July 1836-December 1837

The Collected Letters, Volume 9


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE; 12 September 1836; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18360912-TC-JAC-01; CL 9:57-63.


5. Cheyne Row, Chelsea, London, 12th September.

My dear Brother,— Now on this monday morning, having finished handsomely enough on Saturday night the Chapter I was engaged in when you went, I proceed to write, “at my leisure,” as you settled it should be. Tomorrow morning, if you keep your latest date, there will be packing up and departure from Paris; if this can overtake you, and be waiting for welcome at Geneva, it will be well; but any way I think it will find you there.

I plodded home that monday morning a weary kind of man. There was no omnibus running in my direction at that hour: it was near ten when I set myself down to a breakfast now grown solitary, with the rustle of your Steam-paddles in my imagination, and tumult enough whirling up and down in me. I struggled to work all day, and did sit working, tho' with little effect, till almost six o'clock: then out for a little ramble in the still dusk; at my return home from which there lay, welcome enough for me in that mood, a kind Letter from John Sterling.1 His Father and Mother were come home from the Netherlands, and had sent it me: John describes the country and people in that region as making good the name of his place, Belsito [Beautiful Place]; his own humour seems hasty-esurient, vivid and full of activity, far too full; hope, cheerfulness, gladness, and a dark current of unrest running underneath. Next morning came your Dover Newspaper. I did not know what a day of weary watching you were just then getting there. Then came also (behind the time!) the Proofsheets of the Article Mirabeau. The Printer had botched and blotched it dreadfully with his improvements, improved punctuation (of dashes &c, which I detest): all day was spent till near midnight, bringing it back to where it was; a “new Proof” was ordered;—which I wrote about again yesterday, said new Proof not having come. Your Boulogne Newspaper did arrive like the rest; and cost me, I am pretty sure, nothing. On Wednesday there were news that Jane was on the road; that she would arrive by the Liverpool Mail on Thursday evening at seven! Little Edward Nelson2 of Annan called on Thursday after dinner, on his way towards Germany: he is grown much more communicative, talkative; and on the whole seemed considerably improved. We saw him again last night: on the morrow he was to go for Rotterdam, for Cöln and Heidelberg: you will most probably hear from him when you get to Rome. But on that Thursday evening he walked with me to Charing Cross; then I strode off at a great rate towards Lad Lane, being threatened a little with lateness. In the rolling torrent of Fleet-Street, I descry a Trunk known to me; I stop the omnibus: my wife sits there! This exploit I tell everybody as wonderful. The poor Dame was full of headache: but we got home with the last streaks of day; she has grown better and better as yet ever since. She is now about as well as her average condition used to be. My best prophecy in this respect is fulfilled.— The Paris Newspaper came on Tuesday (I think); then the Letter and Newspaper on Wednesday last. I was very busy, but I would have written had you wanted it: I sent off a Herald of Dumfries, which I had; it and the two strokes would do all the business of a Letter. And now you behold us here.

Jane reported quite favourably of Dumfriesshire and Annandale. She had seen our Mother, safe returned; Jenny whose sickness had Nichts zu bedeuten [nothing to worry about]: Alick and the whole clan of them with her own Mother had seen her into the Steamboat. She describes her suffering in that Steamboat as having been intense, near to death; really very bad, as you would understand medically, could I explain it to you,—proceeding from nervousness, I think. She rested at Liverpool two days; then off, as I have described.— Since that, there has come an Annan Newspaper, or perhaps two, with Jenny's hand on it. No Courier came last week: perhaps it was ill wafered, and so lost; perhaps Jean and Jenny are over at Scotsbrig on some visit: the like has happened before now. M'Diarmid, Jane says, appeared to be losing himself with drink; not unlike growing mad: I sincerely grieve for it. The Game of Craigenputtoch is let, for £5 annually (it had been let to that Clarke,3 at the time I wrote): the money buys bits of clothes for the poor wife. “What clothes of price they had”; as it is always said, from the time of the Nibelungen, and earlier!— We have blustery damp weather; which I fear, in Scotland may be stormy and rainy; very unfurthersome for the Harvestwork. There will almost inevitably, this year, be a deficient Crop: which in itself is a bad thing; and yet coupled with other things, it often proves not so bad! What have the good Harvests done for the great multitude? Cheap bread; and then no work to buy it with. Things are madly ordered in this England, in this World.

