January-July 1843

The Collected Letters, Volume 16


TC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE ; 20 January 1843; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18430120-TC-MAC-01; CL 16: 26-29


Chelsea, 20 jany (Friday) 1843—

My dear good Mother,

I am sitting here with a nasty rheumatism in the back, what they call lumbago, which I caught the day before yesterday in the damp; and, what is far worse, with the obligation to go out into the country to dinner and stay all night:1 so that I am good for nothing at all as the hours go; and after an attempt at a days work, have flung it by, and taken to answer Letters!— To whom ought I to write, in that case, if not to dear Mother withal? I will scribble you also a line before I go:—then I will go, and dine, and stay all night (as really I was partly bound to do, having already refused three times, in quick succession),—and they shall look with clear eyes that see me in any adventure of the sort again for a while!

This rheumatism is nothing but the fruit of my own negligence in the damp &c, and perhaps the very dinner will drive it away; for I feel still whole at heart; and am indeed getting on with my work in a reasonable measure— I have learned too not to tear myself in pieces, but to [take]2 a reasonable rest now and then: so, at bottom, there is nothing to be complained of; and I shall get my bit [little] Book done by and by,—and I hope it will be a useful kind of Book; which is the best of all! It goes rather in a fiery strain, about the present condition of men in general, and the strange pass they are coming to; and, I calculate, it may awaken here and there a slumbering blockhead to rub his eyes and consider what he is about in God's Creation: a thing highly desirable at present. I found I could not go on with Cromwell, or with anything else till I had disburthened my heart somewhat in regard to all that: the look of the world is really quite oppressive to me,—eleven thousand souls in Paisley alone living on three halfpence a-day, and the Governors of the Land all busy shooting partridges and passing Corn-Laws the while: it is a thing no man with a speaking tongue in his head is entitled to be silent about!3 My only difficulty is that I have far too much to say, and require great address in deciding how to say it.—

Jane continues on foot; really better than she has been in past winters. Our winter here, indeed, is more like a nasty, slobbery sunless Summer; glar[mud] and damp are the only things we complain of, no cold to hurt even a sickly Jane. There have been only two days that I have noticed with decisive ice; no snow but one shower that lay only a few hours, and then was all glar again. I believe you have it harsher in the North: but I hope you, dear Mother, take good care of yourself; and as Jenny is there to light the fire, never rise till things are all aired about you. Do you follow this course? I have sent you no flannel jackets this year,—tho' I have good warm stockings of your spinning on me! I wish I knew what to send, or anything I could do for you: it were surely much my part, a duty and a great happiness alike, to do it and send it. You look down from the picture-canvas here upon me, so patient and good;4 and will not tell me what you want! I have more money now than I used to have; surely if money can get you anything, you ought to tell me! Jack says, in answer to my catechising, that you seemed snugly enough provided, and had money of your own,—but he's apt to be a hurried observer. My dear good Mother, what can I do for you?

This Note which I enclose is from an old friend of Edward Irving's,5 whom I have not heard of for long before: he is very rich and vain, a good6 devout-hearted man, but full of continual half-mad sallies of one sort or the other: he did Irving a great deal of harm; but shall not me,7—I am too old now for that kind of thing. One of my Notes today has been to decline the proferred visit till at least “bright summer weather come,”—if then!

Last night Jane went, under due escort, to hear an Anti-Corn-Law Lecture, which seemed to have amused her somewhat;8 and I went, the while, to sit for an hour with a certain family called Baring (the American Lord Ashburton's9 son is head of it), the Lady of which, a considerable admirer of mine, and now very unwell, wished to see me in that way. It was melancholy enough, in my rheumatic humour, to look round on all that. A proud, clever woman, of great birth and wealth, in the middle of splendour there; and very probably dying of consumption; certainly very miserable in heart, independent of her illness. I said to myself, “What is the use of your greatness, poor Lady Harriet? Why do men fret themselves to death for what is worth, it would seem,—nothing!”— They are extremely polite people; and a little talk with such is really almost the chief good I get of talking at all at present. Very few men have any fund of truth in them. I prefer holding my peace, and following my work,—which gets on best always in silence.

Thank Jamie for his Letter till he get better payment. The Scotch Kirk it would seem is in a really alarming predicament;10 a Mr Hamilton came here for me the other day to sign a requisition to Dr Chalmers to come and lecture here about it.11 All, I suppose, will be in vain; and really it is a pity that that had been the end of it.— My brotherly salutations to Isabella, to Jenny; my blessings on one and all of you. Adieu, dear Mother.

Your ever affectionate

T. Carlyle