July 1836-December 1837

The Collected Letters, Volume 9


TC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE; 18 February 1837; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18370218-TC-MAC-01; CL 9:150-154.


Chelsea, Saturday, 18th February, 1837—

My dear Mother,

On Monday last your Letter came, and along with it the Inclosed from Rome: both of them you may guess how welcome. Yours was especially welcome: so wild and fatally unhealthy had the time been; and no news came from you, except James Aitken's two strokes, which served to assure us that nothing very far out of due course had happened. Thanks to Heaven that you are still all safe! Now too when the Spring weather cannot be far off, we will hope this Influenza is about gone; and things may move a little more smoothly. We have had the ugliest weather here too: mud and fog and drizzle. But february begins now and then to look out blue; inexpressibly cheering to one: yesterday I went walking almost the whole day, in the sunshine, blessing Heaven that a New Year was born out of the winter blackness. Many have died; many in very sorrowful circumstances. The funeral bell never ceased jowling [clanging] here for week after week: it was quite doleful to hear and see. Jane, as I told you, seemed to be getting round when I wrote last; but she went out too early, and fell back again, and had to struggle on amid great coughing tho' not nearly so sick as the first time: she is now very nearly clear once more: and all looks better round us. I never took the malady; I have twice had flying whiffs of cold, but they never got deeper than the roots of the nose or thereby: I escaped in that way. Old Mr Bradfute, as you might perhaps notice, has been carried off in Edinburgh. We did not hear of it till thro' the Newspapers.1 He died sitting on his chair; in the gentlest manner. He has bequeathed to Jane a Book, of which she was fond when a child! His property has gone mainly I suppose to Mr Aitken Minister of Minto, who married Miss Stoddart very lately;2 an asthmatic, goodnatured, very innocent kind of man, whom you perhaps remember at Comley Bank.

Jean's Letter thro' the Bank never came: I sent them a little Note last week in a frank Mrs Welsh was getting. The first Herald came on Wednesday; dreadfully dirty; and was instantaneously sent on. I have written this day to Jack. James Aitken forgot his strokes on the Courier this week; which indeed set us a-guessing: but he sent off a Times next day with strokes,—like a considerate man as he is. I send that Times to you; it will perhaps come with the Letter; or at least only a day before it. Alick gets his Courier back, now that the Herald is under way. Does Jenny send you the Examiner rightly? I have twice forgotten to send it off on Mondays to her; tho' it was lying wrapt up on the table: I sally out about two o'clock, and then if I have forgot it, we are too late for that day before I get back. I know not if you care much for it; to me it is but dull enough: one is weary of the everlasting jargonning; and, when a thing has been said five hundred times, would fain have some other thing said. But that is the trade of an Editor: to be fresh always, as new-drawn wine, and ready to repeat his doctrine thousands of times if hundreds will not do. That is the nature of Fonblanque (the Examiner Editor); who is otherwise, I think, the cleverest man living of that craft at present. The Dumfries Times man,3 again, whom I have never chanced to fall in with before, seems if not the very dullest, not far from that. We will leave them, however, these Able Editors; to struggle on, and do the best they can.

Our printing gets forward here, not in the most regular way; yet gets forward. Sometimes they keep me busy, tumbling among all sorts of rubbish, broken pieces of paper, books, slips, ink and confusion,—really like a man dighting [sifting] chaffy corn in a barn, for the whole blessed day: then again they will give me holiday for two days. I endeavour to conform, “owther way.” But so does the Book go on at any rate; and comes out, like dighted corn, tho' only in wechtfuls,4 leaving cartloads of chaff and cavings [short, broken straw]. I think it will not be so bad a Book, “after all, Mother.” It is a Book at any rate that makes no complaint about itself; but steps out in a quite peaceable manner, hoping nothing, fearing nothing: indeed, I never knew till now on looking at it this second time, what a burly torque of a thing it was,—a perfect oak-clog [log], which all the hammers in the world will make no impression on. Of human things it is perhaps likest a kind of civilized Andrew Bishop the old crier of ballads!5 The same invincible breadth of body; a shaggy smile on its face, and a depth of voice equal to that of Andrew! Many a man will find it a hard nut to crack. But it is they that have to crack it; happily not I any more.— We are hardly two-thirds thro' the first volume yet. It will be a Book of almost the same size and shape as Wilhelm Meister; but with more in it; the type smaller, the volumes too a little thicker. So it flounders on, you see, towards fulfillment. Fraser has set a second Printer to a new volume of it; being clear to have it “out in time”: this second Printer has a good lump of Manuscript, but has sent no printing yet.— Did I tell you, they were printing a second edition of Teufelsdröckh in America? This one is to be 1000 Copies; the first, which was but 500, being all sold. It is really curious enough to see how things have to struggle in this world,—just as men have; and do struggle, and if there is any stuff in them do not struggle quite in vain.

