July 1836-December 1837

The Collected Letters, Volume 9


TC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE; 27 May 1837; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18370527-TC-MAC-01; CL 9:209-212.


Chelsea, Saturday 27th May 1837—

My dear Mother,

Your Letter1 reached me yesterday an hour or two before I went off to deliver my last German Lecture. I had written the week before a Letter to you at Jean's at Dumfries, a short scrawl, which perhaps you might receive and be reading just about the same hour. It was calculated to be in Dumfries on the Wednesday; and doubtless Jean would find some way of forwarding it. In the interim this fresh epistle from Jack2 had come; testifying once more that all is well with him. I will now with such speed as is possible write you a line by way of winding up all these things.

Your brief expressions about Alick and yourself are full of sorrow, and go into my very heart for both of you. What can be done? Courage, my dear Mother; let us all pluck up a heart equal to the difficulty: the whole difficulty then is as good as done. One must have courage, and in the strength of the Giver of Strength dare and do what is fit and appointed. Jane and I have had a good deal of talk together about your scheme of transplanting Jamie to Craigenputtoch, that Alick might find room for himself in his own country.3 We both agree that it is quite needless to speak of it at all to Mrs Welsh at present;4 out of whom no practical result whatsoever could be got about it; at least none that we cannot quite as certainly foresee without speaking about it. We are clear enough, then, that there could be no sort of objection to Jamie as a Tenant to succeed M'Adam on such terms of rent as were going; that for us two it would of course be more agreeable to know our house &c in the possession of a Brother than of a stranger. There can be no question about all that. But I have great doubt myself whether the arrangement would be for good still; or only for temporary solacement, and then evil to all parties. In the first place is Scotsbrig itself a desirable position at present? Jamie contrives hitherto to pay the rent; but I think it very unlikely that more will ever be made of it, or of any other Scotch farm in our day; and very readily less might be made, if the country go on as it threatens to do. And consider what Alick would think if he, having succeeded Jamie, were to prove unable to go on! It would go nigh to break his heart. And then on the other hand what does Jamie privately think about Craigenputtoch? Could he exist comfortably even if prosperous in those savage moors? I have preserved such a horror of the thing that I think I would fly to Newfoundland sooner than go back. Alas my dear Mother I fear it will not do. However as already said if the parties more immediately interested do resolve on venturing the Farm I have no doubt [it] can be had.— But in good sooth my notion is that farming and all other industry in honesty is ruined in this country till some great black sea of troubles and uproar have been crossed; that bad days are in store for peaceable men here. It is a land suffering as under a Curse at present; that greatest curse that a lying spirit has been put into the mouths and hearts of its people; a false lying spirit, not a true one, turn where you will! I question greatly whether the far wisest thing we could do were not to rise all as a family you still at the head of us, my dear Mother in spite of your years, and go out of it. Beyond all doubt or cavil the man that is willing to work in America is sure of fair recompense for it. All evidence, of this colour or the other, goes to prove that at least. For those that are to leave families behind them in this England, it is a sad outlook[.]

But on the whole what is to be done then? Poor Alick would be flitting yesterday while I was lecturing! I doubt he is at any rate too late for this year: no news still from Greig. My notion is therefore that he should either restrict himself to the enterprise of going himself and looking out this year as Jack has always been advising, or else to put it out of his plans till another spring. It is a year lost; but one cannot help it. At any rate he had better not fix on anything permanent till I come home; unless there be some necessity more pressing than I see. If there arise such a necessity, let him warn me, and I will come all the faster. If there be any inquiries that I can make for him at Liverpool, as I think there must be, he must put them on paper for me, and I will try to get to the bottom of them. You did not tell me where he was to be after Friday: is it at Annan still or where? Jenny and the bairns must have some quiet up-putting at any rate till spring next: for I think, as above said, that emigrating for this season is gone by.5 On the whole, my dear Mother, you must not discourage poor Alick; he is sore laden, I know, with many things: let him gird himself together with a resolution equal to them; there is heart and head in him to triumph over them all yet. I never quit that hope for so brave a little fellow as I know him to be; shifty of hand and true of heart: but I do think America and not Scotland offers the far best chance for him.—— I write in such a confused state that you will hardly make out what I mean. But this is it in brief: That nothing as to Puttoch nor as to final emigrating to America be fixed till I come, if my advice be thought essential to it; that Puttoch be considered as attainable if desirable; that Alick write to me if there be anything at all that I can ask about, here or at Liverpool: and on the whole that we all keep up our heart, and do not get dismal about it, or think it a thing of life and death; for it is not at all that but quite other.

People have interrupted me, and my time is quite run without saying anything. My Lectures ended honourably; let us thank God for it! It is perhaps the beginning of better things for me. I have gained some £135 or so by it.6

There is a franker come in (Sterling, one that can get franks); so I profit by him and rapidly close.

Ben Nelson got a Copy of the American Review7 for James Aitken: Alick can get it from him as it passes; or borrow it from James if it have already gone.

Adieu, dear Mother: they are talking to me even while I write. I must positively end. Good be with you all every one.

Your ever affectionate /

T. Carlyle.