The Collected Letters, Volume 10


TC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE ; 27 November 1838; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18381127-TC-MAC-01; CL 10: 219-228


Chelsea, Tuesday 28th [27] Novr 1838—

My dear Mother,

Jack has left us this morning; all very dowie [sad], as you may suppose: but I undertook to write; and indeed may as well be doing that as not, to keep thoughts out of my head. He went away well in health, and under the best auspices every way; we have the hope too of seeing him back before very long: so that no parting could well be less painful: but there is pain in them all. I will now give you a narration how the place came into his hand, what kind of place it seems likely to be, and in short “all about it,” as accurately as I can. He was to have got a frank from the Duke yesterday, and have written himself; but there was such a bustle no frank could be spoken of; and so now, with or without frank, it falls to my share.

Nothing that ever befel any of us had such a look of providential guidance, I think, as this post now entered upon. Had Jack gone off with me from Scotsbrig that Saturday morning, he had found Lady Clare very unwell and altogether eager to engage with him again. It depended on some perfect trifle whether she had not sent her Courier up to Scotsbrig to fetch him to her direct. But at the time her Courier was for setting out, the poor lady had fallen so ill that she could give no orders at all; and still more, at the time Jack actually arrived, she was literally in a state of mental incapacity, and would not so much as see him! There is little doubt but had he been with her from the first she would have escaped this sickness; her poor thrift seems to me to have been sharply but not altogether undeservedly punished in that way. On the second or third day after his arrival, Jack, heartily sorry for the poor lady and still unable to see her, had made up his mind to propose, to the Miss Elliott who was watching over her or to any friend she might have in a disposition and condition to act for her, that he and Miss Elliott and Lady Clare should directly quit London and its fogs and excitations, and retire to the Isle of Wight for the Winter: he went away from this house with the purpose of making that proposal. The look of things on the spot induced him to think that it would be unseemly on his part to start such a matter.1 There remained for him now therefore nothing but to let Claredom take its course; and for his part either to make off for Rome on his own footing, or take up his quarters in this back-room here till he saw what London would yield him. But now in that posture of affairs before coming down here, he saw at a large public Hospital where the Doctors are in the habit of assembling, and where he among others used to call, a certain Dr Thomson2 now settled here whom he had known at Rome; this Dr Thomson told him that yesterday he had been applied to with the offer of going with the Duke of Buccleuch3 to Italy, but had declined; and had named some other as likely, or some two others, one or both of whom were now actually in treaty about it: him he had considered to be fixed, or he would have named him first of all. Jack returned to us to dinner very sorry; thinking he had just been a post too late. We declared that it must not be so taken up; that he must instantly stir his fires, and try still. A letter to the Duke was accordingly penned there and then, offering his services to the Duke; referring withal to his seven years' experience in Italy, to various physicians of eminence here and elsewhere, especially to a Sir James Clarke, Physician to the Queen, whom I had seen last winter, and he had seen lately in consultation (I think) about a sick friend of ours.4 This letter was despatched by an old Chelsea pensioner,5 glad to run for a shilling; and not long after tea, word was brought back that the Duke was not in town, but that the letter would be forwarded by the next post. Well, next morning Jack was off to inquire, to exert himself in every way: he soon learned that the man whom the Duke trusted to in the business was a Dr Hume, an old sagacious Scotchman the Duke of Wellington's physician,6 well known and esteemed here. To this Dr Hume Sir James Clarke (another Scotchman he,7 and a very good man) gave him a letter of introduction: Jack went off instantly, found Hume, and shewed face, and told his story: this, I believe, was the decisive thing; for Hume liked the look and way of him (it was an immense fact too that he had been in Italy so long before), and gave him the preference to all the rest. He got good accounts of him too, on asking around; other Doctors spoke, old Sterling spoke; in short it was a decided thing. The only one that did not behave with zealous kindness was one Dr Peebles, a Roman acquaintance of his now in Edinburgh; he, canny man, “did not know enough about Dr Carlyle to recommend him,”—they had met some three times; but I told Jack, before that, on reading a work of this Dr Peebles's, that he was a shable [nonentity]:8 let him rest there, and fight his own battle as cannily as he can.— Enough of people “did know Dr Carlyle”; and so the thing was all fixed and settled, except the details of it, the day before we wrote to you last. The salary is £500 a year, with accommodation &c; sure for one year, and all as one would have it: if, as is possible, they come home in summer again, the engagement and salary will still hold till this time twelvemonth, not a shorter time, however much longer. Lady Clare, who did at length “open her letters,” open Jack's letter, and about a week ago consent to see him,—shed many tears at their meeting, and seemed still very unwell and unhappy; heartily glad of his good fortune, yet at bottom very sorry for herself: she was to go off this very morning with Miss Elliott for the Isle of Wight where Miss E. has a house; the London Doctor wanted her to stay all winter here and be doctored; but Jack zealously advised her to quit doctoring altogether, and get into the country to quiet. He parted from her with great sympathy, and even with esteem, as her ways are better known to him than to us; but I cannot help feeling that it is much better he has done with that concern, and has now got into another much more promising one. The poor lady is much to be pitied too: fancy her lying here in a Hôtel, out of her senses, and not one of her three or four brothers, or her kindred at all, taking any charge of her; nobody but servants and an accidental friend! What is the use of wealth, if in sickness and despair you must lie like an outcast in a hospital? Not one of us, as Jane says, but would have had kind hands to minister to us had we been lying so. The poor lady has a most barren life, and some secret sorrow that blights all things for her: we will pity her respectfully, and wish her well elsewhere. Jack is to write to her from Italy; they parted in kindness and sadness.