I sent off a lot of Diamond Necklaces; one for every individual of you, I think; the other day. They are to go by Edinr, and then by Thornhill Templand; after that to Dumfries, from which to Annan and Scotsbrig. There are some Mirabeaus too: not too many however. There is scarcely the slightest chance of your seeing aught of them till the beginning of March; very probably they will go no farther than Fraser's shop till the end of this month. I have even sent one to Jenny at Manchester. In fine if they never come at all these things (which, however, is not likely), do not regret them; for they are not worth much. I have sent one to Willm Grahame; to whom I have not written for many long months.— There has been considerable confused-noise made about these two Articles here, I believe; but happily I hear almost nothing of it. It is inane jargon in general, that sort of thing; and “can di' thee neither ill na' good.”

I am sorry Alick was not with you to send a Postscript. I am very anxious to know what he is employed in, and how he speeds. Is he trying the Pork again? Tell him that he must find a little leisure, and write. But as for you dear Mother, I really will never more accept any excuses in the writing way from you. There is no better Letter-writer needed for me. And surely it is a great blessing that you have acquired that faculty, and can help yourself independently, now when it is so useful to many of us. With a set of lines under your paper, or without lines, you have only to set to work any day you please, and produce a Letter, the emblem of your thoughts in some genuine sort; and then the Post will carry it to the end of the world for you, if your loved ones were there. I call it a great acquisition.

As to the Hams and Oatmeal, I believe it will be better for the present to do nothing. We have milk with milk-sops to supper; this I find does well enough. Bacon one does not need always; and they have it tolerable in the shops. We are all so uncertain at present; it will be better to wait at least.—— Jane has written to her Mother to come off hither so soon as the weather mends (in April perhaps), and stay with her thro' the summer; this is the arrangement that will suit her best; and I surely think Mrs Welsh will come. As for me, I have resolved on the other hand thus far that I will not spend next summer here; but go somewhere, where I can lie asleep and be forgotten and hidden from all persons, and on the whole well, extremely well let alone! This is literally the thing that I feel will profit me above all others. I think I shall really be much better, both in mind and body, after this rough wrestle with the Book,—if I were once well rested. Now the question rises therefore: Whitherward to go? I have fixed nothing; it depends on Jack, on many things: but surely I think of Scotland and Scotsbrig among the first! If I come to Scotsbrig, I will do nothing but ride, and read a little; and speak no word to any man outside of those four walls. I am determined to be well let alone. Jamie shall have notice to buy me some sort of swift quadruped in good time;—not of the “dwarf carthorse” sort. It shall go hard but I will see you. Two months more will show us better how it can be, and should be.

The Lecturing project which I spoke of (did I not?) seems to have ended without effect for this year: the “Courses of Lectures” in that Royal Institution they were thinking of are “all filled up for the present season.” So much has been ascertained, only very lately. It is still possible it may be had otherwise (perhaps in some “Institution” or Hired Apartment of our own); but not very likely now. Next year I have a great notion to try it. If nothing can be done that way, why then nothing can be done; and we must try another way.

But I must close this up: the sun is getting out in spite of a showery morning, and I ought to fare forth and take the good of it. Blessed sun! it is sent to all living; and the whole wealth of the Bank of England is not equal to a beam of it. We hope it will get the length of Annan too; I find our loud wind last week was loud with you as well.6 Finally these hideous wet-blankets of cloud-vapours must get away, and summer come back to us.

We wish Mary well thro' her task; and trust it will be all right with her.7 Jane sends kindest wishes to that effect,—special thanks for Mary's little Postscript, it is a hand she always likes. To you she bids me say she has been meaning to write this long while; but has grown “wretched ill o't,” of late; while you are grown so good.— By the bye will somebody tell me what the names of the three new children are? Jamie's, Jean's, Alick's?8 They have all names, not a doubt of it; and I hope will grow to carry them between five and six feet from the ground yet, and do credit to them:—but it is really fit that I knew what they were!

If you see Ben Nelson give him my remembrances; and say John complains he has never yet heard of Edward. I have always a very genuine esteem for Ben.

And now with kind brotherly and filial affection to you all every one, I must lay down the pen. The Printer's-devil (so they call the little Boy that comes and goes) will be here tonight with work, work! I ought to be aired and fresh.— You do not tell me how James Austin is getting on. I have no doubt, diligently, steadfastly; with what luck is not in one's own power. Let us all keep a good heart; and go along stoutly, be the roads dry or dirty,—in God's name!— Farewell for this time, dear Mother and all of you! I am ever— Your affectionate,

T. Carlyle.

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