The Collected Letters, Volume 10


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE ; 26 December 1838; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18381226-TC-JAC-01; CL 10: 246-254


5. Cheyne Row, Chelsea, London / 26th December, 1838—

My dear Brother,

Yesterday in enumerating the “happy arrivals” that gave good augury for this Christmas, we had to mention among the first of them that of your Letter from Marseilles.1 Your Letters from Dover had got to their destinations; your Letter from Paris, and before that, a Boulogne Journal (which I refused, as the charge was 15 pence and I had got what I wanted of it) had reached us in due season; but no other hint or tidings whatsoever; a thing I had more than once been audibly lamenting. With the noon of Christmas, however, came a new figure of affairs; the invaluable Threepenny, with his double knock, set all to rights. I instantly despatched news of the occurrence to Alick, not waiting for a frank; I am to send your Letter itself on Saturday next; the summary will gratify them all tomorrow. We hope you are at Civitavecchia2 by this time; that favourable weather and fortune has attended and will attend you. Let us be as thankful as the contrary would have filled us with affliction. Many are the journeys thou hast had, poor Jack: come safe back to us before long, and set thy staff up somewhere.

I was extremely melancholy for a day or two after that Tuesday morning. It was altogether mournful to go up stairs, and see the trunks, the fragments of paper and other residue, and to hear only the silence proclaiming, “Jack is not here now.” One has to consider that too as inevitable, to endure that too. Your image of your progress and position hitherto is such as ought to gratify us. I like the Duke and Duchess for your behoof, and calculate that you will get into a very tolerable relation towards them. Intimacy is perhaps not to be expected, perhaps not to be desired; but they have young human hearts, and you have intimate services to do them. The more I think of it the more I like that little trait of the Duke asking you about money the night before you went. Stand by your work fortiter [bravely] and suaviter [pleasantly]; that is the rule; and let anything that will follow from it follow. Old Home3 also will do: as for the Tutor,4ay de mi!5 I know that kind of “indolent” callow individuals; one is right lonely and wae for oneself when thrown into society with such: fifteen years fewer on thy dull head; poor boy, thou knowest little how it stands with an ancient like me in all this, for God's sake shut thy yellow-bill (Gelbschnabel),6 and let me at least have silence! On the whole, you will probably find the young man courteous in manner; and for the rest be able very much to leave him standing on his own basis. May wisdom guide you dear Brother in all that, and prosperity attend you. The first prayer is above all important.

Soon after your departure there came a Letter from Jean: it was to her accordingly that I forwarded your Paris Letters; by a contrivance of franks which was to carry them forward to Scotsbrig the same day. Further, the night before last (this was another “Christmas luck,” enumerated by our Dame) the Scotsbrig Barrel of Meal came to hand, and in it two short Letters, from our Mother and Jamie. They are about ten days back in date; a while subsequent to Jean's. Jean had been at Scotsbrig just before writing. I must now tell you the news. Poor Wull Brown is dead: he seems to have departed on the Tuesday before that on which your journey began;7 they give no particulars: he never grew better, I conjecture, sank pretty rapidly, and passed away in the mood we saw him in.8 Jamie appears to have seen him once again at least; he was altering his will, and needed Jamie's help: Robert9 has got nothing, or as good as that; when Jamie objected, Wull gave a snore thro' his nostrils and made no other answer: Nell10 has an annuity of £20; the rest is all gone to the foolish Daughter,11—whose first free act, Jean says, was to commission thro' her a “chinchilla tippet of the shawl shape,” the lowest cost of which would be £7 or £8: a great contrast, Jean remarks, to the phenomenon you once noticed in that house, of a famishing dog in rapid flight with a raw potatoe it had stolen! The end of all things is solemn and tragical; our poor Wull, such as he was, has passed on also, and will never thro' all centuries return any more.— Isabella has got a new son; whom they are to call Tom, in honour of me. She recovers her strength, yet slowly, they say. Our Mother is much down stairs assisting; the sister Martha Calvert12 being strictly engaged at Ecclefechan with Mrs Park,13 who is very ill of rheumatic disorders. Alick is considered to be doing well. Jamie got “nearly the half” of his crop more or less damaged by rains, reckons that it will be a bad year for wet-land farmers, but withal that he “will be able to go on as usual.[”] What the Austins are doing I did not hear; except that our Mother was to go down thither about the new-year “to assist Mary,” in an inevitable business she has. It is a miserable year for the poor, there and here: provisions rapidly rising, trade like to be unsettled, great discontents like to take fire among the Lancashire people: I pity them from my soul. Jean mentions one other anecdote: Sandy Corrie14 called one day, and celebrated your good fortune, your bread now was baked and water made sure, nay you might have it in your power to do any one of them an effectual service: all which, Jean says, they took as Foll-loll de riddel loll.15 I was to send you our Mother's blessing, and request to have a letter at due intervals, the first soon. She seemed to be in her usual state of health; she had put in a mutton ham (in her old way) beside the tobacco, and written nearly two pages. I recollect nothing else that needs mention. They were all gratified with their Dover letters.16 It is at this moment about noon: the invaluable Threepenny has again arrived, bringing a Letter from Alick! All is still well there; Grahame and your other friends clamorous with “congratulations,” and good wishes. Rob Brown engaged to try and get Linbrigford farm for Austin, did quite the reverse: there is now little hope of it, Alick thinks, and little use in it if there were.17 Ben Nelson has got an appointment, chief manager of a branch of the Southern Bank18 at Annan, salary £100 or so, they furnishing a clerk; his business is to advise: you are to write to him? Hunger rules at Ecclefechan, not without riot. Paterson of Townfoot was said to have offered the poor people turnips at 10/a-cart-load, potatoes at ½d apiece, they burnt him in effigy, a turnip hanging round his neck; whereupon Sharpe &c have been “swearing in special constables in great numbers.”19 Mother is to go to Annan this week. Miss Brown is gone back to Carlisle. Scotsbrig and the rest of them well. I must cease now, or change.

