August 1846-June 1847

The Collected Letters, Volume 21


TC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE; 21 May 1847; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18470521-TC-MAC-01; CL 21:215-217.


Chelsea, 21 May, 1847—

My dear Mother,

Today I have half an hour at my disposal; and will employ it in writing a word to you,—to you who read always all words from me with welcome. Of news properly I have none; for I think Jack wrote the other day, and I myself have often been writing. But your PORTRAIT here cannot speak to me;—no; and I may as well speak to it by scribbling a line or two for the original!

We have got bright beautiful weather now, with abundance of cool southwest winds, which give us a most clear and pure atmosphere: so long as the wind blows from that quarter, or indeed so long as there is wind anywhere except from the East, Chelsea is as fresh as the Country. Our gardens are all got leafy, and there are plenty of blossoms and boughs to be seen everywhere interspersed among the red bricks. London generally is an awful whirlpool during this month; but we try to have but little to do with it; nothing for the most part, but a glimpse at it once a day; and a thankful return out of the noise and discord of it, back to the River side here, and to the sight of country fields, and the company chiefly of Books and one's own thoughts again.— One of the best effects of this good weather, or rather by far the best of all, is the prospect it holds out of some diminution in the dearth, which is pressing hard on all the working people everywhere, and frightening them moreover with outlooks into still worse. The quartern loaf (4 pounds of white bread) is now 1 / 1½ (13 pence halfpenny), not far from three times what it has been known not long since. But I hear yesterday, the price of wheat does not now rise further, nay it rather falls; and skilful people seem to anticipate that perhaps there is no real cause of famine anywhere, except the great derangement in all manner of money-matters (produced by railway speculations &c);—and that if the good weather hold, bread will be cheaper again.— John told me he had sent Jenny her money this week,—indeed I read her Letter yesternight;—I hope she knows always that she need not fear want, while any of us has wherewith to help. Her industrious thrifty spirit, her clever hands and courageous little heart render her always easy to help,—poor little Jenny! And she is going with you, it seems, to Scotsbrig for a while; which is an arrangement we like. The green fields and quiet of Scotsbrig will be welcome again after so long a confinement in paved streets.

We are well here, as you know; Jane takes always to the warm weather, and brightens up as the season rises towards perfection. Last night she had a visit of Miss Jewsbury (from Manchester), who is coming next Tuesday for a couple of weeks; this will involve more locomotion than usual, and be a kind of exhilaration to her.1 On Wednesday afternoon next we have all to go, John and Geraldine (Jewsbury) and we to see a kind of workmen's Festival, which a certain Mr Adams,2 an extensive Coachbuilder &c gives annually to his 500 men: I know not what kind of thing it will be; but Adams, a fine clever brisk man, has called here twice with tickets and solicitations; and we are all going to take a look at it.— We had a flying visit from Jeffrey last week: he has been in the Isle of Wight, and other regions hereabouts, for health's sake; he was then just on his way for Edinburgh again: looking thin, but brisk enough; scarcely a little more serious as he grows older; in fact the same old man. We are always very happy with him for a little; but could not stand it long, I think,—not long, without coming upon innumerable points of discrepancy!3— A much more interesting visitor than Jeffrey was old Dr Chalmers, who came down to us also last week; whom I had not seen before for, I think, five-and-twenty years. It was a kind of pathetic meeting. The good old man is grown white-headed; but is otherwise wonderfully little altered: grave, deliberate, very gentle in his deportment, but with plenty too of soft energy, full of interest still for all serious things, full of real kindliness, and sensible even to honest mirth in a fair measure: he sat with us an hour and a half; went away with our blessings and affections;—it is long since I have spoken to so good and really pious-hearted and beautiful an old man!4

Alas, dear Mother, my clatter must terminate here. I could fill many such sheets with the like; but I must not start on another.— We heard from Scotsbrig not long since; to Jean I wrote lately, ought perhaps to write again? You must very specially remember us to Mary when at Gill; say that we many times think of her, tho' writing less than usual. Take care of yourself on this journey, my dear good mother.— My blessings to you and all.

T. Carlyle