The Collected Letters, Volume 12


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE ; 3 June 1840; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18400603-TC-JAC-01; CL 12: 157-160


Chelsea, 3 June, 1840—

My dear Brother,

Your Letter came last night; a prior Note, which must have crossed mine on the road, also arrived duly, and then a copy of the Globe Newspaper with a report of one of the Lectures. The other Globe mentioned by you last night as containing a poem of Leigh Hunt's did not come.1 I have had this Letter of Jean's lying three days by me, waiting till I could enclose it in a cover for you; it must go now “inclosed” in such despicably brief fashion as you see. I have been unwell, unable for any work, and have not yet got myself fastened to anything. The sickness however, is going or gone; it rose to the height of a violent cold for two days with headache face-ache &c, &c, but being then promptly fronted was kind enough to take itself away, and indeed I think to take some ugly sediment of disorder, which had long been working on me, away with it. Your cold, as you say nothing of it, we conclude to be now gone.

I can yet send you no plans; I have yet been able to form none. Unless the weather turn to be insupportable here, I mean to finish out this Lecture concern here where I sit; I have got from Forster this morning a very fair skeleton of Lecture First, and shall straightway begin trying whether I cannot write it out in full; we have also the Library project to watch over (a “Public Meeting” this day fortnight)2 tho' I keep in the distance from that: till these things are over I anticipate no marked change of place or other arrangement. We have green outer blinds on these windows now (Library windows up stairs), which promise to render the room inhabitable even in sunshine: Frisch zu [On with it]! I feel on the whole as if I had a turn of work in me now; I will not let the mood pass in sleep. It is the only blessedness I have. My horse I still retain, for a while, in spite of its dearth; I suppose it does do me some good: yesterday (cased in your old coat with an old hat, for it was showery and thundery) I went as far as Norwood.3 Very beautiful all: I have heard the Cuckoo three times. I rode with Fonblanque of the Examiner one evening; rather poor company: I feel on the whole better alone. No man nor body of men can do much for me; not if they would take all the trouble in the world: could the whole of them unwrap the baleful Nessus'-shirt of perpetual pain and isolation, in which I am lamed, embaled and swathed as in enchantment till I quit this Earth? Not they. Let them go their road; go thou also thine, in God's name!

I have had a host of foolish visitors: American “spirits of beauty,”—one young New England lady4 full of shadowy brainwebs about that. Tulke was here one night with Willis;5 dull both, as ditch-water;—especially in the Miscellany of foreign and domestic heteroclites (Mazzinis, Thirlwalls and others) who happened to be with us at the time. Nay Macready and his Wife had been here just before; but happily I was out riding at that moment.6 A wonderful menagerie! Tulke I find is a Swedenborgian: he produced some fractions of a German Translation they are making of Teufelsdröckh: vapid as small ale palled. They went at last, Willis and he, and left Thirlwall smoking with me; a massive Cantabrigian Scholar and Sceptic whom doubtless you remember as really worth something. A wretched dud called Swinfen Jervis, Member I think for Chester, called one day with his wife,7 after great negociations with the Cunninghams; a dirty little atheistic radical, living seemingly in a mere element of pretentious twaddle, with Sheridan Knowleses, James Simpsons8 and all the literary vapidities of his day. Jane says I treated him inhumanly, as a bulldog might some ill-favoured messin [cur]; for my nerves were shattered asunder by a gallop in the wind, the table lay covered for dinner, and Swinfen took to arguing against the Copyright Bill! Poor fellow, I did not mean it. He has a kind of anxious-indeterminate circular twitch, attended with a snuff, in the lower part of his poor peaked meagre nose, a certain melancholy in his somnolent grey eyes; he writes verses in annuals;—and his bent back seemed hardly eighteen inches broad across the shoulder blades! I will return the lady's call; but hardly visit any of her routs, which must be a mere sea of blash [heavy rain], the elixir of all the Triviality that is in England.

One day there stept-in a very curious little fellow: Dr Thomas Murray, whom you recollect without the Dr, as of Edinburgh and literary Galloway! He was on a tour; staying with M'Culloch;9 bent now for the Continent “to see what he could in ten days of travel.” Except a bald piece in the crown there is hardly any change in the little man. Worldly, egoistic, small-vain; a poor small grub, in whom perhaps was still some remnant of better instincts; whom one could not look at without at least impressive reminiscences. He did not come back to me; nor did I want it, tho' I asked him.— Did I mention to you that poor Sandy Donaldson at Haddington is dead!10 He had got a disease in the spine; he looked very ill here this time twelvemonth; and had since then wasted rapidly away. We are heartily sorry for his poor old Sister;11 poor old women they have had much to bear.———

I have got a Danish Grammar and Dictionary (2 shillings each!); and am poking about over Danske Sprog [Danish language] withal, partly with an eye to Norse matters! I find it would be very easy indeed: we shall see.

Jane is not strong but stirring about always, and in good hope from the heat.12 Our blessings with you.

Ever your affectionate Brother

T. Carlyle

I think I shall perhaps ride to Woolwich tomorrow to see Scott: he is back from the North; was one of my Belectured; a good fellow. Duchess of Sutherland, Princess d'Este, Queen of Beauty13 and such like, ach Gott [oh God], think of these for hearers—and a man half dead!

Your Revd Ogilvie14 shall be right welcome to me, any time.

The Globe has come since I ended,—thanks!