July 1836-December 1837

The Collected Letters, Volume 9


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE; 20 October 1836; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18361020-TC-JAC-01; CL 9:74-80.


Chelsea, 20th October, 1836—

My dear Brother,—It is a fortnight and three days since your last Geneva Letter came to hand; therefore, according to order, I proceed to answer you. It happened that precisely as the fortnight ended, on Monday last, I was ready for answering, having “finished a Chapter” that day; but I felt so shattered and excited that I determined to take two days of rest and promenading first: little way will be made in a new Chapter, I think, till a new week begin.— In what spot of the world you may be in this morning, almost in what element, of Earth or Water, you may be in, were hard to conjecture: I can only see you hastening on thro' some dim vacuity; and hope that, one way or other, you may get safe to Rome about the same time with this, and receive it as a welcome there. Much journeying the poor Doctor has had: ein ruheloser Marsch war unser Leben [our life was a restless march]!

There have been Letters from the North Country: a Letter partly by our Mother, partly by Jean, from Scotsbrig;1 then a Letter from Jenny2 at Manchester. All was well at the date of these advices. Our Mother was congratulating herself on the stillness of home; Jean sent me an inventory of the good things there were in these two Scotsbrig Upper Rooms; our good Mother wrote cheerfully; charged me to “thank the Doctor for the keg of ale he had sent,” of which she was daily taking the benefit. “He is a kind man,” she added. Jean had scalded her foot, and come to Scotsbrig to have it reposed and dressed for a week; but it was getting fast better, both Mother and she were to be at the Roodfair, which fell in a day or two after that. The harvest weather was miserable: Jamie had in only two stacks;—since that, it has been worse not better, till some three days ago, when it seems to have mended: so what has become of Jamie, and many like him, one can only uncomfortably conjecture.3 It has been the worst harvest seen for many years; with a cold season to boot: there will inevitably be a deficient crop, and whatever consequences may follow therefrom. Jenny was back to Manchester, and recovered: she said, Alick expected to be there by and by with Cattle. All went on, you see, in its old average way: for which let us be thankful.

Here too it has been the old average; better rather and not worse. My third Chapter as you hear, is done; the Girondins are flung out;4 and now only Terror remains for me; and the “whiff of grapeshot” in Vendemiaire 17955 (two months before I was born!): in fact, there are not above 60 pages that I have left;6 compression, therefore, utmost imaginable brevity will be the rule for me. “On Newyearsday” we are to begin to print; “in the course of March,” we are to be published! I stand the thing pretty well; anchored by my invincible bower-ancher [sic] of Desperate-Hope, I ride quite quietly, and let the winds pipe and whistle.— The Article Mirabeau is not printed, after all! The ninny of an Editor7 (he is really that) discovered at the very close of the account that it was too long, there was not room for it. So it lies over till January; which indeed is perhaps a better arrangement; for the Town is empty at present, and the actual Review Number really excels in stupidity and sterility all that I have ever seen: enough to drag twenty Mirabeaus down to the bottom of Fleet-ditch, where Oldmixon dived and was never heard of again, the “mudnymphs sucked him in.”8 It is a rapid Article; goes along at doublequick time; beating withal, loud enough. Wha dare meddle wi' me?9 If any opportunity occur, or be discoverable, I will send it you. Furthermore the Diamond Necklace is now to be printed! I went up to your Hatter's, one very wet day, to get me a hat; wherein I succeeded: large, broadbrimmed; a gawsy [ample] hat. This done, I went to Fraser's, on inquiry after these Paris Caricatures: Corrie10 had not come with them, had sent them; wrote to me from Paris that they would be left at Fraser's. They were not there; but Fraser himself was there, and exceeding civil indeed; spoke even of publishing the whole Revolution History in slips, in his Magazine, à la Teufelsdröckh! This I considered to be wonderful, but unsuitable, and declined it: but the Diamond is gone to be printed when he likes and as he likes,—subaudito [with the understanding of] £20 a sheet as the price of it: so, in the month of January, probably, two Lights will be kindled; one in the fat glar [mud] of Fraser's Toryism, another in the unfruitful rubbish-mound of Mill's Radicalism; saying, Notice, good Christian blockheads! And then in March we have our hands washed of it; and go—whither Providence bids or beckons; getrosten muthes [be of good cheer]!— / / —very singular: at this instant of time, comes in the Censeur de Lyons11 of the 14th October, price one half-penny; the cover is completely gone, but I conjecture it with much certainty to be from Jack; and that he is gone by Marseilles and sea, or else perhaps by Nice and Genoa: at all events towards Rome, and by a new more interesting route. Quod bonum felixque sit [May it be good and fortunate]!12 By the same knock of the Three-penny arrives a Dumfries Paper with the “two strokes” on it, for sign that all is still well there.— I sent you off some Newspaper, I forget what, to Geneva; and hope you received it.

