January 1835-June 1836

The Collected Letters, Volume 8


TC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE; 22 March 1836; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18360322-TC-MAC-01; CL 8:319-323.


Chelsea, 22nd March, 1836—

My Dear Mother,

There is little doubt but you are anxious enough to hear from me again before this time: yet I did not mean to write for some three days yet, when one other of those sorrowful “chapters” of mine is to be finished; had not a Munich Letter arrived this morning, with glad news in it, which I make haste to communicate to you. Tomorrow evening, we are to be at Mrs Buller's, when some Honourable Member or other will frank the thing for me. I make it ready tonight at any rate.

Did you see on a Newspaper that I had got a Newspaper from Munich? It said: “Soon.” This time, Jack writes, as you will see, that they are determined to set out forthwith; that in fact they start tomorrow (Wednesday, or else the day after); and, if all go right, will be here in about a fortnight from this date!1 Is not that good news? Let us hope that it will all turn out, according to calculation; that we shall have the happiness of seeing those we love once more. What Jack will do, or when he will be inclined for proceeding Northward is quite uncertain to me, as doubtless it is yet to himself: however, you may depend on getting notice directly, if we once saw his face here; and so about a fortnight after this comes to hand, you can begin inquiring. We have had so many disappointments that one dares not be fully hopeful; yet surely we have a fair prospect and may hope a little! It is so natural always to “join trembling with our mirth.”— Especially in this ourie [gloomy] bilious state that I am in!

In fact for the last three weeks, I have not been so well as usual: a thing I find exampled among many of my friends; perhaps owing to the changes of this most changeful spring weather. Often enough have I asked myself, How poor Mother was standing it? I do believe it is very unwholesome; till once the heat do get in, and put the frosts to flight. Tho' you used to say, I was always anxious about you in proportion to my own fecklessness [weakness], yet I have generally endeavoured to believe that you were doing your best; which, in the absence of all light either way, is clearly the better belief. Jean's Letter2 of yesterday left the matter still dark; for indeed she seemed to have been in haste: but as the little she did say was of the right colour, and even her silence was confirmatory, I persuade myself that there is nothing materially wrong. As for myself too I must add that the ourie condition is greatly abated; and that I am in full activity again; the want of which requisite was the great ailment with me. O that Book, that weary Book! The whole mischief for the time lies in it. But I will be done with it; slow but sure; and so get amends of it.

Jean mentions in a very brief way Jenny's marriage, which I had good mind of, the day it was to happen.3 And they are gone, are they not, to Manchester; the poor youngsters, to front the world together? If I knew the address, I would send a line to them: but perhaps Jenny means to write hither? On the whole, one ought to take that matter too with equanimity, with thankfulness: I see not but they may do well enough in their position there, far better than the average. The one most to be sympathized with, to whom the change was change only, and bereavement in a sense, is our good Mother. Jean says she stood it well. I know she did; as she does all things. Take no sorrow to heart, dear Mother. A right mind can never be left desolate; if one is taken, another will be given: if you begin to feel lonely, we are all about you, and will make some new arrangement for that. It is written, “Here we have no continuing City”;4 happy they that elsewhere have one!

Alick wrote me a very kind and worthy Letter;5 very mournful in relation to his poor little girl: I have thought of it oftener than enough since; “there are tears for all human things”;6 they all die, as to TIME; yet under TIME is there not an ETERNITY where all lives? Blessed be the lips that spake these Glad Tidings (Evangel, or Good-News truly) to the heavy-laden children of men! O is it not spoken: “All tears shall be wiped away from every eye”!7

When you have opportunity tell Jean that I have tonight written to Corrie's Indian Bishop, telling the story as it stands; hinting to the Indian Bishop that he could communicate directly with John Corrie, if he liked, by the Revd Mr Clyde, or by the Parish Minister of Dumfries8 who from “Mr Aitken, Mason”9 there, could easily find out his man.10 It seems not improbable that the worthy Bishop will send some kind of word; but in six months time or seven, we may perhaps know m[ore.] I [th]ink at present (but am not sure) that six months is the shortest time f[or] an answer. We shall see, we shall see; no ill is done at any rate.

Jane has been rather feckless [weak] too; she got herself frightened tonight too (in the evening when she went out) with a gallopping cart, which overset near her, and almost killed a Boy,—whom she herself however plucked out, little worse! It has given her a head ache; and she is not in good heart.— We take the shower-bath both of us, or rather have just begun to take it; and think we shall storken [grow stronger again] by and by.— I told you or Alick last time that I was just about going into the country with Mill for a day or two: I went; but it did me only harm, the fatigue, bustle &c: I came off for home next day, tho' the people were all very kind &c—I felt quite sleepless, restless; so shouldered my Cloak, and walked some nine miles (thro' beautiful chalk-hill country, with bushes and valleys, and not a brook to be seen; the chalk swallows it all); a very pleasant thoughtful walk, with the Larks singing overhead: then a Steamboat swashed me up the River, which also was full of interest. We met the ships coming out with the day's tide: I never saw such a sight; Liverpool was but a halfpenny-worth to it: there were ships of all sizes colours and countries flying along there, to all ends of the Earth, really like a flight of crows to Woodcock air; we could have flung pebbles at one another; and then—they were gone, over the wide world; some of them, it might be, to the other world! I find London an almost terrific place, never a dull one.— Since then I have not stirred away; nor will I yet.

Our friends here are as kind as ever: but my help after all lies not in friends at this time; solely in my own self. If the King would ask me to dinner, I many times say, what would it do me but ill. I am and have been as good as determined to refuse all dinners: yet I went out lately, to meet old Rogers, a queer old Poet here (rich Banker, Whig Politician &c &c); I liked the old man very well too, but should not care to have an indigestion again for him.11 I wish my Book were done; and I do not for the present trouble myself to wish anything else at all.— Poor John Sterling has been dangerously ill (spitting of blood); I should be right sorry, if aught befel him. Mill continues in the same weakly state: “a disease of the mind”; his Platonic love and he, it is thoug[ht are] getting awry some how,—perhaps dissolving Partnership; which would indee[d bring gr]eat joy.—(I have a little piece still free)

As the frank will carry it I send you this other American Epistle: it is from the uttermost corner of the Western Earth; almost as far beyond New York, as that is from us.12 Letters are curious things. I have not answered any of these American ones lately: if they can amuse you for a minute, it is the main good they do. How often in the course of their fine praises does the old rhyme come into my head:

There was a Piper had a Cow
And he had nought to give her
He took his Pipes and play'd a spring
And bade the Cow consider
The Cow consider'd wi' hersel
That mirth wad ne'er fill her:
Gie me a pickle ait-strae [little oat-straw]
And sell your wind for siller!
true to the very Letter!—

Adieu dear Mother!—

T. C.13

The Picture Hunt's son was drawing has yet come to nothing. It grew so deadfully ugly, and promised to be so little like one's own ugliness, and was withal such a wearisome thing, that I shirked off, by some good opportunity and never came back again.

I send my kind brotherly affection to every one: my thanks specially to Alick, whom I mean to write to soon. Remember us to Mary: the woman Ann14 is stout of body and heart; a true wild-woman, with—good-temper.

Alick says, Jamie has got his Rent made up, which I was very glad to hear. Remembrances to the good Isabella, and her boy.— Jane charged me to send her best regards, and I have almost forgot it—Good night! Good Night!