The Collected Letters, Volume 10


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE ; 1 February 1838; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18380201-TC-JAC-01; CL 10: 16-22


Chelsea, 1st Feby, 1838—

My dear Brother,

Some week or ten days ago, I sent you off a Letter from our Sister Jean, with the margins filled by myself: the promise was given there that I would write on a sheet of my own so soon as the Article Walter Scott was fairly got under way towards you according to your request. The Article, in a very rude condition, came into my hands on Saturday last; Cavaignac has now got it lying on his mantel-piece, wrapt up as you prescribed, like a newspaper of four sheets, which he will assure me shall be lodged safely, by one of his comrades, in the Bureau des Diligences at Paris, thereafter to take its fate. There are two covers on it, like what your Newspaper have; one of them can be abstracted at Paris, its function being finished there: you will know my hand; and can refuse it, if charged above sixpence, for it is not worth more. Cavaignac cannot assure me of a conveyance within a fortnight, he may have one tomorrow or any day. So stands it. And now according to engagement I write. The only other good news about Rome is a Newspaper with three strokes that came last Monday (they almost always come on Monday); indicating that the Revolution Book-packet has actually got to hand; that probably you have it all read by this time, and are grumbling at it and rejoicing over it, and contemplating the huge Orson-structure of it in such humour as you can.1 This Newspaper was, as you may fancy, very welcome to us. And now if you had Scott, all will be right, and you will find yourself on a level with your age on that side. Much good may it do you! I add only that the outside of the Scott packet does not shew any sign of Scott, but only I think of one Arnott and “Thermometer Stoves,” that being the final sheet, put on the surface to suffer the wearing.

Nothing has occurred since I wrote, at least nothing bad. All was well when Jean's Letter went; there have been no tidings since then. Our horrid frost is off during these four days; succeeded by blackness of fogs, by bitterness of east winds.2 Jane nevertheless holds out in good order, chiefly by dint of keeping herself quiet and in the house. I too am about as well as usual; my main complaint is a huge head of hair, which I cannot get cropt till the weather grow warmer. Were it not for the tyranny of fashion, I would bend it all back, tie it in a knot behind, and never crop it more, whistling at all barbers for ever thenceforth. We live very quiet, fewer visiters [sic] than usual in the fierce weather; more especially as the Frenchmen have now gone all elsewhither,—Marrast wedded, to one unknown to us;3 Cavaignac busy writing a book4 and preparing for an Irish tour; Garnier5 invisible; Pepoli lecturing at Brighton. Henry Taylor comes down once in the six weeks; mainly to talk about my lectures. Mrs Sterling is confined to her house by weak health; the Stimabile6 is not confined, but dare not come too often; his absurd Falstafferies with “Merry Wives of Windsor” are liable to Thames-duckings at Datchett Mead!7 A mad whirlwind of potbellied absurdities; yet with such a vitality in him as always does one a kind of good to see. Mrs John Sterling is a heap of euphuistic affectations; very wearisome, with a shoal of loud children. The Maurices are also wearisome, and happily rare; all invitations “to meet the Maurices” I, when it is any way possible, make a point of declining. Yet this very night I am “to dine with the Maurices” in Stimabiledom, and again on Saturday night “to meet the Maurices and Lady Lewis”8 there,—if mercy or good management prevent not. One of the most entirely uninteresting men of genius that I can meet with in society is poor Maurice to me. All twisted, screwed, wiredrawn; with such a restless sensitiveness; the uttermost inability to let Nature have fair play with him! I do not remember that a word ever came from him betokening clear recognition or healthy free sympathy with any thing. One must really let him alone; till the prayers one does always offer for him (purehearted, earnest, humane creature as he is) begin to take effect. Did you ever see Thomas Erskine (Evidence Erskine, Laird, Advocate &c), the Scotch Saint?9 I have seen him several times lately, and like him as one would do a draught of sweet rustic mead served in cut glasses and silver tray. One of the gentlest, kindliest, best-bred of men. He talks greatly about “symbols” and other Teufelsdröckhiana; seems not disinclined to let the Christian Religion pass for a kind of Mythus, provided men can retain the spirit of it well. Likewise I have seen Scott, Edward Irving's Scott;10 a man much sobered now, tho' not at the end of his fermentations yet; who, for one thing, “has read the French Revolution four times over, every word of it”! What think you of that? He lives at Woolwich, and lectures twice weekly to thirteen persons, the rich portion of whom maintain him for doing it. He has a good laugh in him; and brings one in mind of several good things. On the whole I take up my old love for the Saints.11 No class of persons can be found in this country with as much humanity in them; nay with as much tolerance as the better sort of them have. The tolerance of others is but doubt and indifference; touch the thing they do believe in and value, their own self-conceit, they are rattlesnakes then! Most of these Saint people have been brought into our sphere by a couple called “the Wedgewoods [sic]”;12 Mrs W. a daughter of Sir J. Macintosh's, Mr W. a Police-Magistrate,—who has lately renounced his situation, accepted Poverty, and retired to the country, owing to some scruples about administering of oaths.13 We regret them considerably; as do several others. One Erasmus Darwin, a grandson of the great Darwin, is a friend of theirs; comes often here,—driving his cab; an Italian, German travelling University sort of man, who “kept a cab” if you know what that means: a very polite, good, quiet man.14— At this point enter visibly Miss Martineau with ear-trumpet muff and cloak, who has sat talking for an hour and half in her deft Unitarian-Poetic way; and left us, my hand all thrown out!15 Let me close this head of method therefore. We still see the Wilson;16 Church-of-England Gigmanism of the aversest sort, held to us only by a strange love of me, and the need one has of friends. Mill, Radicality and Company stay much in the background at present; being indeed all in a state of confusion; splitting up into sections, into waste wayfaring parties, each more purblind than another. They are very keen not to lose me from their Review; yet as they cannot have me either, to any purpose, we will sit lightly by that[.] Hunt is in the sere and yellow leaf;17 has not been seen here above once since my return.

