January 1835-June 1836

The Collected Letters, Volume 8


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE; 31 March 1836; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18360331-TC-JAC-01; CL 8:325-329.


Chelsea, 31st March, 1836—

My Dear Brother,

The last day of March being come, I must send off this to wait upon your way. May you find it at Brussels; and come home safe, with the answer by word of mouth! According to the calculation, you should be with us this day week. It seems so very singular, one hardly knows how to believe it: too good news to be true. We shall wait, watching with both eyes; if some omnibus, cab or hackney should actually roll up with you on the appointed night!

The Allgem. Zeitung1 came to hand; charged 2 pence: 1 penny more than it would have cost me from Scotsbrig; one penny less than it would have cost from Hyde Park Corner. So curiously are these things ordered. Had we known of that convenience before, it might have been extensively applied. Let us hope, there may be no use for it now for a good while.— Like yourself I have no patience to write at length in these circumstances: we shall so soon, if the Heavens be gracious, have a far better opportunity. What things are uppermost of the essential kind I will fling down at random.

First, then, all the Annandale people seem to continue well. I had a short scrub of a Note from Jean last week (I think): it was written about some special little matter (connected with John Corrie the Dumfries Mason and Kindred he has in India): but it contained this announcement flung in too. Alick had likewise written to me few days before; a very pathetic kind of Notice about his little lassie, “now sleeping beside her kinsfolk”: he added some details about our Mother and the rest. This other piece of news I gather from Jean's Letter in a very vague manner: that Jenny is actually married; and away with her brisk little man to Manchester forthwith; there, safe we may hope, at this hour! They sent us no special word: I do not even know their Address at Manchester: but a Newspaper came to me two days ago fresh from that Town, and addressed in a hand that seemed to be Jenny's; I took it as a sign. They say, our Mother bears it “very well”: but the whole matter, in such scantiness of detail, lies but dim to me. I sent off your last Letter, to Scotsbrig, the day after it got here: I daresay it was the best piece of news they had been favoured with since your last. I computed the days for them, into week days; so that at Scotsbrig too there is doubtless waiting. For the present I figure you as hanging in vague Cloudland, as I know nothing specific about the country you travel thro': but then will you not alight upon the firm land; here, on the 7th of the month!— As you pass Gravesend (would you were so far!) you may fancy that I was there, on foot, some three weeks ago (tho' I only crossed your road); on what errand I will tell you some leisure day. John Mill was to go, and “get better” (in six and thirty hours) at a Place out there; and would not go without me: I went, and was so wretched, with my sickness and with the people (very good people called Hicksons, of the Shoemaker profession), that I bundled, on the first morrow, and walked off, making excuses on excuses, and got into the Steamboat again.— Do you remember that this place of ours is pronounced Chainie Row; and that Cheyne Walk a more notable street, to which you may probably enough be driven, is close by. We are “Cheyne Row” or Great Cheyne Row; not Upper Cheyne Row, which also is at our very hand. The name is on the door; and a brazen No “5.” Come my brave fellow, and knock!

