The Collected Letters, Volume 26


TC TO ALEXANDER CARLYLE; 10 October 1851; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18511010-TC-AC-01; CL 26: 198-200


Chelsea, 10 Octr, 1851—

My dear Brother,—It seems a shamefully long time since I wrote a word to you: but indeed it has not been neglect or forgetfulness, or want of affection; very far from that! Alas, I am so locked in the wild treadmill here, and my heart and life are overloaded with such tumultuous confusions, I have no heart to write hardly at all; and often, from under my bewildering burden, feel as if reduced to silence,—to try if I can plod along without stumbling, and send a mere unspoken prayer and remembrance to my Brother far away who is doing the like! Do not ever dream that I forget you. You are almost daily in my mind; and all our history in common, from early infancy upwards, remains indelible, growing ever stranger, more solemn and affecting, the older I grow, and often turning up, with an almost preternatural aspect, from the bosom of the old dead years all on a sudden, in the loud discordant whirl of things which the present time distracts me with! Poor old Annandale, my poor and ever-faithful Brother,—ah me, ah me! But we must not give way to memory. We have each of us a bit of task to do while it is still called Today; we must go on, in love of one another, steadfastly, whether speaking or not.— In fine, however, I have decided to write you a line or two this day once more; and no hurry, or confusion of demands shall obstruct that small purpose, for one. Let me hope, too, my next Letter may follow at a rather shorter interval!—

We have had such a year of nonsense here as was seldom seen even in London years: the “Glass Palace,” Grand Exhibition, and other fine names of it are of course familiar to you from the Newspapers. Thank God, it is to end tomorrow; and thro' all Time, may I, for one, not see its like again. I believe there never was such a congregation of empty windy mortals from all corners of the world gathered into any human Town before. Palaver, noise, nonsense and confusion, in all its forms, have been the order of the day; all fools rejoicing; the few wise men sitting silent, and asking only “How long, How long!”— What good has been, or is ever to be, got of this big Glass Soapbubble, and all the gauderies spread out in it (beautiful to the fool, insignificant or even hateful to the wise) is yet a mystery to me and most people; and in the meantime England, I think, must have lost some 25 per cent of its year's labour by the job (the London shopkeepers are nearly bankrupt by the want of business, and every British man, even I in spite of all precautions, has felt himself enveloped in Confusions by it),—millions' worth of lost labour that will come to the debtor side of the account one day; and such an emission of nonsensical talk, thot and speculation (leading devilward, every jot of it since it is nonsense and not sense), the damage of which is not so computable in millions. But it does end tomorrow,—to all Eternity, end,—and so I will not say another word on it; but congratulate you who were well divided by the broad ocean from it, a real advantage on this occasion!

During the Spring and Summer I took to writing a light Book, not worth very much otherwise, but a thing I had to do some time or other: after a good deal of petty fash, it was got done two months ago, but delayed till this, “Exhibition” were over, there being no chance of sale till that;—and now, I believe, the poor Book is coming out this very day,1 “more power to its elbow,” as the Irish say! It is a Life of John Sterling (an excellent friend of mine here, who died seven years ago); it is in one volume; and I am really satisfied to have it off my hands. Some tell me it is very readable; but in fact it cannot amount to much importance whether readable or not. The best part of the job, as usual, is that I am done with it,—clear of it forever and a day. They say Books can now be conveyed, even to Canada, by the Post-Office! I will make more precise inquiry about this directly; and if the thing is so, a Copy shall set out for you early enough next week,—and within a week of this arriving, you may expect the Life of Sterling to arrive. I shall be very glad to hear it has! If otherwise I will try what other method there may be;—and at the very worst you will soon get a Yankee Copy cheap enough; they are busy reprinting it in Boston even now.— So much for this poor volume: the only definite piece of work I have to shew for myself since you last heard of me—

Directly after ending Sterling, Jane and I set off 150 miles westward, to a place called Malvern, there to a thing called “Water Cures”—as perhaps the Doctor has already informed you; for he came here a few days before we lifted anchor, and stayed in this house all the time of our absence, returning to Scotsbrig the following week (now some 3 weeks ago). At Malvern we staid one month complete,—I, not Jane, diligently Water-curing; which is a very odd business, sitting in baths, lying wrapt in wet sheets &c, and above all, walking immensely on the airy hills, and following a strict regimen as to food:—I was terribly cut short of sleep all the time; and did not feel that I got much good, or indeed till lately that I got any. However I had to try the thing;—and now have tried it, and shall at least not be bothered with advice on that subject henceforth.— Directly after Malvern, we went Northward; Jane to Lancashire, I on to Scotsbrig where I staid a fortnight,—in sight of the most impressive of all scenes for me! I fully meant to write you a Letter there; but the sad turmoil within me and about me cut it short. Our dear old Mother, she is now grown very old, and one of the most tender and affecting sights! She has lost all her teeth, that makes the principal change in her face. Dear good old woman, she has her sense and senses all perfect, is unweariedly fond of reading; will take no help (except it be from Jack, who is indeed a treasure to her and to us in these circumstances); one notices her great weakness chiefly in this, that a whiff of any illness quite oversets her, one finds that she has no strength to resist with now. John lives with her, they have the upstairs all between them; and except for him I could not be in the least comfortable about her. Alas, alas! Old age is dark; and in all human life there lies something infinitely stern,—yet something infintely beautiful too: my dear old Mother, now in her extreme age, may be said to have still a blessing such as is still possible for her.— My dear Brother, I have to end at present. I hope to write again perhaps in a few days. God bless you all! T. Carlyle

We had heard from Jenny repeatedly, to my Mother's great joy; a Newspaper came from you too, while I was at Scotsbrig.— All is still well in this circle, that I hear of.

Just as I [was]2 sealing, comes a Note from Jean, with a report that all is well thereabouts, and that a new letter has come from Jenny, reporting well in your side too. So be it, so be it!—