August 1843-March 1844

The Collected Letters, Volume 17


TC TO ALEXANDER CARLYLE ; 3 March 1844; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18440303-TC-AC-01; CL 17: 290-293


Chelsea, London, 3 March, 1844—

My dear Brother,

You get a Letter this time from Jamie at Scotsbrig, which we have read here on its way; wherein is given, with a minuteness that will be interesting to you, all manner of An[n]andale1 public and family news: nevertheless I think I will add a word of my own, tho' it can contain little of importance; I feel as if I could not let you go in quest of a habitation without at least sending you my spoken good-wishes.

Your Letters, coming so regularly, have been a great comfort to us all since you went away; my Mother in especial is greatly obliged to you. We gather from your writing a tolerably accurate notion of the new scene you are in, and of your winter's way of life there. You have had a solitary season of it; and inumerable thoughts, some of them sad enough, have no doubt passed thro' your mind in that wide wilderness you have arrived upon the edge of, to push your fortune there. Such seasons often seem to ourselves painfuly idle, and as good as altogether useless and lost; by and by, however, we find that they were not so, that their fruits are the richest of all. As for me I like your late Letters from America better than any that I have seen; and prophesy for you with more confidence than ever a good future there.

We can give you no advice, dear Brother, as to what should be your course when the weather comes for travelling; we can only all of us heartily send you our prayer that you may be guided wisely, in the best direction. You seem likeliest at present for an expedition along with Clow towards the Western Country. I have a feeling like Jamie's that there are rather more agues there; more broken people too, and a wilder kind of existence in store for the emigrant: but of course our notion amounts to nothing practical, and cannot go for an advice at all. Could not you get some handy bit of ground, tho' less in quantity, for your money, where there are roads, mills, neighbours and arrangements,—such a piece as you could hope to manage by yourself and your family chiefly (for Tom himself will be a strong fellow soon), and see yearly growing handsomer by your energy and order infused into it? That is the main happiness, I should imagine; to see the fruit of one's labour, whether on a big or a small surface: indeed, it is the one blessing of human effort anywhere. I know not whether Canada and Scotch people might not be eligibler than the wide vacant west with greedy Yankees and their physiognomy of “living red-herrings”? Alas, my dear Brother, I do not know anything about your great enterprise; it must be left to your own choice and wisdom. Only these things are very dear to me, three things which I will mark here for your good head: first, that no earthly consideration should tempt one to settle in an unhealthy place,—all things ought to yield, and you should go to the healthier place, and reject the unhealthier, if these qualities be in them, whatsoever their other qualities be: second, that a large extent of ground, and even fertile ground, may be a very dear bargain, in comparison with a small one; this seems to me an important truth, which a stranger from our old crowded countries might be very apt to forget: third, that there is no necessity (whatever the human “red-herrings” and others around you may think), actually no necessity for “making money” in haste, or for making money at all! The blessedness of man, as I often say and feel, is to labour diligently, conquering his difficulties round him, and to see that in some measure going on; on the great or the small scale, it matters little:—he is doing the will of his Great Maker, I think, and may understand that it is well with him while he persists in this. It is only when one can see no fruit of one's labour, and is utterly disheartened from carrying it on, that one gets entirely astray, and wanders without any sure guidance left.— My dear Brother, these are but useless words, and can throw little light on the matter f[or] you; I will occupy no more of your poor sheet with them. May the great Guide put wisdom, patience, faithfulness, ever more into your own heart; that you may discern ever better what is but to be done:—in readiness to do it, when once that is the case, I think you will not fail! We shall of course look with great interest for your next Letters: you will settle some way of corresponding; and not fail at any rate to keep your good resolution of writing with deliberate exactness once a month. Our good Mother thinks some of the Bairns should write to her;—ask Jane if she is not up to such a thing? Dear little Jane, tell her she must grow a clever woman in that country; she will have plenty of honourable work there, if she shew herself what I expect!— Alas, the sheet is just ending; and I, as it were, am hardly beginning.

All winter we have gone on here in the old way,—Jane's health never good and also never totally bad. As Jamie tells you, we had no winter till the last month; I hear of Americans driving sledges 50 miles along the Hudson,—a man was talking of that the other night, and it looked strange enough in our muddy region.— I have had really terrible work with my attempted Book on Cromwell, and must admit that with great labour I have got on as badly as possible, that indeed the enterprise still lies before me as huge and difficult, nay in sad moments, as impossible. But I must struggle on; gar [make] myself do it, as our brave old Father used to say! There is no other way for us.— The misery of this country continues, and alas must long continue, tho' there is some decided improvement of trade &c: the aspect of things, Ireland, England, Scotland, makes one sad and sick of heart.— Jack rushes about here at a great rate, but does not fasten very heartily on any occupation, least of all does he seem minded for any medical one: of late he has lighted on some historical departments, neighbouring to mine (old Manuscripts at the British Museum &c) and is making himself rather busy with those.2 He has no compulsion to work, poor fellow, but he also wants many of the fruits of working.— My dear Brother, the paper is done here: I must send my blessings to you and Jenny and all your house, and abruptly close. May [G]od bless you and guide you!— T. Carlyle

Jane unites with me in every wish for you: your Letters when they arrive are always interesting to her. She has had great sufferings and sorrows since she lived near you, and is grown graver than ever, but also wiser, one may hope, and struggles faithfully along.— When you communicate with Canada John give him my brotherly regards: I continue to send the Courier to him weekly. Remember me also very kindly to Robert Clow your good neighbour, and say how heartily I wish his voyage good speed.— Some two weeks ago there came hither (after lingering in Dumfriesshire a fortnight or more) the miserablest bit of Paper I ever saw called by the name of Letter,—addressed to you from James Brand (once of Craighouse) dated, something like “Addys Swamp, 15 augt, 1843.”3 After reflexion, I decide on not sending it to you. It is black as a soot-besom (literally black), written across as well as along; I could not for my life read it, nor do I think any body can. It seems to indicate that he was well at that date, that his sister was married to somebody; there is mention too of John Carlyle, who does not seem very prosperous; and then of great distress of times, prices of produce &c. I do not burn the thing, and will send it if you like to bid me.—

O'Connell is here at present, and a considerable fuss made about him by the radical brotherhood.4 It is thought he will not be put in jail; but Ireland seems very like ending in bloodshed and fire before very long. I doubt.