April 1848-March 1849

The Collected Letters, Volume 23


TC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE ; 6 July 1848; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18480706-TC-MAC-01; CL 23: 59-62


Chelsea, 7 [6] july, 1848—

My dear Mother,

It seems to me again too long since I have written to you; but the fault has not altogether been mine: besides, the only way to mend it is to write now, before any one get in to interrupt me; which accordingly I do, the first work of the day.

We are well in health, and glad to find from Isabella that at Scotsbrig too things go moderately well. This is all our news; but this, I think, is mainly what you want. We have had a good deal of rain lately, which doubtless was bad for the hay, but in other respects a favourable kind of weather,—very favourable to me for one, who like nothing so much as frequent showers in the London Summer. On the whole hitherto I hardly recollect a more pleasant season, so far as climate and temperature go, since we came here: a very grey summer indeed, cool to the skin, yet warm to the ground, for the wind has generally been at once genial and plentiful: and now, at last within these three or four days, the Sun seems fairly to have got the upper hand, and we have real july weather, as bright blue and beautiful as heart could wish. Owing to the late rains, moreover, everything is unusually green, and as yet the wind keeps up amid the bright sunshine;—so that we do perfectly well in as far as weather concerns us. Jane still stirs about, pretty fresh for her; Jack is busy, drawing nigh the end of his task now;1—I, alas, am but beginning mine again, under many interruptions; and feel dreadfully “stiff to ye raise, Sandy, man!” Bundles of Papers are getting accumulated round me, but I think they will mostly need to be burnt at last, to make room for better.— Isabella tells us you are going to Moffat;2 which I much approve of: pray let her give us notice when you do go. It will suit very well indeed, if you can get good weather and a quiet lodging, both of which I hope are possible.

Doubtless you have been reading of these awful explosions in Paris, which interest everybody, and are indeed an alarming symptom of the misery of this poor time. To us the most interesting feature of all is this General Cavaignac who has had the command in that terrible business. He is the younger brother of the Cavaignac we loved much and were very intimate with here, while he lived: we often heard of him as a just and valiant and everyway excellent man, whom his brother much loved; and indeed I believe him to be really such;—which kind of character was certainly never more wanted than in the place he is now in!3 Perhaps no man in all the world could have had so cruel a duty laid upon him, as that of cannonading and suppressing these wretched people, who we may say his Father and Brother and all his kindred had devoted themselves to stirring up:4 but he saw it to be a duty, and he has bravely done it. I suppose he will get himself killed in the business, one day; and indeed he appears privately to look for nothing else. His poor old Mother still lives; has now no child but him;—has a strange history indeed to look back upon, from the days of Robespierre all the way!5— It is very curious to me to think how the chiefs of these people, as Armand Marrast, Clement Thomas (late commander of the National Guards),6 used to sit and smoke a pipe with me in this quiet nook some years ago. And now Louis-Philippe is out, and they are in,—not forever either! “The wheel of Fortune,” as old Aunt Babby's7 dream said, “the wheel of Fortune, one spake up and the other spake down!”—

Emerson has been lecturing at a considerable rate here; meeting with moderately fair encouragement from a certain class. We had to attend him,—not a very severe duty either, for there is really something of excellent in him tho' he is a little “moon shiny”:—however the thing is now over; and he is fast getting ready to go home to America again; sails from Liverpool, in fact, tomorrow (or rather saturday, for this is but thursday!) week.8 A voyage of ten or twelve days, if happy, will land him at his own house-door, after a long and interesting absence;—and as for us, the likelihood is, we shall never see him again at all. His present visit has not done much for me, nor could I in any way, do much for him: but he has and keeps up from old a very friendly feeling for me, and the very separations that lie between us add themselves to this probably final parting to make it sad and affectionate! How much is every one of us left alone in this world; nothing above him but the eternal skies, no help or counsel for him except in Heaven only!

Emerson has asked me to make a little journey with him to see a strange old Antiquity, old almost as the Hills, which bears the name Stonehenge, near Salisbury in Wiltshire, about 100 miles Southwest of this. It is some 4 hours by railway; the ground, for the greater part, already known to me (for it is partly the road to Alverstoke, thro' Hampshire). I have consented to go; and so off we move tomorrow forenoon. A friend lives in the way,9 who will lodge us one night as we return, or two if we like,—perhaps over the Sabbath till Monday: On Monday evening, Emerson sets off towards the North, and we do not see him again.— Today, as you may fancy, I am making my bits of preparations and arrangements; I have various places to go to; so shall be busy all day,—and indeed ought already to be getting under way!— — Jack talked to Emerson of going with us; but I know not whether he will stand good;—probably not: I must consult him before night come.

On the whole, dear Mother, I must be off. You shall hear from me again, a word about the journey, so soon as we return. Tell Jamie I do not forget that I owe him a Letter: I will pay it by and by.— From Jean at Dumfries, I hear nothing this good while; but suppose she is busy nursing, poor thing. My affectionate blessings to one and all.— Get ready for Moffat, then, and off!

Adieu dear good Mother.

Ever your affectionate

T. Carlyle