July 1836-December 1837

The Collected Letters, Volume 9


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE; 23 April 1837; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18370423-TC-JAC-01; CL 9:186-192.


Chelsea, 23d April 1837—

My dear Jack,

You must be content with a very hasty Letter from me today; and glad that you can get even that, as I am that I can give it you. Your Letter1 has been here six days: it turned out that I might have found an hour that day (the Printers being all engaged with liquor); but I could not take advantage of it; could only fidget about, waiting for work, and this is my first leisure since. Also I ought to add that my head seems to be all gone to dry wreck, and oblivious inanity. Such as I have give I unto thee.

We get always favourable news from Rome; which is a thing we cannot be too thankful for. Our other cares lie nearer, and can be more promptly inquired into, when they go awry. I could like however that you had as little as might be to do farther with men whom “the Jesuits are in quest of,” and who sleep with pistols under their pillow! Happy that you got this one sent on his travels without damage.2 I suppose “the Plate” to be coming or come down by this time; accordingly I directed the last Newspaper to you at Lady Clare's, as I shall do this Letter. The Newspaper was the Courier not the Herald, as your order bore: the Herald does indeed excel most things in vociferous unreason and genuine bona-fide stupidity;3 I shall direct James Aitken to unorder it at the end of the current quarter; in the mean time, he may send it down to Alick first in order, for in truth it is rare here that I read many lines of it.— It was not so agreeable to hear that there was fainter chance of seeing you this summer; indeed no chance for the summer, and only a certain degree of chance for the Autumn. But who can say you did wrong? God knows there is little here to come to: Commercial crash coming on, spreading wider and wider; the Paupers of Manchester helping themselves out of shops, great bands of them parading with signals of want of bread!4 On the one hand, Miss Martineau and Secretary Chadwick celebrating their New Poor Law Bill as the miracle of recent Legislation;5 on the other, the poor Nottingham Peasant hanging all his four children and giving up himself to be hanged6 that they may not go to the Hunger-Tower of Dante7 here called “Bastile,” or Parish-Workhouse.8 It is a clatter of formulistic jargon, of quackery, cruelty and hunger, that my soul is sick of. Hitherward one need not hasten with what faculty he has: at the utmost one is bound to do the best he can here, being here.— No man in such a case can calculate the hour and the year; but to me it is very clear, all this cursed pluister [muddle] of Lies and Misery is coming tumbling into incoherent ruin, and will grow a great deal more miserable than it ever was. Often enough I could long to be in sunny Italy, far away from such sights and sounds. We will wait patiently with closed lips and open eyes what the time will bring. If September bring us Jack, it will be well.

The best news for the present is that I have as good as done with printing. Yesterday only! Nay there are still some Revises of the Second Volume to deal with; but they are a light matter: all the rest stands hard and fast in type.9 I have had such a time of it as man seldom had: but, God be thanked, it is done. The Book will likely succeed a little, I think. But “Deevil may care” whether it succeed, or deceed down even to him; I being now fairly rid of it, after an honest duty done to it. Drunken Printers are about as bad an element as any; but they too are now over.— The first Packet of Proofsheets, directed to Zangolli Place—Vendôme, went off about a fortnight ago. It had been detained till after Cavaignac's first opportunity passed by; owing to drunken Printers. I was at last obliged to take measure independent of their drunkenness. The thing contained D. Necklace, Mirabeau, two Pamphlets of Maurice's (for Bunsen10 from me, worthless for me); vol I. of F.R. and a bundle of black Proofsheets containing fractions of vol II and vol III: this I think was all. I should like much to know whether it has reached you. I think I shall venture, were the perfect-sheets and title-pages once in my hand, to send you off the other two volumes without waiting for answer from you? Shall I? You could then have the Book bound for yourself at Albano.11 It would amuse you a little in your summer solitude. I will. If the Packet never reach you, or prove too dear when it reaches so that you have to refuse it, never mind. Probably in some week or so from this date it will be ready “to wait for an opportunity.” Cavaignac has some two or three, he says, every month. Enough about the Book!

