The Collected Letters, Volume 13


TC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE ; 5 November 1841; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18411105-TC-MAC-01; CL 13: 293-295


Chelsea, (Friday Evg), 5 Novr, 1841—

My dear Mother,

According to a promise given to Alick last week, I am to have a word ready for you on Sunday Morning: I hope you will call and get this! It will be a kind of encouragement I suppose to your coming to the Preaching, and make worthy Mr Tait's Sermon go down not the worse.1— I meant to write in time for this evening's mail, so that my Letter might have been delivered at Alick's on Saturday evening, and thus have needed no calling for. But I was too late with my task; I found it towards 3 o'clock; and so had to rush out, and put this business off till after dinner;—at which time accordingly (half past 5 o'clock) I am now writing.

Dear Mother, I was right glad to hear of you from Jean; and much obliged for your mindfulness in make2 her write. I had sent you a short Note, which I think would arrive shortly after Jean wrote. Since that, my Dame has had a Letter from Isabella, which brings the news of Scotsbrig down to a still later date. They all agree in representing you as better than when I was near you, tho' none of them assert that you are yet completely got into your old state. You must avoid all occasions of getting yourself hurt, by excitation or otherwise: I do not know, for example, whether you ought to risk yourself away staying about Mary's, in that damp house of theirs, or not? At all events you ought to stay only for a day, or not more than two, and then come home again to your own hearth and hadding [holding]; you are generally best there, I believe. Upon the whole, dear Mother, the gladdest news I got was that you were spinning,—Jean said, almost a dozen in the day! That is what I call excessive spinning; no need for such extreme despatch as that;—but I see My Mother is of the same kind of material that I myself am made of, and cannot take any leisure in the doing of her work! Well, you must just spin away: if I could hear of you spinning half a dozen in the day, I should be well content.

The thing, I dare say, that beyond all others grieves you still is the uncertain situation of poor Jenny. Jean has written to me about her since her return to Dumfries. It seems Mary will require the use of those rooms for herself before long; so that after this present winter Jenny will have to remove elsewhither. This is rather unexpected, I suppose; but on the whole, Jenny could not permanently stay at the Gill; before summer come she may have resolved on some course of her own; and certainly some house of her own, fit to lodge her and her two children in, will be no deadly matter to get in Dumfriesshire somewhere!— I had written to Jenny before Jean's Dumfries Letter came; I am expecting perhaps tomorrow to get some kind of signal from Jenny that the Letter arrived safe. On the whole, dear Mother, you really must not fret yourself any more about that matter: if Jenny even determine on going and joining Rob in America (tho' I will by no means advise that), you really, nor any one of us, have no right to restrain her; she must do the thing that she finds will be pleasantest and likeliest for her: we actually are no judges of that. People like Rob have been known to reform, when they had been brought down to their beam-ends for a while: I think it is not impossible but he may do some good in America. We must hope the best for poor Jenny, and do all that is in our power to assist her, and guide her: but if she will, reason or no reason, join her lot with his again, I do not see how we could advantageously hinder her, even if hindering lay in our power. But I am convinced she will, on the whole, determine on something that is wise and not foolish; she need do nothing rashly, but take time and choose. She should be encouraged, poor thing, and softly treated; she has much to bear. We will hope too, as I told herself, that all will yet turn out for her instruction and admonition, and be found to be for her good at last.

You ask, kind Mother, whether I sleep well. My sleep and health are as good as when you saw me;—and, what is better still, I really think I am going to get to work now! All is as quiet here, as it can be: I keep myself out of the road of everybody; shut up in my upper chamber, trying if I can work. The only use of living is to do some good work. In the world too there seems need enough of me at present. Am I not happy enough that I am good for something in God's Earth? Courage! Courage!—

This is the “fifth of November,” Gunpowder-Plot day; and a great ringing of bells &c there is, and little boys running about to burn the effigy of Guy Faux.3 We hear the jowing [ringing] of the bells here even now. When I was up in Town in the afternoon, I met a most eminent Guy Faux, whom I hope they will not burn! It was an effigy drawn on a truck by many boys, with much jubilee; a monstrous bonnet, and pasteboard face on it,—but to my amazement, as it passed me, I saw life under the pasteboard; it was an old “unemployed operative” they had hired to personate Guy, and there he sat, poor old fellow, as steady [as] he could! I hope they will give him tolerable wages; for it was an ugly job, in a winter day.

Tell Alick that his Newspaper came, which I understood sufficiently for a sign. I neglected to write to his Brandy-Merchants at the time their Box came, as it would have been civil to do: I did it since (acknowledging that the Box was here safe), but was not very sure whether I