July 1836-December 1837

The Collected Letters, Volume 9


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE; 21 March 1837; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18370321-TC-JAC-01; CL 9:171-177.


Chelsea, London, 21st March, 1837—

My dear Brother,

Yesterday your welcome Letter came; two Diarios had come before; one of them the preceding week I had sent forward to our Mother, according to arrangement. I spread out my sheet last night with the purpose of answering without loss of a post: but just as I sat beginning, rap there came a Printer's devil, and this night, after a busy enough day, is the first leisure I have. And this only for an hour and half, as I compute: between nine and ten o'clock, there will be a fresh devil. For I have two Printers at present; who have been bullied both of them not long since, and are doing their utmost to keep me without rest. Excuse all manner of hurry and the fruits of it, therefore; I have literally hardly time at present to know whether my head is on my shoulders. News for you, as fast as I can shovel them out! Poor Jane is sick again; I am here, alone with my pipe.

There was word from Annandale last week; a Letter from Jean. All was well there. My Mother had got back to Scotsbrig, after a pretty long stay at Mary's, in waiting for an event there; which had happily taken place. Mary had got a son, was well again, and our Mother as I say at home. She seemed to have suffered nothing particular from this universal sickness we have had in Britain: I had a Letter from her own hand not long ago, which ran in the same cheerful strain as formerly. Jean had herself had “the jaundice”; of which she professes to be quite recovered. The special object of her writing was the business of poor John Corrie and that India Bishop.1 I know not if I mentioned that the benevolent Bishop Corrie did actually send a Letter, nay two Letters for surety-sake, and a remittance of £5 in answer to that application of mine: the Letters and remittance came to Clyde2 in Dumfries, many months ago; and not the smallest answer was sent; finally they forwarded copies of them to me, which copies were lost by the way; and now at length three days ago I do get sight of the documents, and know what I am to do. It was done soon; the very night the Letter from Jean came. Nothing could exceed the kindly Christian spirit of that good message from Madras: I endeavoured to answer it in a corresponding spirit; at all events, without loss of time. The whole matter, when I think of this good Bishop's promptitude and how fate and want of knowledge had stept in to smite it with impossibility, wears a very wae aspect to me.— A few weeks before, I had received a Letter from Alick. It is written in a mournful temper; and is of a mournful tenor: poor Alick, foiled everywhere in his attempts in this country, sees nothing for it, but “taking America in the spring”; and wishes me to write to Mr Greig with that view. The message made me sad, as a message could; but I complied with it directly; and wrote back to Alick that I had done so, but that by no possibility could there come an answer before the end of April. I have not since heard a syllable of the business. Jean does not mention it; but indeed she seems to have been much in a hurry. Whether Alick will go this May or not I cannot know: the thing lay doleful in my head continually for two weeks; now lazy suggestions that perhaps he may put it off (which how can I wish him to do?) have come in as a kind of worthless consolation. I sincerely am sorry for the poor Boy; and have no doubt but his real field is America: yet clearly it is a stern problem for him to go. No heart that I have known has keener affections in it; and his Mother—and to go forever! It is a hard thing. May God give him and us all the strength to do whatsoever thing we are called to do!— Tom Clow spoke of going with him, he said; and even Clow of Land,3 tho' only as an explorator he, to see whether it would do or not. Alick did not seem to have any notion of two journeys for his own share of it, but to contemplate going off direct. It is a sad thing that no one with a free pen dwells among them. I get the scantiest details, and really ought to be thankful that I get these. By the time I write next we shall know most probably how it is to be for this one year at least.— There was nothing else in Annandale except what your dull Herald will have told you better than I could. I sent it off today with two strokes and a half on it; the half was to indicate (very obscurely) that your Letter was come and mine coming. James Aitken, Jean says, is still busy with chemistry,4 and has got great benefit from the Dictionary you gave him.

