The Collected Letters, Volume 11


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE ; 15 April 1839; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18390415-TC-JAC-01; CL 11: 82-89


Chelsea, 16th [15] April, 1839—

My dear Brother,

There is not a sheet of your large Dumfries paper left; I must write as close as I can, and make you content yourself with this. Your Letter,1 which had been long looked for, came on Friday; it was despatched to Scotsbrig on Saturday; and now tomorrow (Tuesday) is the Italian Postday again. One requires to lose no time, the letters linger so between Naples and this. Yet the over-lapping system is not good either. I wish—I wish you here nearer hand! But we cannot alter that yet[.]

All seems to go well with you, and that not in the passive way, it seems, but in the active. You ought to feel satisfied that you have got so handsomely thro' your doctoring business, which seems not to be without complicacy. You did right, I believe, to refuse the £20: you are there as House-physician, and have no claim to be paid twice.2 As for your Duke and his people, I like them better and better, and think we ought all to rejoice for you at getting into such a position. W. Grahame of Burnswark, writing to me lately, a most copious wide-flowing epistle, speaks more golden hopes about the business. Without believing in these altogether, we may well conclude that it is and promises to be a thing good and not evil. You have to do your best and faithfullest in it for the actual day; and let tomorrow take care of itself. Poor Grahame, by the bye, seems to have been very sickly (bad virulent cold &c) thro' winter, and the bitter barren weather still afflicts him, both “for self and cattle”; I had written a little Note to apologize for my long silence; what more can I do? A Letter from your hand would give the good man evidently great pleasure: a good man tho' a wearisome. He sent me no news except from Burnswark: but I had a Letter from Jean not many days since; and yesterday (Sunday as it was, for we have an evening Liverpool mail now, and Postie often pretermits on Saturday night) there came a Newspaper from Alick with strokes on it,—to announce, as preconcerted, that a bag of rubbish, containing your old clothes among other things, had arrived safely. So I conclude there is nothing material out of order. Jean described my Mother as having suffered somewhat from rheumatism and toothache, but as “mostly out of it now”; a vague statement, which I the rather interpret favourably as there was talk withal of Isabella and our Mother coming up to Dumfries so soon as the weather softened. Isabella too must be therefore better. I write about four letters for one that I receive; my tidings are always rather scanty; but one knows how they are situated, poor things. Jean and Jamie Aitken appeared to be getting on in the old favourable way. Austin, who has more work this year, was looking out for a Farm; but had come to no result at that date; Alick says there will be plenty of Farms in another year, so wide is the ruin among that class. Jenny from Manchester complained, Jean says, of the wretchedness, discomfort and distress of Manchester; which acts upon their business too, and renders that horrid chaos unpleasanter to her, unpleasant even to Rob if he could see any outlook elsewhere. The distress indeed I believe to be great and universal in this land at present; and some are beginning to predict now a second year of dearth, so bleak is our spring hitherto.3 Many thousands of operatives in the North are getting pikes and pistols,—poor wretches, their heart is bitter, their case is hard and hopeless. They have a “Convention” sitting here, but going fast or perhaps already gone to dissolution and nonentity, I understand.4 People ought to bundle that can; and leave a Country where blood and confusion seem inevitable before very long. Enough of that.

