April 1849-December 1849

The Collected Letters, Volume 24


TC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE; 26 May 1849; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18490526-TC-MAC-01; CL 24: 53-57


Chelsea, 26 May, 1849—

My dear Mother,

Let me write you a little word today, in the middle of all the tumult, to say how we are coming on. An Italian vagabond is grinding his organ under my window, provoking me to go out and break his head; young ladies are playing pianos in the neighbouring house; a very great tumult everywhere going on indeed! I will endeavour to pay no regard to it whatever, nor to plenty of other burbles [disorders] and businesses outward and inward;—but will write my little word to you before I go farther.

We have got beautiful warm weather now; after a heavy plunge of rain which lasted for several days, the sun has got out, and the soft west wind, and all things are looking green and fresh here: my only fear is now too much heat; but that, at any rate, has not come on yet. We are tolerably well in health too, all of us; both Jane and I go grumbling on, as usual, not worse than usual; yesterday Jack was here, and he too was quite up to the average. My Printers still keep up a considerable bother now and then, especially with some additions we are making to one of the volumes of Cromwell; but that, I hope, will now soon be over, and I shall at least not be tied to continue in their neighbourhood above a week or two more. I am thinking rather seriously of getting out into the country, so soon as the weather grows too hot: a Tour of a week or two in Ireland has often been in my head of late; some kind of Tour that would take me away from the noise of this Babylon while the pavements are so hot and crowded. I do not expect to find much new knowledge in Ireland, if I go; but much that I have lying in me to say might perhaps get nearer to some way of utterance if I were looking face to face upon the ruin and wretchedness that is prevalent there; for that seems to me the spot of our dominions where the bottomless gulph has broken out, and all the lies and delusions that lie hidden and open in us have come to their definite practical issue there! “They that sow the wind, they shall reap the whirlwind”:1 that was, from of old, the law!— I also think sometimes of running to my Welsh Attorney friend;2 who is really very loyal to me, who lives like a hermit, by the sea-side, has horses,—and is always urgent that I should come and see him. Another course, you need not doubt, will lie in the rear of each or any and all of these projected excursions,—the course to Scotsbrig, to see my dear old mother and kind friends there! There I design to be some time this season; whether after Ireland, or after Wales, or after or before whatever else it be. Surely while such a blessing is left to me on the Earth, it is not to be neglected! I cherish my heart with the thought of seeing you all once more, in not many weeks now. Thank Heaven there is still such a place in the world for me to go to. Oh my dear Mother, let us both be thankful,—and acknowledge piously, as you often say, that “we have many mercies”!—

The other evening Mr and Mrs Stewart of Gillenbie walked unexpectedly in upon us. Poor Stewart seems to have had some shock of palsy, and is terribly lamed. His Wife was evidently very anxious about him: one was wae to see the stout little compact fellow so reft of his strength all at once. What hope there is of improvement for him I do not know. They did not stay long here: we asked them to come back in two nights; they gave a kind of half promise, but did not keep it: I suppose they are gone home again. One of the Indian Sons3 was here, unwell but getting better, whom they hoped soon to have at Gillenbie too.— I was really sorry indeed at what I saw.

Yesterday there came along with Jack (whose errand here indeed was to shew him the way) a certain Italian Political Character, one Marioni, who has come hither from Rome to negociate about the poor “Roman Republic,” and its many troubles.4 Mazzini had given him a card for Jane. I talked a long time with him; found him a rational, sincere-looking man: all people, he says, are clear against readmitting the Pope to temporal rule, at Rome; and will fight violently before they be constrained to it. Nobody knows what way the French and others will settle that beggarly bankruptcy of Imposture: to settle it well, will excel the power of them all united, I believe.— Mazzini, an old friend of ours and one [of]5 the most zealous pious-minded men I know, is one of the Three Kings of Rome6 just now, and I suppose is the most resolute of them all: he lives in the Pope's Palace at present; the other day he was in a poor house somewhere here; which seems a change, when one reflects on it! Louis Napoleon too I have often seen in these streets, driving his cabriolet (a kind of covered or hooded gig); once I dined where he was, and talked a good deal to him,—no great promotion for a man at that time.7 Alas, it is conjectured too that such a “time” may very easily return,—that Louis Napoleon is very likely to drive cabriolets here again, poor fellow! The world is now grown a much madder place, one would say, than it ever was before. In fact, ruin has come upon all manner of Supremely Deceptive Persons; the day of trouble for Supreme Quacks everywhere has arrived. For which, should we not all thank the Righteous Judge! It8 is the beginning of all mercies; no other good is possible for men, till this sad evil be abated,—till the present ugly ruin got itself everywhere transacted; which I think is not likely to be for-a-day or two yet; alas, no!

The organ-man has gone about his business; Jane too, I think, must have gone out; and the adjacent young ladies have terminated their long music-lesson: little but the blast of the soft sunny West wind, coming thro' the top of my window, is now audible in this room. A very grateful change:—in fact, I ought rather to admit that it is the general state of matters; that the other is the exceptional condition. I am often grateful for my quiet place to sleep in up stairs; I think there are few quieter in London, and few persons in London to whom such a quality of their sleeping place can be usefuller. Our new maid, ever since Helen went away, proves an excellent substitute, far excelling what Helen ever was; she gives no offence or trouble that can possibly be spare[d];9 does her work quickly, cheerfully and well: a great comfort to poor Jane; and to me through her.— Our Ham shank appeared on the table boiled, this morning: the last phasis of a real benefactor, who has done good service in late months. Tell Jamie, we never ate a better bit of Ham; it was all in perfect order, not the smallest particle of spoiled taste in it, and had been an excellent piece of stuff to start with. He has got many thanks from us for it, spoken and silent.

Isabella must write soon again. Jamie had a Letter on the stocks: why does he not persist, and despatch it? Some of you must write, and tell us how our Mother is.

Nota bene: These Canadian disturbances (which appear to be over, at any rate) have nothing to do with Alick and his neighbourhood! Montreal is hundreds of miles off Bield or Brantford: the people there are angry at the Lower Canadians who are French, and the Government of course must try to temper the matter between them.10

Dear Mother, I am at the bottom of my Paper again, and had still enough more to say, if the time too had not been ended.— A little Note soon, please Isabella!— Jack speaks of coming off to you from week to week. Indeed I think he has given his Landlady warning.— All good be ever with you, my dear Mother. I will write before long again.

T. Carlyle