It is cheerful news that you have found a conveyance from Paris for papers.5 I went this day to Cavaignac's to speak for an opportunity to Paris: he is the man to find that; they are sending things almost every week. He was not at home; so I shall write to him tonight. If the Parcel go with anything like the speed of the post, I should think including all delays it cannot be ten days behind this in arriving. You shall have the Necklace, Mirabeau, and the whole of the First Volume in what the Printers call perfect-copy state: pray keep it, and we will (if we prosper) bind it up together with the other two which I shall get, as a kind of memorial some day. I will add for you whatsoever Proof-sheets (black they and blotted) of the Third Volume I can fish out of that closet; where there lies now a barrowful of paper-rubbish,—to be all solemnly burnt when we get done. I think there are some five sheets of that 3d vol. here. Of the 2nd I have not yet got one; tho' it is 17 days now since the last of Vol 1st was set up and shewn me! They have been delayed by &c &c; and I expect every day that they (that is, the Moyes people too) will come gushing out on me more rapidly than I can bear. They are very provoking in that way; but good people and artists otherwise. So are my second Printers, Robsons in St Martin's Lane.6 One must thole [endure], one must thole. I stated in writing to Fraser and them that after the 15th of April for reasons there explained, I would not correct any more, except altogether according to my own convenience, till the first of June again: so they were to bestir themselves! The result nevertheless I believe will be that I shall go on correcting and puddling (with what convenience you will see soon); and that the Book will struggle itself out towards the end of May. It is terribly troublesome; the references, above all. One sits up to the neck among rubbish of books and clippings; searching and searching. Moreover, it is growing far longer than I expected: the first vol. is 404 pages. I was afraid the two others would be much larger: but I think by management the third vol at least will not differ by many pages from that: if the second prove a little longer, it can best bear it, so far as look goes. The third vol. is the best. But on the whole I think the whole thing is not naught, and I have it there as a thing done by me. It will stand a great deal of beating; the critics are welcome to lay on; there is a kind of orson [wild]7 life in it which they will not kill. Of course we were too late for being reviewed in Mill this time; a thing I bear with extreme philosophy. Mill's Review, I suppose, is just coming out: he is printing that Histoire Parlementaire Article: I was treated again with a pleading, of extreme maiserie, in the name of Falconer the Editor's-Cloak and of Mill the Editor, about some citation concerning the Jacobins Society, “to be left out or to be kept in.” I begged Mill, as a favour, to correct the whole thing with his own hand and never let me see it again till printed; which he is doing. I esteem his judgement in these things worth almost nothing. But he is very modest with it in my case; that also “it is but fair to state.”8 The Mirabeau he informs me has worked wonders, this wonder for instance that “Ma[crone]9 the Bookseller would wish much to have a Book of that sort from me.”— Speaking of reviews I must add one word about an American Review of Teufelsdrockh10 which I saw lately. It pleased me very much, tho' it would have been very vain to believe it all. It was here and there a kind of idealized image of me however, and had more true perception and appreciation than all the other critiques laudations and vituperations I had seen of myself. It is called Christian Examiner (I think), and Miss Martineau says, has great vogue in Yankeeland, their best Review. I bought a copy, and sent it to my Mother: it was 3/, very dear. I will not treat you to one, but let you wait. Jamie Aitken expressly commissions one for himself: that is six shillings out of the family; more than the gear is worth.

