July 1836-December 1837

The Collected Letters, Volume 9


TC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE; 9 November 1837; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18371109-TC-MAC-01; CL 9:345-349.


Chelsea, 9th November, 1837—

My dear Mother,

I have waited two days for a frank, but not succeeding hitherto I will wait no longer; the news will be worth the postage to you: news from Jack, that he is well, and all well, and the cholera over at Rome! His Letter1 came, as I say, two days ago, to that effect; written with much more appearance of composure and deliberation than the last two. He had been in Rome more than once with Lady Clare, seeking for lodgings there for the winter; with intention to remove thither about the end of last month: the Town, he said, was all composed again, the narrow streets cleaned out and white-washed, the weather bright and beautiful; the only trace of the pestilence was the greater quiet of the people, and the numerous black dresses you met. None of Jack's particular acquaintances had suffered; the madness and confusion was all gone. The poorer sets of Priests had uniformly behaved with courage, with heroism, in the business; two Cardinals also, one of whom habitually lives in his cell like the poorest of the poor:2 the old Pope3 and the other Cardinals, these with the upper classes generally had shewn the greatest cowardice. Jack had not yet fixed upon Lodgings to his mind; but expected to make it out in a day or two; and shortly after that they were to remove into Rome, and be settled for the winter. Whenever they got settled he was to send me an Italian Newspaper with three strokes: this, if it be not lost by the way, I will take care to forward to you, and you will know what it means on seeing it.


My dear Mother,—Since I began writing, John Mill has come in, has taken me into the country for a long walk; and, before parting, undertaken to get me a frank “in a day or two.” I will therefore break off abruptly from Jack and Rome, and instead of all description send you the Letter itself; and proceed now forthwith to write about myself.

We are decidedly better than when I wrote formerly. Jane's cough is quite gone away for the present, indeed for these four or five weeks past; she has only her old now-and-then allowance of headaches to complain of; a kind of ailment which painful as it is we are more used to, and do not dislike so much. She is very feeble and delicate; but, being determined this winter to take every precaution, not to go out at all at nights, and so forth, she can hope to get thro' perhaps a little more handsomely than usual rather than less so. This is a great care taken off me in some measure. She rises at present generally first, and makes the coffee herself; she sews, reads, writes, does not stir out in dangerous weather; and manages very peaceably, and not at all in bad spirits. Let us be thankful for it! At present we reckon ourselves in one of the very worst seasons of the year: cold fogs; “London fogs,” of which we had one instance yesterday: dirty frosty mists that pierce you to the bone, that are loaded too with reek and every black confusion: nevertheless she takes no harm as yet; we will go on hoping and endeavouring. I ought to add for your satisfaction that the red tartan which last year officiated as a gown has this year been converted into its original object, a dressing-gown and does now serve in that capacity, really one of the warmest snuggest looking things of the sort I have ever seen. I wish only farther that I could hear of your having one precisely like it: I am sure it would be of great benefit and comfort to you. Take care of cold, you and Jenny! It is the root of all manner of maladies; especially at this season when one is not yet prepared for it.

As to me I have little to complain of in the way of health; the only thing at present is a kind of deafness or rather outward obstruction in the left ear; which I attribute to cold, caught as I came from Mr Dunn's one evening; a business not much above the glass in the thumb I fancy, but which annoys me by its singularity. I will let it alone; to stay its time, and then go. By the way, in reference to that same thumb, I should have told you last time that it is got well now. The inflammation that was on it when I left you soon hardened into a little speck of scab; which little speck in process of time peeled itself off, and sticking to it there was a little bit of glass about the bulk of a pin-head: this once out the whole difficulty was over. Might all the mischief that is in us but come out as cleverly!— I have not yet written anything; I have been reading &c; I am occupied scheming what course I am to strike into: it was not till today when I saw Mill (who has been in the country almost ever since I came) that I had the means of deciding whether I would write any more for his Review or not. But now in a few days I shall either be actually writing, or have determined that I am not to write there; but set to work preparing for courses of Lectures, &c. The state I was in, all thro' my visit to you, and am still in partly, was one that required rest more than anything; I am in some measure satisfied with myself that I can be quiet doing so little; doing nothing at all in the scribbling way. I had a pretty good fill of that.— It seems to be settled at all rates that I am to try lecturing again. I hope to be better prepared for it than last year, and get thro' it with less pain and more profit. We shall see, and try. Our friends are getting into Town again; and are all kind (the half-friends kinder than ever, if one minded them); we have quite enough of society, and might quite readily have too much.