It is hardly a week yet since the Duke's family came: Jack has seen them repeatedly, dined with them &c. The very first note the Duchess9 sent was altogether unlike the icy epistles of that kind we used to read: it gave us good augury, which everything since then has tended to confirm. She is a right natural, hearty, cheerful and honest-minded lady, from all I can learn, or Jack could observe; the Duke too he seemed to consider a very affable rational quietly sensible man;—we thought it very kind last night, the Duke followed poor Jack out into the lobby, and asked him (Jack thought, with a blush) “Whether he was in need of any money before setting off?” They have three, or perhaps four very nice children; for whose health it is chiefly that they go abroad:10 there is a certain queer old Earl of Hume11 (Jack describes him as near four-score, speaking broad Scotch, and telling hunting-stories, a respectable old blade); he, with the heads of the house, with the children and their tutor and governess, and Heaven only knows how many courier flunkies and other ministering servants,—were to constitute the party. It was apprehended few inns would be able to take them all in: wherefore it is settled now that they are to go in two parties; Jack (and perhaps the old Earl and perhaps not) with the children and their tutors and attendants, occupying two carriages and preceded by a baggage-cart (with a fine French name, fourgon) carrying all the baggage, nay carrying a kitchen apparatus and a Cook,—this is to be the first party. The Cook will always drive ahead far enough to be at the inn and have all things ready for them; most comfortable sure enough! Then at the distance of a day or half a day the Duke and Duchess with their retinue will come following behind; and at any town, or inn that promises to be large enough they are to stop and pass the night altogether: it is on this principle that Jack was to go off this morning; the Duke not till tomorrow. They are to be at Paris on saturday by easy Journies: they go down thro' France to Marseilles at the very end of it: they do not cross the Alps, but go round by the end of them, go by steam from that Marseilles (or perhaps in the Duke's own ship); in some ten days they will be out of the winter, and into bright weather again: there seems to be every prospect of their journey being easy and prosperous, late as the season is; and, I do think, of their doing very well together when arrived, which is more important. No medical situation could have been schemed out for our poor Doil that would have been preferable; I sincerely think, as every one does, that it is very good, and may be very useful to him. He is to write to you from Paris; you will get the letter probably in some eight days after this. He volunteered to write tonight from Dover to Jenny at Manchester; I was going to have done it, otherwise.