Having told you that my Second Chapter4 is in the Drawer, I have brought up my own Biography completely enough. The Chapter is longer than I expected; not right, yet it must do. I have a great lesson to learn: that of einmal fertig werden [finally getting through]. Much poring does but confuse, and reduce all to a caudle: Get it done, and let there be an end! The bricklayer does not insist on all being smooth as marble, but only on all having a certain degree of smoothness and straightness; and so he gets a wall done. As to what you admonished about style, tho' you goodnaturedly fall away from it now, there was actually some profit in it, and some effect. It reminds me once more that there are always two parties to a good style: the contented Writer and the contented Reader. Many a little thing I propose to alter with an eye to greater clearness. But the grand point at present is to get done briefly. I find I have only 88 pages in all, and infinite matters to cram into them. I propose investigating almost no farther; but dashing in what I already have in some compendious grandiose-massive way. There are some Three Chapters yet: the first the Girondins; for Louis is now well guillotined. Forward! This week I will do off that Hist. Parlementaire Article; bring up my Correspondence, clear the decks in that way; then, perhaps about the time you are reading this, to my Girondins! I had already found out the medicinal Schachtel [box], and been at it; I feel really very well at present; and could almost persuade myself it were the natural state of wellness: perhaps it is after all; and stagnancy is the unwholesome state for me? The joy I anticipate in finishing this Book is considerable: Go thou unhappy Book, that hast nearly wrung the life out of me; go in God's name or the Devil's! One will be free, after that; and look abroad over the world to see what it holds for one. When I shall get finished it were not good to predict; all my settings of time hitherto have proved false: but surely in some few months now we shall be over.—— I ought to tell you something of our Friends, however. John Mill is understood to be gone by Marseille towards Naples. He had written from Geneva that his Head grew not better; the Doctor here begins to have apprehension of organic mischief in that quarter. Mill has twice requested me to write: but I doubt whether I shall get it done. They say Mrs Taylor travels with him; which surely is a gar beliches [very popular] arrangement: he has left the two little Brothers at Geneva, and is on with the wa[ter-]witch or Landwitch!— Mrs Austin was here yesterday: you would not have found her at Boulogne; she came in to the St Katherine Docks that very day you went out thence, having finished her business at Boulogne. “In a week” they are now to be off for Marseille; a King's Ship is to take them up there, then forward to Malta. Austin for the present is “very ill.” Perhaps you may fall in with them in that Marseilles region; many a one's road seems pointing thither this autumn. John Sterling still hints at Madeira, but I think will not go; at least he will go direct from Bourdx; or “perhaps take a trip to the West Indies,” in wintertime. They are in good hopes about him, that he will do well. Sterling Stimabile has come athwart me some twice: quick-tumbling on his erratic course with the old vigour and velocity. The sight of him once a fortnight does me a little good, and but a little. Miss Wilson writes pressing me to come to Tunbridge for a week. The weather is bad, it will cost me 25 / ; I will not go: but the invitation itself is worth something to me. Enough of news! I am reading Eckermann's Conversations with Goethe;5 borrowed from Mrs Austin: it does me great good for the time. Such a clean serene environment, so different from this Revolution one; and yet it is not my environment now; will not yield me obdach [shelter] here and now! Goethe is great, brown-visaged, authentic-looking in this Book; yet rathselhaft [enigmatic] here and there to me. The sending of Neureuther's Handzeichnungen [sic]6 to “Herrn Carlyle,” the thought that it would give “some pleasure diesem Freunde [to this Friend]” almost made me weep.7 I have done the Expedn of Cyrus; I am for the Memorabilia.8 Jane is on the Iou-Kiao-Li,9 and translating Cavaignac, on her own strength nearly altogether. She gives me a little music at night, we have a fire and the Sinumbra:10 sehr einsam, eingezogen [very lonely, solitary], which is the way I like for the time. Hunt I have not seen again; your Letter went to the Willises. Enough, enough.

Do not conjugate ennuyer [to bore] dear Jack, if you can help it: conjugate éspèrer [to hope] rather. It will be the best news we can get that the Brass Plate is up at Rome. Depend upon it, working, trying is the only remover of Doubt. It is an immense truth that. The Stream looks so cold, dreary, dangerous, you stand shivering; you plunge in, behold it carries you, you can swim! My decided belief is that if you felt yourself once working at all at your business everything would get fresher and wholesomer; your Life no longer a Theory round you but a Fact,—even such a Fact better or worse; and to continue a Fact, quackery, confusion and the world and the devil notwithstanding. You have had a long dreary time of it; but it can all turn for good yet; really for good. Go try; take my blessing and brotherly prayers with you.— How we are to manage our Letters till you get more settled? Of course it will depend on you: I hope you will make out Marseille; it seems so much preferable to clambering over Splugens[?] again and again. Tell me how I can manage to hit you, and I will do it. But before going farther I must tell you of a Parcel: a Parcel, flat square (about the size of of [sic] a Volume of your Barretti's Dicty11) consisting seemingly of various small Books, came precisely the Thursday after you were gone. Thro' Fraser. I opened it: the second cover stood directed “M. le Pasteur Gaussen aux Grottes à Genève”; there was a Letter from Dr Peebles12 “Edinr” merely. The Letter (a small Note) is not very legible; but seems to say merely that you are to give that (“religious books”) and all kinds of Compliments &c to the Pastor at the Grottoes. The date is “24 Augt Edinr.” Now what am I to do? If I had known Peebles's address I would have sent the thing back: if I had known the address of any of your Roman Doctors going that way, I would have given it to them. Or shall I send off direct from the Regent's Quadrant13 here? He seems little other than a clattering Gomeral [Blockhead] this Peebles; however one ought to do civilly (at all rates justly), to him. If you even forget all about it, I will do one way or the other.— There has come this moment a Manchester Newspaper from Scotsbrig: “All well”; which is good. You may send me a Newspr from Geneva the day you get this? Then write at your own time afterwards: tell me how to write, or to send a Journal. And on the whole éspère; ne t'ennuie pas [hope; do not be bored]! my brave Boy: be determined that better days are coming; once so determined they are already come. Who knows wht the next summer will bring forth. Sie heissen uns hoffen [They bid us hope]!14 as you used to quote. At any rate, I think, this separation will not be so long as the last: one way or other, we shall either meet in early summer, or else be glad that we do not meet. It is beautiful to have things arranged like that!— All yesterday dear Jack, I was not across the threshold—for Goethe and the Rain. Today there is a kind of semi-fairness; I must not play the same trick, but go, and so leave the margins.

Fare well therefore my dear Jack! May a good token come soon.— Your affectionate—— T. Carlyle.

Perhaps I can send Peebles by Mrs Austin. Never mind it, if you chance to see no good way. There are other things about “asking Got” (Gott?) for Books of P's; calling on “Professor Nespoli (?) at Florence with compts—ganz und gar [totally] worth nothing, I think.

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