A cargo of the choicest Glasgow Pipes arrived here several weeks ago, by the kind instrumentality of James Aitken: most welcome to me; and fit to be smoked with for the King's hundred!4 I wrote to thank James; and had an immediate answer: they spoke of you and Manchester, how they had had a Newspaper one week without strokes, and were alarmed at it, but hoped it was only a mistake; I had heard better news thro' Alick just about the same time. You should not forget your strokes, when there is authority for them! Also let no man, as some of you did, venture to send an unstamped Newspaper; it is “clean again law,” and even justice: the “Ladies Paper[”] did indeed come without accident; but it might quite easily have foundered, and led to consequences.5 As to any shape of a Letter, I suppose there is none such to be thought of for me, but my Mother's right hand has lost its cunning? Is it not so? Not it: a letter will come by and by, and that will be seen.—— By the bye I was to tell James Aitken and Jean straightway when there came satisfactory news from Jack: I wish Jenny or you would write to them forthwith, and say I bade you; which will be killing two birds with one stone. They had some plan about my sending your frank (this letter, for instance) up tothem, that they might read it and then forward it by the same post; but I doubt greatly whether that would answer, and do not like to risk it.

Alick's Letter from Manchester6 was most welcome to me. He says, you are to stay over the short days; and that then Jenny will attend you back to Scotsbrig and see her friends there. I think it is a plan that will do very well indeed; my only advice to both of you in the meanwhile is to nestle close into the fireside, and study to be in good case for the spring and the voyage. You should get Books, get seams of woollen and linen; and on the whole be thankful that Manchester has coals in it, and is what it is.— Alick's new enterprize must be commenced a fortnight ago; I would give something to know how it is prospering. I wrote to him directly to Ecclefechan; but have no answer, or news since that. He had repaired and cleared up all the premises, he said; he must do the very best he can; and we will all wish him right good speed. His Manchester goods seemed to have been bought on advantageous terms; there is evidently a chance for him as for others.

Grahame of Burnswark writes to me the other day that he has Letters from New York; that Cumberland John our Half-brother has got thither safe, and presented himself to John Grahame there, intending to go forward to Mr Greig's place. John Grahame had advised him to change his gold sovereigns (200 of them) into an American bank-bill, which would have been useful; but unfortunately our John seems to have taken up some suspicion against the proposal, and did not come back again at all; a thing the more to be regretted as John Grahame had the very next day found a situation for him as Farmer which would have suited completely. But there was no remedy: ten days had passed when he wrote, and the Emigrant had never shewn face again, but seemed to be gone his own road, with his sovereigns still all in gold. He will have more tumbling on that account; but there is little doubt he will do well ultimately.

Mrs Welsh wrote to us lately; there was also a Box that arrived from her the other night, by sea from Edinr, with seamstress articles for Jane. She is very lonely we fancy, now that her friends have all left her; still more now that Mrs Crichton of Dabton whom she used to be much about has been summoned out of the world. I know not whether you noticed her death in the Newspaper: she was a woman of much worth, but of an impatient indignant temper, of an untoward destiny, and had to suffer much in the world. There is nobody now about Templand with whom Mrs Welsh is intimate.

Our Barrel of Oatmeal has never come from Scotsbrig: it is the last of the foreign Packages we expect; Jane especially is impatient to see it, that we may have salt butter, that we may have porridge again, which last article failed us about a week ago. There seemed to be a blessing in poor Mary's poke; but it did run down at last.

I am getting fast on with my last page, and must draw to a conclusion now. I desire you to gather yourself together, dear Mother, and write to me so soon as may be. At all events send me a Newspaper when you get this; and let me know by some token from time to time that you are well: if indeed it so be that you are well; which in the absence of all light pro or con, I study always to believe. Take care of yourself, I say always! One of my chee[rful]lest thoughts about you is that you are among people now; that you are [in] the way of cheerful speech and communication: it is not good to be alone. Old Gadsby7 too, and his preachings, I regard as a true benefit. I have made several people stare here with my account of him.— About the beginning of the month I will send you a Magazine or two again; it seems you got the last: they are worth little, but better than nothing. I send generally a Newspaper every Monday. The Examiner is grown quite worthless comparatively; and I am trying about to see if I can find another; but I doubt whether aught will come of it, they seem all to be scandalously bad;—at worst we will return to the Examiner again. You can send it on, to Alick or to Dumfries, in the course of the week; that as many as possible may get the good of it. I ought not to turn the leaf; yet here I am on the wrong side of it [with reference to the last page of the letter, on which the address is also written]. Jane is sewing beside me; with a kind of headache tonight; she sends you her love, has nothing more or she would send it. You have not opportunities to Annan or Annandale: I will beg to be affectionately remembered to little Missus,8 whose health I will hope the best of; tell her to be diligent, to be cheerful, truthful, and good to her Goodman who is good to her. All good be with you dear Mother, and with all whom you love! I am ever—Your affectionate— T. Carlyle

Friday Morning.—I add a word to say that we are still well (all but Jane's headache) before sealing. Do not forget the message to James Aitken. Do not forget to keep yourself warm and snug! Jane bids me say that our maid-servant is now well and doing well; “you will be fretting yourself about that.” We heard nothing of Queen Victoria and her dinner yesterday except the jowling of the bells.9

I have written to Jack; I can yet find no conveyance for the Book to him. He will have the sheets I suppose by this time; and may read it in that state. Be well, and let me hear that you are well, dear Mother!