The Collected Letters, Volume 28


TC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE ; 12 March 1853; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18530312-TC-MAC-01; CL 28: 73-74


Chelsea, 12 March, 1853

My dear Mother,

We got Isabella's Packet this morning, and I have already folded it up for Dumfries; Jean will send it on to Moffat probably on Monday. I need not say how glad we were to hear that you continue in your old tolerable way, and have no more of those bad fits. The weather here is now quite like spring: sunny, brisk, one day it was very warm; but the wind has now turned northerly again, and we have a temperature sharp enough, but natural to the season. I think you will be cautious of venturing out, beyond the bield of the Garden fence, even if you have it as sunny as we! Take care of yourself, dear Mother; and let us wait patiently for more genial days, which cannot be far off now.—

—(Just as I began writing this, there has come a body of vagrant musical scamps, under my windows, with clatter-bones, guitars and Nigger songs; which they are doing with a vigour beyond example, in hopes of a copper or two from somebody. Not from me surely! I could order them off, if I liked to shove up the window, and golly down upon them like a “living Saracen's Head,”1—as I sometimes do. I will rather put up with it for the present; and you will excuse any confusion I fall into. Poor souls, they too would fain live; and one cannot think the Nigger Song a very opulent fund of subsistence for them!)—

Maccall, of whom I wrote, is getting on better now: I went to him about a week ago; found a marked improvement of health;—and today a Charitable institution called the Literary Fund, with whom I had negociated for him, writes to me (as Maccall himself does) that the “Committee have given him £40, on my recommendation”; which really is very fine, and will perhaps set the poor soul up, and into some wholesomer way of existing: at all events, I am very handsomely relieved of him, and glad to be so.

I must tell you of another pleasant thing that has happened to me; or rather Jack will tell you, and explain anything you cannot understand of it: the thing is this. I was never member of any club, nor ever should have been, as almost all the men of my circle are here. But it costs £25 or so of entrance, and £5 or £6 a year besides, for the privilege of going in to see Books, Newspapers, your Acquaintances,—and also of treating the place like the cheapest and royallest of coffee houses (getting refreshment, dining, lounging on sofas &c) according to your pleasure:—and it always seemed to me too dear, and I had no desire for it. However, Lord Ashburton, it wd appear, had privately determined this spring to have it done, witht consulting me; and now it is done, and I am member of what is thought to be the best club of all, the Athenaeum; & all the money, both entrance and annual, is secretly paid for me, and the election (which needed to be unanimous, by a new law, and so was a thing of anxiety) all has been transacted without my ever knowing it, and I am, as it were, brought in in my sleep! I do not expect I shall ever very much use my privilege; but certainly it was a kind and handsome gift to make, and ought to give me pleasure, and does, a little. Men wait for 7 years sometimes before they can be so much as balloted for (only “famous” people, can be elected in this way at once), and then they have to pay (if they do it in a lump, and not annually), I suppose, £100 or better. “A good gift” indeed!

The Nigger Songsters are off elsewhither with their clatterbones, some time ago; but my paper and time—alas!— — Jane is pretty well; out, this fine day; gone visiting, I suppose. I too am trying to be busy. Let us be thankful, dear old Mother, let us be thankful, and hope forever! My blessings to all. T. Carlyle