The Collected Letters, Volume 10


TC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE ; 22 May 1838; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18380522-TC-MAC-01; CL 10: 82-85


Chelsea, 22nd May, 1838—

My dear Mother,

Your and Jenny's Letter from Annan1 arrived duly with its welcome news that you were safe on your own side of the Border again; where I hope you continue to find yourself well in spite of the North-winds. The greenness of the fields and the smokeless clean air would have a new relish after the long tack of reek [smoke] and stour [dust] in Manchester. But I suppose you were as snug there too as you could have been anywhere else.

I have written several times to Annandale of late, once to Jean at Dumfries, once to Alick; and I calculated that you would be in no great anxiety about my news. I meant to write however, were it never so hurriedly; and here now is a Letter from Jack, which quickens my motion.2 I got a frank this morning at a “breakfast” where I was, among wits, poets and “honourable members” of various kinds:3 so you must accept a few lines dashed off in the most untowardly circumstances (for my nerves are all dadded abreed [shaken to pieces], and my time too is limited): you will hear at least, once more, that nothing has gone wrong with us here. Jack, I think, did not mean that I should send you his Letter; but it seems to me but that I should do so, as usual.

He is quite well, the Doctor, and in good heart and hope; but I grieve to say his fickle Dame has changed her plans again, and his coming home is delayed, nay becomes uncertain for this summer altogether! It is a provoking thing to depend on such people; but what can one do when one's bread lies among their feet? Jack, on the whole, I think has decided wisely; and I have no doubt you will think so too, and reconcile yourself to this disappointment, as you always meekly do. I had calculated on seeing the poor Doctor here before many days, and to me too it is a sad disappointment; but after all the chief thing we want is that our poor Doil should be where it is good for him to be; so we must wait patiently. By Heaven's blessing he will one day be out of the hands of Dames of quality, and able to live independently of them, where he likes and as he likes. In the mean time, it would, I do believe, be highly unwise for him to think of settling in London at present: Rome is evidently the place for him, where his work lies and his reward lies. Let us as you say always be thankful that it is no worse!— If Jack should not get to us this summer, you will see he partly calculates on Jane and me going out to him for the winter. This is not so wild a project as perhaps it looks to you. A winter in Italy might be of real use in several important respects. For one thing the state of Jane's health in a climate like this is by no means comfortable to reflect on: she has no definite disease hitherto, but her weakness, aggravated always by cold weather, is great for these two years past: the Doctors all say that a winter in warm Italy might be of decided benefit. As for me too I have one thing that I long for, and that is to be left resting. I could rest, I fancy, in any solitary place; I could have rested at Scotsbrig for that matter, but it would not do: Italy, besides being a beautiful resting-country, would offer me various things which I might learn, and be everyway benefitted by. In short, if it turn out that Jack actually do not get home, we are seriously thinking to turn over the project; to get our house “let furnished,” or in some way disposed of; and see whether we cannot manage it.— Now, dear Mother, you have the whole business before you, down to the very foundation of it. Of course there is nothing decided yet, and you will hear of it all again and again, as it clears itself up; and we must all endeavour to do for the best. I will only add that if we determine to go, or indeed whether or not, it shall be stiff times with me but I will get up to Scotsbrig for a week or two, and see what is to be seen! And so be of good cheer, my good kind Mother; and let us fear nothing. Ah me, if I were a little quieted in the nerves, and my bit partner were in better marching order, better times surely are come for us, and one might live more quietly than heretofore! Alick too is going to get lived, poor fellow; God be thanked for it. I say, better days are coming for us all; tho' we must all get our schooling out, and the due quantity of stripes given, till our lesson be learned.— But now to present business.

The Seventh Lecture4 was got over, quite tolerably, yesterday. On the whole it goes on beyond expectation, and is what they call “very successful.” The audience has increased daily, and has I think nearly doubled itself since the first day; and they sit quiet and attentive as mortals could do. Very beautiful women I have, and honourable men. I believe, in spite of all mismanagements (which have been manifold, but shall be avoided on another occasion), the thing will turn out quite handsomely well.5 You see the criticisms in the Examiner, but need not heed them much, except to consider that they are written by one evidently not friendly, and who therefore says not the best that might be said. It is Hunt that writes them; he, finding me this year a man whom he cannot pat on the back, and say “Well done” to, is grieved in mind to see it so, a little grieved; and then my Scotch Presbyterian doctrine grieves him dreadfully, and so he natters [grumbles] and chatters, poor man. His criticisms such as they are cannot but do and have done much good, by making the thing generally known in an authentic manner (not by a puffer); and that is always a principal difficulty here.6 I understand there are other things regularly in other Newspapers, but I see none of them; indeed, what is the use of my seeing them? Somebody said the Times had something fresh, or was to have, yesterday on the subject; but I never learned whether or not.7 If they bring a few more guineas into the coffer, it will be well; but as to their praise (or dispraise if they were so unkind), “what's ta use on't”?— One thing our Managers8 have determined upon, and acted on last day (yesterday), that of dividing the course into two, and letting people get into it, for one guinea, at the middle point, namely the sixth lecture.9 A considerable increase was accordingly visible yesterday. Daily, numbers of persons are applying to get in for a single lecture (many people of business cannot manage more); but this is a thing [letter breaks off here; other page or pages missing]