July 1836-December 1837

The Collected Letters, Volume 9


TC TO JANE WELSH CARLYLE; 6 August 1836; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18360806-TC-JWC-01; CL 9:32-41.


Chelsea, 6th Augt (Saturday) 1836—

Du armes Kind [You poor child]!

The Letter, which I opened with eagerness enough, made me altogether wae [sad]. No rest for the poor wearied one; in her Mother's house too, she must wake “at four in the morning,” and have frettings and annoyances! It is very hard: the world is so wide; and for my poor Jean there is no place where she can find shelter in it. Patience, my poor Lassie; it is not so bad as that; it shall not be so bad.

Since there is no good to be done in Scotland, what remains but that you came back hither with such dispatch as suits? We have bad weather; but not so bad probably as the Templand weather: there is quietude here, there is liberty; you shall have bread to eat: we can even procure you a little milk (for the man comes yowling regularly at the stroke of seven), and a drop of brandy in it shall not be wanting. I wish to Heaven I were better, cheerfuller; but I take Heaven to witness I will be as cheerful as I can; I will do what is in me, and swim with myself and thee. I do not think the waves can swallow us: open thy heart out again to me; have hope, courage (softness, not bitterness and hardness), and they shall not swallow us! In any case, what refuge is there but here? Here is the place for my poor Goody; let us sink or swim together.

If I did not know how little advice could profit in such matters, how it even exasperates, and makes the case worse, I would pray earnestly, in the meanwhile, for that very thing which we often laugh at in poor Jack: meekness, submission to the will of Heaven. Open thy eyes from these Templand windows: the Earth is green, jewelled with many a flower; the sky arches itself, also beautiful, overhead: it is not, in the name of God, a place of bitter hopelessness for any living creature, but it is emphatically the Place of Hope for all! O that “Edinburgh style of mockery”!1 Me too, with its hard withering influences, its momentary solacement fataller than any pain, it had well-nigh conducted to Hades and Tophet; but I flung it off, and am alive. O that my poor much-suffering Jane had done so too; flung it off from the very heart, forever; and, in soft devoutness of submission (wherein lies what the man calls the “divine depth of Sorrow”2), had recognised once that the Stern Necessity was also the Just; that the Thing stronger than we was also the Thing Better, Wiser!— But I will preach no more. I will pray and wish rather, in my heart of hearts. Nay I will prophecy too: for nothing shall ever make me believe that a soul so true, and full of good things, can continue strangling itself in that manner, sore, sore tho' its perplexities may be. O my poor Lassie, what a life thou hast had: and I could not make it other; it was to be that and not another!— And so, “after all”3 then, what is to be done; but come back again by easy stages, and DO the best we can?4 This visit to Scotland will not have been in vain; it exhausts one other possibility, it renders one quieter. Nay, in spite of all these splashings of rain, weary waitings for some one rising, these annoyances and disappointments, I believe the very change of scene, of habitual speech and course of thought, will be of salutary influence. The din of London is stilled in you by this time; the mind will be fresh to take it up again, and find it more harmonious than it was.

I know not well what I am writing. It is towards 2' o'clock, and I had done a kind of task before commencing; besides (as the Newspaper announced!) I had senna two days ago, and you know what that is!— One thing however I must write: the other day, I noticed in some corner two pieces of spermaceti candles, or perhaps they were whole spermaceti candles;—the sight of which had literally almost made me greet! Poor craitur, she had tried then to make a small shine of Elegance, a kind of decorative sumptuosity on this small scale! It was the old feeling of the Tin Mull bought long ago in the West Bow.5 There is to me a meaning in these fragments of Poverty, such as no Pitt Diamond6 could purchase; Poverty appears holy to me, richer than all Riches. It is one of the compensations. O thou rebellious creature, dost thou not remember the Tin Mull?—Be of heart and hope, I tell thee; and we will triumph yet over all things.—

As to the method of journeying back, I can give no advice that is worth aught. The expense I suppose by Edinburgh or by Liverpool is about alike. If the weather were moderate, Edinburgh would offer advantages: but it is a blustery, blowing kind of season; and tho' not absolutely dangerous, sailing is much more unpleasant in these circumstances. You will see what kind of weather it is. Consider, and determine. Announce punctually the ship or thing you come in, and I will be in waiting. I alone, most probably: Jack learns yesterday that he is to go on the 18th after all; that is, on Thursday come a week. I cannot regret it greatly; and yet I am very sad and sorry about it. In fact if “good spirits” be an offence (thou wretched Goody!) my spirits, internally, are not a whit too good.

