The Collected Letters, Volume 2


TC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE; 4 January 1823; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18230104-TC-MAC-01; CL 2:260-262.


3. Moray-street, 4th Jany 1823—

My dear Mother,

I see there is a long letter lying for you already, and seasoned by a fortnight's keeping; yet I have begun another sheet which I have spread out before me, and am determined to fill before quitting. I do not think ever people had so voluminous a correspondent: it matters not whether you write or keep silence, you are loaded with epistles every fortnight, enough to break the back of Bobby1 himself, if he were not rather lightly freighted in this dull season. How you will get them all read I know not,—or care not, for that is your concern, mine is only to write as long as the pen will move.

I hear no particular tidings of my Mother; only I am inclined to include her under the general head of “all going on as usual,” and to hope that her health and spirits do not altogether fail her, but continue to afford strength to discharge her many duties and make head against her many difficulties. I hope to live beside you yet a long time, tho' we see one another too rarely of late. You must know I am to have a pleasant dwelling-place in the course of years; and there you and I shall reserve a place for colleaguing together, and what talking and smoking and gossipping and tea-shines we shall have! All this is coming yet. In the mean time, I am going on quite well in all respects—except for some noises which have disturbed me at nights a little, concerning which Alick will instruct you, and from which we are now sure one way or another soon to be completely delivered. It is a pitiful thing to be so touchy; but one good effect of it is that it may teach one the utility of Patience. There is no other remedy in fact but this universal one; if you would tear the very liver out of yourself, you cannot mend the matter, you must just submit. However I am getting stronger and stronger every month: I now reckon myself in quite a tolerable state; and you may be sure I shall neglect no precaution for improving and confirming these favourable symptoms. Heaven be praised that I am so well! If you would offer me health in the one hand and the sceptre of Europe in the other—I should hesitate few moments which to chuse.

Poor Jenny Crone2 is gone at last! She was a good woman, seemed to keep “the noiseless tenor of her way”3 thro' the wilderness of life in peace and blamelessness; that now is more for her than if she had been Empress of all the Earth. Well was it said “let me die the death of the Righteous and let my last end be like his!”4 It is a wish which all of us should be busied in seeking the means to get accomplished. Strange that the shallow pageant of this transitory being should have power so far to draw us from “the vast concerns of an Eternal scene”!

I know not what books you have to read, or which of them you are most in favour with at present. Cannot you tell me some which I can get you? Or if not, cannot you point out some other thing which I can do for you? “Dear! Bairn, I want for nothing” I hear you reply. Now I know you do want for many things, and I am often really vexed that you do not mention them. Will you never understand that you cannot gratify me so much, by any plan you can take, as by enabling me to promote your comfort in any way within my power? Speak, th[en]! Speak, I tell you!

[Do] you ever hear any news of Waugh?5 He seems vanished out of our circuit, and all the intelligence we have got of him since summer is that there is none to be had respecting him. We got some story about his assaulting Martin the Lawyer, throwing a bottle of lampblack on him, and then drawing a large Apothecaries spatula or plaster-knife to defend himself. It was foolishly done of poor Waugh; but he had enough to drive him into greater follies of late years: I am really sorry for the luckless slut, but see not well what is to become of him.

Jack is busy writing to my Father, or he would have sent you a line. He is doing well here; enjoys good health, and follows out his studies without flinching. His old propensity to logic or the “use of reason” he still retains in considerable preservation. Often in our arguments I am tempted to employ my Father's finisher “thou Natural [idiot], thou”—but poor Jack looks out with his broad face so honestly and good naturedly that I have not the heart. He is a very good soul, and comforts me greatly when I am out of sorts.

Now surely, my good Mother, you must confess yourself to be a letter in my debt: you ought to pay it with the earliest time you have. I do wish you would learn to write, and send me letters by the quire. It only wants a beginning. My best love to all the childer. I am ever

Your affe son, /

Th: Carlyle—