August-December 1842

The Collected Letters, Volume 15


TC TO ALEXANDER CARLYLE ; 13 November 1842; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18421113-TC-AC-01; CL 15: 178-181


Chelsea, 13 Novr, 1842—

My dear Brother,

You heard by the Letter sent to Scotsbrig that all your good things arrived safe here, and were welcomed with affection and gratitude as proofs of your continued affection for us. I have never yet answered your Letter, but this too gave me great pleasure: alas, we cannot speak much to one another; but I know you never cease to feel all that is brotherly for me; I can know that by what I feel within myself. Thanks for all these kind gifts; and as the old Proverb says, “May ne'er waur be amang us!”

Jane praises her peppers as excellent; and every morning I hear the celebration of the Ham,—and indeed practically join in the same. We are getting steadily thro' it by instalments; one junk [thick piece] boiled after another: it is a piece of good stuff, and very wholesome for poor dyspeptic people. I would all that need it had but the like.— You never told me what the price of the Tobacco was; nor perhaps will you ever, if I were to ask! But that was a thing ordered in the regular commercial way; and therefore I must guess some price, that I may be able freely to apply again. It is the best tobacco I have smoked for a year past;—and very busy I am with it in these very days. Always when the writing gets “stiff t' ye rise,” the pipe is sure to go rapidly!— The cheapest price for tobacco here at present is 5/ a pound: they have raised it, the dogs, on account of some new Excise regulations that prevent them from adulterating it with sugar. At this rate, the 4 lbs will just be a sovereign; for which sum I accordingly insert a Post-Office order here. If there be any overplus (which I do not think likely), you can give it to Tom1 to buy bowls with. My invincible Postman; of the most illustrious punctuality! I hope he is daily growing a better scholar, and means to be a credit to the name.

Yesterday there came a Letter from my good Mother and Jamie, which I was very thankful for: pray tell them that I will answer without much loss of time. My dear good Mother: her little bits of Letters are always precious to me! She hangs up here on the wall now, over the Mantel-piece, on my right hand, while I write; she seems always to be looking down, wishing me good speed!— My writing, after a terrible haggle, does begin to move a little, tho' a very little: I have to be thankful for the day of small things; I must beat lustily while the metal is redhot;—I have very little time to write anything else.2

The Dr said he had heard from you. Two little Notes from him have come since he left you: he is now at a place called Cheltenham, some 80 miles off this, and speaks of perhaps being back here “about the end of the month.” I believe he has much weariness to front where he is; he keeps all his thoughts in a kind of abeyance, and merely clatters: that is the reason too why his Notes are so brief and barren. If he should ever chance to take a notion of marrying, he might still start practice, and become a physician and householder; but this, I suppose, grows more and more unlikely. We have all much reason to love him; and to be glad for his sake, that so many things have gone well with him.

I had a small scrap of a Note too from Jenny, who seemed to [be]3 going off to Dumfries for a few days. Once, a while ago, there came an American Newspaper; which, with great effort, I conjectured at last to have come from the poor Luckless Rob. I am sorry for the wretched Slut of a creature; but he has the enemy within his own self: what can, in that case, be done for him!— Jenny, I take it, is not very happy at Gill; but she seems diligent, thrifty and peaceable. Perhaps she will be able by and by to chalk out for herself some freer path: she is coming over to our Mother for a while, which I am very glad of; you will then have more opportunity of ascertaining how matters stand with her.

Your business, there is little doubt, must have been greatly obstructed by the miserable state of business generally for many months back. There never was such a time, by all accounts, since England was a country. There have been frightful dearths and natural scarcities in old times: but all is abundant at present, and nobody can get it! Things are getting to such a frightful pass, most people begin to perceive that there must be a change before long. It would not surprise me to see the Corn Laws off, before we be very much older! That will probably give a great excitement to every kind of business: but, alas, it will be very far from settling the sad account of matters. We are all gone far astray; we have forgotten (which of us has not forgotten?) what his real course as a man and Immortal Soul was; have run after money, money, and one folly and another;—till the general sum of our errors has become great indeed!— I told my peace in general about all that; there is small use in talking. Let us all repent, and amend. Let each of us for himself do it:—that is the grand secret!—

You would notice the death of poor Allan Cunningham in the Newspapers. It was and is a real sorrow to us. Of late years I did not see very much of him; but always when we did meet, he was blithe to me like an elder Brother: a right truehearted brave man! He had a steep and rugged enough pilgrimage, and might have run to wreck often enough, had he been other than a wise true-seeing man. Poor Allan! I saw him on the street about three weeks ago, and spoke a word or two with him; I shall never see him more now. He died of apoplexy, quite suddenly; it was the second shock he had had, and ever since the first he had been “numb and weak,” as he would sometimes tell me. He meant always to get back to green native Nithsdale; but it was not to be!

Adieu, dear Brother; I must not scribble any more at present. Jane sends her kind wishes and regards to all of you. Good ever be with you all!

Your affectionate /

T. Carlyle