The Collected Letters, Volume 11


TC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE ; 30 December 1839; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18391230-TC-MAC-01; CL 11: 234-237


Chelsea, 30th Decr 1839—

My dear Mother,

This is to reach you on Newyearsday, if all go well, and Postie do his duty. There will be but a word of it; the expression of a prayer for “Good to be with you,” which expressed or unexpressed dwells always in me, at this wishing season, and at all seasons. The happy fourpenny postage allows me to write, were it never so briefly. In some ten days more we are to have the actual penny-post! We shall then be able to write, did our sheet contain only, “How do you do, dear Mother?”— I inclose, on the present occasion, a small Newyear's present. I beg you to get with it whatever luxury you may have the smallest notion of: a keg of beer, a new gown,—whatever thing you like or can. I am not near you to choose the article myself; I can send nothing, except a scrap of Bank-paper to get things sent with.— You may, lastly, take an old Newspaper and make Isabella direct it hither with two strokes (if all is tolerably right) when this arrives. It will be satisfactory to have some such token, and it costs nothing; Isabella will do it.

Today likewise there goes off, round by Edinburgh like the last, a packet of books. A copy of the new Meister is in it for you; two copies of Chartism,1 one expressly for you, the other for “general circulation” among the brethren. Alick, I suppose, will read it,—nay Jamie most probably will read it too! It can then be sent on to Dumfries, where they appear to be very anxious to see it. It came out only two days ago; the Bookbinders had all taken to drinking about Christmas time, and could not be got to bind a sufficient stock of copies sooner. I have of course heard no opinion whatever about it yet; except from our own household here, who unanimously vote rather in favour of it.2 To tell the truth, I do not care very much what the world say or forbear to say or do in regard to the thing: it was a thing I had to write; and, behold now, I have written it, got it written and out of me, and have for my part no farther concern with it at all.— You will receive it, I should think, in about a week after this sheet arrives. But you will know by the last time. The Booksellers' Magazine Parcels always leave London on the first of the month; they go by steam to Edinburgh, and then it depends a little on the activity of the people there.

We had a long good Letter from Jean3 last week: all is well enough with them at Dumfries: she complains that she has got no right tidings of you individually for some time; a Note of Alick's did not explicitly instruct her on that head. She asks me to tell her how you are! I mean to send some line or other thither this week; but, alas, to myself it is only a hope that you are well at present! Pray, get some kind of Note despatched from Scotsbrig with proper news to her. She gives a most woeful narrative about the poor little lassie we saw with her in harvest-time last; of her poverty, of her Mother's insanity, and all manner of misery. Jane has written to her Mother to see if she can do nothing for the poor little creature.4 The wretchedness of many of God's creatures in this earth at present afflicts one's very heart.

Jane had a cold for three weeks, and kept the house; she is now round again, and ventures out as usual. We have had more rain lately than I ever saw in this region; the flat-lying roads swim in water; lea fields [fields of old grass] are lakes, where the level favours that. At present we have firm black frost; but it will not last, with the dubs [puddles] so full.— I am in my usual order as to health; a little better, I think, perhaps owing to my diligence with the horse in weeks past. I work daily revising the Essays for the Press; I am in the last volume now, and shall then have very little fash [bother] farther,—nothing but correcting the Proofsheets where they vary from what I am now settling. It is strange work with me, studying these Essays over again: ten years of my life lie strangely written there; it is I, and it is not I, that wrote all that! They are as I could make them,—among the peat-bogs and other confusions. It rather seems the people like them in spite of all their crabbedness. I had a most enthusiastic Letter the other day from Nottingham on the subject.5 I get enow of enthusiastic Letters and the like: but really as Corrie says “What's ta use on't?”

Jack is as usual, on the other side of the door from me,—or rather I think I heard him sally out into the world a few minutes ago. He has bought you a Fox's Book of Martyrs,6 which I calculate will go in the Parcel to-day; you will get right good reading out of it, I guess, and plenty of it.— As to Jack's ulterior plans I know nothing; and rather think he himself does not know much. He reads Medical books &c; and does not seem uncomfortable; is ready to argue on any subject under the sun, to all lengths; sputters up into anger when I am too cross upon him, but in one moment becomes a sucking-lamb again: the old fellow in all points! I tell him sometimes, that expedition into Pepperfield7 was an emblem of the general History of his Life,—a travelling without any clear aim whitherward. The good “Mr Greatheart”!8

We have fallen now into the new meal-barrel; it is capital meal as ever was ground between stones: Jack too has now betaken him to porridge, now that the old meal is made away with,—it “did not agree with him” at all. We have the half of Sandy's whisky still; we make a small tumbler of brandy-punch once a week; Jack and I, and that is nearly all our drinking. Alick's tobacco goes off rapidly enough: the second cargo, which came with the meal is all done some time ago, and the big jar with the first stock declines too with rather ominous rapidity. It is the right and rightest kind, now that it is dry! I believe I shall have to get some more sent me by and by.— — Mr Stewart writes me that we cannot advantageously sell Craigenputtoch this year, cash being so scarce in the country; he will set it out again next summer, and then!9 I approved of the scheme.— A Bolton Free Press is just come with a review of me:10 it is friendly, but worth next to nothing; I will send it on to Dumfries today, in defect of a Letter.— How is little Tom? Alick's smallest boy, it seems too, is out of sorts.11 How are you all? Especially how are you, dear Mother? Keep yourself well wrapt, keep a good fire! Also— Why do you not now write me a Letter? Why, I say?— Good be ever with you, and with one and all of you!——— Ever your affectionate,

T. Carlyle.