July 1836-December 1837

The Collected Letters, Volume 9


TC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE; 22 September 1837; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18370922-TC-MAC-01; CL 9:314-320.


5. Cheyne Row, Chelsea, London, / 22nd September, 1837—

My dear Mother,

It is yet hardly a week since we parted, and I am sending you a Letter: I know very well it will be welcome at any time; and my hand being still unoccupied with regular work, nay still more a Letter having just arrived from Rome, what better can I do than write even now this morning before setting to anything else?

There are no franks at present; therefore I cannot send you Jack's Letter, but must content myself with a summary. On the whole indeed I may also say there is nothing whatever in it except what we heard at Ecclefechan, together with the new assurance that our good Doctor still continues well and hearty, and is eagerly desirous to have me write to him. It is addressed to Jane here; the Doctor not knowing for certain whether I should have arrived yet. They have sad work with the cholera, especially with the absurd measures taken by his Holiness against the cholera.1 You would see in the Examiner perhaps how a young man was massacred by the mob at Rome on suspicion of his meaning to poison the people and infect them with this pestilence!2 Jack mentions the same anecdote; and adds that there is not a village but is shut up each against intercourse with the others; guards at the gate; strangers refused admittance; and all the natural hubbub, ignorant panic and confusion one can so well fancy in such a case. The best is, Jack is himself in good heart, with his whole party; and of opinion that the misery is past the worst. The weather he says is grown cooler, and not likely to be so hot again. They have no cholera where he is in Albano; and suffer only from the stupidity and panic of the people, being restricted in their drives to the immediate neighbourhood of their own village. We must hope the best, dear Mother; and that the misery will pass soon, without hurt to those we love. I wrote to Jack yesterday, and sent him the last Number of the Examiner, with strict charges to lose no time in writing. It is surely a wretched thing in Lady Clare to have flung herself right into the sphere of such a thing, after flying from it so long; as for Jack, poor fellow, he is seeking daily bread for himself, and was obliged to go.— The only other news he writes, is a wish that Jane “would seek him a wife,” whereby his solitude might be lessened!3 We may calculate on some five weeks before we hear from him again: if aught were to go wrong, of course we should hear of it directly. We must trust always in One that has preserved us long.

That friday night, after leaving you all, we went prosperously on, with occasional showers; finally with a bright moonshiny night, thro' pleasant country; the Coach sometimes left altogether to myself, then occasionally filled for a stage or two, but never so as to crush one. On the whole I got along with less suffering than usual; and was landed safely at the door next night between five and six; Jane waiting for me behind the door, and soon getting tea ready. She had not received the Newspaper; it had been too late, and did not arrive till next day. Your Manchester Newspaper I doubt would be in the same case, tho' I did what was possible, and got it put into the very first office we passed. On the Monday I sent you another more authentic with two strokes on it. I despatched one of the same to Dumfries, to Annan and Ecclefechan and Templand. This is the first Letter I have written Northward yet. My news are not great hitherto: I found all well but one thing, the health of my poor Goody. She has a little cough again for the last ten days; not much, but yet far more than I want. It seems to abate perceptibly since I came back, and I think will ere long disappear; but it is an ill omen for commencing the winter with; it must lead us to take double and treble care, and first of all to let nothing fail for want of flannel. She is in good heart otherwise, and I do think on the whole stouter than when I went. The new Servant has also been ailing; she was rather seriously ill, and very much frightened at it, while Jane was absent: she is now better again, but not understood to be without danger of relapses: Jane has taken the precaution of writing to Kirkcaldy, to the Fergusses there, so that she can have, in case of extremity, a new Scotch servant sent thence at a week's war[ning.] This one is a very good girl, I believe; and we have still good hope that she will be able to hold on.4 Before Martinmas (the best time for Kirkcaldy) it will be decided. Jane was very proud of her umbrella; and says, it is a thing “to make one almost long for a rain to put it up in.” I told her of the attempted purchase of dressing-gowns, and made her laugh at the failure. As for my shoes, dear Mother, do not vex your heart another instant about them. I find the old ones can be soled again and will serve another year: nay the List [selvage cloth]-shoes themselves are so thick and warm there is hardly need of any other.— As to myself, I am hardly out of the fever of my travels yet; but as I said the road did me less ill than usual; and were I once at work again, I shall be strong enough for anything required of me. Mill's people are wanting me much to give them an Article on Walter Scott: I have no great appetite for that, yet know not but I may do it; something or other I shall certainly fall to soon. But the Lectures, I suppose, will be the thing; I ought to make ready for them. Meanwhile I find John Sterling here, and many friends; all kinder each than the other to me; with talk and locomotion the days pass cheerfully till I rest, and gird myself together again. They make a great talk about the Book; which seems to have succeeded in a far higher degree than I looked for. I have not got to Fraser yet to hear what his report is; but everybody is astonished at every other bodys being pleased with this wonderful performance! You would notice the Examiner criticism last week: it is said to be by one Fo[r]ster whom I do not know. The Glasgow Argus was not by Hunt's son, nor I know not by whom. The next Examiner I will send sooner; you might forward them to Alick, or keep them till he come.— Alas, dear Mother, I was interrupted at the top of the second page (at great length by John Sterling), and it is now clearly too late for this day's post! I will keep the sheet till tomorrow, and then finish. Jane says she will then write a postscript herself. Good night then my dear Mother. Oh me, how many things I would say, and have nothing but a miserable scrap to say them on! May the good Father, who knows all hearts, keep you always and comfort you in all your wayfarings! We shall meet, if it be His will, and not part again.


