January 1835-June 1836

The Collected Letters, Volume 8


TC AND JWC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE; 23 February 1836; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18360223-TCJWC-JAC-01; CL 8:305-311.


Chelsea, London, 23d Feby, 1836—

My Dear Brother,

You charged me to write so that you might have the Letter by the first of March;1 I notice, this evening, by looking at a Newspaper date, that my time is fully come, and even gone, let me send by Paris itself: so dilatory am I always; and now more than ever in this matter of epistles, having no heart for anything! Come home to me, Boy; and let the Letter-writing cease. I would we saw it! And surely see it we shall, if the kind Powers have not determined all—too sorrowfully for us.

There is no bad news anywhere, except one article which will be less so to you than it was to me, who knew the little subject of it. Alick's youngest child, a fine gleg-looking little creature, named after our Mother, is dead; of measles; rather suddenly, I think: but the news is quite laconic as yet, only marked on a Newspaper. Poor people: sorrow never fails long. I sent Alick your last Letter in a frank, with some words of sympathy; all I had to give.— There was shortly before that a Letter from Jean, testifying of our Mother's continued health, and the general welfare: Alick's trade, it was guessed, would prove unexpectedly successful: they were all well then, and stirring. I added a Note for my Mother; whom I fancy on good grounds to have one bright hope, that of seeing the Doctor soon.— Jean hinted in a kind of ambiguous way that Jenny was likely to be wedded “in two months.” I guessed that it was to Rob Haining [sic], whose small shifty figure, in boyhood, you must remember. There might have been better matches conceivable; and yet still more easily worse. He is a most thoroughgoing whole-hearted little tidy fellow, Rob; grown a Manchester Dandy as I think I told you; likely to do feats in his way; may readily for one thing make wealth in abundance; and on the whole do good rather than mischief. At all events, the damsel it would appear will have it so; they have courted since almost infancy: so what is there to be said except, Gesegnet [Blessed]? I have not written to poor Jenny, but sent a message to her: she is a quick-tempered, indeed quick-minded, methodic, truthful little creature; and may take that destiny with tolerable hope.— And so our Mother will be left solitary; and rapid Time will have brought another change. But fear not: our brave Mother will take it well; and with the heart she has never be left desolate. Jemmy's wife and she seemed to do very handsomely, and she has the rest about her. Her Houses too, on which her income depends, were like to get into a better train: Baker Park,2 a very 'sponsible man, was about bargaining for the large House next year, and perhaps even taking the whole set of them under his own charge. That village of Ecclefechan, which I passed thro', once or twice, gave me the strangest unearthly feeling; very sad, very ugly, yet not without a grandeur even a sacredness in the middle of such squalor. What is Eternal Rome, Jerusalem, or Nazareth itself, but a temporary set of huts and habitations, where Being begins, and is, and then is not—under God's unchanging Heaven? Alas, I often feel as if Hades itself were slight change to me, from this fearful and wonderful mystery of a world; surely no greater miracle it were,—past finding out. Let us bow down in the dust; and in silence (since for the present one has no words) feel with the old wise, “tho' HE slay me, yet will I trust in him.”3 Hier steh' ich; kann nichts anders, Gott hilf mir [Here stand I; I can do no other, God assist me]!4— On the whole, I often meditate on Christian things; but find as good as no profit in talking of them here. Most so-called Christians (I believe I should except the worthy Mr Dunn) treat me instead with jargon of metaphysic formulas, or perhaps shovelhatted Coleridgian moonshine.5 I admire greatly that of old Marquis Mirabeau (tho he means it not for admiration): Il a HUMÉ toutes les formules!6 A man should “swallow” innumerable “formulas” in these days; and endeavour above all things to look with eyes.— But whither this all? Unfortunately, almost nowhither.

If I tell you that my poor scribble, after above a week of rest, is again under way, and doing what it can, you must not grow weary of me and it: I have next to nothing else at present that seems to belong to me in this world. Whether the Book be good or be bad, it will to me be blessed in that one point,—in its end. Yet after all, it is only my impatient temper that makes me so speak: for the poor thing, full of faults as it can be crammed, will have a thought or two, a genuine picture or two; and so not be worthless: what more would I? The best news is that I hope to have the Second Volume fairly off at the time you appoint for returning: could all answer, how joyfully would I take my interregnum of vacation with Doil! We would walk together, to Hampstead, to Dulwich, to all places; and be happy in the spring sunshine. Let us wait, and hope.— Mill's new Review making small way, they have purchased the old Westminster, and will join that with it;7 on which occasion Mill, tho' he does not like to speak urgently, wishes very greatly that I would give him “a few Articles.” I will think seriously of it: a hundred pounds of money might be earned; my Third Volume waiting, not the worse for waiting. On the other hand,—but indeed I have no “other hand,” or economic guidance of any kind here; and go along, thro boundless “quackery and triviality,” in the peaceablest armed-neutrality without any. We shall see, we shall see. Dr Bowring wrote to the tyrannous French Minister: “Sir, I am calm, but energetic.”8— Good night, my dear Jack: the Supper came (two lines ago); Jane wearied is off to bed; I too am drooping, with long days work. Adieu

[JWC's postscript:]