On this depa[r]tment of the subject, I have only to add that Peebles's Parcel was actually got off, a few days after I wrote. Mrs Austin would have taken it, but with difficulty; wherefore I excused her. One of the Frenchmen had an opportunity as far as Paris; so I sent it that way. Peebles had not bargained that you were to take it farther: if a freak conveyance for Geneva occurred it would be profited by; if not, there were voituriers [carriers]. Farther the Caricatures have actually come, about a week ago. Why did you lay out so much money for them and me? I have gone over the whole fascicle, Letterpress and all, and do find them documentary, but grudge the cash. Jane talks of making a screen, out of canvas and folding frame of wood: in that case, they are to be pasted on the canvas, and astonish men.13 Corrie wrote with great earnestness of civility; I shall be glad to see him here, if he return this way. Had you his address at Paris, or how did you find him?— There is nothing farther to say of Chelsea, except that our Door is repainted, in the most exquisite green manner: and not only the Door but all the outer woodwork of the House, fore and behind; as we know to our cost, such a plustering [splashing about] and mal-odorating there has been in the untowardly wet weather. But it is all done now, the day before yesterday.

Of friends and Biographic news here I can say little. They are almost all out of Town. The worthy Mr Dunn I have missed twice; and yesterday, that was the last time, he leaves word he is going to Brighton. I mean to try him tomorrow early, if the weather hold good. Do you remember an Engraver-Poet called John Bull, who engraved my old Schiller; and was first recommended to me by Edward Irving? I doubt it. Bull has been, since that, a candidate for poetic fame by the Bookseller way, unsuccessfully; then a Preacher to an Independent Congregation somewhere (being very religious), unsuccessfully; two years ago, I met him in Cheapside, and he told me he was an Engraver again at Kilborn near this, and not very happy: so the other day, he raps sharply at [the] door, hands in a bundle of Manuscript, and vanishes. The Ms. is a “Poem in four Cantos[”] w[ith] a letter full of vehement elegy on the lot of genius, happily very brief. I am really sorry for the poor man: his Poem of which I have read two Cantos is not at all without talent, goodness simplicity and unhappiness are visible in it; but to him such things can bring no benefit. I wrote to him in that strain; I have had in consequence another Letter,14 equally elegaic, with promise of a visit: I think I shall transmit the whole thing to Mr Dunn; Bull is very pious, conservative; and probably not without hard pecuniary pinches, that lie not in me to help.— The Wilsons are still in the Country, whither I did not go to join them, tho' they requested it twice. Henry Taylor has also I find gone to the Country: I sent him a Letter for my Mother to frank; it contained both yours, and one of mine; Taylor writes me what a journey it had, before the franco could be put on it: our good Mother may perhaps be enjoying it, safe at last, this very day. John Mill seems to continue at Nice: Grant brought down a sheet some time ago, and forced me to write a few lines on it for Mill; I said there was little hope of your seeing him, but told him withal how he might address you at Geneva. The improvement in Mill's health is said to be perceptible, not great. Sterling now votes for continuing at Bourdeaux; finds himself “decidedly better”: I sent him your regards and inquiries; in a little Note I was writing to him about the ausbleiben [failure to come] of Mirabeau, which he had asked for. Morris [Maurice] I have not seen. Cunningham I have: amid such laughter without basis as usual. Also Cavaignac has been here pretty regularly once a week: I grow to esteem him as a man of honest impulses, of talents and energy: but his Task in Life is utterly foreign to me; when he comes to know what I really think of the Première Nature de l'Univers [Primary Nature of the Universe] (poor universe!) I conjecture he will fly from me as a horreur. Meanwhile I look at the impetuous Celtic man with interest, and make him welcome to my hearth as one in misfortune should be.— And now let us turn from London all reeking with paint, sunk in premature fog and dulness, towards Rome; less as the Eternal City, than as the Temporary City where a certain Doctor's Brass-Plate is to be up! I shall beg of you to write to me the moment you get this: or perhaps if you are very near getting Lodgings, you might wait two days or so, that the Address might be perfect. Willis, by the bye, I hear, is got to Down Street Piccadilly; but I have not seen him since that night you recollect of: Mrs Cunningham did not seem to augur extremely of his succeeding. But how will the Plate in Rome succeed? There is the question. Do the best possible, dear Doctor; and let it succeed as it can. Our Life both here and there is all hanging in the wind. For me however, against the next spring, I have it all so cunningly arranged that, as it were, neither ill-luck nor good-luck can be other than welcome to me. This really true; and very curious. Such an infinitude of different annoyances and menaces come pressing on me from all points of the compass, that I merely fortify my own chest and rib-work, and say Messrs: the Annoyances, do if you please make out the result among yourselves; my ribs by Heaven's help will not yield, and I shall cheerfully be ready to move whichever way the current goes. Here with only Literature for shelter there is I think no continuance. Better to take a stick in your hand, and roam the Earth, Teufelsdrockh-like. You will get at least one of two things: a stomach to eat bread; even that is denied one here.Es wollte kein Hund so leben [no dog would live in this way]. Nor will I. The only rule is: Silence; uttermost composure, and open eyes! The beggarly economical part of this Existence on Earth seems to me the more beggarly the longer I look at; the Existence itself the more tragical, sublime; not a hair of our heads but was given us by a God! I will run down to see whether Ja[ne is] in that she may write a margin. Satis [Enough] here.

