July 1836-December 1837

The Collected Letters, Volume 9


TC TO ALEXANDER CARLYLE; 26 November 1837; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18371126-TC-AC-01; CL 9:351-355.


Chelsea, 26th Novr 1837—

My dear Brother,

Tonight I have a few minutes to myself; and feel that I ought certainly to write to some of you, tho' in no good trim for such an enterprise. I will do it before the time slip. A line as short as I like; for there are franks now.

We had word from Jack something like a fortnight ago, that the cholera was over at Rome, and they all safe out of many perils and distresses. There has been a dreadful panic and confusion over all that region: I forget the number of deaths, which was great; but the cowardly selfishness and cruelty of men given up to terror, as nearly all but the poorer kind of Priests there were, seems to have [been] even more dreadful than the pestilence. No doubt Jack and the rest are right glad that is done. They were about removing into Rome for the winter just at the time I wrote; and since that, there has come a Roman Newspaper with the mark on it which Jack had appointed to signify that their removal was effectuated. I sent on this Newspaper to Jean at Dumfries; who I hope received as a good token, and understood what it signified in some measure. The Letter itself I had previously despatched to Manchester, with strait injunctions that they should convey some extract of it over to the Scotch side; but whether this was done I have no means hitherto of knowing. At a still more early date, Mrs Welsh to whom Jane was writing, had some message entrusted to her for Jean: so that I hope, one way or another, you were pretty soon apprised of the good news. Jack writes this time with far greater composure, and seems quite in his old way again. He did not expect much from Roman practice this winter, but was minded to try. He thought it likely they might be returning to England about May next; that is to say, 'bating changes, which however seem to be very frequent with them.

Since that message was sent off to Manchester, we have a Letter thence from Jenny and my Mother; which if there be room in this cover, I will inclose for you; perhaps your own tidings from that quarter are rather scanty. There was nothing but favourable news; all quiet and well; Mother not to return till Spring, and Jenny coming with her, as your Letter too had indicated. Hanning, it seems, had been over with you; helping you to set the shop in order! He reported favourable augury of everything; may it all turn out so! I long extremely to hear how you get on; how you like it, how you manage in it, what your own prognostics of it are. Do not feel discouraged at first, nor over-annoyed with the new kind of difficulties; in every new vocation there is a quite new set of difficulties, which we are apt to think worse than the old: but one gets to fit the harness better by and by; and also new capabilities rise up in the enterprise itself; all enterprises must have time to spring before they can grow. Go on and prosper, my dear Brother! You have had a long tract of dirtyish road; but they say, it is a long lane that has no turn. As long as one does not lose heart and lose head, there is probably nothing lost.

In the Manchester Letter, it was farther mentioned that the Scotsbrig Barrel had been sent off “a fortnight before”; so that our expectations of it directly mounted high. In some three days more they were gratified, the Barrel actually came groaning along in the big Pickford Waggon, and was safely carried in! All safe; seemingly not the smallest thing damaged: the cost of carriage in all, 11/6. I recognised your handwriting on the address; with my joiner tools (a very poor stock now) I got off the girds, out the end: lo, Parcels not a few from the new shop! We opened them with smiles, very glad and serious: many thanks to little Jane from her Aunt, to Jenny, and all of you! Jane takes of her “peppers”1 from time to time, and has determined to make the eminent piece of flannel into a “bed-gown,” whatever that may be: I have tried my tobacco, and locked it by safe till what I otherwise have be done; with intent to “smoke” it then, and “think”2 of many things.— If I have no time tonight to write to Jamie (as I ought to do) pray tell him and Isabella of this. The meal is equal to any I have ever tasted; unsurpassable meal. The Butter on the very top where we yet are has a mealy taste; but we make no doubt it will be excellent were we down a little.

This I think is almost all the indispensable announcements I had to make. How many more are the things I would speak of, ask and tell, if I had you here! Poor Annandale, birthland, and home of my loved ones, is an inexhaustible topic. My Mother tells me, poor John Minto is dead.3 Last week but one I read with a great shock the death of James Johnston at Haddington!4 I had not heard a whisper that he was unwell; I have sent him several Newspapers since I came here first, but never got any return; I always meant to write, but now it is too late. Ah me, I feel very much often as if I myself were not alive but become a kind of half-ghost! No one of you can know what a strange half-dead humour that long struggle had left me in; what a stupid piece of rubbish I used to feel myself; nor is it nearly over yet, tho' on the way towards being over. But you were all very good to me, while I went hunching about there: God knows I had need of rest somewhere or other.

As to procedure and fortune here I have still cause to report favourable things. Jane's health, by virtue of great precaution, continues much better than I once anticipated: in fact she is as well as I have seen her for several years: this too is reckoned one of the trying months. My own poor carcase again is not in good order at all; a degree or so below average order.5 “The steam is not yet up,” that is it; I am not struggling, like one quenching fire this winter, but suffering for having done that so long: a dirty kind of general cold works about me (the weather frost-foggy &c); and for the present has settled mainly in one of my ears; producing not absolute deafness in it, but a queer disagreeable obstruction of hearing on that side. I study to be quiet; in fact, I am far quieter, I hope, than I ever before was. At bottom probably I am distinctly better than last year: nay for that matter, I could soon “get up the steam” again, and feel as well and happy as I then was: but I shudder at such “happiness,” knowing what will follow it.— Meanwhile, for one thing, I am busy over head and ears again, writing an Article! It is on Walter Scott, for the London Review; you will see it by and by. I study really to write it with as little care as possible; yet it bothers me in my present stupid state. It will be worth nothing or next to that,—except indeed to me so many pounds as there are pages in it.— For all the rest, Book, people &c, it goes well with me. I rejoice very considerably in the Book; and think very often, among other considerations, well, that cannot plague me any more. I am not a galleyslave now but free. People come about me, fully as much as I want; a little more, and one would be obliged to take his bolt and bar! But indeed they are quite a superior kind of people hitherto for most part; and gather round me not a lion but as a man worthy of some regard from them. Some say I must deliver Lectures this year on the French Revolution; that would be a subject! They really do talk of it. We shall see, when this Article is done; that is, in a fortnight hence or so; it is more than half-way already. Something I must lecture on, and struggle for a little money;—and then cower away some whither, and lie quiet and rest for a long time!

I must end, dear Alick, for here is the porridge; and writing after takes away sleep. Tell all of them my news, give all of them my love. I finish out tomorrow morning. Good night, dear Brother!—

27th (Monday) near two o'clock.— My task is about done for this day; I will add a word before going out. Give my affection to all. Were this article once done, I will write again to some of you; probably to Dumfries. There was a talk of Austin being got into Stenniebeck's farm.6 I pray you do not neglect this. I said something to my Mother about it which she will mention at the right time. I should like much to see it done: Jamie of Scotsbrig regarded it as very possible.— No more at present. Jane [sends h]er love to you all, great and little. Bear a hand my brave brother; write to me; and m[ay] God bless you all!— Your affectionate

T. Carlyle

I enclose a Portrait of Queen Victoria poor little thing, whom I have never seen yet; they say it is as like her as another. It will need pasting together at the edges (the edging will); it was too big to go into the letter,——or lo, Jane has done it with no need of pasting!