The Collected Letters, Volume 13


TC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE ; 18 February 1841; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18410218-TC-MAC-01; CL 13: 38-40


Chelsea, Thursday, 18 Feby 1841

My dear Mother,

Before going out I will write you a line; merely to say we are well. I am kept in a perpetual Kippitch [confusion] with the Printers at present. But they are getting on very swiftly and well; both the Books are two-thirds done; I think we shall be almost thro', at the end of next week. I like my Lecture Book considerably better as I go on with it in clear type: it is a gowsterous [boisterous] determined speaking out of the truth about several things; the people will be no worse for it at present! The astonishment of many of them is likely to be considerable.— I send off the Sheets, as they get perfected, to Emerson in America; I suppose he will directly print it there. Jack also gets a copy of the Sheets by post.1 My good Mother shall have a copy, the first that goes complete out of my hand. It is possible that we may be ready at the beginning of the Month;—possible; but not very likely, I doubt. You may expect the Book about April-fools' day at latest!———

When I wrote last in answer to poor Alick's mournful message, I had been summoned again, under unheard-of penalties, to attend a Jury-trial about “Patent India-rubber cotton-cards”! Two people from Manchester had a controversy, whose was the invention of said cards. It had cost them perhaps ten thousand pounds, this controversy or lawsuit. There were 150 witnesses summoned, from all parts of England and Scotland. It had been left unfinished last term, that was the reason of the “unheard-of penalties” for us Jurymen—that they might not be obliged to begin at the very beginning again. The same Twelve Men did all assemble. We sat for two endless days, till dark night each day: about 8 o'clock at night on the second day, we imagined it was done, and we had only to speak our verdict;—but lo and behold, one of the Jury stood out, we were eleven for the Plaintiff, and one the other way who would not yield! The Judge told us we must withdraw. Thro passages, stairs up and down; into a little stone cell with twelve old chairs in it, one candle, and no meat, drink or fire! Conceive our humour,—not a particle of dinner, nerves worn out &c &c. The refractory man, a thickset flathead sack, erected himself in his chair; said, “I am one of the firmest-minded men in England. I know this room pretty well; I have starved out three juries here already!”— Reasoning, demonstration was of no use at all: they began to suspect he had been bribed; he looked really at one time as if he wd keep us till half past nine of the morning, and then get us dismissed without any verdict at all,—the whole trial to begin again! One really could not help laughing; tho' one had a notion to kill the hash [oaf]! “Do not argue with him,” I said; “flatter him: don't you see he has the obstinacy of a boar, and little more sense in that head of his than in a swedish turnip!” It was a head all cheeks, jaws, and no brow; of shape, somewhat like a great ball of putty dropped from a height. I set to work upon him, we all set to work; and in about an hour after our “withdrawal,”—the hash (I pulling him by the arm) was got scind [severed] from his chair,—one of the gladdest moments I have seen for a month; and then, in few instants more, we were all rejoicing on the road home! In my life I have seen nothing more absurd. I reflected, however, that really I had perhaps contributed to get justice done to some poor unknown Manchester man; that had I not been there, it was very possible they would have quarrelled with this “firmest-minded man in England,” and cost somebody another £10,000!2

My health has profited nothing by that business; but I am getting round again, nearly as well as I was. There has been a speculation about my going down to the Isle of Wight; which I really almost think I shall do: I have a great longing to see the green country, or even the blae [dark-bluish] country, the everlasting sea; and the weather is getting to have bright blinks in it now.——— Jack as you will see there, writes me this morning one of the shortest of all letters, that perhaps they are coming hither. We must wait till that decide itself. Perhaps I had better wait at any rate till my Books be done.

Next door to us, a certain poor Dr Marshall's Wife has died, in a very mournful way; and Jane is much occupied, these two days, doing what she can for the poor people. Mrs Marshall, now departed, was from Edinburgh, a relative of Haddington people well-known to Jane.3 She was a hapless woman; never very sound of mind, we thought.

I hope Jean is recovered, or recovering well. Perhaps you are there just now?——— Poor Alick! Go and speak a word to him, look a Mother's look on him, as you have opportunity. It was a sad thing.4——— You must make my excuses to Jamie,—say his time is coming. You must give my blessing to all. I am no longer so wae for you now that the cold weather is gone!

Adieu, dear Mother, for this day. Your affectionate / T. Carlyle