July 1836-December 1837

The Collected Letters, Volume 9


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE; 17 February 1837; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18370217-TC-JAC-01; CL 9:142-150.


Chelsea, 17th February 1837—

My dear Brother,

Your Letter,1 which we had begun to weary for, reached us on Monday. Along with it came a Letter written altogether in my Mother's hand;2 of the old cheerful temper; reporting nothing but right out of Scotland. So that Monday was made a cheerful day. I have been held in such a welter of Proofsheets, flying paper-scraps, books, keep-lessons [obligatory tasks] and confusion ever since that now, on friday night, while the Devil is absent, and off my hands for two hours at least, I have to snatch the otherwise not favourable time, and write while it is given me. I wearied for your Letter; and doubtless you will for this of mine. But really and literally this is about the first leisure good or bad I have had all week hitherto.

You will probably receive your first “Herald Newspaper” a day or two before this arrives. It was frightfully dirty, but not of my dirtying. I suppose Rob Hanning to have been the innocent author. The Postmark on the thing was “Stockport”;3 and it was three days later than due: in my total ignorance as to particulars and arrangements, I fancy Rob had forgotten it at his quarters, and some snuffy-nosed drunkard had been reading it. The reason no Herald came sooner I take to be this: that the Letter ordering had lain a long time at Ecclefechan. Our Mother dates from Mary's at Anna, where she has been staying this good while (Mary is expecting soon to be confined): I had given the needful directions in a Note to James Aitken and in one to Aird; which of course lay at Ecclefechan till the Scotsbrig people chanced to call on Postie, and then forward them. As no time would be lost by having the Herald (a Friday paper) lie a day at Manchester on its way hither, I empowered Jamie (Aitken) to arrange it that way: if the snuff-drops continue or repeat themselves, we must alter it. But the two strokes, I fancy after all, would make amends to you for everything. We got one Italian Newspaper from you, besides the Diario4 formerly: the price of it, as being heavier I suppose, was a penny. You should send us one about once in the ten days or fortnight, I think. The Letter and Answer cannot be transacted in less than some five weeks; which is too long a time. I have despatched weekly, ever since you first so appointed it, a Dumfries Newspaper, the Courier since I had no other: Alick gets his Courier back again this week for the first time. It arrived yesterday without the strokes; but today Aitken forwarded a Times with them. He is a most punctual man. Ohe satis [quite enough]!

There has been really a most sad time here ever since I wrote last, with weather and Influenza. The funeral bell never ceased here, nothing but funerals whenever you stirred; crawling along, dreary, thro' the mud and fog. One day stepping out I saw a group in the King's Road: it was a young man and his wife who had both died, and were going together to their long home; that and the ragged groups about it made one of the dolefullest looking things I ever saw. The mortality here seems to have been far greater than by cholera: I suppose everywhere over the Island considerably greater.5 Dumfries however seems to have been gently dealt with. And yet M'Diarmid's obituary this week is of woful length. Thank Heaven! The Sun again shews his face, and the blue sky of spring; the malady, which has greatly abated, will probably disappear in a little while. None that we were nearly interested in have been taken from us. My Mother had a kind of biliary complaint, she says, for three days; but has since been fully as well as usual: she speaks as if none of the rest had been tried at all. Mrs Welsh had it, but is well again. Jane, who never escapes anything that is going, had it really very ill; nay had it twice, having gone out too early: but she is now, after a hard month of it, nearly thro' again. She was as ill on the first occasion as I have almost ever seen her; had lost head, kept crying “for her mother,” and made a most doleful business of it. I for my own share would never consent to accept it; yet have been obliged to go on with a series of snivelling colds and semi-colds; one of which (may it prove the last!) is still upon me. It reaches no deeper than the root of the nostrils, and top of the larnyx [sic] and as I resist all temptation to cough, I think, if the Sun will hold out, I shall expel it in two days more. One of the persons nearest to us in this great list of deaths was old Mr Bradfute6 of Edinburgh. Perhaps you might see his name in the Dumfries Obituary: it was in that way we first heard of the event. His property &c has devolved I believe into the hands of David Aitken and the Stoddart people,7 who seem to have felt at a loss how to address Mrs Welsh or Jane upon the subject. He has left Mrs. Welsh £105. To Jane it would seem he has left with a still more epigrammatic felicity—a Book; Boydell's Shakspear I think it is.8 His death was of the gentlest[.] He went thro' the world, one may say, doing as little ill as any man that lived in it. Good he could not do much; yet he did do some; and has now, leaving the world, made a class of Aitkens and Stoddarts richer, or perhaps rich, which is a kind of good too. If he had left my dame here a thousand pounds or two, it might have been of very considerable service; perhaps of disservice too; one does not know. Peace be with the old man; whose innocent countenance, and thin Edinburgh-Burgher figure I shall never behold more.