Jane is gone out to walk, to enjoy the brief blink of midday sunshine; I too must take this out with me that there be not a day lost: so you have still no Postscript. She continues wonderfully well; quiet, tho' not getting thro' much work (the Cg15 Ms. advancing at the slowest rate); and really waits with great meekness for what the gods are to give us. She has hardly had one bad headache since she returned: yesterday she had one which I suppose we are to call good? My chief pity in general in these circumstances of mine is for her: she hoped much of me, had great faith in me; and has endured much beside me, not murmuring at it. I feel as if I had to swim both for her deliverance and my own. Better health will be granted me; better days for us both! It is my fixed hope at present either to go to Scotland or to Italy next summer, stick in hand! If any offer occur to detain me here, it shall be well: if none, it shall be almost better. This is what I meant above, by being balanced amid annoyances & menaces. Therefore be of good cheer my brave Doil. The world shall not beat us, much as it may try. We will make a wrestle or two first at any rate. Thou seest I am to have done with this sorrowful Enterprise of a Book, with France and Revolutions forevermore; then I take stick in hand; silently go to compose my body and soul a little; and so take the world on some other side. I feel strong yet; as if I had years of strength in me. London has been like a course of mercury to body and mind. Hard enough; but not unmedicative! We will not complain of London; not fear it, not hope from it; let it go its way, we going ours. If thou prosper in Rome, I may come to thee: if not, why then come thou hither: it shall be good either way.— By the bye Buller is to have a Record Commission,16 they say: if so, I mean to ask him for a place in it;—not with great hope of succeeding. But try, try.— Alas, the sunlight is fast going; I must out with this. Adieu my dear Brother— T. Carlyle

Henry Drummond still preaches on the Tongue (Fraser said), but was buying Béranger's Songs!17

Jeffrey has been very unwell, they say, at Edinburgh; almost dead but is recovering, or recovered. I must go and ask Empson or somebody about him.

Adieu here dear Jack: my blessings once more, and now I am gone! Your affectionate Brother

T. C.

This Document
Right arrow Similar letters
Right arrow Alert me to new volumes
Right arrow Add to My Carlyle Folder
Right arrow Download to citation manager
Right arrow Purchase a volume of the print edition
Right arrowSubject terms:
Right arrowRecipient terms: