April 1848-March 1849

The Collected Letters, Volume 23


TC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE ; 19 May 1848; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18480519-TC-MAC-01; CL 23: 31-34


Chelsea, 19 May (Friday still!), 1848—

My dear Mother,

Yesterday being very hard up for time, I sent you one of the shortest Letters along with Alick's, and promised you a longer one for today, which promise I am now to fulfil. I dated yesterday's Letter “Friday,” but found afterwards, on considering a little, that it was really “Thursday”: so you get this a day sooner than I calculated on there.— I have been far too long in writing; but could not well help it either; and my good Mother, I know will excuse me, as she always does.

Alick's Letter has been unusually long upon the road. I find there is some paltry village or other not many miles from him, which they call “London”:1 two of his Letters now have been sent first thither; and there they lie till it [is]2 clear nobody will have them, and are then sent off! I will tell him how to rectify this in future. Nor does he yet seem to know that there is a mail weekly at present to Britain.— One is very glad, however, on any terms, to learn that he and his, poor fellow, are getting on tolerably well.

We were all much concerned a short time ago to hear that our poor Mother was so considerably out of order. Jenny's Letters reassured us a little; but we see clearly that you are very frail, dear Mother; and what can we do in this but call upon you to be doubly careful of yourself, if alas that could do us any good! I will ask and request of Jenny also,—tho' I know she needs no bidding. But I have often thought, and said, that you are far too indifferent about your diet and treatment; and I am persuaded a considerable improvement is really possible if you would take more care in that respect. Jenny knows well already that she cannot in any way so much oblige me as by doing you any service: she has it in her power, while you are beside her, to make me really her debtor in one of the most important respects, as in fact no other can! So I will lay once more my strict charges on you both; and trust that now, with the summer weather, we shall hear rather better accounts before long.

This I think has been a very bad season for health over all the world: hereabouts there has been the hardest and especially the most changeful weather I have ever seen in these parts, which in a certain degree, tho' not wholly either, may account for the great sickliness there has been. In the very end of March, for example, or beginning of April, we had, this year, instead of the old-established “borrowing-days,”3 some three or four of the most blazing and really oppressively hot days; which again soon gave place to bitter grey or rainy north-east winds, very unfavourable for all things and persons; and when at last the real summer came, and we had (ever since the beginning of May) the beautifullest clear genial days and nights, and on Wednesday last I had put on my final summer-clothes (white hat, and black cobwebs of I know not what name), behold! there comes another change, colder and colder, and today I am wrapt in my thick winter-dressinggown again, and Jane down stairs has been obliged to kindle a brisk fire in spite of her scoured grate! But the wind today, in spite of its cold, is all out of the South, and I still prophesy we are to have rain; which will be well worth suffering on other accounts.

Poor old Mr Buller,4—I know not if I ever told you how weak and unwell he had grown: an attack of apoplexy above a year ago almost quite ruined him: and now it is all over; he died the day before yesterday, at a place called Richmond where they had taken a house, some 7 miles [west]5 of this. It will be a sad loss to poor Mrs Buller, who is herself too one of the weakliest creatures I ever saw living: I think she will not long survive him; for he was the chief care she had.—— Another death that we are interested by is that of poor Lord Ashburton, concerning whom you might perhaps notice a rascally article in the Times, one day. It is the same Lord Ashburton at whose big mansion, “the Grange,” you have sometimes known me: Alverstoke, where his son and son's wife sometimes entertained us, was another house of his. His death was somewhat sudden; a kind of ague caught a[t his]6 daughter's house where he was on a visit,7 since that warm weather began: he is to be buried this day,—and his big hospitable house, near which he is to lie, will now know him no more. What is remarkable enough, his two brothers, one elder and another younger, had already died within a month;8 and now the three old men, after many wanderings over the world, have all concluded their pilgrimage, and as it were lain down to rest together.— The now Lord Ashburton (Mr Baring, our friend) is, as his father was, a very worthy man; and I hope will do good in his day and generation, as at least he has a real desire to do: he is now immensely rich; but, having no children, and for himself no silly vanity, I believe does not in the least rejoice at such a lot: poor fellow, he looked miserably ill the day I called on him after his return from the sad scene, and, tho' we did not speak of that, I found him miserably thin and pale, and the picture of a sorrow which well became him. One could not but ask oneself again, thinking of 60 thousand a year: “Alas, what is the use of it?”9 Perhaps about this hour he is laying his father's head in the grave.

As for us, we have not suffered much from the bad weather; Jane, while the sun continued shining, had even got quite strong (for her), tho' now she is a little shrunk in again. I have been writing some other “Articles,” as you would see in the Examiner and Spectator:10 by the bye, will you send these on to Alick, if you still have them at hand? Also if the Article on Louis Philippe (a good while back) is anywhere in your possession, would Jenny clip it accurately out, mark the date of it on the margin, and send it me. Jane had a copy here, but has by mistake parted with it, and now there is none to be had readily. If you have it not, however, then don't in the least mind.— I have a good many “Articles” still lying in me; and indeed I have been thinking of late seriously, whether I should not set up some little bit Paper of my own, and publish them there.11 But that is a little precarious, would certainly be very fashious [troublesome], and I do not like it much. On the other hand, there is no Newspaper that can stand my Articles; no single Newspaper that they would not blow the bottom out of in a short while! For example, the Examiner should have had all these three last Articles put together as one: but then poor little Lord John Russell is a pet of theirs, and I could not put them on doing such a thing; so had to cut the Article in three, and publish two pieces of it in a declared enemy of his. This is too troublesome.— At worst, if nothing else will do, I can write the things in a Book; and really that is perhaps the best way, in other respects too, after all. We are going to have sore times in this country, I perceive; and the trade of a “Governor” will not long be possible as poor Lord John and the like of him are used to manage it. Our streets even here, what I never saw before, are getting encumbered with Irish beggars; and in the manufacturing districts, as I hear from people on the spot, there hardly ever was greater misery. Something does imperatively require to be done; and I want Lord John to know that,—and go about his business as soon as he can!

Jack is well here, and very busy; doing really a good work in a faithful manner; which will really be, and is already, a strength and comfort to him. He was here last night; we mostly see him somewhere every day.— Mrs Paulet, Miss Jewsbury, Mr Paulet, and a great rabble more have just returned upon us from Paris, where they have been for a fortnight, “larking” (as it is here called) that is, “out upon the ploy [out for a frolic].”12 They saw the big Riot last monday; and seemed to find it, as all Paris was finding it, comical rather than tragical. I believe, all that affair will grow tragical enough before long!13— But you see, dear Mother, I am again at the bottom of my paper. I must commend myself to Jenny, to Jean, James, and all the rest; and end. Adieu, dear Mother; bid some of them write soon. Ever your affectionate

T. Carlyle