July 1836-December 1837

The Collected Letters, Volume 9


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE; 2 December 1836; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18361202-TC-JAC-01; CL 9:98-105.


Chelsea, London, 2nd December, 1836—

My dear Brother,

Your Letter1 came four days ago; very greatly desired: I do not remember that I had been so anxious to hear from you. The Avignon Letter to our Mother came, indeed, and all the Newspapers came duly; but it seemed to me long, after the date of your Marseilles embarkation; the winter winds were piping loud:2 my turbid humour suggested to me ever and anon that something had befallen. Let us thank Heaven that it is all right at last. We are very lucky even in regard to Letters. Mill, while he was abroad in that Geneva, Nice and Lago-di-Como region, could not get the smallest particle of written intelligence from home: ‘ten Letters’ were sent for him, to various Post-offices; and he did not receive so much as one. The people here had granted him three months more of absence too; but till he reached Paris, he could not hear of it; and then it was too late. He returned about a fortnight ago; seemingly very considerably recovered, but, as he says, without the hope of recovering completely for the present.— Pepoli, I ought to mention also, had got tidings, by some curious roundabout road, several weeks ago, that the Packet you were to take to Bologna had got safe thither: apparently by some side-conveyance. Pepoli is now at Paris, these two weeks; looking after some new Opera3 he has a hand in: he talks of being back soon.

And so your large Brass Plate is up in the Piazza di Spagna; and all is settled so far! I trust it may produce fruit; and be the beginning of a better era for us. The times are still too uncertain for you; but we will hope the best as to Cholera and all things: chiefly, let us endeavour to do the task. I pitied, many times, your waste wanderings; and waitings for these Spaurs;4 but all is well that ends well. You are in your own four-walls, at any rate; and have your head on your shoulders, and your ten fingers on your arms: we will wait cheerily for what the winter will bring.— Did you get two Newspapers (I think)? I sent off a third, an Examiner, this very night; that you might try fairly. They cost two-pence here; and the office-people seemed to make no scruple that they would go. I am not sure that I did not forget the two strokes; having made my wrappage in haste; but, so long as all is well, I will not forget them again. For this last month, I have purchased an Examiner from the Newsman here, for my Mother, and send it generally by Manchester; Hunt's having grown very irregular. Would you like it; or another Paper better? Let us know what the fortune of the venture has been, and what we are to do about it in future. Also whether you can send me no Newspaper, once a fortnight or so? With two strokes on it! For I am atrabiliar enough.

Your Avignon Letter was forwarded without delay; the Roman Letter5 I also bagged into a big frank Taylor had got me, with a great sheef of other Letters; directed to Alick: happily it was not sealed, when there came a long Annandale Letter from him. He reports most favourably of our Mother's health, and of the health of all. They have had such a Harvest, and have such times, in other respects, as man seldom saw. Stooks are out rotting, covered with snow; there came a frost in October, and destroyed fully a fourth of the Potatoes, a bad crop at any rate: trade threatened to stagger in the Country, and the money market: it is one of the sorriest outlooks.6 Jamie, however, individually had got his stuff gathered in, and had rather a good crop of it. Our Mother, as I said, sat snug and well. There had come £5 from the India Bishop Corrie for poor John that died; of which Mr Clyde was to write me.7— Poor Alick himself avowed that all went cross with him. His pork-gains had been swallowed up by perverse cattle-speculations: in a time of dearth he remained without wages for his labour; thoroughly at a loss which way to turn. He had been over to Cockermouth, at some fair, and seen our Brother John; who with other Cumberland neighbours were clear for New York next spring; and strongly advised him with them. I could not but chime in with the same advise, tho' I did not like to give it direct. My growing persuasion is that Alick ought verily to go to New York: perhaps, as you say, may we not all have to go thither? If he did think of going he was to write, and I would communicate with John Greig about it. I doubt his money is perhaps worn lowish, at least lower; but I do not doubt that you, for example, would help him with a little. I know few men in his way that have been more snubbed than poor Alick. One's heart gives a kind of bound to think that there is a land under the sun, where if a man plough for corn he shall actually reap it. Alick had some vague eye to some dirty clout of Moss Farm belonging to Tom Grahame; but this I decidedly counselled him to have nothing to do with. You had better write to him?