And so you see, dear Mother, all is settled; and our poor Doil12 off again: it is not his lot to be at rest. For the last two weeks there has been the most amazing concourse of tailors, shoemakers and other furnishers here; he himself whirling about from place to place, dining out, dining in the city, seldom dining here; but all is over now, and things were pretty well adjusted at last. We have had a very pleasant month of it, he and I; we had long walks together several times, went to see people, &c; and often gave ourselves rendezvous to meet somewhere in town, and probably dine at a chophouse in an independent way. We had talkings and arguings; a more restless or a kinder hearted mortal never lived than this Brother of mine. He is gone now, poor fellow; his room lies vacant with some little broken paper and fragments; and no Jack any longer there. We must be content; there is time to meet, and again a time to part; such is our lot here on Earth. May the All Good grant us all a reunion Yonder where there is to be no parting more! Amen.

Jack has left his Bank-receipt with me; what money he had here to spare (£100 of his with some of mine) I am putting into the American funds, where one has 5½ per cent for it, and perfect safety as I believe: Jack was not entirely sure about putting the whole amount he has into that investment, tho' I rather counselled it: but if he do so determine, it can be done at any time. One of the last things he did was to force a sovereign on me “to buy Examiners for my Mother”: it will serve forty weeks: I could not refuse it utterly without vexing the poor Doil; who indeed had no more need of English money. We went up in a cabriolet (small coach) this morning together, having breakfasted hastily about 8 in the clear snell [biting] morning; we arrived duly at the door of Montague House (Buccleuch's residence here, a fine large house in the midst of a garden);13 coaches were drawn up at the door, Jack's luggage was hauled in by servants, and there we shook hands, and said farewell. I wrapt myself in my cloak, and strode away home again thro' the bitter wind in a mood of strange sadness and resignedness which I shall not soon forget. Poor Jack was very wae [sad] too, but did not greet [weep] or otherwise misbehave. Good go with him so will we all pray.

Since coming home, I have pasted up our middle folding-doors, for the winter and frost are actually come; and then all this being sorted, I have sat and wrote till now the shadows of night are falling again. I hope I have given you a full narration, and that you all feel about the business as I do, thankful tho' wae. I sent a Newspaper to James Aitken yesterday in my own hand, which would be a kind of token to them; you can let them know more specially by sending this or otherwise so soon as there is opportunity. Mary should be written to, or apprised; Alick can do it.

The rest of my story, what relates to Chelsea alone, can soon be told. I am well enough; meaning soon to be busy, tho' it is not yet perfectly clear at what. Some “article,” I suppose; but it must be one of some significance. The little one already written comes out tomorrow: it is entitled “Varnhagen von Ense's Memoirs”; I will send the Review by and by (about New Year's time), and you will read it pleasantly enough; but it is on the whole worth nothing at all except the cash I get for it. They are out of measure anxious to have more writing from me; indeed almost troublesome about it, for it seems to be doubtful whether that is my best course now or not.14 The American reprint of my Articles, a beautiful blue Book with “Carlyle's Miscellanies” on the back of it, is come to hand; that is to say, two good volumes of it are come; other two they must be beginning to print one of these days:15 I have fixed with Fraser to sell for my behoof 250 copies of it; I count on gaining pretty certainly £200 by the job were they all sold as they are likely to be by and by; at all events, I cannot entirely be cheated in them; but after deducting the bookseller's enormous charge (40 per cent for the mere act of selling!), whatsoever they do bring in I shall get. The F. Revolution too it seems is near done; I will combine America with this country, and have another edition of that too, with clear prospect of profits, before long. It will be March probably before the “Miscellanies” arrive from America; this, had I seen into the thing sooner as I now see it, might have been avoided, for the thing would sell now were it here. My dear Mother shall have a copy, go without one who will. Let us be thankful therefore that all is so tolerable; that we are well in health, and no longer so terribly poor as we used to be of late years. Jane stands the winter as yet quite handsomely; she is evidently much stouter than she was this time twelvemonth. We partly expect Mrs Welsh here by and by: but doubtless all is very unsettled about Liverpool; the poor Mother of the house having been so lately called away.

