July 1836-December 1837

The Collected Letters, Volume 9


TC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE; 20 November 1836; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18361120-TC-MAC-01; CL 9:85-90.


Chelsea, 20th November, 1836—

My dear Mother,

Tho' I have nothing any way special to say, I think of writing to you tonight, as I have an hour at my own disposal; and I am very sure you will be glad to hear me even say nothing. I am at the end of another Chapter in that weary Book of mine: writing to you is a little piece of recreation that I think always I have merited in those cases. I used to come driving over from Puttoch personally, when I had finished any small feat of that sort; so now I send off a written sheet; which, tho' as old Parliament-Geordie1 said of striking the Dog is but a “puir revenge,” is the next-best I can do.— There are franks attainable now too; certain “honourable members” having got back to Town again.

We have had a most quiet time of it, ever since I wrote last; very solitary, which when you are busy is not dull: all people that can manage it run out of London in the Autumn; down to the sea-shore, over to the Continent, to Scotland, Wales &c; this they esteem an essential condition of existence. My way, could I manage it, would be to quit London in the broiling dog-days, of July, when all is like a furnace with heat and smoke; and to spend these back-end months in London, where they are usually as pleasant as elsewhere. But these people manage this, like much else, in a way of their own.— One good consequence is that, being left so much alone, if you have work to do, you get on faster with it then than at any other season. About this time, however, everybody is returning; almost all our friends are got back; and the old system resumes its course again. That it brings franks with it you will not esteem the worst quality of it.

This Chapter which I have just ended carries me to within forty-five pages of the end of the Book! I expect to have a bit of wrestling yet with it; but to be thro' about Newyears day. You must tell Alick and Jean and all my friends to be patient with me till then. I have no heart to write to any one, about anything, while in such a tumult. But were I once “borne thro' with an honourable throughbearing,”2—then it will be a very different matter.— Under the article of Works, I must also tell you that the first half of my little History of the Diamond Necklace, which I spoke of last time, is actually printed for Fraser, and will appear next month with my name; the second half on the following month. Copies are to be kept for me (I mean, Separate-Copies), and I will take care to have one forwarded to you, as soon after as possible. Also the Article on Mirabeau (his name is pronounced Mirabo) will certainly appear in January; and likewise probably in the same Number of Mill's Review another little Article I have written on the French Revolution, or rather on the Books that have heretofore been written about it.3 The Copy of Mirabeau will also be sent you; and of the last little thing too, if it seem to be worth anything. I rather think it will be worth almost nothing,—except some ten or twelve guineas to myself. Lastly they write to me from America that their Edition of Teufelsdröckh is altogether sold: poor Teufelsdröckh!4 Mill declares he is going to review it here.5 So that you see, with the commencement of the year, there is going to be quite an explosion! “Not killed, my merry men”! not at all: “we'll lie and bleed a while, then rise and fight again.”6

Above a month ago there came to me a Painter, he is a man named Lewis7 whom I once saw for a moment in Dumfries; he is now come to settle in London; and did most earnestly request me to come and sit for my Picture, that he might exhibit it next Summer in the general Exhibition, and do himself good thereby. The Picture after that to be mine. Leigh Hunt's son's Picture, of which I think I once told you, came to nothing: after six sittings, it grew always the uglier without being the liker; whereupon I silently gave it up. Of this Lewis however, on looking at the Pictures he had already done, we could hope better: Jane earnestly persuaded me to go; nay the poor thing was determined to have me drawn with money out of her own poor Clothes purse—“before I grew quite old”: so I went, and the thing is done. It is glaringly recognisable; has a distinct likeness of you in it: he has drawn me sitting in a chair; down all the way to the knees and lower all is given; it is the size of your window and larger. I do not like it myself; but I do like much that I am done with it. The man Lewis has decidedly a kind of talent, I think; and with great good humour which he also has may make way here. I got considerable amusement from rugged Glasgow stories he kept telling me all the while; there is nothing of that kind to be had in Cockneydom. One of the anecdotes he gave is this, which I have laughed at, twenty times since: An old Coal-miner was bragging of the great depths he had been to in the heart of the Earth; a neighbour wished to know, how deep specially? the other said, he could not tell how deep it might be; but he had “many a time heard the Deevil hoasting [coughing]—” which certainly was deep enough!— As for the Picture, I hope you will see it sometime, were it only for its likeness to the Mother of the Original. It is probable that it will go to Templand to be hung up ultimately: in this house, under my own eyes, I cannot suffer it.8 So now we will quit this business; and leave it to its fate.