The grand news, of course, is as usual of this Book. The Printer Moyes goes on, very briskly, as you have heard, for last week; but on the whole irregularly hitherto; and makes less way than one could wish. I have been very heavy on him with corrections; but the worst of that is fairly over now. Fraser, resolute to be out at some set time (I know not what, probably April-fools day) has set a second Printer to work on the third volume: but of him, his type &c not being quite accurate conformable to Moyes's, I have not yet had any Proof. We are got near the hot work[;] taking of the Bastille. I call each chapter, that was, a Book, and have subdivided all these into chapters: the longest list of Chapters as yet is ten, the shortest four. Each Chap. has a brief (briefest) title; generally with something of the epigrammatic character in it; each Book too has a title; and each volume: the list of these will be the Table of Contents without other Index or appendage. The Notes are merely references; I do not add anything beyond the text. On the other hand, I am really consciencious [sic] in cutting out; you will be delighted to miss not a few of your old friends. I have added piece[s] too as I went on (thro' this burnt part); have divided many a paragraph, many a sentence; and so, with chaptering too, have let a great deal of daylight (of blank at least) into it: and, on the whole, it seems to myself, incredibly improved it. We shall see what the Doctor says, by and by!— My toil is great; but it is not a wearing toil, as that of writing was. As we get on too the references, which are the main toil when you have a conscience, get rarer: the Ms. too is of a kindlier character, after we get out of the ashes. I find ‘on a general view’ that the Book is one of the savagest written for several centuries: it is a Book written by a wild man, a man disunited from the fellowship of the world he lives in; looking King and beggar in the face with an indifference of brotherhood, an indifference of contempt,—that is really very extraordinary in a Respectable country. The Critic, of a respectable nature, cannot but be loud; falls er nicht schweight [in the event he is not silent], which really I shall be well content that he do. But I think he will not. In that case, I will grant him free scope; there is no word in his belly harder than the words it utters, by implication or directly, about him and his. A wild man;—pray God only it be a man! And then huff away; smite and spare not: the thing you can kill, I say always, deserves not to live.— Mill is clear for having a Review out before the Book come; and has solicited Proofsheets: this not for the Book's sake, but his Review's.9 There seems to have been rather a loud dissonance (if I am to credit Fraser) about these two Papers10 I emitted lately;—great blame and also good praise is all that I could pray for; if indeed any prayers pointed in that direction at all! But shall I not be d[one] with it? That is a fact worth all the others. On the whole, I believe it is all right. Mill finds that “the Mirabeau has done us a great deal of good”; and wants continuance of favours.11 Were this done, I will see. Your plan about French Revolutionary characters, I doubt, will not answer:12 there are only two or three characters (the rest being shadows and hearsays); then of these some are worn threadbare, others have no documents about them: and worst of all the Revolution is a subject I am sick of for the present. There are other subjects plenty if I were in trim.— Your two “Articles” lie here with your name on them; but there is no opportunity hitherto, nor any within sight. The rest are all sent off to Annandale &c. One or two to America.

The great business for me however is to get well again. Jane has decided that she will prefer staying here thro' summer; so her Mother has been written to, to take up her abode here with her; and I think will accede to the arrangement. It were much happier for all parties. She could bring her Mary with her, who is an excellent servant; our Anne has few qualities but her good nature: we might in many ways be greatly improved in posture. We shall see. I have yet determined on nothing; except that I will not spend next summer here; that my first grand blessedness will be to get to some place where I shall be altogether let alone for some time. This evidently is a blessedness not unattainable. Sometimes I think of Scotland; oftenest indeed; but I make no appointments or fixed resolutions: all hangs in possibility under the sway of Hope. A couple of months will have thrown light on it.— As to the Lecturing, I imagine it is almost off for this season. After much hithering and thithering, it was at last discovered about a week ago that the “Institution” was all filled up and completed for the present year. I wrote to Miss Wilson (the main Agent in this business) that the Institution, so far as I understood it did make but little difference in the enterprise, what it offered and what it withheld being only houseroom and such like; that if she or other friends could find me forty or fifty human beings really desirous to know something about German Literature, I would with perfect promptitude actually open my mouth to them and tell them what I knew. Houseroom we could with all the ease in the world procure for ourselves.13 I have not seen her since; but she asks me to “come some evening.” We shall see whether the thing is not finished at least. Next year, if I be here and in the same position I really will try it.— Good night, my dear Jack: this stooping provokes my cough terribly. Besides supper is come. I will finish tomorrow. Good night my dear Brother!