But, alas, my dear Jack I go wandering about the bush; loth to tell thee the grand news of all: that I am to lecture on Gn Litere, in May next! Ach Gott! It makes my heart tremble when I think of it; but it is to be done. Royal Institn having failed, the Wilsons (it was Miss Wilson mainly) determined that we could get an audience of our own, and a Willis's Room of our own. So they have Tickets printed, and a “Book” open at Saunders and Ottley's,11 and the Marchioness of Landsdowne and honourable women have their names down, and Prospectuses circulate;—and, on the whole, on Monday the 1st of May from 3 to 4 O'clock, and five lectures after that, two each week, I am to commence and speak! Heaven only knows what I shall say. There will not, with these dilatory Printers, be a single moment devotable rightly to preparation: I feel as if I were to be flung over board, and bid swim or drown. You will think of me that day, and wish me thro' when the hour comes.— On the whole however it is best. I have long wished to try that thing, and now it can be tried. Nay I am sure farther that I can succeed in it with a fair chance. Courage! swim or drown!—— My health is not to call bad, considering how others go: it is the frightfullest East weather; smoke and bitter frost; today and yesterday we are all white with snow. I shall be refitted a little, before May. The thing that afflicts me most is as ever the chilifactory12 apparatus,—sorrow on it! Prolapsus; speck in eye, &c &c: only rest will cure me; which by God's blessing I shall have.— Poor Jane is far worse than I: in great misery all this day. Her third attack of cold or influenza cough; with headache, with face-ache: but now I hope, the snow having softened, she will get out of it soon again. It is a sad element in our lot that of health.

As to Summer arrangements, you see how it is with us. It would answer like a very tally if you were to be here in June, and bolt with me for Scotland! In September itself we shall be right glad of you, and I hope we too shall see Annandale together again. As for Switzerland,13 I can make no program about it at present; my whole soul cries, Rest, Rest. We shall see better by the time you are all settled what you are to do. The Plate then will come down when I begin lecturing.14 Pack it up, keeping the mood you are in; as a Knight hangs up his shield for future battle. This year we are in will possibly settle something as to me. I seem as if I were going to make what a servant of ours called “an explosure in the Kent Road, Ma'am.” I am driven not to care two straws whether or not. Fortune has had me aux abois [at bay] for a good while, and I have looked defiance in the teeth of her. The longer I live “fame” seems to me a more wretched Kimmera; really and truly a thing to be shied if it came: I think of Rousseau's case sometimes; and pray God I might be enabled to break whinstones rather or cut peats, and maintain an unfevered heart. God keep us all, I pray again, from the madness of Popularity! I never knew one it did not injure; I have known strong men whom it killed.— The Printer's devil is here since the bottom of the page. God bless thee my dear Brother; and good-night in thy far chamber! I will add margins tomorrow. T.C.

Wednesday 4 o'clock afternoon.— My dear Brother, here have I sat this whole day working at that first sheet of the Feast of Pikes (blessings on it!) and have just got it done. I correct in the Ms too; but there is always something to correct.— Expect no margins, therefore. Jane continues in great suffering; had a bad night: I believe it to be bile, and have got her to take something. She is in a languid state today; more tolerable than yesterday's violent headache. I would to Heaven for both our sakes, she were well again.— I will go and call for your money; I think I can recollect the Banker's name, Stone and Martin. I will dispose of it as you direct. It is not £20 that you owe me,15 but (I think) £2 and a fraction: there was some tail of that kind (£17 or so) at the last settlement we had. However, I will keep this £20 if it seem as if I should need it. I will send our Mother your Letter the first hour I have.— As to the packet for Paris, I have yet got no new light. But say ten days. It shall not loiter with me. There is I doubt no Johnson to be come at;16 none here surely: but I will try.— It seems to me there were various things I had forgotten[.] Too late now! I am shivering with cold; my fire nearly out; and here comes Anne with the dinner! I must out directly after. Also my pen has split itself.

Anthony Sterling has just returned from Bourdeaux; reports John to be confining himself to the house, and tho' delicate not doing ill. Next season they propose settling at Pisa: but nobody knows; they are very uncertain. Anthony did see you in Rome, and knows Miss Hoare & Miss Elliott.17

Wordsworth is in Town; but I declined going near him: one is too sick and busy for blethers of that sort. Southey also was here, in influenza time; I met him on the street; the best place perhaps. Here is dinner! Adieu dear John— Thy ever affectionate— T. Carlyle.

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