On the eighth after this I am to make my appearance as a Lecturer ! Heaven alone knows how that is to be got thro'. I have literally not yet had a moment's time to think about it. There is a partially free week for me now; and I must make use of that. The audience I suppose will be tolerably fair as to numbers, and certainly miscellaneous enough: do but take these three, Godefroi Cavaignac, the Marchioness of Landsdowne, and Henry Brougham Lord Brougham and Vaux! Some way or other we shall “welter thro' it”; then, in four weeks hence, there will be a burden rolled off my shoulders; and I shall bound forth free.— By the bye I continue to find Cavaignac a most truehearted well-gifted, natural genuine wild man and Frenchman; on the whole, one of the best Brother men I fall in with here. He comes about once in the ten days; a wild proud man; who takes considerably to me. Were I happier I could love him considerably. His Mother is here; half-distracted still by grief for her daughter:12 I have seen her twice; weeping, weeping, “Ah, monsieur, c'est un mauvais esprit qui régit ce monde [“Ah, sir, it is an evil spirit who rules this world”]! It is in all senses miserable to look upon. Of Mill I see very little; he does not come here, I do not go there: his talk is not edifying to me; dry husky formulas and nothing else unerquicklich wie das Nebelwind [unrefreshing as the misty wind]. He would gladly, I believe, do for me whatsoever he could; but he can nothing. The whole Radical fraternity, in fact, grow[s] insupportable to me. I have not seen even Buller these six months; and hardly ever tried except when a frank was not easily had elsewhere. They will go their way, thou goest thine. At Henry Taylor's one morning, I saw Sir Francis Head. It was a kind of reward of virtue. I had refused about four invitations from Taylor, who is always very good to me; this fifth I was, with an effort, minded to accept. But I awoke at five that morning; could not and would not wait till ten for breakfast, were the King expecting me. Coffee, therefore, coffee O thou greasy but ever-ready Pluister [muddler] of an Anne Cook! Coffee was no sooner swallowed and shaving over than I felt in great heart; and slowly dressing myself, slowly wending thro' the windy Hyde Park, I did actually appear at Taylor's, and cunningly managed to enact eating breakfast, to perfect satisfaction, without eating any; and saw this Head and others, and had much pleasantly polite talk. Head is the Brünnens of Nassau man, of whom you may have heard: a Navy Captain; about my own age or younger; a fine strong-built, blondelocked bluff, effectual Saxon-figure, of the right Bull character, in shag frock and trowsers; clear, fresh, full of laughter shrewdness, pepticity, heart and health. He seemed rather to consider me as of too pungent a genus, genus oil-of-vitriol or so; but I saw well he was of good Old-Christian Buckinghamshire fat; and liked him well.13

No more gossip; but swift, to needful news! Jane grew worse and worse after I wrote to you; for about a week she gave me a terrible fright. Coughing, coughing, weak as a sparrow; and no sleep to be had. We sent for a Doctor; the Sterlings's Doctor, one Morrah of Sloane Street, a “Surgeon &c,” of fifty, an Ulster Irishman I think: he proved really helpful; administered some mixture that h[ad tur]pentine in it; above all, sedulously inculcated good warm temperature, avoidances and observances, saved us “if not from the disease yet from the bad Doctor.” I had written to Mrs Welsh: literally by return of Post she was here, one Saturday morning about six. The poor Goody was considered to be out of danger then, tho' still very weak. She has been nursed ever since; about a week ago she came out of her room first; she has now been twice out of doors, tho' with caution, as the weather improves: we consider this third fit of Influenza therefore to be past also. Morrah, I saw, dreaded consumption; the sound of the cough pleased him ill. He declared however, on ceasing his visits, which he did with great discretion when the time came for it, that there was nothing organic gone wrong; that it was the whole system weak irritable, and requiring to be gently dealt with. If you fancy us in the middle of all this; with Printers Devils knocking, knocking; I myself sick—! But it is gone now. Mrs Welsh continues here without specific arrangement of times for the present; I surely am to fly the hot weather, probably almost surely to Scotland: the rest remains hanging.— Anne Cook, it seems has been detected, pilfering, “extensively cheating” with shopkeepers: poor slut! Jane knows of another woman; one “Eliza” whom we already had; of great faculty in her calling, but of discontented temper.14 Cook is really a terrible puddle, without morality I think at all, except good nerves.