Saturday morning.— Dear Boy, there came no Devil last night (he means double-tide tonight, I daresay); so I give you the top of the morning. My cough is still held in abeyance; hat nichts zu bedeuten [it does not mean anything]. The sun will be out about noon; I had one of the finest walks conceivable yesterday in Hyde Park and that region: the first new-born brightness of Spring! It made me happy into the heart.— But now to speak a word of Rome. Think not I forget Rome: ah no! But my own history cannot be known to you; and my affection is well enough known. We are far from interpreting your Roman position as stingily as you seem minded to do. The sixty pounds of clear fees, there is an item that outweighs many things.14 I really reckon it very fair; and bid you cheerfully, Go on as you are doing. Never mind the ineradicable universal quackism of men: so long as one has food and covering to go on with, he has all he ought to wish. By degrees too a man infallibly is known for what he is. If he can work honestly in the meanwhile, let him praise Heaven and work; letting the poor world talk and welter as it can. Give us still again your authentic Practitioner-bulletin, not extenuating, not exaggerating; and go on with an assured heart. Our Mother sends you expressly her blessing; and will be, as always, right thankful to hear of you. Jenny they say is tolerably well again; but ever since that written Newspaper (which I think must have been Rob's) no direct notice or hint has come from them. I mean to write to my Mother today and send off your Letter. She speaks of Alick as being “at Carlisle Market”; so I suppose him to be in the Pork again, and to have postponed America;15 but here too is nothing direct. A Letter from Jean, I find, has been lost; sent thro' some “Bank clerk.” Another will come soon.

I have not the slightest hint of Willm Fraser from any side. Mr Dunn I have missed twice; Jane saw him the day before yesterday: Influenza &c; but he is well again. Anthony Sterling is to arrive at Bourdeaux this day; a visit of some weeks; then back hither. I had a Letter from John last week: he has had two new attacks (sudden) of spitting of blood, and writes in an uncomfortable agitated manner. His Doctor declares it not pulmonary yet; but poor John tries to keep himself ready for dying at a day's notice. He speaks with thankfulness of your Letter which he had not then got answered. I wish he were fairly into the summer again. Maurice we have hardly seen: he is writing “12 pamphlets” (one I have looked at) on some Quaker controversy and other; and advises all of them to—return into the bosom of the Church.16 He seems to me, more and more, to be very much of a crotchet. Intellect, openness of nature even; but a quite disproportionate excitability: a spasmodic man; not strong but weakish even. We hope to see him one of these nights, however; Jane has promised him to a certain “Erasmus Darwin”17 (grandson of Dr Dn),18 who has been hovering about us this good while; and of late (thro' Martineau-dom &c) has been brought nearer: a tall, bashful, sensiblish most good-natured man of your age; who does nothing but read a little, be ‘the cousin of everybody,’ and drive a cab! Miss Martineau proves a really worthy little woman, of great clearness, vivacity, honesty, ingenuity;—has not ‘swallowed formulas,’19 but is like to be swallowed by them! I was at another of her routs; all routs are a weariness to me.— One day I walked thro' the western fields to Hampstead: W. Hamilton's was undiscoverable!20 I had my walk at any rate.

There came a Letter from one Ripley in Boston lately: They are printing a second editn of Dröckh, and somebody has “reviewed it beautiful Ma'am” in some Yankee Review, which I am to see, please the pigs. Ripley (a most declared admirer; of socinian nature, I think) tells me that they are about to get some sort of College at Boston: would I be Professor?21 No reply from the Noble Duke.22 Yankeedom gets very faint for me of late.

Did I tell you of a Wedgwood23 I met at Dunn's? Grandson of Potter Wedgwood;24 lives at Clapham, 2 miles off this, thro' the fields. They seem determined to cultivate us; are of Martineaudom too. Mrs W.25 is daughter of Sir J. Macintosh;26 really a very nice little woman. It seems a strange fluctuating thing your circle of society here. How true is what you say of the cruelty of rank to rank!27 A man will cut another because he has less money! It is damnable to do that; and ought to be abolished forthwith forever.

Mill sits ‘excessively busy’; very much apart from us, secluded I suppose in Taylordom. I find my friendship for him continue stationary. He is the nearest approach to an Incarnated Forty-seventh of Euclid28 that I ever saw walking. I believe he really loves me too, and loves several persons; but it is hidden thickribbed ice, and forbids return. His spiritual faculty I do not esteem ‘great,’ but considerable, and in its circumstances very strange. Southey was here; I was asked to see him (by Taylor but did not, no matter at all, really! Io non sereo nessuno [I will not be a nobody]!

I sent a Necklace & Mir. to W. Graham: he is said to be grown very stupid; in situ.

I knocked at Willis's door for the first time last week: not in. A hungry-looking footman opened; an innocent-looking yellow gig came in sight faustum sit [luckily]!—

I have exhausted my last scrap of room dear Brother; and bid you farewell here. Anda[r] con Dios [Go with God]!— T.C.

The Book is almost precisely of the shape of Wilhelm Meister; and will be of somewhat similar thickness, or more; but the type is smaller.— I have now written to our Mother; the sun in spite of rain has got out and I must be out too. I go by Buller's; then to Charingcross. The Italian Post goes daily, they tell me: A Diario instantly; and then a Letter! At this point I do say farewell, and keep it.

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