The Collected Letters, Volume 12


TC TO ALEXANDER CARLYLE ; 18 November 1840; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18401118-TC-AC-01; CL 12: 327-330


5. Cheyne Row, Chelsea, Wednesday—18 Novr 1840—

My dear Brother,

Your Note, some considerable while ago, taught us to expect the Provision Cargo; I delayed answering till it should arrive. Last night, in the middle of rain and wind, very frequent at present, the long-looked-for came: returning from a desperate piece of walking after dark, which the day's continual storm had reduced me to, I found Pickford's Waggon drawn up at the door; and the Annandale Barrel getting itself lodged in a place they call the “china closet.”1 We were right glad to see it. I take the first post to certify you that it has come; your kindness will not consider itself as complete till you know that. The arrow shot never so rightly out of the bow, one wants to ascertain that it has hit.

I speedily burst up the Barrel; found the interior, as we may say, all right. Poor Jenny's Pot of Honey was indeed all gone to squelch,—alas and woe's me! But that was the only thing that had run wrong. We found, they had had the Barrel lying on its side (for they turn these things in all ways, and indeed this Cask was set down here bottom uppermost, and I almost began opening it from that end); now, lying on its side, in the bouncing and shaking of the Ship, our oatmeal had more or less given way, till the two pigs [earthenware pots] came in contact, and the small honey one was squelched to atoms under the big butter one. Jane lamented much, for she could still taste that the honey had been excellent. It was all run out now; most of it into the side of the sack; the rest of it had formed a kind of honey-paste about the fragments of the crockery, on the cheese, even on the little ragstone [whetstone]: itself lost, and a handful or two of meal with it; no other mischief whatever done! Jane thought it altogether lucky that no drop had got into the straw of the bonnet; but had all been arrested by the paper, and done no ill there either. The white stockings she thinks are the prettiest she ever saw. My stockings too are a superb lot and of the right kind; I only grieve that they must have cost my good Mother so much money. We had right porridge last night; the meal, you can tell Jamie, is unsurpassable. The Peppers [Peppermints], tell Jane, were safe! The Bacon too was disclosed this morning, and is said to promise to promise [sic] to be admirable; I will tell you when I write next. In short, it is all safe and right; and we shall think often of the kind souls in Annandale to whom we owe it all, who grudge no trouble for us at any time.

It is not long, not above three days I think, since I wrote to my Mother, with the current of my news. Nothing but wet blustery weather since out of doors; within doors hardly any novelty whatever. I sit steadily reading. I fancy myself perceptibly better in health than I used to be in the last and former winters. It is the effect of my summer's riding perhaps. By the bye, these good Marshall's have sold my horse for me; I wrote requesting them to give the price away to the Anti Corn-law Union,—not thinking it perfectly genteel to pocket any of it, under all the circumstances: but they would not; they mean to “retain it for getting me some more riding next spring”;—to which what can one do but answer vaguely with many true thanks! Old Mr Marshall2 is a kind, wiseheaded, just old man; silent, almost blate [shy] as a young lad; and rich, I believe, with some £80,000 a year. I enclose the Son's last Note about that business; and have left it as you see it there.— My reading is not sore work; it is the easiest kind of life, indeed, that one can have; easier than very idleness. I do not yet see what sort of result will come of it; but some result will perhaps come.

Since the Letter to my Mother there has arrived a Letter from the Doctor at Linton. He is roaming about on that Southwest Coast; riding on “grass-fed ponies” &c: it is very solitary, he says, and muddy, but his Patient has relations there: I fancy they will get to Wight by and by, and then I may hope to meet poor Jack again. He has had a most wandering year since he rolled off from this door! He makes a great deal of money; and having himself such an appetite for travel, and an incapability as yet of fixing anywhere, we ought to esteem him very lucky.

Jean sent me a short Note3 this morning, about some cash accounts &c. She complains that she has heard nothing from our Mother or any of you for a long while. I too begin to be impatient. I wonder what is becoming of you all in these dismal tempest[s]. It is the roughest, wettest weather I have yet seen in any winter here. It nearly equals Puttoch in all its glory—with the addition of an unparallelled [sic] glar [mud], which we had mostly got the better of there. Poor Puttoch; how far off is it now, are those old years now! They will forever be memorable to us all.

This is a far longer Letter than you have written to me, my dear Brother, for many a month. You should take pen, and write largely! I know you are like to be sadly interrupted; but you would learn to write in spite of that. I long to hear what aspect your business offers to you; what comfort you yourself are able to adjust out of it, that is the main question of all. “Better a wee bush than no bield [shelter],” in these times! I believe the distress of the lower classes is great and pitiable; small hope of remedy soon. Did you notice that of the people at Stockport murdering their own children to swindle some club out of the burial-fees! It is like what we read of in the uttermost misery prophecied against the Jews: “the hands of the pitiful women have sodden their own children,”4—boiled them for food, in the extremity of siege and famine! Granting these Stockport people to be the perfection of blackguards and wretches, that helps the matter but little. It remains every way among the frightfullest things ever written of a Country or a time.

I must end here. I will write to my Mother, or some other of you, before many days. We have not tried any of the wares yet except the oatmeal; this is not to be omitted in making the report: tonight the butter will be tried, tomorrow the bacon.— Jane is not here; but with some company or other (as I think, but care not to verify lest they seize me too) up stairs: she ought to answer about her stockings &c herself.

Ask Tom what progress he is making in the elementary parts of learning? What he expects to have to say for himself when I see him next year? The idle dog that he is!— I bid good be with you all, dear Alick, for this time. I am always

Your affectionate /

T. Carlyle