The Collected Letters, Volume 25


TC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE; 27 December 1850; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18501227-TC-MAC-01; CL 25: 320-321


Chelsea, 27 decr (Friday), 1850—

My dear Mother,—You have not the Dr with you at present; I must apply to some other for a word of news from you: Jenny, they say, is still there:—in the meanwhile I may send you a line of tidings from myself, which I know is always welcome. Dear good Mother, I hope you keep close by the fire, and take every care of yourself, in this grim season of the year. We are now past the shortest day; and, after many storms, may look forward to brighter shining of the Sun:—as in Life itself is not this the case? We have hope, thro' our Maker's goodness, of a Time that shall be always calm weather!— —

Jane and I are both pretty well here; she is out today, for a walk; goes out almost daily, having never yet been disabled by cold: yesterday I went for a long round into the country; had gutta-percha soles, which secured me against the mud; I took the little dog with me, which amused me by its happy gambollings, and huntings of sparrows; by choosing my road well, I was on three open heaths, fine green places with trees, whin-bushes, and grazing sheep and cuddies: after several hours of walking I got home in good time for dinner, and feel decidedly fresher today. Indeed I think I am getting fairly clearer and into a quieter state of health than when you saw me last in Annandale, such an Ettercap as I was!— The faithless Bookseller has never yet sent your Crookshank; but no matter, I have got you a good union-dress again,1 and shall send it (it, if there be nothing more) in a little while.

We are very quiet in general; many of the people we know best are still in the country; and at present there is little going on here but eating of turkeys, a business with which we do not much concern ourselves!2 I have not yet got into any kind of fixed work, but I keep scratching and scraping, endeavouring to break the ground somewhere or other: all evening I spend in reading; take a stride out, round by Hyde-Park corner oftenest (which is four miles in all, and leads one just into the nook of busy London) before going to bed; Jane has a morsel of porridge ready when I return, and that with a little reading after she is gone, shuts up the day. We have had almost no frost yet, but much mud and fog. The other night (perhaps it was monday last) on approaching Hyde-Park about 11 at night, I fell in with such a scene of fog as I had never seen before even here. Confused ho-hoing and mournful uncertain sounding men; then some dull flames, occasionally shaking sparks from them, which one recognised to be “tar-ruffles”: at a distance of few yards they seemed dull deadlights3 borne each by a vague black blot or cloud, for the whole air seemed opaque and thick as pease-soup: the ground too was slippery with slight frost, and most of the horses were unroughened. Such a ho-hoing, and melancholy gliding of pitch-lights! Where you saw two or three of them with half-a-dozen black blots, it was a horse that had come down, or was threatening to come. Various horses and scrubby market carts stood wind-bound, waiting a little till they had gathered vigour for the slide,—it ran a little downhill at that point;—and far and wide, it went on puddling and many-sounding thro' the foul darkness of the world. What struck me most was the universal good-humour of the people; not laughing or jannering, but perfectly good-natured, and not speaking or ho-hoing at all except for practical purposes; each of them manfully intent to get his own Omnibus, Cart, or vehicle brought home, and wishing all his neighbours the like. Next day the darkness and the ice were both gone.

We had a brief Note from Jack the other evening, dated Kirkcaldy; he was to stay with Fergus's people till last tuesday or wednesday (I think), then forward, some 30 miles of railway, to Thomas Erskine's, where are good quarters too and good people: there we suppose him to be at present. We hope he will come home fresher to you, for his travel, and before very long.— You got Sandy's Letter; and, I hope, opened the packet, tho' it was addressed to John?— — Thro' Jean a certain Bookseller at Edinr one Hogg, has got a miserably ugly Portrait of me which he is engraving: I hope to send you a copy in some weeks (for he is requested to give me one or two) it will not do much for you, I think!— Give my love to Jenny, to Isabella and Jamie bid somebody write; I myself will again write soon. And take care of yourself, dear Mother! Your affecte T. Carlyle