The Collected Letters, Volume 26


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE; 20 December 1851; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18511220-TC-JAC-01; CL 26: 273-275


The Grange, 20 decr / 1851—

My dear Brother,

Your Letter came this morning: I am surely much obliged to you and Jamie for the great trouble you have taken so promptly about Craigenputtoch, and to you farther for the copious report you have given me of your expedition thither. I must endeavour to come to some decision, and write to Adamson today, or at least in time for Wednesday; but what I am to say is still rather dark to me, I hope on the whole we shall be able to keep M'Queen; all change is more or less wasteful, uncertain, liable to risk, and will at any rate involve one in considerable quantities of trouble. He ought to give the fair rent too, however; and we must not quite let him stick at the £180, if the real value is £200.

We are going on well enough here, tho' not with any great enjoyment of ourselves, and certainly with perpetual small bother, owing to the change of all one's habits and ways. Happily Jane's cold is much better, and her headache as good as quite gone; I too, tho' always in a rather queasy confused state, am getting accustomed to my strange late hours, and saunter about in the most composed manner I can,—doing “donothingism” quietly, since that is the only task at present. We have had Macaulay for two days: he was a real acquisition while he lasted, and gave rise to much good talk, besides an immense quantity of indifferent which he himself executed A man of truly wonderful historical memory, which he has tried in really extensive reading, and has always lying ready with this or the other fact date or anecdote on demand: in other respects, constantly definable as the sublime of commonplace; not one of whose ideas has the least tincture of greatness or originality or any kind of superior merit except neatness of expression, valde mediocris homo [a truly mediocre man]. He speaks with a kind of gowstering emphasis; laughs occasionally (not at things really ludicrous, but when a laugh is demanded by the exigencies of the case) with a loud wooden but frank and goodnatured tone:—he is on the whole a man of really peaceable kindly temper, and superior sincerity in his Whig way;—a strange flat-soled awkwardness in him under all his shining rhetoric:—now and then he reminded me of a spiritual Hippopotamus; and we cheerfully let him shine as “the sublime of Commonplace.” I felt him really to be a loss when he went yesterday morning.1

Many have gone, Ellice (called “the Bear”), Poodle Byng, Villiers &c, and others have come and are coming: we are a fluctuating society here. Our grandest lights at present are Lords Landsdowne and Grey, with women pertaining to the latter; one Landseer, a little Painter,2 very goodhumoured anecdotic little creature; Chancellors of the Exchequer and I know not whom are due today. Heigho! or as Grahame has it better, “Oh Whow!”— — The worst of it is one has not a moment's time; and it is hardly possible to get even a Letter written, so incessant, so uncertain, is the bustle round and in one. My best employment is the solitary ride I get almost daily; which leads me into vacant rural places, with the winter silence and a great grey sky over me; things sad and solemn, not unmixed with profit and even enjoyment, are one's companions in such an expedition thro' the lanes and woods. Our weather is constantly dim and warm, often quite windless; we have never yet, except slightly yesterday, had anything whh could be denominated rain.

I am very glad to hear of my Mother's being still in her usual way: the days are now at the shortest; they will henceforth daily grow longer, and we shall all do better by and by. Tell her to be quiet and keep as warm as she can: patient, pious and hopeful she will still be, as she always was.

I mean to write to Jamie or some of them soon after I get home. Today I will not continue farther; having various little scrapings of things to do—under difficulties. I hear Jane's voice from the babble of the other room, but must not expressly ask her for any message: she was glad to hear her Letter had reached me, and that my assurances to her on that head were valid. Give my best love to my ever-dear good Mother, and to all the rest as if I had named them.

Yours ever /

T. Carlyle