The Collected Letters, Volume 26


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE; 18 April 1851; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18510418-TC-JAC-01; CL 26: 61-63


Chelsea, 18 April, 1851—

My dear Brother,

We had your Letter, and were very glad of the good news it brought. Our poor Mother has struggled very well thro' the rigours of winter, I think; and now that the Sun is come back, we hope she will be sensibly better. You will have days now that will permit your expedition to Gill, or whithersoever you like. A happy change in regard to air and temperature has taken place here, which does us all more or less good. Up to Wednesday last the weather for a week or more had been grim as Iceland: but it suddenly changed at that time; and in eight-and-forty hours, fully a half of one's clothing had to be laid aside; and one now walks about under a sky as of Tempe,1 the blossoms all bursting out on a sudden; and the Summer seeming almost to threaten, “You shall have enough of me before long!” If the temperature, wind and sun, would stay exactly as they are, I should call it a perfect state of weather. But it will not; it cannot! We shall have a bout or two of frost yet; and then heat to roast the marrow out of one: that is the rule of things.

I am meditating often what I shall do with myself during this Glass-Palace affair, with its Quackery of all Nations; but have not yet fully settled, except that out of it I must some way or other make a great effort to be. Indeed I often wish to be out of this place altogether, for a year or two at least;—and shall perhaps contrive to manage it somehow. My health, and much else in me, might very sensibly improve. We shall see.— Quiet, meanwhile; hold thy tongue! I say to myself.

Nothing is yet settled about Sterling's Life: Fuz begged it for the present; there will need to be additions to make a volume of it; and I, for my own share attach no importance to the thing, or to the publishing of it. Probably put it off till next year, at any rate?— — Meanwhile I am not very busy with any kind of writing; scribble this or that daily; but do not see yet how any true and considerable Book is to grow out of those disjecta membra [scattered pieces], or the sour waters they are jumbling and tossing upon. Patience, patience!

Jane is pretty well; eats daily, with relish, to breakfast, as I do with still more emphasis, a bit of the excellent Annandale Ham (tell my Mother); walks a tolerable space; and is in better spirits than one often sees in her case. The dog Nero (who is rather troublesome to the philosophic mind, and dirty if not often washed) goes out with her in the forenoon, out with me towards midnight (oftenest about 11), and is the happiest of little dogs, poor wretch!— — We had John Gordon one evg about a week ago: “Hooh, Hoo!” the same old scanty-speaking, deep-laughing, dull and friendly Gordon that he ever was. Ay de mi!— He spoke very kindly of you and your affairs; was far enough from eloquent on anything else.

I have been thinking much about this strange experiment of the French, with their forty-feet wire pendulum, to prove that the Earth turns on its axis.2 One night lately, bursting awake, and getting into all manner of chaotic meditations, this pendulum among other things came into my head; and I then first saw that it was not “impossible”; that it was an indubitable fact,—and probably the beautifullest experiment that has been made in our epoch. Take such a pendulum (4 or 5 pounds of metal, 35 feet of fine wire) to the Pole of the world: it was then I first got to see it. Hang it up directly over the N. Pole; put a radiated circle (any figure of a circle, like a common cart-wheel) under it; and set the pendulum swinging: pendulum will swing “always in the same plane”; circle of course will go round under it (half-round, the pendulum will seem to go, till the wire get half a twist, then back by the other semicircle while it untwists itself): in 24 hours the pendulum will have swung across every conceivable diameter of your circle,—and proved to all creatures that the Earth turns! The like, more or less, will take place at every latitude; under highly complex conditions at every latitude but O°, and always with longer time (at London, or lat 52°, it is said to require 30 hours instead of 24), the pendulum will work round the circle,—till you get towards the Equator when it wd require thousands of years to do it; and at the Equator it cannot be done at all. Is not this pretty? It will exhaust all the resources of your Solid Geometry to get it properly conceived; and indeed these (if they are like mine) will not suffice to do it. But the thing in general is indubitable; and among scientific nicknacks certainly altogether bears away the palm. A prettier experiment one could hardly imagine.—N. b. They have no “apparatus” (and I doubt, can have none) “for keeping the pendulum in motion”: you merely set it swinging, and it will go for half an hour, within which time, within the 4th of which time, the effect (they say) is quite noticeable.— — Forgive me, dear Brother, for bothering you so long about this; and, except you have leisure, don't take it into your head at all, or perhaps you may not so soon get it out again! Unless indeed Dante will drive it; with which task I doubt not you continue always busy.

Jamie will now know a little what “drinkers (meaning jurymen) dree!”— I am glad to hear he is getting such a seedtime. Would my Mother like a Copy of Hervey's Works?3 Ascertain, in a private way; for I suppose such a Book cd easily be got here. The Medallion (more power to its elbow!) is safe at Dumfries; and Jas An4 is getting it prepared for Scotsbrig. Good be with you all! Adieu, dear Brother.


T. Carlyle