The Collected Letters, Volume 12


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE ; 15 July 1840; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18400715-TC-JAC-01; CL 12: 191-194


Chelsea, 15 july, 1840—

My dear Brother,

Having this instant finished my Third Lecture, I set about answering your two Letters, both of which were, as always, welcome messengers; the last, I think, is the most interesting I have had for a long time. Your feelings there at Oban, “looking over to the black mountains of Morven,” are very natural: I have often felt for you too, that money, if you could not turn it to some vital purpose, was but a poor remuneration, however much of it there might be! William Cunningham was here the other night, a man overflowing with annual cash; but not knowing what to make of himself or it.1 I fancied that, apart from ill health, which he has nothing to do with now, he might have a worse posture of it than mine in “stony Edinburgh” long ago, when I possessed some seventy pounds sterling, weekly diminishing, and in the whole world of visible expectancy, as friend, helper or outlook, nothing more at all!2 Men are to be pitied for other things than the want of money.— As to you, dear Brother, I never quit hope that a man of so just a heart and good insight will and must get to a solution. I have no doubt of it, at bottom. You will find what does in verity seem your chief good, and then adhere to that, sacrificing whatsoever must be sacrificed to it; not expecting that you can keep both the merchandise and the price. I should guess too that the silence you are kept in, even tho' rather dreary, were perhaps the best place for progress in this. It is with our own foolish heart that we have to sit in judgement. The faults of others, even when they work as injustices against ourselves, concern us little. We cannot mend them; what we can mend is elsewhere,—and is the only thing it will profit us much to mend! I can give you no counsel; I have counselled and criticised you far too much already first and last. Not with an unfriendly feeling, no; yet with a too impatient one often enough. The heart knoweth its own bitterness;3 all hearts of men do. In such a case as this, more than any other, the patient will minister unto himself.4 I pray heartily for a composed wise issue to you; for few things in the world more heartily. Meanwhile is not, as you too know, the wisest of all rules: Do the duty which is at hand? If you can help that poor fellow man, or even save him from present worse pain, is it not right well to do so? If you stay with him, if you part from him, I shall consider that it is well computed on your part, and be content for your sake.— Meanwhile let us not grow melancholy: I too am looking over into black dumb mountains, where is little home or cheer for me!

My health continues very uncertain; my spirits fluctuating between restless flutter of a make-believe satisfaction, and the stillness of avowed misery,—which latter I have grown by long practice to think almost the more supportable state! The meaning is, I suppose, that my nervous-system is altogether weak, excitable; the nervous-system and whatsoever depends on that. I am not equal to much work: indeed properly I accomplish every sort of work at the expense of a diminution of health. These Lectures are pure trash: I could write one of them straight on, if I had a body that would stand it. I take ten or twelve days to each; and get into violent extremes of indigestion, this way and that, by means of it. We cannot help it! This Third Lecture, which was far the worst of all as I delivered it, is considerably the best hitherto as written. The rest of the story too, in some way or other, must not be lost. It is not a new story to me; but the world seemed greatly astonished at it; the world cannot too soon get acquainted with it!— I keep my horse still, will not part with it rashly; yet do get more and more impatient of the great price of it and small benefit of it. My theory is still either to ride off for an excursion, and then sell; or else to sell without riding. I must decide now in not many days.

John Sterling is here. Some £1700 of his lay on some American Canal-Enterprise, which has stopt payment, not finally it is hoped;5 he is here for that. Italy again is to be his winter-quarters. He professes to work at nothing. We find him very perceptibly fluttered asunder by Wilson eulogies6 and other the like small causes; growing daily “liker his father”! On the whole, already his speech does no good to me. His theories are worth nothing at all to me: to his “Pantheism” story, I answer by a story about “Pottheism”; and then he argues: really a most wearing man! Yet kindly too; one cannot help liking him. With stronger nerves I should find him delightful sauce to meat.— Yesterday in the Park, I met Calvert7 who asked for you. A queer man: dangling with bent back, free and easy, on a very small pony, clothes, hat and the rest, a world too wide for him, face brown as a berry, no other such figure visible among the quality for some time! Yet a fine honest look; a Cumberland peasant-gentleman. We rode towards Chelsea together, in watery speech.— Did I say before how Jane and I attended one quality soiree at the Monteagles'? Full of Lords, marchionesses and the like; not amusing,—and it cost us nine shillings for fly-hire! “You ought to have fly too, by the bye,—for going out at night!” We have refused all other things. On the whole, a lord-soiree is best: they are beautifullest and politest there.

Thackeray has brought out a book; kind of picture-book about Paris.8 Mill is going to reprint his Articles, certain of them.9 Seemingly there is an Article on me in the present Edinburgh Review. They tell me it is by Macaulay; and is to cut me all to pieces.10 À la bonne heure [well and good]. Macaulay cannot well like my way of thinking; I have so small a love for his.

Did you write lately to our Mother? Do not neglect writing. I had a small note from Jean, with one she had received from our Mother; all right enough: my Mother's was dated 22 june, a truly interesting little thing; Jean's is only a day or two old yet,—was chiefly to dun me for a letter. I have no heart to write what can possibly do without being written. I think, however, of sending a few words to our good Mother today. Ah me!—I am very sorry withal that I am not there at present; but no weather has yet driven me out: perhaps this, for we have a beginning of heat again these two days, may.

Cavaignac has been in France, and we hear is come back again for a time. The Pepolis have a grand lot of Bologna Pictures, which they are still passionately anxious to sell; no sale for them. I keep off Pepolidom, not liking the task of it: Elizabeth,11 whom I have much interest in, comes often here; Jane is up there at present to see what has kept her away almost ten days. The Mazzinis have got a house in Chelsea; as you go towards Fulham by the low narrow road, near the World's End inn.12 I like Mazzini; and wish he could interpret his zeal for Progrès into a wiser and as noble zeal. I have written quite enough. Take a swash [plunge] in the blue sea-water there. Be quiet, cheerful, and love me always.

Your affectionate brother /

T. Carlyle