I got your £140 from Stone & Martin, and sent £120 of it on to Dumfries as formerly: James Aitken testified by a signal agreed on that it had been properly received and bestowed. I kept the £20 till we settle, lest I might run down. However, since that, Mill has sent me £14 for the Histoire Parlamentaire Article, and I am in funds sufficiently. Fraser too owes me for the D. Necklace; he shall pay up, were the Book fairly out.— The very day your Letter came who should appear here but Ben Nelson, on his way towards Heidelberg! He is off this morning, I suppose, by way of Rotterdam: poor Edward is fallen sick (Influenza &c, tho' now decidedly recovering), and sends for his Father to bring him home. Ben is grown white, but looked brisk otherwise. An appointment in India has been got for Edward: he will probably be going off thither in few months; say about the time you get back with Lady Clare. I got no news from Ben; being indeed driven like a swift-booming sling all the time he was here. They are to return this way.— Ben brought a Letter from Alick. He seems determined still for America, tho' I think they rather throw impediments or discouragement in his way. He cannot be ready till after Whitsunday, nor can John of Cockermouth, who also is bent on going. Your Letter will do good in this business. I am to send it off this day to Alick, with a word of my own; the last word I mean to write till the Lectures are done. It is very true what you say; there is no use in regarding it as an eternal separation, in a world so changeful as ours. Alick seems not to have lost much money; but says, he shall gain nothing by this years trade either (bacon-trade), and will make haste to get his money out of it. It seems to me as if America would make him a new man. There is wonderful shift and energy enough in the little fellow; but he has been terribly browbeaten, terribly provoked; and whisky as a ready refuge-of-lies is so near. I cannot wish him to stay; I cannot bid him go. Clow of Land he says is also still set for going. Mary and Jamie Austin should go, he thinks; but Mary is greatly against it. She were a great loss to our Mother if she went.— But now I must write to them, O Jack, and leave thee. Send answer as prompt as last time. Be well and busy, good Brother! Thine Ever affectionately— T. Carlyle

For anything I know there may be a Foreign Post today too, Sunday tho' it be. At any rate I will to Charing Cross with this. It may be open till I go. Margins, if time be.

5 O'clock— No time for margins, dear Jack. There have been a series of interruptions, Willis, Anthony Sterling &c; and on the whole at this hour I have not got Alick's Letter finished, nor any walk taken; so I must out, especially as the weather from rainy seems about to become dry. Willis gave us no news; he is recovered from a bad fit of sickness; is canvassing, he says, for some office or title of Physician to a “Royal Hospital of Children” somewhere.15 He seems to be doing well. He thought of you that you could not in any way be making a better introduction of yourself to London than by practising in Rome. Did you ever hear of a Jock Forsyth from Ecclefechan? A card came to me the other week thro' Fraser, with Jock's name on it, and appended thereto “Surgeon and Accoucheur” at Kingsland (somewhere in the uttermost East, I believe![)] I have made no answer to it yet; nor shall till I be freer, if then: he was much of a scamp.16

Poor Andrew Carruthers, Alick writes me, is dead of Influenza at Ecclefechan.17 Poor Andrew!— The disorder seems to be much abated now; we have after the coldest Spring within man's memory got some appearance of a promise of better.

Farewell here. I must wait no longer. Next time I write I shall have lectured.— Pity me; wish me well thro' it! Adieu

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