My dear John—instead of getting the fag-end for my share I am favoured for once with a piece in the middle: Carlyle having several calls tonight, one to go and speak comfort to Leigh Hunt, on things in general; another to write a refusal of an editorship of—a newspaper in the beautiful little town of Litchfield [sic]!!9—not beautiful enough however, it would seem, to make the prospect of spouting radicalism there “every day and all” extremely seductive. Font Blanque [sic] the Examiner man, had written to Mill about it; and Mill in his usual business style dropt us a threepenny; and Carlyle in another threepenny has answered no by no means, and so the whole affair is ended almost as soon as begun. And the Litchfield radicals m[ay] bless their stars that it has so ended! for if they had got him for their ‘able Editor’ they would have found themselves, I imagine fully as ba[dly] off as Dean Swifts Tailors, or as Edward Irvings Missionaries who at their own “particular desire” were shut up for four hours to hear themselves abused like pickpockets— O Mercy no—not to a little provincial English town! Not to anywhere, if I might have my wish. “A rolling stone gathers no moss”10—we have rolled and rolled till we hardly know which end of us is up[p]ermost, and I desire of all things now, to stand still and gather moss! Where could one be better than here? to be sure one is threatened with starvation; but for the rest ‘tout va bien [all goes well]’!11 And I declare to you my dear Brother I can never get myself worked up into proper anxiety about how soul and body are to be kept together; the idea of starvation cannot some how ever be brought home to my business and bosom, I have always a sort of lurking assurance that if ones bread ceases, it will be possible to live on pie-crust! Besides whose bread ever entirely ceases who has brains and fingers to bake it? unless indeed he be given over to Salthoun,12 in the shape of strong liqours [sic]—which is not my case happily—for tho' I like porter very much and occasionally take brandy for my head, I do not carry my potations to the length of injuring my faculties or even my purse. But Carlyle will not thank me for filling so much of his paper with this ‘clitter clatter’—so I shall reserve what other judicious reflections I may feel disposed to make until you come which will sur[e]ly be soon now— What a world of things we shall have to say to each other!—and such floods of beautiful Italian will assail your ears! We shall all be so glad to see you again—and Miss Morris will be so glad!—at least I think so. Come then. Your affectionate Jane Welsh

[TC's postscript:]

25th (morning)—My dear Brother, I finish this before beginning anything else. I was out with poor Hunt till near ten last night, and good for little when I came home. His London Journal (did I tell you?) has fallen to the ground; so with bad health, incipient old age, and thriftless imbecillity all round him, he has the sorriest outlook; yet keeps up his heart amazingly: “a man of genius (real genius) in the shape of a Cockney”! Mill has got very sickly; and I should not be surprised if it proved chronic and continuous with him: he cannot come out at night; I occasionally go to him, always with warm welcome. He is liker Ben Nelson in talent than anybody we know: naturally hardly so good a man in that way as Ben; but with far more culture. The old Mill, who is also sick these late months, I have never seen in his own house, and only once anywhere—very transiently in Kensington Gardens, and not knowing that it was he. A wrinkled hard-looking little man; whom indeed I have no impatience to know; tho' there is good stuff in him, and tenacity without end. The Lichfield Editorship Jane has told you of occasioned no difficulty. In fact as I grow older I grow more careless about appointments: Keep them, Gentlemen; I will do without them, (having long done, who knows how near altogether done?); and go my own fated way, not consulting you or them!— I fancy the wide world, I fancy America the Backwoods and all this Planet; and am sick of being perpetually sick even for “Literature”: wisdom is surely possible (whatev[er scribbl]ing may be) without bad health. As the Frenchman said: “I begin to be weary of th[e treatment] I experience here.”13 Allons therefore!

There is a sad falling off in our ink. I find also that I have sent you as good as no news at all. You must take the will for the deed; above all, you must come soon home, and get them by word of mouth. Let me hope then this Letter will find you about packing up. May your poor Lady stand it well: what a Life is that,—“miserable in the bosom of grandeur”! One's sympathy is due, tho not so easy to give. We are all tied and clogged; each by his several padlock; and which of us can break it? Give my kind remembrances to Lichtenthaler; my hope to Schelling (if you ever talk in that way) that I shall one day see him in this world.14 If there be any Book of his not about Metaphysic, buy it.— I can think of no German commissions at the moment; except Bendixen's Lithograph of Jean Paul (to match Goethe)15 if you can see such a thing: Jane would be glad of it. The Environs of Paris16 hang here on the wall, looked at now & then. At Paris perhaps I may have something else. Did you get the Examiner? Can you send me a German Paper when you receive this? I suppose, yes.— Fraser's Sartor was left with James Fraser; and I suppose, delivered to W.'s brother: recoverable or not.17 My continued friendly wishes & regards to W.— Let us see him again a man steeled (by this warfare), trained to the management of arms!— Did I say that there was a Letter from Grahame? Nothing in it that was new: low prices, obstruction; not despondency, nor hardening of heart. Old Mrs Robinson (of the Buck Inn, Annan) is dead: she was in the door leaning on her staff, as I went by last. Her son Bob (whom you remember?) died a good many months ago.18

Tomorrow (Saturday morning) I go out into Kent, not far from Maidstone, with John Mill; invited by a certain “Mr Hickson” Shoemaker and Farmer, whom I have not seen; who is said to be the flower of all them that draw the lingle [shoemaker's thread]. We shall look. I have no appetite for the enterprise, but cannot get it well refused.

The morning is sleety, splashy; yet welcome that way as the end of frost.— Now come soon, brave Jack; and do not let me want for a Letter either. I will be more punctual next time. Adieu, dear Brother!— T.C.

Nine o'clock.— A poor day's work this time; but I must out now talis qualis [as best I can]; with an umbrella, the sleet still dropping. There has come a Newspaper; with the note of “well”: our Mother was at Dumfries; and to go home again this very day. I trust she has better weather, or has put off.— Adieu again, dear Jack! Soon!

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