The Collected Letters, Volume 13


TC TO ALEXANDER CARLYLE ; 21 March 1841; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18410321-TC-AC-01; CL 13: 60-62


Chelsea, 21 March, 1841—

My dear Brother,

Your good Letter and little package of Tobacco came in safe, two nights ago, and gave me great pleasure. I smoked the Tobacco, in three successive pipes, before bedtime. My taste is none of the truest at present; something of influenza still hanging about me in that if in few other respects: but I thought the Weed a very genuine sort of thing, so far as I could judge; and indeed the history of it would have given it a good taste independently of all else. I think however that we will not venture on importing any of it at present. The Tobacco I have here is tolerable: a large stock, in the summer time especially, is very difficult to keep, as I have found. The last stone-weight threatened at one time to spoil upon me altogether. We will let this lie, therefore; I will live in the hope of finding some of it ready at Ecclefechan, when I get thither! There will be several other things and persons that will be glad sights for me there!

I have never got to Wight yet; Jack still continues here; has set day after day for going, but does not go.— Nay I find here he is at this moment, down stairs; wanting me to go somewhither with him! Perhaps I shall not get my Letter finished in that case. He is well, and never rests long; keeps his arm still in a sling, but does not mind it at all,—has reduced the evil now to one “black spot” somewhere.1 He has a mo[s]t2 enviable situation so far as the best wages, and apparently only an imaginary employment can make any situation desirable. Whatever thing he wants done, to whatever place he wants to be carried,—he persuades his Patient that he (his Patient) wants it, and straightway chaises are ordered, machinery is got, and the rich Ogilvie does it, and is the better for doing it! Jack needs prudence, of course, and dexterity of management in his place; but he seems to have all that. I should not wonder if he continued in this occupation, always at liberty to quit every month, and yet not quitting for perhaps a long while.

I in these days do very little; read somewhat &c. I am sitting for my Picture too: a little Painter,3 of great talent, whom I like much, has been prying about me, peering at me and watching me these three years and more, to get the real figure of my face: I say to him now, Take it, and let me have done with you! Till Thursday he keeps me sitting two hours every alternate day. It is a frightful demon-countenance hitherto, full of energy and ugliness; but Jane who has more skill than I declares that it will be an “admirable picture.” At all events I shall have done with it; let it be what it likes to be.

We are very sorry to hear of the poor child's sickliness. Cold is above all to be guarded against; cold, and indigestible or otherwise unwholesome food. There is good hope however, as you say, in the weather, in the ever-growing power of the Sun. Encourage Jenny to be as careful of the poor little fellow as she can, till the Summer relieve her of him.4

As for us here, we get our Influenza more and more cast behind us; I mean the effects of the Influenza, for the disorder itself is properly gone long since. I have not the same almost frantic passion for the country that I had ten days ago; yet I still think I shall go for a short time,—most probably to Wight, were John gone. We have strong West winds now; not so bright a sky; a grey one indeed with occasional rains, which have stilled all our March dust again; but upon the whole it is beautiful weather.

If you could chance upon any suitable “lodging” for us in Annandale, it would be a right useful thing to let me hear of it! I continue bent on spending this summer, under the free air, out of London;—in what quarter of the Earth is still vague enough for me! If Jane did not hate Craigenputtoch even more than I do (which Heaven knows is enough), I almost think I would put Corson out, and go thither! But at bottom it is perhaps best that one do not go thither; the Earth has other places in it; and of places as ugly, as inconvenient, and for all things but the quietude of it, as unsuitable, the Earth has not many! Annandale is terribly far off; but our dear Mother is there, you are all there. If Puttoch stood in some cultivated spot of Annandale, I believe I should try to furnish out a room or two of the house again, and keep it as a City of refuge. We must do nothing rashly. By and by I shall see better what to do. The relief from lecturing, this year, will be an immense point for me.

The Printed Lectures were sent off as you heard in my Mother's Letter. Was it last Wednesday they ought to have arrived at Ecclefechan,—or not till this Wednesday that is coming? When they do arrive safely I shall be glad to hear. There was a copy for you; the “Library of Ecclefechan” too was not forgotten.

My Mother's kind little Letter5 came to hand, tell her, and was welcomed as all hers are. She shall hear from me again before long.— Jack sits still down stairs; but I conjecture his patience must be at the last ebb. No more today, dear Alick.— Commend me to every one of the kindred. Bid Jamie prosper with his sowing, but Jenny of Kirtlebrig take care of colds. My blessing with one and all of you.

Your affectionate Brother /

T. Carlyle

Enclosed is a Note of John Mill's, just received, which you can read, and give to my Mother. Mill likes the Book very greatly better than I myself do at present. We shall see who is right by and by.


Jack can find no railway train at this hour; which I am very thankful for! Jane and he send you their remembrance of love; to you and to all. I will write again before long to some one.