yet I will pay my debts too. Give my brotherly affection, and kindest heart's-wishes to Alick and his household, to Jean and Mary and theirs. Alas, I think I owe Jean a Letter too. Do I not? Tell her to be thole-made [patient], this time. As for Jenny, you can say that I am shorted, or going to short.11 The two Jameses great and small are desired to accept my wishes. The poor Small has got more teeth I hope? His watery countenance and smile is getting dim for me, I find; but it will be all altered (for the better, one hopes) when we meet next. Good night, dear Mother; good night to one and all!—

Your ever affectionate /

T. Carlyle

Tuesday, 1 o'clock.— I send you a new salutation, this morning, dear Mother, before the Letter goes off to Buller. There will a Newspaper go today, with a warning on it. No Examiner came last week; for I got none: Hunt is a very unpunctual. His Journal, poor fellow, by which he lived, has broken down suddenly, and he is now without work, without support, and eight or nine of a most thriftless ravenous family hanging on him: a man whom all men may justly pity! What he will do one cannot see rightly: he cannot dig, to beg he is ashamed.12 I have seen him twice lately; not for a long time previously: he speaks of trying the Journal (it was a Three-halfpenny Weekly Paper) under a new form. I pray heartily he may succeed in it.— Did I mention last night that his son was drawing my Picture in oil colours?13 The poor young man requested it, as a thing that might do him good; and I could not refuse, tho' the task proves wearisome. Whether he will make a Likeness after all is very dubious: the figure at present is one of the roughest, grimmest; with “a look that would split a pitcher,” as the Irish say!— Jane's cold is a little returned again, last night; and she will not go to dine today. She sends daughterly and sisterly love to all of you with open heart.— Now surely Jenny or some charitable individual will write?

I remain, / Dear Mother, / Forever and ever, /