The Collected Letters, Volume 10


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE ; 14 July 1838; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18380714-TC-JAC-01; CL 10: 119-125


Chelsea, 14th July, 1838—

My dear Brother

There seems a kind of destiny to have hung over this sheet, which has lain waiting these three weeks to be written on, and seemed sometimes to my imagination as if it would never get the length of being written. If you have not got the Letter I sent to Rome, your poor imagination will be in a pretty state! And as for me, I may say a kind of paltry remorse has persecuted me daily and nightly by reason of it. The story, you observe, is this. In due course of answer to your last Post letter but one, I wrote to Rome; and sat expecting an answer to that. No Gloag1 nor no letter by Gloag up to this date has been heard of here. But about three weeks ago there came a Letter from Como explaining how the Newspapers had duly followed you northwards, how you pretty confidently expected a Letter to follow you too; but requiring withal that I should write to Como, just “as if I had not written to Rome.”2 With this demand, tho' it introduced an overlapment not so pleasant in our correspondence, I proposed, the next morning or nearly so, to comply. Would I had done it on any terms. Behold, however, on entering my Library here after breakfast I found a Glazier, with cloths, screw-planks, chalk-bags and dusting-brushes, already in possession of the place; with intent to clean the windows. No help therefore for that day. On the morrow, entering in like manner I found Ellen the maid there enveloped in dust and overturned furniture, engaged in cleaning the room. Next day was Sunday: instead of writing, that day, I let myself be persuaded to go jaunting down the River with one Frederick Elliot “Agent General for Emigration” to see a ship of Kentish Emigrants before sailing.3 Wo worth the day! For turning suddenly at full speed at the corner of Fish-Street Hill (being rather late for the Steamboat) I struck my foot on a post, staggered rapidly to the curbstone, and then fell flat forward, laming my chin slightly, and both wrists severely, so that I have not been able to manage a pen at all without pain ever since! A hope carried me on for some time that you would write in answer to the Rome letter (which surely you would get): but this fades into dubiousness; and the fault I have committed in not writing grows clearer and clearer, however that may be. So that my hand being now stronger for writing, indeed all but well for all other purposes, I will write this day; of my numerous despicable perplexities and irresolutions there shall one this day be put an end to. Observe farther, for avoiding of farther overlapment, That if you have not written already when this comes, then write without loss of a moment; but if you have written, then consider this as nothing, as not sent and non-extant; whereupon I, answering instantly, will bring matters round again. Jean at Dumfries has had a Como Letter from you, it seems; of what date she does not mention;4 but probably about the same as mine: her Letter is filled mainly with Craigenputtoch devastations and Macadam's havoc in the woods; and gives little news except that our Mother was “staying with Alick” for a day or two, that Alick had dined in Burnswark on Coronation-day (see Courier sent you), and that all was going on as usual thereabouts.5 Gloag, as I said, has given no sign of himself or of his message. Thomson6 received and acknowledged his £6"10 a day or two after we first heard of it: this should have been stated long ago, but was forgotten in perhaps two Letters, or more. And now, with at least a statement of these sorry burbles, let me take the poor half sheet that remains, and proceed to write in it.