I do not at the momen[t] recollect anything you can do for me at Brussels. There was a Book published (at Paris probably), of which I can give no better account than that it was a “Collection of Bonmots uttered by people about to be guillotined”: if you pass near any likely Bookseller's Shop, you might step in once, and endeavour to ask for it; one asking and a few shillings I would give; not more. For, on the whole, it is not Books that I want now; but good sense and good spirits to make use of what I have. Something like three hundred volumes; and I all biliousness and fret, and palpitating haste and bewilderment!— For the last five weeks both Jane and I have been worse than usual; owing probably to the changeful weather of this season. I have had a sore wrestle with the Chapter2 just done the day before yesterday: there are still two, tho' much shorter ones, before this second volume ends. Heigho! It seems as if I were enchanted to this sad Book: peace in the world there will be none for me till I have it done. And then very generally it seems the miserablest mooncalf of a Book; full of ziererei, affectation (do what I will); tumbling head foremost thro' all manner of established rules. And no money to be had for it; and no value that I can count on of any kind: simply the blessedness of being done with it! It comes athwart me like the breath of Heaven that I shall verily be done with it in some few months now. Then let it go; to be trodden down into gutters if the poor people like; to be lifted aloft on poles, if they like; to be made a Kirk and Mill of!3 The indifference that I feel about all mortal things is really very considerable. I was at a rout last night, of Mrs Austin's, who is over here at this time: notabilities male and female were there; Mr Lockharts, Economist Seniors, Mrs Marcetts, Mrs Sommervilles,4 femmes alors célèbres [celebrated women at the time]; it seemed to me, as I elbowed these people, that, like Curly, I “did not give a rush for them, more than for any other men.”5 Glory and disgrace, poverty and wealth, gig-and-eight or torn shoe-soles, behold Brethren, it is all alike to me; I too have my indefeasible lot and portion in this God's-Universe of Vapour and of Substance; and grudge you not and hate you not, rather love you in an underhand manner, and wish you speed on your paths! Taylor (van Arteveld),6 a man whom I grow to esteem more and more for the solid structure of him, for the very vis inertiae he has, and stiff irrefragable English character, took me homewards in his glass-coach, out of that; and I found Cheyne Row glancing under moonlight, swept by moaning breezes; and my Dame and bowl of Annandale porridge within.— I saw Rogers (Poet Rogers)7 a while ago, at dinner with this Taylor: a [word obscured by seal] frozen old sardonic Whig-Gentleman: no hair at all, but one of the whitest bare scalp[s; his] blue eyes shrewd sad and cruel; toothless horse-shoe mouth drawn up to the very nose: slow-croaking sarcastic insight, perfect breeding;—state-rooms where you are welcomed even with flummery; internally a Bluebeard's-chamber, where none but the proprietor enters! or did I tell you all this before?— I was at a rout at Mrs Buller's too: Irish Shiel8 there; and floods of gilt Radicalism of both sexes: Shiel is a little quick-looking fellow, bushy brows, grizzled hair, a pair of gently beaming brown eyes, and much Irish brogue.— Enough Enough! I often swear, I will go to no more of these places; they so shatter my nerves, let me take green-tea or abstain from it.—One day, I met Mrs Smalley9 (it was at John Sterling's Bayswater); she inquired for you: not a bad person; she said Miss Morris was in the Country; Miss Elliott10 (I think) come to Town to wait for Lady Clare. She must be the Mother of the Clergyman?11 Him in that case we have seen here, silent.

Our worst news is the illness of good John Sterling; indeed of both him and Mill. Sterling is of weak lungs, has often suffered almost to death: about 3 weeks ago, he was struck down; and for the last fortnight none of us see him. The Doctors (trusting in stethoscope) seem to say his lungs are not radically deranged; but of so delicate irritable a structure that he must give up his preaching profession; and never think of passing another winter here. They speak of Madeira; of the West Indies, where he has property: I am very sad about it, for I love this man; a radiant, lambent all-hoping brotherly being,—one of those you call “too good to live.” He and Taylor often seem to me very strangely like the two halves of Edward Irving, living apart: it is a singular feeling, of sight and remembrance, of sadness and kindliness. My poor Irving is snatched away from me: away, away!— John Mill also is very far from health, or approximation thereto. Wasted thin; and with the miserablest twitchings, and St-Vitus work going on about his face: the hair of his head is fast falling out this long while. I reckon it to be the fruit of that Taylor-Platonica affair mainly. His father also has been ill all winter; spitting of blood: I heard last week that they began to despair of his getting well. It is ha[r]d work.

I have a notion to write two Letters to America today; and postpone my Revolution studies, till night. If Jane have anything to say, let her write it a-top. If she have not, fancy her gone out (for she sits down stairs, these late weeks), or busy with marmalade; but not forgetful of you, not that. The room is “be new-coloured; must be all washed out” and cleaned &c: indeed it must— Dear Jack, at this point came a knocking, came a series of persons (Greig from Canadaigua12 in America &c &c); who one after another have knocked the daylight out of my Day! No Letter to America, nor no other thing done; but my head driven all confused. Jane can send you nothing but her Love reported. Come along and see her and it and us. I have still two Chapters of my Volume to do: woe is me! But they are short; and I am not going to pause this time; for that only does me ill.— In a week, man? It looks so very incredible.— All Good with you, and come prosperously to us, my dear Brother!— Your affectionate— T. C.

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