The Collected Letters, Volume 28


TC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE ; 5 February 1853; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18530205-TC-MAC-01; CL 28: 32-33


Chelsea, 5 feby, 1853—

My dear good Mother,—I will write you one of the shortest Notes you ever read, merely to say we are still in the usual way, and nothing wrong with us, in spite of the harsh broken and uncertain weather,—which, for your and all our sakes, I often wish to see alter. Patience, the sun will get out at last!— Poor Jane still sleeps badly, but better considerably for the last 3 days; and never gives in. She has been walking with her little Dog Nero; and I hear her knock at the door this moment,—she coming, I not yet got out. I have been terribly bothered and hurried for the last day or two: and work is hardly to be got done or tried at all; that is the worst of it!— On Tuesday Afternoon1 and night we had our Fog; a right “London Fog,” the first this season; and fairly the blackest I ever saw. Jane and I had to go up to the Ashburtons' (who were incidentally here) that night— 2½ miles off us:—the omnibuses and every vehicle had ceased; no team could go except at a snail's pace, and with blazing torches at the head of it, “Hoh-ho-ing” as it went on; you could not see one street-lamp from another. I proposed to Jane, after half a mile of it, that we shd turn home, and give up the affair; but she would not: “she had never seen a London Fog out of doors, and would be amused by the spectacle!” We accordingly did make it out, without accident or mistake (by dint of excellent pilotage!); had a pleasant enough evening, and a quiet slow and safe journey home,—the air blacker than ever; various persons asking us, “Have the goodness to tell me where I am!” My new shirt was quite black in the inside of the collar when I took it up next morning.— There is no sort of “danger” whatsoever, for a foot passenger, on such occasions: the police are everywhere, with blazing lamps on their breasts, with skilful polite direction to every one that asks it; and all the people maintain the most exemplary good humour, everybody indeed seeming to be partly amused by the new state of the world and its atmosphere. This “London Fog” is simply a common heavy mist, with the smoke of 2½ million people's fires superadded, which of course makes it black enough if there be no wind and a half-frost in the air. In one of the streets, that night, the police had opened a gas-pipe, and screwed an upright tube into it (for the public benefit), out of which there rose a blazing jet of flame, as long as a cow's tail and as thick as a horse's: well, at the distance of perhaps 50 yards you could not see that at all!— Next morning, about breakfast time, it rolled all off, and we had visible skies and clear weather again.——— Alas, alas, I have occupied all my time with it; and should have been talking either of nothing, or of something that interested you more!

I am still deep in German Books and sunk sorrowfully in masses of abstruse inquiries: but nothing comes of it yet in the shape of water to my own mill; nothing, or far too little, frightfully little. However, we must be patient; and hope “better things.”

Jack and I have not yet quite settled the Craigenputtoch matter,—are only settling it. He reported to me Jamie's verdict; for which I am much obliged, and which I will keep faithfully in my eye.

Jean, it appears is coming to see you; I expect a long narrative from her about my poor Mother's affairs, and how she is at all in this winter imprisonment.— Jean seems to be apprehensive about meeting “Phoebe”; but you can assure her there is no danger whatever in that quarter.— — The Note from Jamie, to the Dr, I got some days ago: Isabella may like to read it; the young man is improving in his hand.

May blessings be upon you all, dear Mother: that is my heart's prayer now as ever. Your affectionate T. Carlyle

Yesterday I sent the Fraser; if you find nothing in it, perhaps one of the 2 little Books may have something to amuse you for a few minutes. I have another Book here for you.