These are the Annandale news. Now as to ourselves at Chelsea. The miserably bad weather has combined with other perplexities to shackle me a little: nevertheless I still hold on. A certain Painter Lewis (he is the Scotchman I once talked of giving a line to you at Rome) came down hither shortly after I wrote last, and insisted on taking my Portrait, ‘to put in the Exhibition,’ and do himself good with; the thing to be ours after that. By Jane's urgency and his, I assented to sit; this, on alternate days, eat the heart out of three weeks for me. He has made a great glaring likeness; rather unlovely to me: it will probably go to Templand to hang ultimately. During all this time, a dirty catarrhal feeling hung over me, which I beat back once by shower-bath. Seizing its advantage, however, it returned in the shape of a decided cold. Blue pill and senna: the cold retired. Alas, the next foggy-frost it rallied again: recipe once more, as above: which second recipe proved really too hard for me; and I have as good as forsworn senna for a twelve month to come! There fixed itself such an inexpressible dead nausea, and taste of senna, in the stomach of me; and in the head, now all dried up from being a very fountain, it went pulsing and hammering! So that when I attempted to write, it grew a very Vulcan's smithy (in the language of poetic-licence), and I had to sit in the house, doing nothing. Last Sunday I burst out, right-side of the brow beating and thumping; dashed desperately thro' the fields towards Harrow for the space of four hours; drew our last Madeira bottle at my return; and determined to be well. Ever since the thing has been gradually leaving me: these three last days I have done a kind of Task, and today I did a long one. Courage, Boy! There dwells still a most unneighbourly taste and smell in the interior of my head somewhere; so that morning coffee is quite spoiled to me: nevertheless I have recovered appetite, and feel about as well as usual: able for work, which is of itself much. I have not above thirty pages to write; am on the last Chapter but one: Courage, Courage! I can still hope for daylight about the Newyear time; then two months more for printing; then—! You will be gratified to hear that I meditate much on your suggestion of dividing the thing into small sections; and think I shall do it.8 What were the prophecies of Isaiah for example, if we had it not in chapters! Let me add three other facts of a somewhat similar tenor: first, that I actually wear foot-straps to my trousers; second, that I have adopted your old braces, with the two buttons in front, and find them comfortable; third, that I frequently enough go your bye-road (by the Church region) towards Sloane street, having on reflexion found it not absurd! On reflexion, you see, there is a grain of reason in me.— As to scribble, I will only add farther that Fraser has the D. Necklace all printed, with Notes; to come out, by way of splash I fancy, on Newyearsday: that Mill's Mirabeau will likewise come then; and perhaps (if his promise keep good, which is not certain) the other little Hist. Parlementaire thing in the same Number.9 Mill is very anxious to get me to write more in time coming: I answer vaguely; being about disgusted with the beggarly trade, tho' not knowing well what else to try. I had a very kind Letter from Emerson the American lately: he has lost an excellent younger Brother very suddenly, but takes it in a most gentle devout manner. A little Book of his called Nature (really of fine spirit, and insight here and there) has come since; with a new copy of Teufelk. The Edition of T. it seems is sold off. This copy I despatched instantly to Hamburg; to a certain Mr Parish who used to be my Spedite[u]r [Shipping agent] to Goethe. If I can find a chance for Rome; you shall undoubtedly have these two pieces I spoke of above. Perhaps Rennie may be able to tell me of some man; but I doubt it.