Robertson paid me £18 for the Varnhagen Article; by a draft on the Westminster Bank in Waterloo Place: entering to get it cashed, I discern sitting as main clerk, considerable greyheaded and worn, but with the old air of knavery and ledger politeness,—Tom of the Bank!20 Palpably he; and in an inner room, munching at the moment a tough crust, sat the bald head of an old clerk of Oliver and Boyds.21 Remembering Tampico and Poyais,22 I cared not to renew acquaintance with Tom; I noticed him eyeing me, but steadily ignored him, and went out leaving him still on the spring. Wull Bogs23 too I saw one day in the Wilton Crescent region: do all the Knaves congregate hither?— On the same day, I fared eastward (after escaping Tom), and found W. Hamilton24 with the Illinois bond (a very queer paper), got my American money, left Hamilton to get the Illinois interest just falling due, and had all money matters dressed up.25 You and I are joint proprietors of 1000 dollars Illinois stock at 6 per cent (it sold at 95 percent, or 96, and with etceteras cost some £120 or nearly so, your share in it £100), which will yield some 12 or 13 pounds a-year: a good investment I do suppose. Your Note to Goldie26 with the Receipt lies here: I regret you have such a poor rate of interest; and could like to buy you [some?] sort of stock or other with £1000 or so of the sum; but so long as you have scruples about the safety of Ame[rican] or other bonds, I will not do it nor advise it. One cannot say what is safe; this Illinois concern is universally said to be “safe enough,” and how safe that is you cannot for your life learn farther. Hamilton himself would not advise, but seemed to think it advisable for you.— Apart from settling of the money that day, it is difficult to say what I have been performing since you went. Idle and miserable, too often! And yet one is not always idlest when suffering much and seeming to do nothing. I awake these two last weeks regularly too soon; but in the long dark hours have felt that my pain of mind was literally an indispensable thing, a clearing of the decks for action. There is some writing in me this year; very different from last: that is a great comfort. What the writing is we shall see by and by. For one thing, it is not to be Wr Review stuff; I have done altogether with Robertson for one while; the decision whether I should not even write a great quantity for him hung upon a hair at last, but the hair turned it, and it was final. Mill is off for Paris, thence for Italy, where he had some hope of seeing you.27 Before going he was here once, and spoke of his readiness now and wish to have any quantity of reviewing I could do for him. The confused welter shaped itself in some days more into a kind of reluctant purpose to do an essay on Oliver Cromwell; and I went to the Museum with that view one day, Robertson and I having agreed about it two nights before;—he had come with Pepoli's things28 (with new argumentation, and noisy Corsonhood,29 the ass!) and to dun me for “articles” once more. His consent to the Cromwell was of the fainter kind, tho' he had proposed it to me weeks before; however he did consent, and I went to the Museum. And now behold after three days, he writes to me that here is the draft for £18, and—that he, with a thousand apologies, will do the Cromwell himself! I answer, after a due pause, with great brevity and smoothness “Do for God's sake, and let me hear no more of you.” There it stands accordingly, and I cannot but rejoice that a noisy blockhead of this kind is not to waste my patience any more, but is sent off, and without éclat [any fuss]. Have nothing to do with fools; they are the fatal species! Nay Robertson withal is “fifteen years younger” than I; to be “edited” by him, and by Mill, and the Benthamee formula—O heavens it is worse than Algeirs [sic] and Negro Guiana; nothing short of death could drive a white man to it. I had explained this to R., and he had affected to consent; yet I knew he would not; knew in one word that he was “a good-humoured jackass”,—who now with my best blessing shall go his several way. Mill seemed very dyspeptical when I saw him in daylight— I have not done with Cromwell yet, however; nay I have thoughts of30— But you shall hear better next time. Enough, I feel that I shall have the blessedness of getting to work in due time; thank God, I am not now driven by famine for a month or two: perhaps, in very truth, the slower fire will make the better malt.31 I have hurried long enough, and done small good by it. Hope for better tidings on this chapter, next time. I am reading your de Tocqueville in these days;32 but I hope soon to be reading something profitabler: de T. is a dud or nearly so, yet a readable dud. I searched your trunks for a Koran (replacing and locking all again, and right wae I was); no Koran visible there. I am thinking to send to Cambridge for Cromwell Books!33 It seems there is some prospect there.— Maurice, by the by, sent a most magnanimous “apology” &c;34 I could not but forgive, and more, go to dine with him; Scott was there;35 has been here since, all night once. That is all right. Sterling dates at last from Rome; his Letters come continually,—full of “pictures,”36 all which I eschew. By the by, if you see the last Blackwood, look in his Onyx Ring, an absurdish kind of story, and you will find an amazing “Mr Collins,” meant evidently for me!37 The good dear John! I wrote to him to Rome, to thank Calvert (of the generous Port)38 principally: I still think you will find S's Emerson39 in some of your packages: it has not turned up here yet. Out upon it! here is the end of my paper; the small type has not carried me half thro'. I have told you the most important however. And now for a Naples letter from you! If the ambassador40 will act, well; if not, never mind him, stick to the Post. O my dear brother—but I will say nothing of that.

