August-December 1842

The Collected Letters, Volume 15


TC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE ; 16 December 1842; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18421216-TC-MAC-01; CL 15: 234-236


Chelsea, Friday [16 December 1842].

My dear Mother,

Take a very small word from me, rather than nothing at all! If I were not in a very confused condition, I would write you a long Letter; but I have been writing all day, and my head is muddled and wearied; and I must simply be content with this scrap of paper to assure you that nothing has gone wrong, that all is well here.

Jack dined with us on the Sabbath afternoon according to old custom; he also came down incidentally yesterday, and we had a long walk together. I have not seen him looking better for years. He appears to be reconciled to his dull place, for the sake of its great wages; he has got it all regulated round him, and makes it go on smoothly, like a man turning the handle of a machine. I calculate that he may stay there a good while yet, and grow richer and richer.

As for me I keep my health, and endeavour to plod along at my work. No work is play; therefore I will not complain of this: but it is confused enough; and often reduces me to fatal-looking pauses! It grows bigger and bigger too, as I go on;—this is not an evil either; but properly a great blessing. I feel as if I had still many a thing to say, of very vital consequence, to this generation of men, which perhaps there is no other man in such a condition to say. One ought to hold on, and make no cavils, but “work while it is called Today.”1

Jenny's little Note apprised me that she was come over to you. I hope she will stay there till the Sun gets a little higher up again. It is much more pleasant for me to figure you with Jenny close at hand, than all alone in the dark winter days. I wish I knew anything I could do for you, dear good Mother! Alas, I can do nothing,—except write a piece of a Letter now and then; and even that I do not manage too well!—

We have amazing bright weather here for such a season; the Sun out all day, and a small fire almost too hot in the room at night. One does not like such weather at such a season: cold weather is too apt to come when there should be heat.——— Indeed I understand it is not at all a wholesome time here; an influenza is spreading wide, and proves dangerous to many. Yesterday I met a confused crowd of people on the streets, soon after parting with Jack: I found it was a man and his wife that had both died; their two coffins, brown pauper coffins, were both going to the grave together, and a crowd of poor neighbours had gone out to witness it. The lowest classes of the people here have an altogether shocking indifference for the Dead: but some kind of emotion rises in them, when a tragedy like this unusual one takes place.——— Their poverty and distress at present, I believe, are very great; tho' nothing at all to what some Lancashire and other Towns are still suffering.

Poor Mrs Sterling has fallen ill this winter; the Doctors fear it is some disease of the heart: Jane goes up to her whenever she can; is afraid sometimes that her poor Friend is not in a good way.

I know not if you read in the Examiner, about two months ago, a story of two miners that were on the point of being both blown to pieces with a charge of gunpowder (as the “weamsie [container]”2 would not pull them both up), whereupon one jumped out, surrendering himself to die, and the other was then swiftly drawn up;—and even, to his inexpressible joy, saw, on looking down, that his heroic comrade too was safe, unhurt as if by miracle! We were greatly struck here with the nobleness of such an action; after great difficulty I got ascertained where it was: I had people set to investigate it; found it out to be strictly true: The result is that a small subscription has been begun to assist the man in schooling himself; and certain benevolent Quakers &c of the neighbourhood are permanently interested in him. I hope it will do good.— This little Note is about it; from a young Quaker lady to John Sterling. I know not if you will be able to make it out, or put the story well together; but perhaps it may interest you for a moment.

Jane has been out, and reports that the wind is grown cold and bitter,—and indeed I can discern here the Sun has for some time got himself all wrapt in lead-coloured mists again. I should be out before the rain come on; while there is yet daylight above the horizon!—

This is a poor rigmarole of a scrawl, my dear Mother, and far more of it than I meant; but I know you will say, The more the better. Take it with my heart's wishes.

I have been questioning Jack about you all, but have not got the half out of him yet. He touches upon all things, but dwells to the full on none. I question and cross-question.

Will you write to me soon; or tell some of the others of their duty to write? I want news, as full and copious as possible. Jamie was to write, I think! I have a claim against Alick!— My blessings with one and all of you. Adieu, dear Mother, for this day. Your affectionate Son

T. Carlyle