There was a strange visiter [sic] called here one day: Miss Martineau, the Poetess Political Economist! She is not half so ill-favoured as they represented her; indeed not ill-favoured at all; but a rather interesting woman: very shrewd, and very good; of the Unitarian friend-of-humanity species. She is deaf as a Post, but carries an ear trumpet, and manages quite handsomely. She has been to America, you know; and is now winnowing out the fruit of her harvest there. I have been to see her since; and mean to go back: a mouthful of talk even approaching to rational is not to be des[pised] in this city and time. For the rest I calculate on going to almost no Parties; to nothing that will hurt my health or hold me back in the thing that has now become sole business in England for me. To the goal! to the goal! “Lick for lash thro' the Rickergate and o'er the Stanwix, lick for lash!”10— Charles Buller has been sick in Switzerland, but is better: they were expected home before this time; but whether they have come I know not. Poor Cavaignac's sister died (suddenly to him), and we have not seen him for a fortnight. The Doctor had been made to write that there was no danger; and so the fact fell like a bolt from the blue. He was hardly to be held from running to Paris at all risks. His Mother is coming over hither.— John Sterling got your Avignon Letter; as he has announced to his Mother here: but it came too late for his hitting you with an answer. Before that, he had written to me, in great spirits this time; and ordered that I was to tell you he might probably enough still strike off for Pisa (I think) in Spring, and ultimately see you in Rome after all. It will be a great joy to both of you. He takes very well with Bourdeaux as yet; reads, writes; says he is ‘giving up his Theology and Philosophy’ a little; which I rejoice much to hear of. His elder Brother is coming home forthwith, from Corfu.11 Mrs Austin has got to Malta: they were ushered in ‘with illuminations,’ the people fancying they were come to make a clean sweep of greevences [sic]; finding that the sweep was not to be so clean, the next day, the people douced the glim [extinguished the light]: so Taylor told me. I do not think Austin will make much of that, or indeed of anything, being a thoroughly lamed man. Mill I have spoken of already: he has shifted into a cheaper house in Kensington Square; looks much clearer: I have seen him only once. The Platonica,12 I think, was with him; her we have not seen at all. Morris [Maurice] was here once; as spitzfindig [subtle], fidgeting, ingenious-unproductive as ever. Willis we have not seen; his wife Jane and I did meet one day in Piccadilly: he is in Dover Street (I think), has got two medical Pupils; and doubtless tries to adjust himself. Allan Cunningham was here about a fortnight ago; guffawing in the old Nithsdale way; without result. Jane has read his Romance Lord Roldan,13 which she says outherods Herod14 in the way of flagrancy of ignorant ingenuity, and amuses her very much. We see very little of Hunt; he has colds, headaches; a cheerful-sad look: he is to write for Mill's Review. Is this all my news? I will honestly give it up for this night; and fill gaps tomorrow: I am very wearied; I did not get out at all till after dinner, but scribbled, scribbled. I then ran, wrapt in cloak, by Pimlico thro' Belgrave Square to the Park Corner and back; it did my cold no ill. Today we have wind, with occasional wet. This week we had a wind-storm, truly hurricanish; it blew down chimneys in the Strand &c; it was in the forenoon, and I doubt must have hurt lives: there were trees uprooted, and wreckage everywhere when I went out. Then came frost-fogs; glazing you with soot; till the face stiffens under it, and you curse your day! Patience, Patience. I march inwardly humming often these words you taught me of Goethe's: Stille / Ruhn oben die Sterne / Und unten die Gräber:15 they are more like a Psalm than any I have.

The French Corrie (of Newfield)16 called here about a fortnight ago. The Caricatures had cost him nothing. He is gone Northward for Liverpool; there home for a while: afterwards back, he knows not whither; his uncle's will not his. He is grown thick set; seemed a shade heavier in mind too: a good young man otherwise. Davie Hannay17 is come hither to superintend some “Marylabonne Bank”: so my Painter told me, and that he was flourishing exceedingly, and also was minded to call on me. He shall be welcome; I will not call on him till I be idler. A threepenny from the Montagues after long silence. The usual noble-sentiment; coupled with regrets; with the oft-renewed offer to take us a House in those higher better-aired regions. The helpfulness of man to man is very great.— I saw their new Harrow Road Burying Ground (Cemetery18 they call it) that Sunday I rushed out. There bury me not! It seemed to my biliary fancy as if the bowels of Eternal Death, and his old prey from the Beginning were laid open to me: but the wind blew fresh from the soft West; and there was a welcome look in the sky; and I thought the heart of it all was azure and beautiful and Life-Eternal,—let me die or not. Wir heissen euch höffen [We bid you hope]!19— Good night my dear Brother; a hundred good nights. I will finish tomorrow; for it is near supper-time any way. Our meal is done! We sup on arrow-root. Satisjam [Enough now]! Thy affectionate

T. Carlyle

Dear Jack,—It is Saturday morning, and whether my Task be well done or ill done I must out; for we have a blink too amid rain, and, alas, it is half-past two. I think my cold will not plague me more; tho' the bad taste still continues. If tomorrow prove dry, I mean to walk all day.— Jane is very poorly; not lying in bed, but full of infirmity out of it. She read this Letter; but could write nothing, or say or send nothing except her good wishes. Her prayer too is that I had done— Did I tell you that Alick had got a new daughter?20 He does not mention it;21 but some of them sent me word on a Newspaper.— Have you heard anything of little Nelson?22 He meant to write to you from Heidelberg.— John Sterling would be very glad to hear of you again, if you could be so bounteous: he is very fond of Letters.— I will leave all the other margins unfilled. You, much as you desire my news, would not purchase them by keeping me within in such a case as this. I really am not fair to myself; but will do better.— Keep up your heart; be light of heart, if you possibly can. I shall long to hear how you fare. God bless you, boy! T. C.

Send me a description of your Apartments; how you spend your time; what you live upon; &c &c. Is the Pza di Spagna near Lady Clare? Get books; and study them. Look also, and see!

Arbuckle's Father23 is dead. Last week too, Macadam the Roadman.24

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