August 1846-June 1847

The Collected Letters, Volume 21


TC TO ALEXANDER CARLYLE; 3 October 1846; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18461003-TC-AC-01; CL 21:66-68.


Chelsea, 3 octr, 1846—

My dear Brother,

Probably they are writing to you from Scotsbrig by this Packet; but it can do you no ill to get a little word from me too. I wrote you last from Dumfries, on my way hitherward, in a great hurry: this present sheet will signify to you that I am safely arrived. I was, as is usual with me when tumbling about in strange places (and poor old Annandale is now grown very strange to me), in a most confused bewildered and altogether suffering condition; body acting upon mind, and mind upon body, in a most sorrowful manner for me: but now I am a little rested again; and may at least tell you intelligibly what I have to say.

I went along by Ayr two days after that Letter; crossed from Renfrew-shire to Belfast in Ireland; went down the Coast there so far as Dublin; and after a few days, crossing to Liverpool, got home again; heartily wearied, and glad to rest anywhere. Ireland did not rejoice me much. A sad country at present; bad husbandry; rags and noise and ineffectuality: from Belfast all the way to Dublin I hardly saw a dozen fields completely fenced. To a man on the Coach I remarked, “What is the use of fencing at all, if this is the way of it? Leave one gap in your field, it is quite the same, surely, as if you had not put a thorn in it at all!”— The Potatoes, as you know, are totally a ruin, this year, there and everywhere. Nothing but sheer famine and death by hunger for millions in Ireland,—had not the Government interfered, most wisely, and signified to the Landlords of the Country that they would have to assess themselves, to look out for work and wages to these poor wretches of peasants and see that they did not famish. This appears to me the most important law ever passed for Ireland;1 the beginning, I do hope, of a new time for that wretched land: I almost rejoiced at the black Potatoe fields, which had brought it about; and bade the Potatoes “Go about their business, then,” since the loss of them was leading us a little towards justice and a better sort of food for man! In fact it seems likely enough the Potatoes are done, not going to grow any more for us; which probably is the most important revolution ever brought about in our time,—for without them the working people cannot be supported on the old principle, and we must either perish or else improve. Indian Corn, I suppose, must be the substitute; we are trying to learn how to cook it so as to be palateable with flesh-meat, and shall succeed by and by. Here at present it is selling at two pence a-pound, being a rarity as yet!— In Dublin I saw O'Connell haranguing his beggarly squad in “Conciliation Hall,” too; perhaps the most disgusting sight to me in that side of the water. He is sinking, however, I think; that is another good symptom.

At Liverpool, where my stay was brief, I made due inquiry about the Box for “Bield near Brantford.” It had actually sailed for Montreal, addressed to you as above: in no great length of time after this Letter reaches you, I hope you may have one from Montreal announcing that the Box has arrived there, and telling you when and how to look for it at Brantford. The carriage was to be all paid: I hope they will attend to that. In the Box itself there was nothing of much moment to you except as a memorial from us; Jane and I packed it ourselves (very full indeed) the day before I went across from Liverpool to Scotsbrig: a Pilot-coat [and a] Pilot-hat (very strange articles) for yourself and also for Tom; a clock for Jenny, ditto for little Jane (hers was one of big Jane's); some Books, and other sundries: you will receive them with pleasure for the sake of the feeling they convey. Inside is a tin coffer with a lock, which I thought might be useful to you as a repository for papers etc: it is crammed with various articles;—and one (there, I believe) is a knife bought by Jane herself, which is a gift from her to you. All the women things were bought by her; but this was with her own money, and destined as I say. There is nothing more that need be explained about the cargo, that I recollect of.— Did you get the 2d edition of Cromwell? I sent a Copy for you thro' Mr Greig, and another for himself: if it have not yet come, it almost certainly will by and by.

From Annandale I hear frequently, but nothing special the last time,—except that our Mother had caught a little cold; which she has now grown very apt to do: Jack hoped his medical treatment would speedily bring her round again. She is still very fond of reading; wonderfully lively of heart, but growing perceptibly lighter of figure; less and less able to encounter any hardship. Good old Mother! We cannot have her always; and we shall never see her like again! Jack has a kind of speculation about bringing her to Dumfries neighbourhood, to live with Jenny and occasionally himself; but I know not what will come of it; the project is in a very crude state as yet. Since my return hither, I have got something like a Bookseller's proposal for Jack's own enterprise which he has long been jumbling about with: I shall be heartily glad if it come to anything useful for the poor Doctor, who is sadly off for work in late times. We shall see. Jamie, they write to me, has got his harvest well in: an average crop or more, as crops go this year. The Millwrights have nearly finished his new Thrashing-machine. Poor old Calvert2 is dead. All Annandale was full of drunk “Navvies” (Navigators, so they call them) working at the Railway: the most detestable set of savages I ever saw. Wages 3/6 a-day, and they drink it all; drink even till their tools are pawned. The Annandale people who work there, do most a little better; they eat all their wages: hardly one or two of the whole squad are laying by any money against the evil day. One could only wish they would soon get done with their job, and disappear out of one's sight.— Dear Brother, I must now finish. We got your account of the puzzle you were in at harvest-time; and how nevertheless you succeeded in extricating yourself. Courage! I like the resolute patient manful temper you exhibit; there is more good in that than there can be evil in anything. Persevere, persevere; every day, if you keep your eyes open will make you wiser. I delight much to think of you labouring away among your Bairns, seeing them grow around you in all ways. Tom will be a strong fellow now! Let him try if he can fill that “P. jacket”! Little Jane will teach us one day how to cook our Indian meal for dinner. Adieu dear Brother. God's blessing on you all.

T. Carlyle