The Collected Letters, Volume 1


TC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE; 16 November 1821; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18211116-TC-MAC-01; CL 1:392-395.


9. Jamaica-street, Friday-night / [16 November 1821].

My dear Mother,

Little1 appointed six o'clock as the hour of taking in my letters, which is just at hand: so that I have but a very few minutes to be with you; and the first of these, I must devote to beg that you will accept the brown pair of spectacles which I have waled [chosen] for you, and wear them for my sake. They are not nearly so good as my father's, tho' of the best Ladies'-kind: but I will come again some other time. If they help you to read your book at nights, and thereby yield you any pleasure, think that it is all returned to me fourfold. They can at once be changed if they do not fit.

I felt rather low in the humour several days after I went away. The fineness of the weather did not prevent the journey from trashing [wearying] me a good deal: I felt nervously and spiritless; when I went to sleep, the picture of Mainhill and all my beloved friends there would flash across my brain so vividly and so “sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought”2—that I often started from my incipient slumber, and recollected with some painful feelings that I had changed my home and kindred for the habitation of a stranger. But this soon went away: and by dint of the ordinary remedies, I am now as well as when I left you. Not that I am altogether settled yet; tho' altogether in my usual health. I have done no work—except reading a little: and till work fairly begins you know well, there is no settlement. The reasons of my wavering are various. On Saturday after Johnstone departed, I set about the weary duty of seeking lodgings all round the environs of this city—that if possible I might secure a place provided with the requisite comforts, and situated beyond the region of smoke and tumult. After wandering little less than the Shoemaker of Jerusalem3 did, I at length pitched upon this situation, which is a neat little room and bed-room, at the very north-west corner of the New Town, above a mile from the centre of the Old. It is kept by a trim, little, burring Northumbrian, and commands a view of the Firth and the Fifeshire mountains. Being a back-room, also, I thought it would needs be quiet as possible. But it is scarcely so; there are about fifty masons chopping away at a new Circus4 on my right hand and on my left, by day; and when their rattling has ceased, various other noises take up their nightly tale. Now the question is, Whether shall I stand all this, and get inured to it as I certainly might, or try my luck elsewhere? Provost Swan, who wishes me greatly to be in the neighbourhood of his boy, called here the other night, and advised that I should move to Union-street or thereabouts (the North-east angle of the city), where Mrs David Swan5—a friend of his, with whom the boy is settled,—would find me out lodgings by her own experience among her neighbours. This good lady undertook the task; I am to see her this evening, when the matter will be decided; and I shall shift—if I shift at all—to-morrow. Till to-morrow, then, I postpone the commencement of business. But then—!

I have troubled you, My dear Mother, with all this detail, both because I know you wish to hear of all these matters in my history; and because this circumstance will render it advisable not to send the little box along with Garthwaite till you hear farther from me. I will write Sandy or some of them by the post, or else by the carrier—some day next week; and then it will be time enough. In the mean while, you will be thankful with me that I am well, and that (as Father's letter shews) I have the rational prospect of being happy and busy all winter. How many thousands would envy my lot! I ought to be, and hope I am, contented.

The good Mrs Swan was preaching up that doctrine to me largely yesterday, when I saw her for the second time. She seems to be a most amiable little woman; and I purpose visiting her whenever I have an opportunity. We got acquainted in about ten minutes—whenever she heard me speak about my mother. She told me all her moving history forthwith; how she lost the parent who had only nursed her; how a step-moth[er] used her ill, and kept her six long years by various machinations from marrying a worthy honest young man who loved her well; how David and she were at length united, and lived five years together happy as unbroken affection could make them; and lastly how she lost him suddenly a few months ago, and was left behind with an embarrassed fortune, and one little boy—for whom alone she desires to live. ‘But what’ said the cheery little body ‘are the light afflictions of this life which are but for a moment, if they work together a far more eternal and exceeding weight of glory?’ I admired her fortitude and humble patience. She said I must return to the minister-office; lay aside vanities, be submissive &c; all of which things I told her you had often inculcated upon me; Whereto she made answer that she wished to join with you in so good a work. I do like to see such a person: it is better than all the cold pitiful sages in the universe.

But My dear Mother, I must away. I have said nothing in this letter, nothing at all: I will write again very soon, and be more explicit. I cannot conclude without conjuring you to take care of yourself, during the hard task that will be allotted you during winter. O! take care. What is all the world to us without you? Go down the house every night, and make yourself a comfortable dreg. You shall never, never want any thing you need—if it please Him, who cares for us all. Good night, My dear Mother!— I am ever your's

Thomas Carlyle.

My kindest affection to all about home: to Mag and James and Mary and Jane and Jenny. All of them that can write a stroke must write to me. Sandy will write by Garthwaite—directed to Mrs Robertson's—who knows where I am. Farewell. I will send you more news soon.