Mrs Welsh left us some three weeks ago; she is still in Liverpool we understand, but bound soon for Templand, whither she wishes us greatly to come for the summer. She got better on here than her wont, tho' rather sickly all the time. Jane, in spite of the venom of East wind continually prevailing, still keeps and has kept on foot, tho' not stirring out almost at all, till two days ago: she has not coughed; she is evidently much stronger than of late years. As for me, my Lectures are coming on! The first Wednesday of May I begin, in the old place at 3 o'clock, then on Saturdays and Wednesdays, till I get six Lectures done. The Prospectuses are out and circulating; I have given away 15 tickets, I think; the number sold, still more the number saleable, is not ascertained yet. The subject is what I described to you: Revolutions of Modern Europe. On the whole my hopes are of the lowest; neither indeed was I forced, this year, to try the thing, having bread independently of it; however, it would have been improvident not to keep such a resource open. I shall be satisfied with a small success; nay not dissatisfied with no success at all, for I believe I shall get lived otherwise, and the thing is amazingly disagreeable to me. Meanwhile I do not [feel?] altogether such a despicable shivering of cowardice (the most insupportable feeling I ever had) as attended me last year and the former year: some way or other I doubt not to get thro' it; and perhaps it may be for the last time,—at least till I get some inward call to speak. Before the next Naples Letter can arrive, I hope to have “weltered thro',” and be on dry land again better or worse. Courage! No horse seems to be procurable, the expense is so enormous: two guineas per week for the mere loan of a horse, and you keep him yourself! I mean to hire me a ride or two, for really I have need of it, even thrift prescribes it. The Eastwinds, barking [drying out] one's poor skin, produce an ill effect even on peripatetic me; I have to swallow pills occasionally, I am sick on that account even now. My life passes in continual considerable pain, yet I do believe I am getting irresistibly into better health; my temper is far quieter, my view clearer, tho' as yet a view into mere vacancy and silence. The word will come to me, I suppose, when its time arrives. I thank God I am no longer hurried on by a panting necessity to speak; I prefer entire silence to any kind of speech offered me at present, and by Heaven's great blessing can indulge in silence. Arthur Buller, returned from America and the Durham mission some time ago, preaches loudly the necessity of my going to lecture in America: in all towns he hears from the best judges I am “the most popular author they have,” I might “make a fortune in” &c &c[.] To which I reply in banter and laughter. Yet if one could make once for all a couple of thousand pounds; and retire to the back of a stiff-trotting horse, to green fields, free air and one's own reflexions, out of this Malebolga forever and a day? I do not altogether reject the thing as I was wont; all manner of Americans invite me too, and advise me. Could one not write a dozen Lectures (I find I could quite easily) and hawk them like a mountebank for one time and no more in one's life! We shall keep it at least as a resource in the background, ready for any Autumn that may be ready for it. Fraser and I have as good as settled: he has actually money for me; some £130, which by charging me 22/6 for every presentation copy he scrapes down to some £110; but actually that does remain! He has sold all to 30 copies; will hold all as sold if I print a new edition with him forthwith. I believe we shall in fact be at press accordingly, before you write again. He offers to do 1500, in a rather smaller size, price 24/, for the English market, at half profits; then I am to strike off 500, which will cost me only paper and presswork, for the Yankee public. I have written to Emerson about it; I find that it will be far more eligible to take this safe ground than venture my own cash in printing an edition of my own; nearly all the cash I have, thrown into an element so treacherous, so foreign to me. Fraser I do understand to be one of the most punctual creatures alive; I will hold by him, I think, rather than go higgling into the world again, with perhaps no better result at last. The Miscellanies are not come, nor do I hear of them; Fraser says they are often asked for, that it is not doubtful they will sell. This therefore do all right, and far beyond our calculations, this of the Authorcraft. My heart silently thanks Heaven that I was not tried beyond what I could bear. It is quite a new sensation, and one of the most blessed in that case, that you will actually be allowed to live not a beggar! As to the “praise” &c I think it will not hurt me much; I can see too well what the meaning of that is, I have too faithful a dyspepsia working continually in monition of me, were there nothing more. Nevertheless I must tell you of the strangest compliment of all, which occurred since I wrote last: the advent of Count d'Orsay to compliment! About a fortnight ago, this Phoebus Apollo of Dandyism, escorted by poor little Chorley, actually came whirling hither, in a chariot that struck all Chelsea into mute dazzlement with splendour. Chorley's under jaw went like the hopper or under-riddle of a pair of fanners, such was his terror at bringing such a Splendour into actual contact with such a Grimness; nevertheless we did amazingly well, the