Neither have I forgotten the Collar: but what is the use of sending it now? Perhaps I may trace the outline on the back of the inclosed Note; tho' when I tried yesterday, it was too small for the present Pattern. But the present Pattern is perhaps at bottom really none of the best; its merit so far as I know is really the invention we two superadded to it: a smaller size were decidely better;—which perhaps the back of the Note may hold.— But guess from whom comes the Note? From the reverend Terrot!7 I answered it directly; asking him to tea for next night, or for next again if he liked it better: next night he did not come; but next day again (that is yesterday) he and Mr Wilson8 called, with strong solicitation that John and I would go dine; Terrot otherwise held himself obliged to come &c &c: in fine, I consented to go this night, and Jack, not within at the moment, has ratified it; and so we wait hungry, and will go at half past six, and have an indigestion. I remembered afterwards that Rosen9 (whom we had called on) was to come down that very night; but I, by a paid threepenny, have sent him an excuse.— Terrot looked very well; unaltered except that I think his whiskers are getting grey: he talked in his clear limited-healthy, honest sort of way about schoolmasters, Jamie Simpson,10 and “his horse and the worl,” very agreeably, for three quarters of an hour; then left many regards for you, and went his way. A sort of hope to meet you in Edinr still abides with him: but he did not give me times; it must be left to chance, and should, which perhaps will guide it well.

Other threepenny I think I have not had, except a long Editorial rigmarole from Mill (very conciliatory and of no moment at all) prior to his departure, and a scratch from Cavaignac, writing that he did not write, and could not for the mort funeste [tragic death] de Carrel; tho' I had asked him some questions about the National Convention.11 Did you hear of this Death of Carrel? You have heard about the man; who was even to have been here one night. He wrote in his Newspaper some remarks about some action-of-damages (Lawsuit) which some misérable of a Deputy and Editor had instituted against some one, on the foundation of the Fieschi Laws;12 the misérable of an Editor and Deputy replied in his Newspaper, in such style that Carrel felt obliged to challenge him; and was, in consequence, shot mortally, and died after 24 hours of agony:—considered the ablest and honestest public-man of France.13 No writings of his, of the smallest moment beyond the day of their birth, are known to me: but I am very sorry to think he is dead; for I do suppose him to have been a brave, superior kind of man.— Cavaignac has been down once; in the day time: he smoked a pipe, and mumbled several things, friendly but unhappy. Another night (it was Wednesday last) I made a fierce effort, and got to Cecil Street: the Doctor would not go, but turned off before Charing Cross. The Cavaignacs were sitting in darkness; C. had to meet a Party at his own lodgings in few minutes; there was a Monsieur—(Unknown) who also went very shortly; so I was left with Mesdames! We talked and talked; like Babel! The old Madame really seems to me a most cheery, shifty, indomitable little body;—as like you as I to Hercules. The Démoiselle [sic] fills me with pity. I think she must have had some hurt to her mind. Palpitations, palpitations; a soeur toujours souffrante [sister always suffering]! She has a great deal of intelligence, of spirit, vehemence, affection: in speaking, her rude face with its large blue eyes gets almost beautiful, her voice is clear musical; and she coughs (toux nerveux [nervous cough]), and cannot sleep, and cannot &c; and looks as if she could not live. I sat with them till 10 o'clock; asked them to come to Chelsea some night (as I had done by Note to C. before), but hope they will not be able till you come.— By the bye, the little Mephistopheles of a Tuner came on that same Wednesday; uncovered the Piano, put a new string in it (even employed me and my mechanical skill or he would have stuck), went fettling [mending] and thrimbling [grasping and groping] over it and over it for about an hour; made it sound sweet as the Nine Muses, and then charged me 3/6, which I paid. Speaking is catching with these people! However I think the Mephisto actually did it well. I will have floods of sound out of it when you return. Not a soul has struck it since you went. Indeed hardly a soul has been here: we see nobody and do not want to see any body.