Yours evermore /

T. Carlyle

We had yesternight one of the neatest little Christmas dinnerkins; Darwin41 and Craik; clear fire, cheerful talk, and innocent good cheer: it did perfectly well. Sir R. H. Inglis,42 a Tory saint M.P. for Oxford (a Wedgewood & Mrs Rich personage) sent for me to his wednesday soirée: decline: next day a new invitation: what could I do but go? There were some 3 score or a hundred mortals, almost all of the male sex; barrister and preacher-looking people; dull and commonplace and too hot with gas and crowd: I staid about an hour, & then the Wedgds brought me off in their neat fly. Sir R (whm I had seen before) is a fat John Bull gentn; of pepticity, of energy, honesty and limited mind.43 Charles Buller is come home:44 his Mother quite in a flurrying joy and ambitious hope—rather wearisome. I have not seen him; his cause is not my cause. I did engage to go however, and dine there on Friday,—chiefly perhaps out of curiosity to see one Gibbon Wakefield,45 a coarse man of talent, of blighted character (you recollect Miss Turner);46 to see him once, and probably no second time. Brougham is likely to make a dash this winter, as Wat Tyler47 to the radical plebs; I see no other chance for him he has written a most fierce pamphlet “Letter to the Queen,” in that spirit.48 Lord pity them all!

I am writing down stairs with my desk on a little table. I papered the folding door all tight the day you went away, to keep my hand busy: we are now very warm. Jane also has bought a huge stuffed chair and covered it for me.49 Had Jack been here and settled, we might have been all warm enough together. We will wait & see!

Jane grew visibly weaker for about two weeks, lost sleep &c, but still did not cough, while the weather was so raw and muddy: we have now hard black frost, she is now somewhat better again; is out at this moment,—so cannot inwards send you her love. Take mine instead of both; & farewell here Gott befohlen, lieber Bruder [God be with you, dear Brother]

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