The Collected Letters, Volume 11


TC TO ALEXANDER CARLYLE ; 22 May 1839; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18390522-TC-AC-01; CL 11: 105-108


Chelsea, 22nd May, 1839—

My dear Alick,

Your Letter came yesterday, a day after I had despatched the frank to our Mother: I will answer you today, and send the sheet off at once without waiting for franks. I have very little time; so you will put up with the merely needful.

Jack's draft of £30, which I have now the cash for here, which he said he would “tell me afterwards how to dispose of,” becomes a plain matter from what you write.1 The good Doctor! It was one of the charitablest outlays ever made, and a thing worthy of his kind heart to purpose. I shall surely remember him for it, what use soever may turn out to lie in it. Had I possessed such a horse last year and the year before; still better, could I have had the nag sent up to me by post prior to beginning these Lectures,—it might have been of eminent service to me! There is no greater possession for one in the world than a kind Brother, than kind Brothers.

As to the practical advice to be given you at present, I really have got no new light yet, and know not what to say. The very horse, which it seems you already possess, what has become of it, how is it to be supported in the interim? Is it turned loose upon Scotsbrig, and can it in any way work for its victuals there? I am altogether at sea as to my own plans; and see only that such a convenience waiting me will be an additional inducement and incitement towards Scotland, always till I come thither.

Mrs Welsh it seems is not got to Templand, as we thought, having been suddenly taken rather unwell at Liverpool on the day she was to have gone. When she will go now has become uncertain again. It is true, that need not operate as any bar upon us, for we could take possession of the premises, with full good will from her, in her absence; yet it does introduce or seem to introduce a kind of additional confusion when all already was confused enough.— I have two or three schemes on the anvil, none of which is consistent with my leaving London for a few weeks yet; and indeed while the weather is no hotter than it has yet been, London is as good as any place for me. In truth, I begin to feel as if I had gone idle long enough now, and discern more or less that I must take to some graver occupation than any I have been concerned in, these two last years. It is a feeling of duty that urges me, happily no longer a feeling of such urgent necessity;— and the whole is a proof, I daresay, that with all my bitter biliousness I am really in a sounder state of body and mind than I was in. For the immediate moment I have a kind of Review Article or Pamphlet on my mind, which might occupy me well some weeks, and which I must if not write here, yet get arranged about here, and then set to writing in the country. I have applied accordingly two days ago to Lockhart Editor of the Quarterly Review, to ascertain if he can throw any light on it; I have not yet received any answer. With this, and with a horse and green fields somewhere I could contrive (I calculate) to brush myself up during summer, and get into tolerable condition before autumn. And then,—I think some times I must do one of two things: either buckle to another Book, as I might do under better auspices outwardly than ever heretofore; or else steam myself over to America, in september or so, and set to Lecturing there “like a roaring lion”2 all over the Union, where it seems possible I should both learn the art of extempore speaking in public, and also in few months realise a canny purse of money to come home with again! One or other of these two things I feel inclined towards at present; and really have it not any less confusedly before my mind that I here fling it down on paper for you. Some summer months in the country, you see, stand as a fixed preliminary to both plans of procedure. As to what part of the country, the schemes and offers are fourfold or fivefold; but Dumfriesshire seems the likeliest of all (tho' there are drawbacks against that too), as the place where my Mother and kindred wait to receive me, a place like no other under the sun in that particular! As for Jane she professes her willingness to go with me whithersoever I list; but would not stir out of London (I think) if it were not I that took her. In short, dear Alick, you see it is altogether [ly]ing in the vague state, and nothing definite can well be predicted out of it yet.

“But what am I to do about the gig?” that is your practical question; and I am greatly at a loss what to answer about it, and wish I had not to answer at all. I think however you might look, and ascertain what a good stout, and not altogether ugly, second-hand gig would cost, and if you found one anywhere decidedly cheap, you might buy it; but if not decidedly cheap, then not to be in haste in buying it. Such a vehicle I suppose could get standing-room where it would take no hurt; and it might be rather useful to our Mother thro' the whole year, to whose custody and possession I think it ought to be rigorously consigned. These things cost no tax now; our Mother is not able to move about as of old; and surely it would be a great comfort if by our means she could be provided with a convenience of that sort. For the rest, if you buy a gig, let it not be a bad one: it need not be shewy, indeed it should not be so; but decent and substantial and smooth-going, these are the qualities. I must leave it with you, dear Alick, in this vague state; for I feel that whatever I say will be like a precept, and at the same time that I have no knowledge adequate to giving precepts. You must exercise your own genius, and do the wisest you can.— By the bye, is the horse a smart rider? That will be more important than even running in gigs. For I have decided that not only in the country all summer, but here too when I come back, I ought to have continual riding, as the one condition of a supportable state of health, the basis of whatever else is to be done by me.

The frank will have told you all our news. The lecture accounts are not quite settled yet; but I understand the net-produce will be somewhere just about £200, as I anticipated.— People have taken to ask me to “8 o'clock dinners” now,—two in these four days, which I could not well refuse, which (for one of them was last night) have made me “a wreck” today. It is very useless to me that kind of civility, or worse than useless; I mean therefore not to go into it, but always to be entirely shy of it. Indeed the poor nervous-system, both before, during and after such a business, sufficiently admonishes me to be shy.— I shall hear from Lockhart in a day or two; and even if I do not hear from him, I will arrange that matter of the “article” before long. Good be with you; and many thanks to you, my dear Brother, for all the pains you take with me. We shall surely meet this summer too!— I am ever your affectionate

T. Carlyle

It has been a great comfort to me for my Mother's sake, and for all your sakes, that the unfortunate Harkness has left the meeting-house;3 that there is a prospect of some rational sermon on the Sabbath-days, without which they are difficult to spend altogether well. The people ought to come forward now, and ascertain whether there is no hope of taking the business into hands fit to manage it a little better.4

—We send our affection to Jenny, our welcome back again to Scottish ground: she will be well out of that huge dust-whirlpool in the bright summer weather.— I will write soon again. Farewell for this day—

[JWC's postscript]

My kind love to you and all of them missed out—but extant—