The Collected Letters, Volume 12


TC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE ; 14 November 1840; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18401114-TC-MAC-01; CL 12: 323-325


Chelsea, 14 Novr, 1840—

My dear Mother,

You have got nothing from me of late but mere offputs of Letters: I ought to write you Letters; I can do nothing else for you! Today I call myself as usual extremely busy; but is there any likelihood that I shall be less busy soon? I will send you a line today, were I twice as busy: I privately determined upon it last night, while I smoked my last pipe! I smoke this pipe, sitting on the floor (usually) with my side to one of the jambs, by the embers of the dining-room fire, when all has gone to sleep around me; and things far off and dear to me, and Scotsbrig always among the number, come masquerading thro' my head and heart.1

Yesterday was the fiercest day of wind and rain I ever saw here (Friday); indeed almost or altogether as fierce a day as I ever saw anywhere. We never stirred out of doors at all. The rain beat harmless against the windows; only set us thinking, what are they doing with such a Southwester against the gable at Scotsbrig yonder? What is all the world doing; on wild mountains, on roaring seas? I fear much mischief has been done. Nobody came to us, nor have we yet seen anybody. Today is bright as diamonds, all clear and dry even under foot; the streets here are all as of sand, and drink in any quantity of moisture, especially if the wind favour. We are all as if new-washed.— Jack has not written again since he got to Linton; he was writing to you, he said, while last writing to me there:2 I fancy you would like as well yesterday that he was not steaming or sailing, but sitting as we could conceive by the side of a warm fire! I wrote to him directly after getting his Letter; and expect most probably to hear from him in the beginning of the week. He had no more travelling to execute that would be of any difficulty.

Our Meal-barrel is now expected daily, or almost daily. Alick's Letter gave us a sketch of the contents. Last night, in the middle of the rain, there came a Barrel of Potatoes to us from Kirkcaldy;3 we almost feared it had been the meal, in so bad a night for it. We have taken lately again to porridge, even on London shop-meal, the dearest and the worst of its kind to be found in this Island.

Lately I had a Letter from Mr Stewart of Gillenbie, about Craigenputtoch, which there seems no speedy prospect of selling. He takes occasion to mention Austin and Mary; and praises them both for their management, seemingly very sincerely. I clipt out the passage of his sheet, and enclosed it to Mary the other day.

Nothing new occurs with me here, or as little as I can possibly manage to make it! I keep away from all noises as much as in me lies; generally refuse every invitation (not judged indespensable [sic]); much seldomer go into the heart of London at all, but prefer walking about the Parks and Lanes. I get far more profit silently communing with myself than from the gabble of most I could meet. It is absolutely indispensable for me to be alone a great part of my time; I go all to weeds and rubbish otherwise! The clatter of other people does not increase one, does not alter one at all: if all the earth will fling their caps up about a man, the poor man himself remains just 5 feet ten inches high; if no mortal fling his cap up, the man still measures the same! Ah, me; Eternity is round about us all: the whole world with all the good or all the ill it can do, and the loudest noises it can make, will soon be silent, small!— On the whole, I am best, as James Aitken said, “to work ay mostly in a place by mysel'.” I have strong thick shoes that fear no mud; I wear inward flannel (a knit woolen jacket like yours), and am warm without heavy greatcoats or any wrappage as yet; I can walk far, much farther I often find than last year. I have great reason to be thankful for very many things,—perhaps for my weak nerves and sad stomach among the rest! I read very many books; my whole work at present is reading. Perhaps I shall get out another Book by and by. But we will not hurry about that. I am no longer in absolute fear of coming to want; cash enough to go on with, to bid such a Fear begone for a saucy hallanshaker [vagabond] that has insulted me too long! The business is to write a right Book, not a swift-selling Book, or any other sort of Book.

Dear Mother, I wish I could get a long account from you, of all that you are doing, and thinking! You cannot write so easily as I, or you would, I know. I ought to be thankful that you write at all; that I can hear so much of you. I figure you in the end-room yonder, many and many a time; there burns no candle under the wide canopy of Night so interesting to me as that of yours in the little brass candlestick, with my good Mother sitting by it, a wise brave woman, wise, brave, silently trustful in God in her old days as in her young. God is there as well as here; merciful and great above us all: one has no other composing thought in this wild whirl of life and death. Our heart cries, Have Thou Mercy on us all!—

I will write no more today. It is time I should get out, and have a long, long walk. The mist will sink (if the wind fail) about four o'clock, and there will be no good walking. Farewell, dear Mother. Blessings on every one of you. Jane is gone out, and her regards must be understood. Your affectionate Son

T. Carlyle