[JWC's postscript:]

My dear Mother, you know the saying “it is not lost what a friend gets.”5 and in the present case it must comfort you for losing him— Moreover you have others behind—and I have only him—only only him in the whole wide world to love me and take care of me—poor little wretch that I am. Not but what numbers of people love me after their fashion far better than I deserve—but then his fashion is so different from all these and seems alone to suit the sort of crotchety creature that I am— Thank you then for having in the first place been kind enough to produce him into this world and for having in the second place made him scholar enough to recognise my various excellencies and for having in the last place sent him back to me again to stand by me in this cruel east wind. God bless you all— If I am not strong enough this winter to go out in the rain I will make a slight drizzle with the shower-bath and stand under it with my fine new umbrella—I will write you a letter all to yourself before long God willing6

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[TC's postscript:]

Saturday morning.—My dear Mother, this is the greatest dud of a letter I ever wrote; but you must take it for want of another. I hope the man will give it you tomorrow morning; then you will go and hear Gadsby7 with better appetite. I am going to clear out the Garden today; and then bethink me next week what is to be done.

We have hard sunny Eastwind weather, which will dry all manner of stooks, and bring Jamie and the other Harvesters bravely thro'. I find it still warm enough. Jane has brightened up the house in my absence, and made it all like a new pin. Also there is far more money in it than I expected. Let us be thankful! About the beginning of the month I will try to send some Books. I will write again soon.

Mr Martin the minister of Kirkcaldy is dead.8

Jenny will hardly ever be able to make out all this. Give my love to her; take care of yourself and her; and let R. be a douce Goodman. Here ends.


A long gap occurs here;9 nothing but a few bright fragts to kindle into visibility the oblivious darkness of 5 or 6 once busy years,—busy enough to both of us, and heavy-laden with anxious emotion and continual endeavour, while they passed! I cannot find when her next visit; but mine, I know was to Annandale, in Autumn 1837: I will note some of the main occurrences.

Early in Jany 1837, it must have been, when Book on Frh Revolution was finished. I wrote the last paragrh of it here (within a yard of where I now am), in Her presence, one evg after dinner, damp tepid kind of evg, still by daylight; read it to her (or left her to read it? probably with a “Thank God, it is done, Jeannie!”)—and then walked out, up the Glo'ster road Kensington way; don't remember coming back, or indeed anything of quite distinct for 3 or 4 months after. My thots were by no means of exultt character; pacifically gloomy rather, something of sullenly contemptuous in them, of clear hope (except in the “desperate” kind) not the smallest glimpse. I had said to her, perhaps that very day, “I know not whether this Book is worth anything, nor what the world will do with it, or misdo, or entirely forbear to do (as is likeliest); but this I cd tell the world, you have not had, for 100 years, any Book that came more direct and flamingly sincere from the heart of a living man;—do with it what you like, you ——!” My poor little Jeannie and me, hasn't it nearly killed us both! This also I might have said had I liked for it was true. My health was much spoiled; hers too, by sympathy, and more than sympathy, by daily helping me to struggle with the intolerable load. I suppose, by this time our money too was near done; busy friends, the Wilsons pri[n]cipally, Miss Martineau and various honble women, were clear that I ought now to lecture on “German Literature,” a sure financial card, they all said; and set to shaping, organising, and multifariously Consultng about the thing; whh I, unwillingly enough, but seeing clearly that there was no other card in my hand at all, was obliged to let them do— The Printing of F.Rn, push as I might, did not end till far on in April; “Lectures,” 6 of them, of whh I could form no image or conjecture beforehand, were to begin with May.