It seems to be settled that I am to lecture in May or April; subject as yet entirely indeterminate. My daily study of Dante for the present shuts it much out of my head.18 I feel in general that there are people ready to listen; that, under certain conditions, I might have abundances to say; that the circumstances must if possible be ascertained; which nothing but time and trying of them will do. I read Dante as I say; hope to give a sharp Lecture on him for one. Poor Fraser still lies invisibl[e,] struggling I fear for life; nothing about printing or reprinting to be handled of there. I unders[tand] the Review Articles to be on the way towards publication in New England.19 Yesterday I had a Letter,20 of [old] date, from Emerson, who had made a bargain about republishing the F. Revolution there for my behoof: it “was to be out at Christmas”; so I suppose they are fairly reading it now. Very strange if my first payment for this work should reach me out of Yankee-land, as possibly enough it may do!— Under these circumstances I lead a strange dreamy daunering [aimless] Life at present; in general not a little relieved and quieted; yet with all the old features of Burton's Melancholic Man,21 today full of peaceable joy (ah no, not peaceable entirely, there is a black looks thro' it still!), then tomorrow for no assignable cause sunk into sadness and despondency. But verily the Book has done me great good. It is like a load of fire burning up my heart, which by Heaven's favour I have got thrown out of me. I feel as if in some quiet place, with bread to eat, with books to idle over, and a horse to keep me tolerably peptic, I could live in singular tranquillity for a good many years now. Nay even in my blackest despondencies, when utter Obstruction and Extinction seems to threaten me, I say, Well, it shall take my life, but my quiescence it shall spare!— Consider therefore, O Jack, what thou withal art meaning to do! If ever at all for practicing in London, next year I think will be the time for it. Years, a few years at your time of life, do singularly unfit one for new situations. One sees to the end of it; answers languidly to many a problem, Cui bono [of what use]? I cannot advise you; but I think it is a pity we did not live more within call of one another. Perhaps we shall be able to decide something in May; perhaps not: we shall see what time and we will decide about it. I cannot pretend to say that your Italian position contents me; but it is more tolerable than a thousand others. My own life has been always and still is a fierce fight with manifold falls and risings again, such as it were not wise in any one to join himself to. London I could live in, had I something to live with; tho' I do not see that I could ever choose it as a place to live in. My feeling of domestication in it does not seem in the least to increase; there is little or nothing I could not leave in it tomorrow morning with dry eyes; much that I should rejoice to leave: its soot, for instance, its dust and glar [mud], its tumult, quackery, dupery and loud inanity; ah me, one would sing Te deum on leaving all that. Yet I can stay here. We shall see.

The distinguished female22 has entirely consumed my time; and I had thoughts of going into the City; to get Scott reduced into cash, among other purposes: £45 is all they have given me draught for; really it is enough. At any rate I must finish here. You will write of course the very first hour you have. I hope a Newspaper in the interim. Jane sits by me, reading Fraser's Magazine; sends love and assurance that she has “been borne thro' the winter with an honourable through-bearing.”23 Enjoy your beautiful Italian Spring. Bring as many beautiful Pictures home with you in your head as you can. In your head; that is the only place where you can possess them; and truly I find they are a great possession there; much more delightful than while one is acquiring them. Read Books; but above all things speak and walk.24 Is Boisserée gone?25 I had a Book &c sent me from one Varnhagen von Ense of Berlin; whom I answered.26 Bunsen27 doubtless knows him. A stout literary soldier; full of Goethe: partially obsolete to me. Well write instantly, and let us hope for good news. Adieu dear Brother; good and peace be always with you!— Ever your affectionate— T. Carlyle.

I saw Willis28 one night not long ago. He is getting a little practise, he says, which perceptibly increases. He supports himself mainly by compilation and medical Boarders. I did not admire the physiognomy of things there. A heavy yearly expence hangs over such a household; more of terror than of admiration. We have a good, quiet, commonplace man starting in the career of ambition and gigmanity; not a promising career, were success even made certain. Our wand-nachbar [next-door neighbour] here, I find, is Doctor to the Work house; and seems to have a fearfully laborious time of it.29 He is a kind of Saint, Scott says; a man partially known to Scott. Other Doctors wersh [insipid] as dishwater drive cabs nevertheless, and roll prosperously with their “tiger” (little grooms so-called) behind them. It is a bequacked world.— Good news comes frequently from John Sterling: he is to be hope [sic], I suppose, about the time you appoint.30 He is or was writing considerably in Blackwood; Wilson loudly appraising of him.31 Allan Cunningm asks for you always; is well and anecdotic; seldom seen.

I will wait for no other margins, but bid you good-b'ye here; clearly too late for the City; late enough even for a walk before Sterlingdom and “meeting the Maurices.” It is a cutting easterly temperature; one has to walk fast

Pepoli (I add still on this margin) is candidate for the Proff. of Italn Litere in the London University; with good outlook, but with the most distracted unpractical Italianism of character. We do for him what we can.32— Farewell dear Brother, once more.

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