The Lectures, as you might guess from the Roman Letter, ended with great eclat; people “weeping” &c &c.7 I was right glad to see myself thro' it. Three or four applications, one from Edinburgh,8 were made me to “repeat” my lectures; all these I gracefully declined for the time being, on the terms likely to be offered. The net outcome in money (deducting great expenses) was some £264: we have in all, or had at that date, about £300 to front the coming year with: a great blessing for a man that has been hunted by the squalid spectre of Beggary these long periods of time, and seldom for many months could see how by uttermost exertion and uttermost thrift, bread and water were to be made sure to him! Ah me, I had got nearly sick of that sort of thing; if a little money to live upon have come now, it has really come in season; the latter half of life suits far worse with want than the first. As for the “applauses” &c, they go by me like the voice of the wind: there is no glory I know of that is worth the agitation occasioned by it.— Out of America too Emerson talks really of “remittances” as probable; and all manner of psalmodying goes on there to the due extent;—the net result of all which, as I say, is at least that we shall be able to live for a while without anxiety as to money. One of my hearers, a youth from van Diemen's Land, came here yesterday with a manuscript volume, containing his Reports of those Lectures of mine.9 It is one of the strangest things: not a miniature, but an entire large-as-life only half eaten away as with moths! We think of having it copied; so that you may one day see what sort of thing that was.— Since the Lectures ended, on the 10th of June, I have been the idlest man or nearly so in London. Ignavia, inertia [shameful indolence]! Lady Clare overset us wholly too, with her Spaur vicissitudes;10 had you come home then, how different had it all been. I corrected the proofsheets of Teufelsdröckh, that, and the wretchedest trash of Books (not in sufficient quantity either), is all that I have done. Teufk is to be published today (I suppose); Saunders & Otley are my men; Fraser cut a little too close, last time we talked, so I am off with him. If I can get no money, I will at least have no Irish Blackguardism either.11 The edition is but of 500 (said to be); the “Miscellaneous Writings,” out in America probably before this, are to follow “if there be encouragement.” Since money seems not to lie in them, I see not with certainty what does lie for me. They are obsolete to me, they give me fash [vexation]. I proposed having 200 American copies so arranged as to be sold here for my behoof; there is a correspondence as to that on the Atlantic at present; we shall see: my American friends have arranged that I am to have a dollar for every copy sold there; it will be the far easiest way of editing to take their already edited copies here too, if it can be arranged. Teufelk was little other than a weariness to me; how much more would these blethers [prattlings] be,—unless one saw bread like to spring of them. There is no change in Teufk from the genuine Fraser Copy; a few pages called “Testimonies of Authors” stand by way of Preface, beginning with John Murray and his Taster (which stage of it you remember well, seven years back), and ending with Emerson's Preface to the Yankee edition; it gives covertly a history of the poor Manuscript & publication, and embraces the wisest and stupidest, the worst and best, that can be said of it. In next Examiner, I suppose, you will see it announced:12 if there appear any review worth notice for good or evil I will try to send it. And so Speed to Teufelsdröckh! Jane said “I am glad he's to be printed at last, poor beast!” So am I; after, a seven years fight for it.

And now, dear Brother, the question continually rises on me, What is to be done next? Something must be done; for I am going half-mad here in the horror of dusty heat and disturbed sleep for no end. Thank God, Jane is a great deal better since the weather grew fairly warm: she could be almost well, she says, if I were well. She is averse to travel in this posture of affairs; indeed we have no place to travel to, for Templand is full of Liverpool children, and at Scotsbrig you know what accommodation there is. The new possibility of your still coming home in Septr seems to knock Italy on the head; for what should we do the[re] without you, and what would you do there without your salary and Countess? We can decide on nothing.13 Meanwhile for me the time rather presses. All June we had rains, and I did well enough; but within the last ten days, ah me, there is heat, that accursed heat of London pavements, likest Tartarus of all earthly things; and [do]gs bark thro' the night; and in a word I for one must begone out of this. Last night neither of us slept (Jane on account of me) till five in the morning: the Devil is too good for torture of that kind,—unknown to me now these many years. And yet whither to go? Annandale is the refuge not of my courageous conviction but of my pusillanimity: I feel as if I should sink into deeper brutification there, and something of it cleaves to me long after I have left it: with you or with Jane beside me it were different; but neither of you can go. I often think of Switzerland and Como; would to Heaven I were there. But the getting thither! Then again I think of at least running over to Paris, where Thomas Erskine now is: —out of the frying pan into the fire? Another plan, perhaps the reasonablest of all, is that of going out into the country a little and taking lodgings; for it is not the heat, it [is] only the London heat that destroys me. In short, my dear Brother, you see I am at my old work, and know not what to resolve on. Count only that I will soon resolve on something; and do you write always hither for Jane will continue here, or some one for her. The Kirkcaldy Miss Fergus was here some two weeks we are strongly invited to Kirkcaldy: Emerson invites us both, with great specialty, to come and live with him at Concord for a year. Plenty of invitations; some four or five to the North of England too! Out upon it that one cannot sleep! After all, however, it is mainly bile that keeps me from sleeping here in spite of the heat; bile that I can deliver myself from by medical craft: also I have had too many dinners, with all I have refused! It is a scandalous business dining.— God keep us, dear Brother! I tell thee all my sorrows as if thou couldst help me there. I am tempted to burn this letter; but my thumb (root of the thumb, there it alone lies now) is too tired to write another. Courage, the heat will pass; nay there are symptoms of rain this very day.— God ever b[less you,] dear brother of a dyspeptic— T. Carlyle

