The Collected Letters, Volume 2


TC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE; 23 December 1823; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18231223-TC-MAC-01; CL 2:492-494.


Kinnaird House, 23d December, 1823—

My dear Mother,

Tho' it is not long since you heard from me both by letter and by Alick's verbal report, I have taken it into my head to-night to send you some farther intelligence, well knowing that in your ever-watchful anxiety for my welfare you will receive with pleasure any account of my condition and proceedings. Now what will you bet that I am better or worse? I will tell you without farther parley that I think myself rather better on the whole, certainly at least no worse. The weather is so abominable and all things here so unfavourable for a sick person, that I think keeping stationary no bad work. I have been continually taking drugs, yet I am not weaker or more spiritless than I was; and what is a treasure beyond all things to me, I sleep every night in my bed like a decent Christian, and do not lie tumbling and tossing thro' all the hours of darkness like a fiend. If the good weather were come again I think I shall recover: at present I study to keep as patient as possible, and wait for better days.

Now, My dear Mother, how is it with yourself in these wild storms? I know you are very far from well; and you can far less get yourself attended to than even I. Do send me some account of how you are; even an unfavourable one were better than none; for often one's imagination shapes things worse than the worst reality. I hope yet that both your health and mine will be completely reestablished, and we shall see each other happy as we ought to be. This would certainly be the case, could we get ourselves properly managed. Would you come and keep my cottage? I am afraid you durst not venture so far as Cornwall; otherwise I think it might be very fine. You and Mary would keep every thing like a new pin for me, and we should all be as snug as possible together. Whether I go to Cornwall or not, something of this sort might nay must be arranged; for I am weary of living on strange hearths, and if my affairs were set in any order I need not do it. Had I conveniences about me for writing I might earn far more than I do at present: if my health were restored, I could almost undertake to grow rich by doing so. There is the second Part of Schiller, which I was correcting the other night: it is worth beyond twenty guineas; yet it was written in such dreary circumstances as you can hardly conceive: I used to begin it about six o'clock at night—broken, wasted and done: I have little hesitation in saying I could have done it all in two weeks had my hands been free. By and by we must have all that settled; and then things will go rarely. You will smoke your pipe and make tea and regulate every thing for me: I shall write in a special apartment; and we shall be as healthy and cheerful as crickets.

In the mean time I am waiting for February when I go to Edinr to get the German Book printed. The third Part of Schiller is yet to begin: but I am so feckless at present that I have never yet had the heart to commence it. It must be done ere long. I spend my evenings mostly in reading, and always about eight o'clock I go into the good people and have one cup of tea with them, and an hour or more of small talk, which lightens the tedium of solitude and makes the night go faster away. It is a sad thing to have to study how to drive the night away; a thing which till now I never had occasion to practice: but at present I am reduced to it; it is the best thing I can do. This medicine is a searching business: it leaves me often almost free of pain, but very very weak. I still have not tasted tobacco in any shape for three weeks: but whether this abstinence does me any good or not I cannot undertake to say. I do not find that it is difficult to give up the practice: never seeing a glimpse of it from week to week, it seldom comes into my head. If I could be sure that it was for my health I would never take it again while I lived.

I expect to be down and see you all sometime in spring, whether I go with these people to the south or not. If I had got them set on printing the Book, I might almost come down to Mainhill and stay while it was printing: I cannot tell you how I like Mainhill: the healthiest days I have had have been there; and the true affection which you have all shewn me makes the place and all that it holds forever dear to me. My dear Mother! it is certainly yet in store for me to repay you this kindness; I shall be very discontented with my lot if it be not. There is a value in true affection, which all the gold of the Indies cannot equal. I often think we have much reason amid all our sufferings to thank merciful Providence that spares us all in the land of the living to comfort and support each other. Many people like me are without father or mother, sister or brother: and I have all these preserved to love me and make the world warm around me. In truth we ought to be thankful.

But my hour is run, the Post will be down in ten minutes, perhaps earlier and he will not wait. I wish you would write me a little note in the tail of some of Alicks: surely you must be in want of something; it is very stingy of you not to let me know. I solemnly assure you, you cannot do me a greater pleasure than shew me how to serve you. Tell Alick that I long for his letter; let him write whatever comes uppermost. My Father was also to write: how is he standing the storm? I know not how it is with you; but here it is the ugliest weather I ever saw. There is a day of keen frost, then one of snow, then three of sleet and vapour. Sometimes there is a wind roaring like the bellows of a furnace: it is sometimes very bad. Nevertheless I make head against it wonderfully: I have got a pair of galoches made, I have a great coat, and I wear a great fur-cap of Bullers: Every day I venture out to walk. Add to this, I put on fires of the most liberal sort, having peats and coals at my discretion. Often I feel quite canty: I think if I had some of you with me, I should be as merry as were needful. I have in fact been in better spirits than I used to be ever since I came back. This mercury clears out the abominable bile out of one in such style as you never saw: it leaves you feeble and coldrife [susceptible to cold], but without any violent uneasiness anywhere; and the sleep at night is worth pearls. I wish I had known this drug in summer when the weather was warmer— But I must let you go for once. I see you all sitting round the fire in a half-ring at this very moment: supper is over, and you are driving on the time harmlessly till the hour of rest. May the Great Father bless every one of you! Give my truest love to all inclusive. Good night my dear Mother! I am your's with warm affection,

Thomas Carlyle—