August 1846-June 1847

The Collected Letters, Volume 21


TC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE; 19 June 1847; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18470619-TC-MAC-01; CL 21:236-238.


Chelsea, 19 june, 1847—

My dear Mother,

Now that I know you to be at Scotsbrig, I will write you a little word, before the week end. Isabella's Letter reported you arrived; Jean too wrote to us, how poor Jenny had been detained with one of the Bairns being sick,—who we hope is now getting well again, poor little thing. Jean said she was a little better. For the rest, it will be fully as handy for you, that you are to continue quiet, and “by yourself,” for some little time; and you will be all the blither to see Jenny again, when she does come.

We are continuing in our usual way here; nothing in the least particular passing among us. Our weather, except for about one week in the end of May, has never been at all oppressive with heat; indeed we have frequent rains, generally dim skies, and what is to be called a very pleasant temperature,— Jane even lighting a fire every night and morning: nevertheless the summer season seems to take hold of us, in the shape of diminished inclination to dinner, to a slight degree, and Jane remarks that I have now got disgusted with my Indian meal to eat with meat, and has taken to trying me with green peas and flour dumplings! The loss of the Potatoes is indeed a great loss to me,—and I fear it is to you, dear Mother, a still greater. But we must be thankful for it too; and truly I would willingly sacrifice my own share of that poor root, for the sake of the wretched Irish (for if the Potatoe come back, they will gradually sink again towards where they were, and all this misery and death will have been nearly in vain to them); so that, in fact, my own wish at present the Potatoes may all rot, this year again, and all men learn that they must not be depended on for food any more! Meanwhile the fear of famine seems now over, and the loaf has fallen to a kind of reasonable price again.

I mentioned to you once that Dr. Chalmers had seen us here, for an hour, one day; and how interesting it was after an interval of almost five-and-twenty years. We thought we had hardly ever seen a finer-looking old man. So peaceable, so hopeful, modest, pious. You have since heard of his sudden call from this world! I believe there is not in all Scotland, or all Europe, any such Christian Priest left. It will be long memorable to us, the little visit we had from him.— And O'Connell too, the wretched blustering quack, is dead;1 died with his mouth full of superstitious nonsense among other things; unfortunate old man, on what side could he look with clearness of hope? He had been lying, as no good man ever does or did, openly for fifty years. Preaching to the Irish that they were just about to get repeal from the English, and become a glorious people (being indeed noble men at bottom, tho' to all appearance blackguards and lying slaves); and he leaves them sinking into universal wreck, and nothing but their connexion with England between the whole mass of them and black death! To him, for one, I will not raise a monument!—

We have here at present a little Irishman (or rather Ayrshire-man, for he was bred there), one Marshall, from Weimar; who comes down occasionally, and tells us about Goethe and old things we are interested in. An ingenious entertaining little body. He is Secretary to the Duchess of Weimar, who is here at present, one of the foreign potentates visiting our little Queen. Erskine has gone home to his place near Dundee; he sent us a Letter lately2—very ill off with his eyesight, poor fellow; cannot read, except for a little while, without growing quite blind; suffers a good deal, and has a wandering lonely existence, but is very pious and quiet. On the other hand, we are to see Gilfillan (whom you once saw at Dumfries) tonight,—he is here, preaching I suppose, for a day or two: a rather vague man, full of bright-coloured dreams. And we had Miss Martineau this very morning: she has just been at Jerusalem; is as brown as a berry, and can take tobacco in a mild form: perfectly well in health, to all appearance; but nearly turned in the head with several things, self-conceit above all things, and wearies me very much with her talk! I design to be as scarce as I can while she continues in this quarter.— Miss Jewsbury, of whom perhaps you heard as our guest, is away; off into Essex: all the quieter house, on that account. The Doctor made a considerable flourish when she arrived; came down hither daily, and escorted her about, for a while: so that Jane thought “something might actually come of it,”—but, alas, the Doctor is not to be caught: “too old a kitten to trail straws before”; so he fell away again into the vague, and the whole has vanished, like reek in brisk weather, I do believe! He is, however, about to get a bit of his Dante actually printed (by Chapman my Bookseller, tho' not by my interference), and this I believe, tho' he is like to get no money by it, will be a kind of relief to him. I may hear what bargain he has made, perhaps tonight

As to myself, there is still little but reading for me; I “scunner” at [flinch from] all continuous work,—and indeed am very willing to go idle, as long as I possibly can. I have brashed [bruised] myself, a good deal, for fifty years now, by sprawling and struggling: no harm at all if I sit down for a little, and see what the job looks like after all!— I got yesterday the first volume of an Edition of Knox's works, which they are now going on with at Edinr: the History of the Reformation (of which I believe you have a modern Copy: this is all in old spelling &c) is very interesting to me, for the present.3— Dear Mother, you must thank Isabella for me; and tell her, or Jamie or some of them, to write me swiftly again! I want to hear again how you are. A very little word is better than none,—much better! You yourself might write me enough (a single line would do) in case of need: but I do not like to plague you. How do you manage; have you anything good to read? I want to know all. Blessings with you, every one!

T. Carlyle