John Mill went this day week; Mrs Taylor had gone before (a few days); Mill's two little Brothers will be very suitable: people have ways of doing,—which I do not judge of. Mill was full of desire to “hear from me” &c: poor fellow! John and I (rushing over that quarter of the Town for exercise &c) saw him the day before. I shall be idler than now if I write to “Geneva poste restante” without something to say. Mill looked somewhat better that day. Pray Heaven he may get a little better by the journey. My feelings towards him are of a grateful sort altogether: but an Abstraction, how can one love it much, except against the grain?

The Sterling family departed that same day: I mean John's; John himself was detained by some miserable tagrag of business (I think about Lawsuits and those West India matters14); but he got it all settled amicably, and flew off by Coach on the monday morning. The Stimabile would needs accompany him, tho' by another coach, by another route. Mrs S. had heard (the other day) that they were all got to Plymouth, and about to sail. We saw poor John the Sunday before he went: his air was “sad-gay”; he sent many compliments to you, “in case he should not have time to write fully for a while.” Some nights before that we were at his house, Miss & Mr Wilson, Morris [F. D. Maurice], Farish;15 and great talk; the next night, I called again; the whole house was sprawling with disorganised trunks &c, and I soon came away: he offered me a stick, “to knock off the dogs,” with a melancholy sudden movement when we were parting; I took the stick, and keep it. A beautiful Print of Albert Durer's,16 which he had heard me admiring, came down the day after he was gone; beautifully framed, and hangs now on the wall. Poor fellow!— It seems not unlikely that he will be back here in a month, to go to Madeira, after all.— Whither the old Stimables go I know not; perhaps nowhither. Mrs S. had a Twopenny from you17 one day, she said: it was before my Letter came, and I could have liked to see it, but she did not offer. It said “that you were little or no better.”

One day I did call at the degli Antoni's: she was gone to the country a week ago; I left a card: the name of the place she was gone to I did not catch; she was to return soon; whether for a time, or for the winter, or how, did not appear. No Pepoli: I wish he may not be ill somehow yet. Hapless Novelli18 comes still; she was here since I began writing. Bitter now is her repentance that she did not take Lèdie Frankelin's offer; but it is too late! John will speak to Lady Clare about her on Monday. The Brighton Boarding school business has gone all to smoke;—as all these things do with her. Miss Fergus writes to me this morning; announcing a Box of Clothes for her by Steamboat; sends the Project of a new Advertisement: I augur nothing from that. The hapless Beatrice seems bewept, is lutta ammalata [struggling sick person]; I pity her heartily, but her imbecillity and my own hurry and necessity agree ill. If Jack can do nothing, I see not what is to become of her.— Garnier came one night: but it was the night I had gone up to his street to the Cavaignacs'.— This, I think, is a most handsome allotment of News for you. Considering that “the Town is quite empty”;—glory to Heaven for it, ones bones are not endangered by the quality coaches! September and October, except that they are always wae months to me, are the two pleasantest months as to weather, and other externals, that London has.

I said I had begun again; but I have yet written nothing. I am tumbling and rummaging; taking notes; making the whole thing plain to myself to the very end of it: I shall very probably write nothing other than notes till after Jack be gone. Nothing comes on the paper: yet it is not idleness, it is not work unproductive. Jack reads all morning; then dashes out. He lectures me still on submission &c, which (on senna days) I have enough ado to bear. His love for me is great: but he knows not the meaning of Silence. His own cheer poor fellow is far from the best; as is but natural: he too sees no aim that were adequate in life; is sceptical as to Medicine; has a great intelligence and faculty obscured by trivial faults[;] finds not what he is to do. He has been to see Liston, and his Hospital;19 likes him and it; is out again today on some similar expedition.

Sorrow on thee, thou little Gypsy! the time is fled. Why did I write so much? It will now hardly be within my power to get up to Buller's and back in time to dress, let me do as I may. So many Novellis and fiddle-faddlings and interruptions!

Send me a Newspaper whenever this comes. Then a Letter, what you are to do, how you sleep &c what you found in Annandale. Would a day or two of bathing there do nothing? Gehab dich wohl [Good go with you]! Be peaceable my poor wearied shattered Bairn; harden not thy heart, but soften it; open it to Hope and me!— Say all that is kind to your mother from me (Forgive her “ways of doing”: they are her ways; tho' very tormenting).— It is half past 4, and I am still in my dressing-gown. The shirt-collar pattern I do not send. Addio carissima [Farewell dearest]! God be with thee, my wee Goody!

