The Collected Letters, Volume 12


TC TO ALEXANDER CARLYLE ; 28 February 1840; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18400228-TC-AC-01; CL 12: 60-63


Chelsea, 28 Feby, 1840—(Friday).

My dear Brother,

Your Letter, inclosing my Mother's,1 came yesterday; I was heartily glad to see my dear Mother's hand again;—pray tell her this, and that she must not let me want for Letters now that they are so cheap. I get few Letters better worth reading than hers. It is one of my chief reasons of thankfulness in this world that I had such a Mother!— I think she would receive a Letter from me with one of Jack's wrapt in it, about the same time. It contained nothing at all, either Jack's or mine; from him there are yet no farther news. Her Letter from him, indeed, seemed to be later than mine; and to indicate that they had returned from the Giant's Causeway,2 and found it not to agree very well with them. We shall hear probably before long what comes of that business: Jack is not likely to be content anywhere till he get himself settled and see a roof of his own over his head in some manner or other. Perhaps one ought to wish that his present and all such situations might prove so uncomfortable to him that he were obliged to set about getting some permanent arrangement made.

You are very kind and punctual, my dear Brother; many thanks to you for the trouble you take with me. The news of the Potatoes would have been hailed with great joy only a week before; for we have been somewhat annoyed all winter with bad London Potatoes: but it so happened, Elizabeth Fergus (Elizabeth Countess Pepoli that now is) sent us down a basket of Fife potatoes out of a barrel they had just received from Kirkcaldy; and these proved so excellent that we forthwith commissioned a competent stock for ourselves; and we have just learned that these are now shipped for us at Edinburgh, for which ship-cargo we accordingly wait, living in the meanwhile on borrowed Pepoli potatoes, which we mean to pay when our own come. So that the Annandale roots, which are probably of a similar quality, cannot come into play this year! Another year if I live, I will actually take order for Scotch potatoes at the very starting; the kind they sell here (unless you know where to go and buy Perth or Fife potatoes, which are for sale too, if one knew where!) are positively offensive to me. The Newcastle Steamer, I learned yesterday, does sail; but we need not meddle with it this season. Great delays take place always about the wharfs and custom houses: nay, I find, the railway people, in some kind of thing they call “the waggon-train,” undertake to carry goods too at “six shillings the hundredweight.” That is far the shorter and preferable method. Especially as we have Alick Welsh to guard against delays at Liverpool.

The Potatoes being out of the fight, we come to the munificent prospect of the Bacon-flitch! Jane says the bacon here is 9½d per pound, sometimes good, sometimes indifferent. The prospect of a good bacon-flitch, she declares, is highly agreeable; if you judge, by the price there and here, and the other circumstances, that it can be conveniently stuck into a Box along with the Tobacco, and sent hither, then surely send it;—use your own consideration and insight. As for the Ham my dear Mother has got us, I incline greatly to think she will get more good of it herself, and that she ought to suspend it at Scotsbrig, and cut frequently from it! Nothing can satisfy us here with fatness in hams; and you Annandale people, I think, like the lean principally. This is all I can specify about the bacon or other victual proviant. As for the Tobacco, so soon as a Permit is got, let it be sent at any rate; if with the flitch then in a box; if by itself, paper I suppose will do: but in either case, Liverpool and A. Welsh is the course for it,—according to the directions sent last time. Pray do not neglect the Permit; lest the harpies sieze [sic] upon the whole and confiscate it!— What trouble and troubles you have with me; never-ending, still beginning!3

The Pipes, as I mentioned in my Mother's Letter, were all broken but a mere fraction; sorrow take them! Even this fraction is mainly spoiled; choked up with sawdust, so that no wire will clear them. I shall struggle on for a good many weeks with them (some seven weeks, I think), and then if the Glasgow blockheads will not attempt to partially make good their blockheadism, I will send to Edinburgh. What cares the sublimest philosopher, amid all his philosophies, is still bound to, while on this earth!

Yesternight, after considerable urging, I got Fraser's Account: three enormous expanses of Paper, full of items, strokes, crotchets, Debtors and Creditors;—the immediately tangible result of which seems to be that he considers himself as at present owing me little more than £200, at least £50 lower than I had calculated! He or his, the miserable mortal, has got over his counter above £450 of money for selling my Miscellanies; and above half of the whole it seems is due to the sellers! However, I see several palpable blunders; I will consult an experienced friend here;4 I determine on seeing the matter to the bottom, now that I am in for it, and will till then keep as quiet as a lamb! I expect to do some good, but not much; I shall see at least that I get fair use and wont in that most distracted of all distracted trades. On the whole I reflect that I ought to be thankful even for this: putting one thing with another, is it not a kind of blessed miracle that one finds himself still allowed to live, and to have the prospect of living—out of the workhouse or jail.— The new F. Revn, Meister, Chartism are not included in this same settlement, I ought to say. Poor Fraser! Poor Booksellers all! For grasp as they like, and take as they do above a half for mere selling, are they not all at the verge of bankruptcy; not one in ten of them able to exist? I will accept their “Common rate,” since it is established: “a common rate,” as good old Peden said, “is a common rule.”5

There has arisen farther, in these days, new question of the Library you heard speak about last year. I think it will perhaps go on now. I could wish I had nothing to do in it; but it will not float off without me. I fancy we shall have a public meeting in a week or two.

The Proofsheets go on; above half-done now. My Lectures get [sa]dly elbowed into the corner by all these claims on me; I must positively fasten on them.— I will have my horse back too. I will also go out to no more eight o'clock dinners, except on double and treble compulsion! It is now the fifth or sixth day since that last, and I am still suffering from it. Why not say, No one time for all times!

You would get the Glasgow Argus with the Criticism in it?6 It came along with your Letter yesterday; and I despatched it to you, not being able to write till I had made inquiries at the railway office, and considered myself.

I rejoice to hear your house and little Doil7 too are recovering again, all but well now. I wish Jamie's little Tom were well again! Tell Jamie [to] instruct me about Austin's money.— Adieu, dear Brother. Jane (very [qu]iet not otherwise ailing) salutes you all. God keep you! Your affectionate

T. Carlyle