I have given Fraser a parcel of Books for James Aitken; they will come by coach from Edinburgh, about the beginning of December: they consist of pamphlet stuff, not very valuable; there is a review of me in the Dublin Review16 (O'Connell's Roman Catholic Review),17 some criticisms on Teufelsdröckh, and so forth: there is a copy of Teufelk too for John Glencorse of Annan, in memory of old time.18 I think I shall perhaps send another parcel by some conveyance or other about New Year; I have got a book for Alick—bought cheap, yesterday no farther back. Tell him his letter came duly; was read duly while we were at dinner (for there are two mails here now), and gave us all great satisfaction. Tell him to hold on, steady and valiant, and there is no fear yet. I sent him a Newspaper with a Letter of mine in it; the man Richardson19 (nephew of a Mrs Richardson once in Dumfries20) whom I never saw, had taken the singular liberty of printing the letter I sent him in return for his book;21 and these Bolton people reprint it: curious enough! What happens still more oddly, Richardson has written to me again just in these days earnestly soliciting another letter!22

But here is the end of another sheet, I declare. Let us speak now for a moment about the Meal and Tobacco. The meal, singular to say, is never entirely done yet; the tobacco is all done, and I am smoking very bad stuff not even my old merchant's, who lives far off. Pray Jamie to fettle himself without loss of a day; and despatch the cargo by Liverpool and Pickford; that is the best23 course; indeed I believe there is no other, the Newcastle Steamers cease in the winter. “5. Cheyne Row, Chelsea London/ By Pickford & Co from Liverpool”: that will do for an address; and you need not pay anything on it, I suppose, till we see it here. An old Newspaper with one stroke would be[fair indic]ation that it was off. This is enough said—to “two men baith [tear in MS.]g.”

I hope now somebody will write to me soon, with news of all [of you. I] want to know how Scotsbrig stands, how my Mother is, how [Isabel]la stands the altered weather. I persuade myself that you endure no lack of coal-fire, no thrift of them in such weather. Keep a good fire;—lay out the two notes you were for giving me in the shape of fire for yourself, my Mother! Jane says she will write her own compliments. God bless you all, my bairns; stand steady to the work, and hope the best. My love is with you all ever. Adieu my dear Mother

Your affectionate /

T. Carlyle.

[JWC's postscript]

My dear Mother

On reading over his letter I can bethink me of only one earthly thing that he has omitted to mention, which is that we have within the last few days raised [as dear Mary used to say]24 a capital easy-chair in which one or even two may sit very snug in winter nights—and with such a cinder-fire as he has got tonight may be slowly roasted alive as in a dutch-oven—for it is exactly the shape of one.25 A great addition to our comfort!—as is also the woolen spencer he bought me with your money which I am rejoicing in at this present writing. I have also you will be glad to hear “a cap on my head” tho' not of “thick muslin.” and you must be resigned to the idea of my flinging it off again so soon as the frost abates— But the wonderfulest of all my acquisitions is a thing made of black silk with a quarter of mile of brass wire in it which I clap on the under part of my face when I go out, and which is precisely like the muzzle on a mad dog—but has the property of making all the air that goes down one's throat as warm as summer air— They call it a Respirator— Carlyle keeps saying he is very bilious—&c &c, but he looks very passably, is not so desperately “ill to deal wi'26 as you and I have known him and has always a good “harl of health at meal time[.”] I am very sorry to hear of poor Isabella's delicate state—knowing so well by experience what it is to be laid on the shelf with the feeling that every thing must be going wrong without me— Give her my kind regards and to all the rest remember me also affectionately— Tell Alick [I ate] every morsel of his honey myself

Ever affectionately / yours JWC 27


This is a second Postscript, at more than a year's distance: I remember the poor ‘easy-chair,’ whh has vanished from the house long since;—there are many things of the same type still here;—never was such a creature for noticing cheap waifs as she passed along, and transmuting them by an alchemy all her own! Poverty on such terms may truly be considered (especially in these mean days) a kind of wealth.— To “raise” is Annandale for “achieve the finance of” (by effort master the price of,—I have also heard them call it “string, strung,” evidtly the German stringen). To harl is to drag slowly, and with imperft success, a ‘harl’ of anything expresses defect both in value and form. A country fellow enumerating the miserable ailments that beset his poor Mother, added lastly, “And ony harl o' health she has is ay abt mealtime.” (Fact this, I have heard; scene “Dr Thom's Surgery,” Ecclefn.)

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