July 1836-December 1837

The Collected Letters, Volume 9


TC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE; 9 October 1837; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18371009-TC-MAC-01; CL 9:327-332.


Chelsea, 9th October, 1837—

My dear Mother,

A second Letter has arrived from Jack, with better tidings rather than the last.1 A Newspaper came about ten days ago, and was forwarded to you; I knew not very well whether you would understand what it meant, but fancied you might make out the date and three strokes, and so sent it. Jack, in this new Letter, not only reports himself still well, but confirms the account we otherwise have that the cholera at Rome is abating. The main mischief they still labour under seems to be the absurd notions and practices of the people in regard to it. But these of course will abate too, with the cause of them; and next Letter we will trust in all thankfulness to learn that the peril is altogether over. The two Letters both together have little in them beyond what the Ecclefechan one had, and their new dates and new successive assurance that our poor Doctor is well. I hope to get a frank today; and so will send them that you may read.

I wrote to Jamie at Scotsbrig last week2 about sending us some butter and meal. Except the address of the Newspaper from Dumfries, I on my side have not had the slightest scrape of a pen out of Scotland. I study to keep hoping that all is well. I will beg you however to get an old Newspaper of any kind, directly on your receiving this, and address it to me, either yourself or Jenny and you; adding two strokes if the truth will permit: it will be a great satisfaction to me, till once you get the length of writing. The Examiner back again will serve, if you have no other paper ready.

As for us we go on very quietly; not worse certainly than we were. It has taken me most of this time to heft [accustom] myself again to my new gang [surroundings], so wondrous is the change from Scotsbrig hither; I have written nothing yet; neither indeed am I in haste to begin so long as I can help it; my poor wearied nerves are really, I believe, better employed idling than in any other way while they still can. However the Life of Scott has now actually got the length of my table here; I must read it carefully over, and then see! People all say “How very much better you look!” It is a way they have of talking; which I do not mind much: the grand improvement I trace is that of being far calmer than I was; the immense fuff [flurry] having subsided into composure. It is a blessed change.— With respect to Jane, she is and must continue very weakly; but precaution will maintain her in a tolerable state: she has determined not to go out at all except in the middle of the day thro' winter; and then oftener to drive than to walk. Friends with carriages are ready enough to second her when she likes; or at worst one can have six miles of driving in an omnibus for a shilling. She sleeps a good deal better, she says, since I came; the cough I spoke of is nearly altogether gone: on the whole I find her improved; and will hopefully aid her to do the best she can. We heard from Mrs Welsh, very briefly; Mrs Crichton of Dabton, who was ill while I staid with you, is dead: all was now solitary at Templand, and unoccupied save with that.

I have seen most of my friends that are here; a good many are still roving about the country. All people are very good to me. Doubt not, dear Mother, I shall be able to do better now. I am better known now; have a far better chance. My Book has been abundantly reviewed, praised and discussed; Fraser also tells me it is steadfastly making way, imparting itself from hand to hand, and on the whole doing well: I may really say I have got handsomely rid of it. You saw the Examiner articles3 doubtless; I think it will now be little matter whether they review it farther or not: reviewing they say does almost no good except in the way of announcing; the Book as Fraser says, has hitherto “made its own way.” By way of final trial however, if it is to be final, I enclose you this copy of a Letter which came yesterday from an unknown Quakeress near Liverpool;4 a very singular epistle: Jane will not let the original go, so takes the trouble of copying to save it.5 Do you not call that a warm reception? Also I must mention a strange half-daft Edinburgh gentleman that called here last week to congratulate: he however went upon the old Article Characteristics; and illustrified us at a great rate; an elder of the Kirk; brimfull of religion; a very queer man indeed.6 At bottom I fancy you, dear Mother, apprehensive now that we shall err in the other way, that it will “take hal' [hold] o' thee, Tom.”7 No fear, no fear at all! When one is turned of forty, and has almost twenty years of stomach-disease to draw upon, there is great safety as to that. A voice from the interior of the liver cries out too sternly “What's ta use on't?”8

The best news is, that I have actually got, and do now wear a pair of carpet-shoes exactly of the sort you were seeking for me! Therefore seek you no more; except a pair of them for yourself. They are of black shag cloth, with three buttons, soft as wool; warm light and comfortable beyond anything I have ever had on of that kind. They cost but some 5 / 6 a pair out of the shops; mine were 9 /, being made to order, and of a much larger size, the generality being for women only. They are just the old snow-boots, without cork sole. Get a pair of them, dear Mother; I wish you to do it; and wear them within doors and without in the winter time.

Has Alick been with you? What is he, what are all of them, and you to begin with, doing? Jamies harvest must be happily over; the weather has been excellent. I wish Alick would write; he must write.

And what “picture” is this? Dear Mother, it is to buy you a little keg of ale, and some warm things thro' the winter. The money that I gave you last you gave wholly away again, or almost wholly; it is a thing totally absurd: I beg you to accept this, and I insist upon it; and write me when you next take up the pen, not useless speech, but an account of all the warm clothing and furnishings Jenny and you have laid in by my order. A supply of ale I must insist on your getting when you go home again. Also I think you must rather go in the inside of the Coach than by the Steamer. It will be too cold and rough so late in the year.— Give “Jenny the Good” £1 of it from me.