T. Carlyle.

Sunday morning.— Yesterday afternoon having finished in the hasty manner you see, I had sealed too, and dressed myself, and was as far as the Butcher's door on my way to Buller's. A look at the watch, and a moment of candid consideration convinced me that the enterprise was bad. To go and return in time I must walk above 4 miles an hour; and then after all, should I find Buller at home, should I find him even in town? I turned back, like a wise man; rummaged out an old Newspaper (which the poor Goody gets on Monday): this morning I burst the seal, and write a word or two more on the new cover; the more the welcomer.

A thing I had forgot was to say that Austin has been appointed Legislator Lycurgus20 (Commissioner they call it, to overhaul what is doing in the Law way) at Malta;21 where upon Mrs Austin I believe is gone to Boulogne to pack up. I have not seen her or him, or wished to see them. John & I left cards one day. The appointment ought to cure poor Austin, but will not: a twanging, iracund, incompatible painful man,—whom it requires a great effort to love. Theory wishes well to him; but Theory and Practice join to wish that you personally might be as little troubled with him as possible. As to the femme alors celèbre—ach Gott [well-known woman—oh God]!—— — Another thing I will mention is the providential mercy as to my watch. The other day walking up towards Hyde Park, I pulled out the poor watch, and, finding the time quite spent, whirled round again with [celer]ity, sticking in the watch (it was into the old brown breeches, not in the firmest state now): I had not [taken two] strides homewards when something announced itself running down my leg, hitting on the roof of my foot, jingling out upon the flagstones,—a watch and the case of a watch, jingling along to two yards' distance before me; to the admiration of men! Not a particle of ill was done; the roof of the foot and miraculous pre arrangements had saved all. Who will say that luck has deserted us!

But how went the dinner yesterday? The dinner, my dear Bairn, went pretty well. It was temperate and elegant; I most abstemious, and find today that I have got less mischief than usual. Morris [Maurice] arrived here about six by water, being also invited; the simple Brother Wilson: this with us and Terrot was the party. Morris wore his usual and more than his usual look of tremulence and terror; did or said nothing notable: Terrot took wine with him (being straitened I think a little in that point); but they could not communicate in any other thing. It was very curious to see healthy, cheerfully-composed lucidity and limitation looking over upon panting palpitating wiredrawnness and hysterical genius or quasi-genius[.] “Pray-y, is he” (Ritchie a man we were speaking of) “the son of the reverend—Ritchie of Glasgow?”22 asked Morris, as if for God's sake. “No,” answered Terrot, in the stillest tone; “he [is] the son of a Fishwife,—as they say.” Our company was too polite to yield the smallest vestige of smile.— Terrot and I sat together and had much talk and snuff; he is to be here till the “end of the month nearly,” and still hopes to meet you some way.— But alas dear Goody I [am] over the leaf! O my poor Bairn, I would I knew how thou went today! Here we have sunny weather, but not oppressively hot (wind, indeed, is in the East); the Garden has a few goose berries (not for thee, I fear); the grapes are beginning to swell; the sparrows eat all the cherries; all that I know of but some three. Jack moves that there be walking this day and no study. Is it right?—— The Household goes on well enough in all ways; about the old rate, I think: but I am very weary of holding the bag. Anne too seems very anxious to see you again. She is really not a bad servant, the poor slut, at this time; possessed of a contentment great and enviable. I am very attentive to Chico; whom I hear singing at this moment down in the kitchen. The Kitten and he and Anne are the happiest creatures in this street.— O what babble, my own Lassie! But I write as the pen runs: plenty of it, at any rate! They all sent many compliments &c &c last night; not even Miss Wilson forgot, tho' I did not catch rightly the figure of her message: only “hope” “health” “return” and some such words: compliments enough from other quarters I have forgotten.— Now when to write? Too soon is impossible. What to do? Whatsoever on sober calculation seems best. By Earth or by water: Air is impossible. Bless thee ever my little Jeannie! I do send the pattern collar having room for it.23


[P.S.] Salute your mother; God be with you all! I end here

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