July 1836-December 1837

The Collected Letters, Volume 9


TC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE; 28 April 1837; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18370428-TC-MAC-01; CL 9:198-200.


Chelsea, London, 28th April, 1837—

My dear Mother,

Yesterday Jean's Letter1 came to hand, with the good news in it that you were all struggling forward in the old way. A thing I was right glad to learn in that specified manner. I had received, some fortnight before, a Letter from Alick thro' Ben Nelson: Alick saw you at Annan on your way to your present quarters. I wrote to Alick last week; or rather it was this week, and the Letter is probably lying still at the Annan Post-Office. As you are so black-baised [very concerned] about me, I determine to send off a small word today to relieve you; till Alick come or send. Alick's Letter contained a Letter from Jack too, with nothing but good news in it; here likewise all is going right enough: therefore, dear Mother, let your black-baisement become a white-baisement [optimism] with the smallest possible delay!2

The printing is entirely done; I suppose the Book will be out before many days: however, I have washed my hands of it; and try as much as possible to forget that there is such a thing in existence. The very first opportunity I have, you need not doubt I will send you off Copies of the wonderful performance; that you may read it in peace, and have done with all this clatter about it. They will come, most probably by steam to Edinburgh these Dumfriesshire Copies; after which I will direct them to be forwarded by Coach to James Aitken: so that there will not probably be much delay, after the publication here; the date of which, however, I do not know yet.

Jane continues to go on very well; and gathers strength apace now that the wind has got itself round into the West. She goes out when the sun shines; taking care to keep on the sunny side of the pavement, and not to go far: in the evenings, sometimes she will walk as far as Battersea Bridge,3 and to and fro upon it for a little while. It is very cheerful there, in these fine evenings, for the Bridge has only iron railing, being itself a Bridge of wood; and commands a free sunshiny prospect far and wide: the broad River gushing down or up according as the tide is, with barges and painted pleasure-craft, the green woody regions about Richmond on the one hand, stirring Chelsea with shops and wheel-vehicles enough and the great whirlpool of London (like an Ocean of confused steeples and reek) rising up on the other. Our advantage in the West wind is that all the reek is blown from us, not to us. Mrs Welsh rather complains of late days; but it seems nothing of moment. We hope the good weather will set everybody up again and everything.

Jack as you will see when Alick presents himself is not to quit Italy; not at least before September. He seems still to have a hankering after Rome, and will perhaps try it another winter.4 Perhaps it is as good a thing as he can do in present circumstances. He has down his Brass-Plate, I suppose, by this time; and is living quietly again in Lady Clare's. Nobody need regret much that he is not in this Country at present. It is one of the most straitened, difficult ill-situated Countries anybody ever lived in, as times go. They will improve it by and by; but it will be long first; and a terrible job to do!

As for me and my health, it is really all well enough with me. I lie quite quiet; and have the greatest appetite in the world to do nothing at all. On Monday at three o'clock comes my first Lecture; but I mean to take it as coolly as possible: it is neither death nor men's lives whether I speak well or speak ill, or even decline to speak at all, and do nothing but gasp. One of my friends was inquiring about it lately. I told him, some days I could speak abundantly, and cared nothing about it; at other times I felt as i[f when] the Monday came, the natural speech for me would be this: “Good Christia[n folk] it has become entirely impossible for me to talk to you about German or any Literature or terrestial thing; one request only I have to make, that you would be kind enough to cover me under a tub for the next six weeks; and to go your ways all with my blessing!” This were a result well worth remarking. But it is not likely to be this.— We are very much astonished where Anne Cook got her ideas about the Lectures. “Two thousand tickets” would really be a pretty thing; the twentieth part of that will satisfy us tolerably.5— On the whole, dear Mother, fear nothing! I will send you word about Lecture-business too “that I have got thro' it.”6 One great blessing is that in three weeks it must be done one way or another. It will be over then, and all well.

Jane who is sitting by me, sends her affectionate regards and thanks to you and Jean and the rest. She says she will write to you by and by on her own footing; but is for the present black-baised like yourself!— You must very specially thank Jean for me; till I get leisure to thank her myself. Tell James to discontinue the Herald Newspaper at the first term there is. Such is Jack's order, who finds it inexpressibly dull, as I do. The Courier is to go to Rome instead. James, if Alick and he agree to it, can send the Herald first to Annan, and let Alick forward it. It is worth almost nothing, I think, to any man or woman.— Today I am to go and look at that Room, which is to be my Lecture-room. The hour I had appointed is just here (11 in the morning); so I must off. Good be with you all! I think I shall get a frank for this: you cannot get it before Monday at any rate. Dear Mother ever yours, / T. Carlyle