Count and I. He is a tall fellow of six feet three, built like a tower, with floods of dark auburn hair, with a beauty, with an adornment—unsurpassable on this Planet! Withal a rather substantial fellow at bottom, by no means without insight, without fuss and a sort of rough sarcasm rather striking out of such a porcelain figure: he said in looking at Shelley's bust, in his French accent: “Ah! It is one of those faces who weesh to swallow their chin!” His Mother's cousin was the Madame Crawford of the rue de Clichy, where Marie Antoinette hid her Varennes Coach, if you remember;5 he admired “the fine epic” &c &c; hoped I would call soon, and “see Lady Blessington” withal!6 Finally he went his way, and Chorley with reassured jaw. Jane laughed for two days at the contrast of my plaid dressinggown, bilious iron countenance, and this Paphian apparition. I did not call till the other day, I found d'Orsay out, or going out, and left my card merely. I refused to dine at Chorley's “to meet him” this week—mindful of my Lectures. I in fact do not see well what of good I can get by “meeting him” much; or Lady B. and Demirepdom,—tho' I should not object to see it once, and then oftener if agreeable. But the Lectures, the East-winds! I have executed hardly more than one late dinner (it was with Macready; Buller, Fonblanque, Martineau &c), and it hangs by me yet, I think, in the fourth week. I went to Lord Northampton's Royal Society Soiree on Saturday last,7 for the first time (him I had seen at the Marshalls's; a man not entirely unlike Rob Scott the Blacksmith,8 but cleaner): some 200 or so, all science and much fashion,—vanitas vanitatum [vanity of vanities],9 not likely to tempt me again. I spoke to Sir James Clark about your Packet; he supposed it was a certain Visi's medical pamphlet,10 and bade me say he had now got it from some other Anglo Italian. Sir James has got into a scrape lately and led the Queenkin into one; mistaking the wind and protuberance of a certain maid of honour's digestive apparatus for something in the generative (Gott im Himmel [God in Heaven]!), and quite roughly requesting said maid of honour to confess! The little Queen behaved like a hapless little fool,—and indeed looks like one now (very strikingly since last year, to my sense), and seems very generally to be thought one.11 Unhappy little child.— What clatter this letter wholly is! I have drugs in me, dear Brother, and you know what that means. Miss Martineau is off to Switzerland for 5 months tomorrow: she has published a Novel, very ligneous, very trivial-didactic, in fact very absurd for most part; and is well content with it.12 The world rather arches its eyebrows; feels that “a Werter-Priestley in petticoats”13 is a very singular phenomenon. Good Harriet, there is such a lively dispatch in her, such a sharp needling compactness and completeness, one wishes her heartily well—at a distance. Jane is reading a scandalous Novel of Lady Bulwer's now; satirizing her husband, and all his set, Fonblanque, Foster &c: the world all abuses it, and consumes an edition of it in one week.14 She seems to me really to have talent, somewhat like her husband's, superior for aught I see; rattles along, really in a most readable style, with a kind of pinchbeck brilliancy, and even slashes off a character in good caricature style. Your medical adventure with the Young Bulwer, or Gloag's, is introduced too, with stomach-pump and alarm of death by night.15 I am heartily sorry for the poor woman, for the poor man: it seems they often went to striking, and she on a free floor could dish him in that way. He and she what are they but persons swoln with wind, their natural folly made ten times foolisher thereby? God pity us all; lead us not into temptation— Jane is out driving with the Stimabile; she cannot send you her remembrances in words.— What you say about coming to Baden and seeing you, does not look nearly so impossible this year as it was wont. I shall wait anxiously to hear what you do resolve upon; and then try what is in me. Here I have no thoughts whatever of spending the hot months: never more, unless chained!— Jeffrey was here yesterday: his daughter has a daughter, which Sidney Smith told me he advised Empson should be “dressed in blue and yellow.”16 Talfourd's people worked a Petition out of me about the Copyright Bill; I wrote it with “hidden satire”: the Examiner prints it with a flourish; the Ds Herald comes here with it today:— babblement! 17 O my dear Brother what a Letter I have written you! Enough of it. I send you my heart's blessing, and am ever and ever—yr afte— T. Carlyle

I dare not read this over, lest I burn it.— I have to write to Mrs Strachey: she has sent me a laudation too and a preachment,—a good woman. I forwarded it to my Mother in the frank with yours. Maurice's wife, poor thing, has had a dead child.18 I hear she is well again. Him I see almost nothing of. Bunsen has never turned up again; I do not even know whether he is still here. Our remarkablest stranger lately is one Rio a French Catholic: ask Sterling; Rio is a kind of French Sterling. I will attend to your Italian, to your Manning,19 if they come to me.— Lose no time in writing. Adieu dear Jack; here I do end.— T.C.

My Mother shall now get the Ds Couriers; they are too dear at 8d. Dr Thomson your Italian was all but dead of some fever (Jane learnt somewhere) but got over it, and is now quite right again. Willis we never see; nor heavy Tulke,20 if you mind him.

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