Two or three days ago, there came here to call on us a Miss Martineau, whom you have perhaps heard of in the Examiner; a hideous Portrait of her was given in Fraser, one month.9 She is a notable Literary Woman of her day; has been travelling in America these two years, and is now come home to write a Book about it.10 She pleased us far beyond expectation: she is very intelligent-looking, really of pleasant countenance; was full of talk, tho' unhappily deaf almost as a post, so that you have to speak to her thro' an ear-trumpet. I think she must be some five-and-thirty. As she professes very “favourable sentiments” towards this side of the street, I mean to cultivate the acquaintance a little, and see whether it will lead to aught. She invited me to dinner “for Tuesday”; but I had a Cold, that day she came; and do not think I shall venture.— My cold indeed is about gone; but I must not tempt it back with night-air. It was one of the most effectual colds while it lasted; which, indeed, was properly only one day: water poured from eyes and nose; I was one of the miserablest sniftering objects: but by blue-pill & senna, I expelled the enemy; confined myself two days (writing, but holding my nose off the paper), this day I was out again and had a long walk: I feel now as if I were better considerably than before the thing came at all. I had been pining about, for two or three weeks; and I think all that salt rheum run out of me has taken some of the impurities with it. We have had the miserablest weather here; almost like yours, I fear. There was snow when you had snow; continual changes; drip, drip, nothing but damp and darkness. I suppose, that may account for worse health than ours has been. Jane holds up as well as possible: she has hardly had one bad head ache since she came back; her trip to Scotland, doleful as it was, has done her good.

You got a French Newspaper from Jack; and were able to make the word Marseille on it? Marseille is the Southernmost Town in France, where they embark for Italy. Jack gave token of all being well there. I am daily expecting another Letter from him; perhaps from Rome itself. The Cholera they say is gone from Italy; or at least the quarantine impediments have ceased. There would be a Letter from me, I hope, waiting at Rome. Jack was requested to write, directly “when he had got a Lodging for himself.[”] I sent two Newspapers also; according to the wish he expressed in that Letter to you, which he very considerately sent in by me. John Sterling, who is at Bourdeaux (also in the South of France but in the West South) had had a Letter from Jack: but I believe our Marseille Newspaper was a day or two later. Sterling speaks of going to Italy perhaps; which would be a very great comfort to Jack.— Whenever I get any farther word, I will give you notice of it, by Newspaper or otherwise.— John Mill, who is just returned from these regions, and indeed was here with me a long while today, had lost no fewer than ten Letters by the uncertainty of foreign Posts. Mill is very considerably improved in health; tho' still complaining of his head somewhat.

I know not how much I would give for a bird's eye view of Scotsbrig, for one half hour, at present. Much pluistering [working in mud] and splashing there has been there, no doubt, in this wild harvest: but better or worse, it is all got over now. With what results? Tell James to write a Postscript himself: or Isabella can do it. But it is you, good Mother, that must begin. I many times wonder how you are getting on in the upper story yonder, amid the wild gusty winds. Has your health not suffered sadly in such weather? That there has been nothing serious going wrong, I infer always from James Aitken's Newspaper Address. But colds and the like are almost inevitable. Do you keep good fires? I think you have a kind of conscience that way. There is nothing like fire, in such weather. I hope my saddle and you are very dry there; and do not let the dreary winter take hold of you too much. There will be little Travelling practicable in these months; but they must travel to you: it is a great thing also that you have a faculty for reading. I wish I knew any Books I could send you, or any thing else: I can only send Letters and Scrawls; but that is a reason the more why I ought not to neglect them. Were the bright weather come back again, I have a hope of seeing you and Scotland again: a lighter-hearted man than I was last time!— I have sent the Examiner forward these two last weeks, to Jenny at Manchester to be sent on to you: I know not how it answers; or whether I ought to continue that plan. If they are punctual, it will detain but one day for you; which I daresay you do not mind at all. I know not whether either Rob or Jenny care about reading Newspapers; but doubtless they will always like to see the two strokes on the back. When I send them two strokes, you are to take their two strokes for a sign that all is well here too. I must write to them, and settle about it. After Newyear!— Has Alick ever been to Manchester yet? Or what is he doing; how is he getting on, poor fellow? A Letter from him, full of news about himself, would be a great compliment to me; but I can hardly expect it till I write first. You must tell us also about Mary and her James and household. I can only guess about you all. Fen' [Maintain yourselves] like fell [sturdy] bodies! and keep a good heart always. There is nothing in the world like a heart. “If thou tine [lose] heart, thou tines a'!”—— I noticed in the Newspapers poor Andrew Lawson's death.11 Emerson the American friend writes me a most gentle affectionate Letter about the sudden death of a beloved Brother of his. He was one of the most promising young men in America, I understand; was just going to be married, and Emerson was “enlarging his house” for new accommodation,—when alas the Narrow House proved the one appointed!12— He is a good man, that Emerson; nothing can be better than the pious way he takes this great Loss. He has sent a little Book13 of his writing too, which is extremely good in spirit—I will break off abruptly tonight; but add a word on the cover.14 Best good night!

T. Carlyle

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