The Collected Letters, Volume 11


TC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE ; 8 March 1839; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18390308-TC-MAC-01; CL 11: 38-41


Chelsea, 8th March, 1839—

My dear Mother,

I am right glad to have this opportunity for writing to you again. It is a weary time since I heard a word from yourself now,1 a long time since I even wrote anything direct to you: of late days I have been of mind to write a line to you even without any Italian news to go along with it; but here this morning comes the expected Epistle from Naples,2 and now I have a call and command to write. How have you been all this time? What are you doing; what becomes of you in this bitter March weather; what is all Scotsbrig and Annandale doing? These are questions which daily arise; but to which I can shape no answer except by hope and by guess. Many a time does the shine of your little up-stairs Fire in the winter night rise clear before my imagination, among the little specks of Light and Life (the dearest of them all to me) that the great canopy of Darkness covers; and I wonder with myself what you are doing even then. I can know only that both of us are under One's keeping, and trust always that He will do all things well. But really, dear Mother, you must write to me, write without loss of time.

I sent a Letter to Mary,3 in which was one inclosed for Alick. There had been a Letter for Jean before that, in answer to one she had sent me; the only articulate tidings I have had for months. Mary sends a Newspaper to indicate that her Letter arrived; which is good so far. I wrote also to Jenny at Manchester; but from her too I receive nothing for a long while.

Jack's situation at Naples seems to be altogether favourable. He prospers in his work; he likes the people, they like him. I think I mentioned to Alick, in writing last,4 that we had tidings here (thro' the Sterlings, who probably had it from Dr Hume the Physician that recommended Jack) of all going right in that matter of Naples, how the Duke's people were well satisfied with their Doctor, &c &c. In short, we have every reason to be content in respect of our poor wandering Doil, and to hope that all is proceeding in a very good course for him. He gets no Dumfries Papers, it seems, tho' I have duly despatched a Courier weekly, ever since it ceased to come to you; some eight or nine now, I think I will write to him tomorrow, however; all the faster for that disappointment. It is a long way to come and go, and no delay should be made. Did Alick ever write yet? I fear, not. Tell him that he is a lazy fellow to all appearance, and that I mean to have my revenge of him yet.

Jane had a cold last time I wrote, but it is gone now, and she is not unwell at all considering what weather we have. This week past it has been bitterer with frost snow and east-wind than we ever had it in winter; and today still the world is all lying white in a coat of snow, and the venom not out of the air yet. How do you fend [manage], dear Mother, in your still worse climate? Did you ever get yourself a set of right woollen spencers? I hold good “fleecy-hosiery” to be one of the wholesomest things; one way or other one should insist on being warm enough, and not rest till that is attained. Jane complains continually in these days of the bitter cold; her Mother and she sit down below, blowing the fire, endeavouring to fence themselves against the inclement season, and rarely venture out. Mrs Welsh had a bad cold for three weeks, but in spite of the weather she is nearly got out of that again. She seems to indicate that she is not to stay long with us; her Brother is poorly in health at Liverpool, she wishes to be there again that she might be of some help to him. Hitherto she has taken far more quietly to London than on any other occasion, and seemed to enjoy it more,—or if that is too strong a word, to suffer from it less. We are very quiet in general; yet the other week, Jane audaciously got up a thing called soiree one evening; that is to say a Party of Persons who have little to do except wander thro' a room or rooms, and hustle and simmer about, all talking to one another as they best can. It seemed to me a most questionable thing for the Leddy this; however she was drawn into it insensibly, could not get retracted: so it took effect; between 20 and 30 entirely brilliant bits of figures;5 and really it all went off in the most successful manner: at midnight I smoked a peaceable pipe, praying that it might be long before we saw the like again.6 There is enough of that at this season without seeking for it; enough and to spare. That day I wrote to Alick I was bound outwards to dine at 8 o'clock (the real hour was nearer 9), and wrote to him in doleful humour on that account. For the same reason too I forgot your Examiner, which I had carefully folded up and laid under a big Book to smooth it; on Thursday morning, lifting the Book, I was astonished and shocked to find the Examiner still there! I doubt you would be astonished too why it did not come. As for the Dinner itself I got thro' it, tho' not without damage sensible for several days after. It was one of the most elevated things I had ever seen; Lords, Ladyships and other the like high personnages, several of them auditors of mine in the last Lecturing season. The Lady of the House, one Lady Harriet Baring, I had to sit and talk with specially for a long long while; one of the cleverest creatures I have met with, full of mirth and spirit,— not very beautiful to look upon.7 Between 12 and 1 I got home to my bed. There is but little good for me in all that; only a small proportion of good rather expensively purchased; wherefore I endeavour to escape it for most part.

They told you, I have no doubt, how my brave American Friends had sent me another lot of money (£100) for the poor Revolution Book. It was really a magnanimous feat. Fraser tells me he too has money for me which he hopes “will be satisfactory”; we shall see that, before long, for I understand him to be getting ready his books for a settlement with me; being very desirous for a second edition with me, which will be needed soon. The “Miscellanies” we hope will be here before long, probably in a month or so (tho' that is merely guessing): I imagine I shall make a little penny out of them too, by and by. One ought to be thankful for keeping mall in shaft8 on any terms.— But now the grand object of consideration is, what are the Lectures to be, and when and how? I cannot yet say what, but I am thinking of it daily; I have decided meanwhile that there are to be but six, this year; it seems also that the best time for commencing will be Tuesday April 23d; for three weeks after that, I shall probably be busy! So soon as I have drawn up any Prospectus and got it printed, I will send you a copy,—tho' you cannot attend me, I doubt! On the whole, I am not nearly in such a flutter about the thing, as I was in last year; thro' [sic] probably it will be bad enough when it actually arrives. However, we do hope to be borne thro' as before “with an honourable through-bearing.”9

I would ask innumerable things about you, about Scotsbrig, Ecclefechan, Dumfries, Annan, and Annandale generally; I want to know so many things, and do know almost nothing of it all. How is poor Isabella? I hope, she has got on her feet again; it will have improved Scotsbrig and its business for all of you.10 And Jamie, how does he find his crop turn out, how does he get along this winter generally? I have no tidings from Alick either; how his meal-trade and other business prosper. Had not his Jenny too to be unwell?11 I hope she too will be borne thro' honourably.

A man came in (from Dumfries with a Letter of introduction from M'Diarmid, a very good kind of young man, named Pagan);12 he has taken up all my time, and put all my ideas to flight. You must take this scrawl as the best I can afford.— Remember me at Dumfries; say I expect Jean still to stand true, as one of the best strings of my bow in that matter of sending news.

Jane has been out a little while, and is come in again, complaining of the damp cold. She sends her love to you all; but I hear no tidings of any letter yet: I suppose her ideas are quite frozen up at present. I beg you, dear Mother, to take all care of yourself. Alas, I wish I could do you any good, be of any service to you; but I am far off and can do nothing. All I can or could do is always richly due to you.— Mrs Welsh will be for seeing you when once she gets to Templand; but that, I fancy, is a little way off yet. Good b'ye My dear Mother for this time. You will hear from me again before long. I commit you all to the Good Guardian; praying and wishing from the bottom of my heart that a blessing may be on you all.

I remain ever, / Your affectionate Son

T. Carlyle.

Will you remember me kindly to good Graham of Burnswark. I did mean to write a Note to him this morning; but the “Pagan” has wasted all my time.