The Collected Letters, Volume 28


TC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE ; 28 February 1853; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18530228-TC-MAC-01; CL 28: 55-56


Chelsea, 28 feby, 1853—

My dear Mother,

I have got a Note from John this morning, which brings me sad news of your being very ill with this bad weather aggravating your common weakness. I had feared as much! For the weather is really quite grim; and acts hardly on many who are much stronger than you. John says you were grown a little better again, before he went away. But of course we are very anxious;—and we hope Isabella will be so kind as write us again a little word. The weather here is growing better: the sun gets stronger daily; but the frost still continues, and everything in the shade is mere ice. It is surely very incumbent on you to keep warm in bed, for one thing. John says they keep a good fire in your room, and continue it thro' the night too; which is surely very proper. Let us hope the sun will visit you at Scotsbrig, and the milder air produce its improvement:—alas, we can do nothing here, but only hope and wish!—

I had a whiff of cold, which I felt hanging about me, during the latter days of last week: on saturday night it came to a kind of head; and commenced running away at the nose;—so, all yesterday too, I sat sniftering and sneezing, in a most ridiculous and pitiful kind of state: but today it is nearly quite over; the sniftering has ceased; and the feeling of cold too is mostly gone; indeed I seem almost better than I was before.— If indeed I could get on rightly with my work: but, alas, there are many hindrances to that; and in my own self, where alone help could be hoped for, there is still too little help! Well, we must try to do our best, after all;—we are poor weak idle beings; and not worth our bread and cheese, many times, if strict account were kept! Jane continues pretty well; goes out almost daily; and we keep a good fire, and sit quietly reading at night.— We are to go and dine with Richard Milnes this evening; which I don't like at all, if it could be well helped. But I will try to take care of myself there; and hope to get thro' without considerable damage.1 I think this is just the third time for us in these three months; and Milnes (you remember about him in Yorkshire) is one of my oldest friends. He has got married lately; a rich enough wife of quality; has a little daughter (we understand); and is growing very fat and round;—for the rest, as good humoured as ever.

Poor Maccall came to see me one day; a rather distressing sight, for he is evidently in the most broken state of health, and has (that one can see) no rational outlook of making his bread in this world. To endeavour help for the poor soul, is evidently a duty; yet what to do or try in behalf of him, is as obscure as possible!— It is sad to think what multitudes of wretched people, as unfortunate as he and far less deserving, are wandering about the world, in the middle of all the “prosperity” we hear so much of. Prosperity,—alas, I do not well see how “nuggets of gold” at the Diggins,2 going into the hands of the most worthless of the sons of Adam there and elsewhere, can amount to much “prosperity” for us! If we saw the tail of the account, as we see the top and beginning of it, probably it would not look so “prosperous.”— But enough of that.

Anthony Sterling is going to copy me your Picture,3 by a machine he has, which makes on a small bit of paper really a wonderful likeness sometimes: if it succeed, I will send two to Canada, and you shall see it at Scotsbrig also.— —

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Frontispiece, CL Volume 13

Detail of a portrait of Margaret A. Carlyle by Maxwell of Dumfries, 1842, Carlyle's House, Chelsea.

Reproduced by permission of The National Trust for Places of Historical Interest or Natural Beauty, London.

Enough, dear Mother. Oh that I could hear you were in your old way again, and got out of this hard shadow of Winter;—tho', alas, your “old way” itself is not a very high one! God be with us all: in His Goodness only is there hope for any soul of us. Bid Isabella write, in a day or two at farthest. Your affectionate Son

T. Carlyle