‘Monday, May 1st, 3 p.m. in Willis's Rooms’ is marked (by Nephew John, from Abstract of Letters to Mother) as date of my first Lecture. It was a sad planless jumble, as all these 6 were; but full enough of new matter, and of a furious determinatn on the poor Lecturer's part not to break down. Plenty of incondite stuff, accordingly, there was; new, and in a strangely new dialect and tone: the audience intelligt, partly fashionable, was very good to me; and seemed, in spite of the jumbled state of things, to feel it entertaing, even interesting. I pitied myself, so agitated, terrified, driven desperate or furious! But found I had no remedy, necessity compelling:—on the proceeds we were financially safe for another year. That was my one sanctn, in the sad enterprise.

Mrs Welsh from Templand, was certainly with us a second time at prest, tho' I nowhere find it marked in writing: returning to dinner from that first Monday's performance, I gave to my Darling & her, from some of the gold that had been handed me, a sovrn each, “to buy something with, as hansell of this novelty,”—whh little gift created such pleasure in these generous Two, as is now pathetic to me and a kind of blessing to remember! When this second visit of our kind Mother's began, or how long it lasted, I have no recollectn. Probably I left her here for Company,10 setting off for Annandale; whither I made all haste, impatt for shelter and silence, so soon as the hurlyburly cd be got to end. One wish I had, Silence, silence!— In the latter half of June (by Manchr or how, is abolished for me) I certainly got thither. My health had suffered much by Frh Rn and its accompanits; especially in the later months, when I used to ask myself, Shall I ever actually get this savagely, cruel busss flung off me, then, and be rid of it? A hope whh seemed almost incredible.

Mind and body were alike out of order with me; my nervous system must have been in a horrible state. I remember, in walking up from the Livrpl-Annan Steamboat with Brr Alick (what is still a luminous point, and nearly the sole one for many weeks thereabts), Alick had to call for a moment in some cottage at Landhead;11 and I waited, leaning on the mile-stone, whh I knew so well from my schooldays, and looking back towards Annan, and the unrivall[ed] prospect of sea and land whh one commands there,— Solway Sea to St Bees Head, and all the pretty Cumberland villages, towns, and swelling amp[h]itheatre of fertile plains and airy mountns, to me the oldest in the world, and the loveliest,—what a changed meaning in all that! Tartarus itself, and the pale Kingdoms of Dis, cd not have been more preternatural to me; and I felt that they cd not be more so. Most stern, gloomy sad; grand and yet terrible; steeped in woe!— This was my humour while in Annandale; except riding down to Whinnyrigg12 for a plunge in the sea (7 miles & back) daily, when it wd serve, I can recollect of nothing that I did then; all speech (except, doubtless, with my Mother) I did my utmost to avoid. Some Books I probably had,—Pickwick & Johannes Müller (in strange combinatn, and Pickwick the preferable to me!) I do partly recollect of here: but the reading of them was as a mere opiate. In this foul torpor, like flax thrown into the steeping-pool, I seem to have staid above two months, —staid in fact till ashamed to stay longer. As for “recovery,” that had not yet considbly; in truth it never fairly came at all. The year before this (nay it was in 1835, two years before) I noticed a faint mote immoveable, tho' always on wing, flickering betwn me and the page I was reading;— a “musca volitans,”13 as I aftds learned to call it; and there, disregarded now, but never long absent, it still flickers, and will. On the underlid of one eye, I also noticed, for long years coming, a certn tiny brown-yellow spot, whh I nicknamed Frh Revn; and there, I suppose it might be noticed this day, except that I have long ceased shaving, and now never look. Enough, enough!—

Of my Darling's beautiful receptn of me when I did return, there was something said already; to me all speech of it is inadequate; for now, in my sad thot, it is like a little glimpse of Heaven, in this poor turbid Earth, I all-too unworthy of it; alas, how thrice unworthy!— A day or two ago, I discover, crowded into my first Letter from Chelsea as her Postscript, these bright words, touching and strange to me, of the like purport!— — A little keepsake of an umbrella (no doubt the prettiest Dumfries wd yield) had come along with me,—whh I have now forgotten.

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