What is Jenny doing? How does her health stand it?—I know not when or from whom I am to look for a Letter. My kind love to all, south of the Solway or North. I will write again at latest when a Letter comes from Jack: let us hope it will be all well. Did you get a little packet of Magazines thro' some Bookseller? They were sent, and must be in Manchester a week ago. In case they have not arrived, Robert,9 by inquiring at any Bookshop what Bookseller it is that furnishes Fraser's Magazine (distributes it over Manchester, and is Fraser's Bookseller there), will discover where it is lying. But probably it is come, for it was well directed. Farewell dear Mother for today. I will see to get a frank. Jane has added a P.S. to her copy of the Letter. May Good and that only be with you all always! I am ever My dear Mother's

Affectionate /

T. Carlyle.


Thus to venture unbidden into thy presence may seem somewhat startling to thee in a woman, and member of the quiet, unobtrusive Society of Friends, but thou must thank the originality, the firstrate talent, the taste, the poetry of thy 3 wonderful volumes on the french Revolution for drawing on thee the infliction, it may be, or mere commonplace sentences, in my endeavour to express however inadequately the deep the unspeakable interest with which I am perusing thy admirable narrative of the Events which astonished and horrified the civilized world, 45 years ago

The style described to me before I saw the work as “peculiar and uninviting” I deem of all others calculated to convey the fervour, the fierceness and the atrocity alternately possessing the feelings of those the chief actors in that most sanguinary Drama. So perfectly graphic too, a Painter need desire no better study to improve his art. I can distinctly see the ancient Merovingian Kings on their Bullock Carts, and the Chamber of the dying Louis Quinze, with all its accompaniments, and [the] new Korff Berlin,11 and its wretched vaccillating Inmates—the poor Queen issuing into the Street and lost there; Oh the breathless anxiety of that Journey, how one longed to speed them forward specially I think for her sake, whose curse it was, in a new era, when the light broke thro the Cimmerian darkness of ages, to be united to a man of that mediocre sort which is incapable of reading the fiery Language of of [sic] passing events, and yet not content to be wholly passive. Oh how the very depths of my heart are stirred up responsive to the humiliations and sufferings of that high minded, erring woman; She stands there before me in the window at Versailles the untasted cup of coffee in her hand! a spell is completely cast over me, by the waving of the Enchanter's wand, given thee to wield for the instruction and delight of thy less gifted fellow mortals—go on and prosper saith my whole soul, such abilities as thine were never designed to be folded in a napkin,12 use them worthily, and they will bless thyself and thousands. I am truly rejoiced, a writer has at last sprung up, to do justice to modern history, a greatly neglected species of literature, and to present it in colors so attractive, that as certainly as mind recognises mind, and speaks to it, and is comprehended by it so certainly will “The French Revolution of Thomas Carlyle” be read and approved, by all Men and all women too, endorsed with any portion of that true Promethean fire which he seems to fetch down from Heaven at will—and finally win its way thro' all obstructions to form a part an important part of the Standard Works of the English Language! Je le jure (I swear it) Chapter 6—the opening paragraph on Hope is exquisitely constructed, I cannot recal to memory a more felicitous arrangement of words than this paragraph displays, it has become incorporated with the very texture of my thoughts, “a sacred Constantine's-banner written in the Eternal Skies”13

Henry Chorley the bearer of this can tell thee how his own family and my Brother and Sister Crosfield14 all of them people of mind have been delighted with thy production— Accept my most cordial individual thanks for the rich intellectual banquet thou hast provided, all other books will appear so tame and flat in comparison with these that I know not what to turn to when I shall have done with the 3d volume which travels into the country tomorrow with thy sincere friend and admirer

Phoebe Chorley—

At the time I read it I exceedingly liked the criticism in the Edinburgh on Lockharts [“]life of Burns.”15 I am glad to find it one of thy offspring—16


There dear Mother!—pretty fairish for a prim Quakeress dont you think?— Just fancy her speaking all that Transcendental flatteries from under a little starched cap and drab-coloured bonnet! I wonder how old she is, and if she is, or has been, or expects ever to be—married? dont you? Perhaps the spirit may move her to come hither next, and cultivate still more her “favourable sentiments”— Well, let her! I could pardon her any absurdity almost, in consideration of that beautiful peculiar[i]ty [s]he possesses of admiring his very style, which has hitherto exceeded the capacity of admiration in all men women and children that have made the attempt. An enthusiastic Quaker once gave Edward Irving a Gig.17 I wonder if this enthusiastic Quakeress will give Carlyle one—it would be excessively useful here— We have fine weather, and I am nearly rid of my cough again— Carlyle is fallen to no work yet—but is not absolutely miserable nevertheless—Ellen18 is pretty strong again and I hope will be able to ‘carry on’ at least “till Londsdale coom” Chico has got a new cage from a gentleman not a quaker— So you see, all goes tolerably here. Love to Jenny remember me to Robert

Your affectionate /

Jane Carlyle


Old Cumberland Woman, listening as the Newspr was read, full of battling, warring & tumult all over the world, exclaimed at last: “Aye, they'll karry on, till Lonsdale coom, and he'll soon settle them aw!”— ‘Chico’ is our Canary-bird,—whom his mistress had brot from Craigh in her lap. Passing thro Belgrave Square hitherward, he burst into song. By & by a female Partner was provided for him: on first introducing this latter to me, with what an inimitable air my Bright One recounting her purchas[e], parodied that Covt Garden Chaunt, “The all-wise, grt Cre—A—TOR ¶ saw that he”—! (Suprà, or Infrà?

This Document
Right arrow Similar letters
Right arrow Alert me to new volumes
Right arrow Add to My Carlyle Folder
Right arrow Download to citation manager
Right arrow Purchase a volume of the print edition
Right arrowSubject terms:
Right arrowRecipient terms: