August 1843-March 1844

The Collected Letters, Volume 17


TC TO ALEXANDER CARLYLE ; 17 November 1843; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18431117-TC-AC-01; CL 17: 183-185


Chelsea, 17 Novr, 1843—

My dear Brother,

Your Letter came exactly a week ago, much to our joy; Steamer is going off tomorrow, and I, tho' in great haste tonight, must write you a few words. We had got into considerable impatience to hear from you; do not be remiss in writing! Remember that for the next four months there is only one packet per month; ascertain what is the day of despatch, and be punctual in hitting it. Our good Mother especially is overjoyed with a Letter from you: if no word come, you know what her anxieties are like to be.

That very day your Letter came, having shewn it to Jack, I despatched it for Scotsbrig; I have a short Note since acknowledging with delight that they had got it directly: “one of the Gill lassies was coming over thro Ecclefechan (on the Sunday evening it was), she called at the Post-Office, and got it.” Our good Mother is “spinning yarn for stockings,” very busy, and as well as we could hope her to be. There is a small line in her own hand, a written blessing from her: the body of the Note had been written by Isabella. This Gill lassie is come over to stay thro' the winter months, or some part of them, till some other succeed her, with our Mother. The rest are all in “their usual way”; Jenny is at Gill; has shirts &c to make. This is my latest news.— In the beginning of this Month a long Letter from Jean went off to you, with a small word in the corner from me: a more minute account of all Scotch matters was in that.

You seem to have had your share of disaster, dear Brother; yet happily nothing irremediable as yet, since you went into that new country. “Every town,” it is a true saying, “has a dub [puddle] at the end of it.”1 It was a provoking business that of the sore leg, when you had so much need of all your faculties;—and to find poor Jenny and the poor bairn lying ill at your return! Jack thinks it may have been damp in the house you are inhabiting; he earnestly counsels you to look after this,—and not to sleep on the ground-floor, but in an upper story if there is one. We hope the poor patients are got out of the business now; that you are all getting seasoned to the new way of life, and may have that command of health which you so particularly need at present. Canada and Canandaigua appear alike to have their drawbacks, every place will be found to have drawbacks and advantages: you will have studying enough before you can decide! Of course we cannot give you the smallest counsel; except again to urge that you should look out for a healthy place, above all. Good neighbours you are not to look for all at once; probably in the worst places they will turn up better than you expect at first. We hope at least that Mr Clow's fate for this winter will have already settled itself; that you know by this time whether your house is your own or not.— The joyfullest news to all of us, which of itself would outweigh a whole burden of mischances, is what you say [about]2 the Teetotal habit! Nothing that I have heard for many months has given me half the pleasure. Once fairly parted from that insidious diabolic enemy I have no fear for my brave brother. Mistake itself will teach him new wisdom; he will front his difficulties with calm clear manhood; ascertain what and how they are, on what side they are to be taken up; and conquer them whatever they are! I predict so with true confidence and satisfaction. Somewhere or other you will find an eligible piece of Mother Earth; you do know how to plough and till the Earth, and Earth honestly tilled will not fail to give you due increase. By God's blessing, and man's faithful endeavour, it shall all be tolerably well before long. You have the whole winter to familiarize yourself with the scene of operations; a hard clear frost we understand the weather to [be]:3 by the time of casting in the seed, you will probably have decided, and be ready to start. One feels as if a “place of one's own” would be the more cheerful way of it: but you can judge better; you alone can judge. And so Heaven guide you to a good choice, dear Brother; and then with health and heart there is no fear. Courage, Courage!—

As for us here in London we are steering along, without notable rubs, in the old fashion; and have much to be thankful for, nothing that it were fair to complain of. I have begun a new Book,—or rather, alas, I am still but struggling to begin one, and it will not prosper yet; which is of all operations the ugliest known to me. But I must stand to it; with or without hope, stand to it! By and by the mud settles; one finds hard footing somewhere, after infinite plunging; and then it goes along. My Book is to be on Oliver Cromwell and the old Puritans of England, analogous to our Scotch Covenanters. It will be horribly difficult; but in due time I do hope to send you a Copy: I send always one Copy to America (Friend Emerson lives at Boston in New England), but now this to my Brother will be two! There is plenty of reviewing and confused uproar about me; but that literally is nothing; I find my only safe course is to go on as if it were not there.— Had you once a settled place, we will send you out a Box some time, and all manner of sundries in it!

Jack lives not far from us here, in handsome convenient lodgings; seems always very busy, with books &c &c: we see him duly every Sunday evening. He looks healthy and brisk; by and by, we consider, he will settle to something definite: at all events he is now in no man's way.—

Jane sits reading by the lamp at the fireplace behind me here in this upstairs room; she sends her blessing to you one and all. She is in good health hitherto, and fronts the winter under fair auspices. It is a great comfort to think that you are near Clow. Pray give him my very kind regards; may good ever follow him. I desire also to be remembered to Mr Wightman,4 whose one visit to me I can very well recollect. Dear Brother, my sheet is done; and it seems as if I had still so much to say! Trade is better with us than it was; Corn, by their sliding-scale, 5 fallen very low: but distress still abounds. O'Connell has Ireland in a great ferment; yet no public disturbance is at all apprehended there for the time.6— Jamie has sent us up his winter Barrel of meal; Isabella was reported to be a little better, but does not seem to acknowledge much of it,—we suppose it is very trifling (Turn to the beginning) You must remember me as an affectionate uncle to Jane and Tom, and the other younger branches. Tell Tom that I expect to find him a rugged piece of stuff (not to discredit the name) when I come over. Of Jane as a nice wise Lassie everybody reports. Be kind to Jenny and them; stand all truly by one another! Adieu dear Brother, and may God ever bless you!

T. Carlyle

When you see Mr Greig, offer him my kind regards, and thanks for the Letter I got from him. It came in good season; at a time when we had otherwise no news from you. If he can do you good, there is no doubt he will be ready to try.

Jack complains that he has written thrice to you, and got no answer; he would have written half of this Letter, could I have undertaken to carry the sheet up to him tomorrow in time. You will write to him next, or soon.