April-December 1844

The Collected Letters, Volume 18


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE ; 21 August 1844; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18440821-TC-JAC-01; CL 18: 188-189


Chelsea, 21 August, 1844

Dear Brother,

I got both your Notes; I wrote to Alick, as you requested, and sent the Letter off on Monday.1

I am still very idle,—poor wretch; tho' the Town is still enough, there are all manner of confusions within one's own self. I must really gird myself together, and begin working in good earnest. My health is not bad; better, I think, than it was last year while I roamed about the world. “Within thyself lies the mean impediment”:2 alas, that is always the real truth!

On Saturday last I went down the River; saw poor Scott,3 who is come back to these parts. It seems to me he is very considerably better, tho' he does not himself feel sure of it: or perhaps the Doctors from the first overstated his case. He is working a little at a Translation of one Balbo's Life of Dante, which he thinks of printing with Notes.4 His old women were all about him; I came home in one of their carriages, with a very talkative young man, a Nephew of Miss Farrar's,5 for company, and was glad enough to get into silence again.— Poor Sterling, I fear, is beyond hope of life: Clark6 has seen him; pronounces him incurable by any furtherance. I cannot get poor John's Note out of my head; it sounds thro' me like the voice of a war-trumpet, like the music of a Roman funeral-pile! Sometimes I think of going down to the Isle of Wight to see him yet once; but he will not indicate that he desires it, that it would be other than painful to him. Anthony continues at Cowes; he sent a Note yesterday to Jane, signifying that he had been over to see his Brother, and had only the old sad story to repeat.— —

The other night we had a singular little German Improvisatress here; one Madam Lyser from Dresden, who had once had a Note for me from Goethe's Daughter-in-law,7 but was now introduced by Bölte. She is a little black-eyed, angular-visaged, wise, curious little Sibyl of a body, this Lyser; totally unacquainted with English: we wished you had been here with your German. Neither Darwin nor I could make any hand of speaking; but she is quick as a little witch. We gave her 14 end-rhymes, and in an inconceivably brief time (really not half a minute, I think, by the watch) she had a most respectable little Sonnet crystallized upon them! I have seen nothing come near it in the improvising line,—a curious, but alas a barren one. She is to have Sitzung [sitting or recital] at the Hanover Rooms tomorrow; but we apprehend it will hardly pay the room-rent, so totally empty is the season, so ignorant she of all the advertising and other London ways.8

Our Welsh Chorley is here at present;9 brisk as a bee: he has been twice or thrice down upon us; speaks now of returning to his wet country. He was asking after you. The other Chorley is at Liverpool.10— Bunsen, we hear, has returned from Berlin; is escorting a Prussian Crown-Prince, or some such thing, about the Country at present.11 Poor Plattnauer (but this is a great secret) went off to the neighbourhood of Richmond to “follow the water-cure”: he plashed, and dabbled; and did I know not what, till his wits suddenly quitted him! A kind of thing like a brain-fever, I suppose; from which he is now nearly altogether recovered. Jane has been much interested about him.

If you do really want any Books about Dante or anything else, they can be conveyed without difficulty to Chapman's12 about the end of the month, and will come direct to Dumfries for one shilling.— Has my good Mother tried the sea again? We have now bright but coolish weather here. Give my love to her and all of them. Yours ever

T. Carlyle