As this Letter is to go for nothing I make no apology for the entire egoism of it. I know too, my dear Jack has his sorrows, perhaps sleepless ones too, in the Inn of Como! Be of courage, my boy: things are far better with us after all than they once were. Cheer up; let us hope to meet too, before long, and to arrange it so that we continue met. Without thee, I were very lonely, and poor enough in this world. Yet you must not grow impatient—with Spaurism, and this perpetual fluctuation. Be patient with it; you will be out of it by and by, and that with profit to us all.— Last night I sat down to smoke in my nightshirt in the backyard: it was one of the beautifullest nights; the half moon clear as silver, looked out as from Eternity, and the great Dawn was streaming up: I felt a remorse, a kind of shudder, at the fuss I was making about a sleepless night, about my sorrow at all of a Life so soon to be absolved into that great Mystery above and around us. O let us be patient, let us call to God with our silent heart, if we cannot with our tongue!—

Jean was to write to you soon from Dumfs, and talked of sending the Letter thro' me.14 I must send my Mother word, so soon as I have resolved on anything. Jane speaks now of our all moving over to Boulogne-sur-mer! Perhaps it might do: seabathing is always excellent for me. Understand this only: if I do quit London I will send a Newspaper Examiner with one stroke; then shortly after the County Newspaper of the place I am gone to will indicate whitherward; till in a day or two following that, there will come a Letter, articulately speaking. If Examiners come with their usual strokes, consider me still here. The Rain has actually come! There will be sleep tonight.

I send you the Examiner as you ordered; perhaps the Courier would be a nuisance in addition; perhaps you still want it too? Tell me which way. It goes to my mother for the present. M'Diarmid is here, looking at Coronations &c; I keep out of his way.15 Sir A. Halliday16 is to go and be mad-Doctor to a Crichton Madhouse they have been building at Dumfries.17 W. Fraser is made a barrister; asked me to dine on that occasion:—“No, thank you.”

A certain Varnhagen von Ense has transmitted to me a brave Sendung [shipment] of Books again, mainly about a Rahel who was his Wife, who is making some figure in Germany at present.18 He seems a good man. Another German here asked me to give him some details about my Life for the Conversations-Lexicon! Him I soon abfertigte [attended to].19 I begin to be weary of that.

Good bye dear Brother; forgive this letter; I will write more rationally next time. The rain rains right handsomely! If it hold the probability is I shall have a letter of yours here before quitting.— God bless you, dear Jack!—

Are you to see the Coronation at Milan?20 We were plagued with Victory's more than enough; but it is over now well. We saw it from the Montague's window; less amusing than King Crispin's,21 not more sublime. Mrs Jameson is here again; making great palaver towards us: I rather pity and regard the poor lady; could like her a little even, were she not a distinguished female. Sterling has fixed himself at Blackheath, but still continues fardarting towards all the 32 azimuths! With his excessive vitality, and fussification about nothing at all, I find him wear me out, and rather shy off from him often. He goes to Italy or to Madeira, or to &c &c next winter. The elder Stimabiles are off on a jaunt.22 Your patience is out?— Good bye again, dear Brother! Forgive, and love me.— T. C.

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