The Collected Letters, Volume 27


TC TO CHARLES REDWOOD ; 23 December 1852; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18521223-TC-CR-01; CL 27: 371-372


Chelsea, 23 decr, 1852—

Dear Redwood,

Last night, according to your Christian custom, the well-replenished Christmas Box arrived:—clear that there is in the Western wildernesses, a human soul remaining who thinks humanly of us, & in this mute way sends greeting and remembrance to us! A thousand thanks to you, for this steady feeling, so modestly expressed, and so faithfully maintained in spite of years and accidents: in a world like ours, such things are precious, and are not very common, if my experience may be trusted!— The edible commodities were all in perfect order, I am told; and will do their other and secondary duties by and by, also in (I doubt not) a pleasant and creditable manner.— Alas, there is not to be a very “merry christmas” here this year; and with me in particular it is appointed to be fully as lonely, for one thing, as it can be at Boverton with you. By many causes I am in a very low condition (of bodily humour) just at this time; and it has been settled, that I eat my Christmas dinner alone, on the present occasion; my Wife going out that day, and leaving me to my Books and reflexions, as the best method in so complex a case. I will eat a chop of that excellent Welsh mutton; and reflect, profitably I hope, on many things,—undisturbed by any “confused nonsense,” except my own only, and therefore “happier” than usual, and with some possibility of advantage, not with the impossibility of it as elsewhere!—

The truth is, we have got far awry here; tho' I ought to add, we are coming straight again! Our case is mainly this. Last summer it was decided that (a Lease being now procurable) this House should be “thoroughly repaired.” Builders &c were accordingly consulted; “six weeks” was the limit of time assigned; money “not much”; and hope of all kinds was the presiding genius of the enterprise. Let no man henceforth give his house a thorough repair! The artificers, abt the 1st of July last, arrived one morng with their picks and barrows; raged and tore and thumped, thro' three weeks of the hottest weather, bringing out mere mountains of old planks, old bricks and dust and desperation,—six months evidently not like to end them. My poor Wife, at this point, packed me away into Scotland; undertook to pilot the work herself into port: I exhausted Scotland,—two months, continual sleeplessness, and other misery;—and still on the farthest horizon no hope of the hurlyburly ending. “Come not hither!” she said now: “Go to Germany,—without me; I am indispensable here, and will not go; you, off!” I went, by Holland, Rhineland, Frankfurt, Cassel, Weimar Dresden,—up the Elbe, down the Oder, to Berlin & home; grew worse daily, ten times worse in the end (for I had not one night's sleep all the time, if you know what that means!): in short, it is not yet many weeks since we got the last of the unclean creatures (Painters and varnishers) out of the house,—and they have to come back, next summer, and “finish everything”: what think you of a “thorough repair” on those terms? Of the money, tho' it is some 40 per cent more than I expected, there shall nothing be said:1 but the “general collapse,” out of all this long-continued misery and excitment, has been such a state of body, soul and spirits, as requires all my philosophy to guide it wisely! Hence comes my solitary Christmas; hence come several things. My poor Wife, too, has suffered a good deal; but is not nearly so low as I; and, I flatter myself, appears to be mending faster.— Let me not forget to add, indeed, that I too am mending; that the House is actually not a little improved for the rest of one's life;—that, in fact, I have a feeling as if, at bottom, my poor overwearied nerves are perhaps clearer and sounder than before;—and thus on the whole that all shall be well that ends well!— Enough enough.

I am not quite idle, tho' I cannot, even in the language of flattery, be described as working in a visible manner. Frederick the Great has cost me huge reading, and it was after him alone or mainly that I kept inquiring in Germany lately: nevertheless it seems to me I never can embark in writing a Book about him, so little lovely is the man to me; so dim, vague, faint and contemptible is the acct I get of his life-element, is (too often) his life-element itself to me! He will walk the plank, I think or has walked it; and I must try something else. Adieu, dear Redwood I send you many grateful thots; and am silent!— Yours ever truly

T. Carlyle