1854-June 1855

The Collected Letters, Volume 29


TC TO ALEXANDER CARLYLE; 8 April 1855; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18550408-TC-AC-01; CL 29: 286-288


Chelsea, 8 April, 1855—

My dear Brother,

Today I send you a small mournful Gift; which, I need not doubt, will be very precious to you. You remember perhaps I got a Portrait done, at Dumfries, before you went away, of One who has now left us, and who is forever dear to us all. I have now had a few Copies taken of it; am sending one to each of the Seven of us who still remain (no other gets a Copy, for there were only seven, “seven good ones,” bargained for); and here inclosed is your share. Having one still over, not upon a Card, I put it in; you may give in1 to Tom,2 who used to write to his good Grandmother, and was well loved by her: he will perhaps remember her when we also are all away. The Likeness seems to me rather good. The poor fellow that did the Oil-Picture, who was once a Mill-boy at Glenessland, took to drinking &c after his success as a Painter at Dumfries, and is now dead himself.3 The Copies are of the kind called Photograph (done by the sunlight, and a certain apparatus they have): it is easy to take as many Copies as one likes; but I wanted only Seven.— You can keep yours in the Cover where it is, till you get a little frame for it. I have sent one to Jenny by this same mail across the Ocean; and that is the last I have. Enough said now of that small object, whh will give rise to many thoughts in you, very sad but not unblessed, I trust.

It seems a long while since we got any full stock of news from the Bield4 in Canada. I think a Letter to Grahame was the last direct thing. We understand you to be toiling along in the old course of labour and exertion; and that you do not at all forget us any more than we you, in our silent multifarious reflexions and anxieties. I grow yearly more silent; write, in the Letter way, less and less, for a long time back,—in fact no Letter at all that has not a clear claim to be written. The swift flight of Time; the inevitable nearness of the Evening and Night “wherein no man can work,”5 admonishes me continually to do what I can while it is Day. The frivolous noise of men about me is rather an oppression to me than otherwise; and I much prefer my silent upper room here,—and go puddling on, accomplishing little almost nothing (for it is terribly unhandy work I am upon, and no end to the quantity of it), yet still refusing to give up.— If I live, I shall get done with it; and then, it is one [of]6 my dreams that I shall perhaps have a sail to America, and see my true Brother again before all end! Well do I remember always the pair of little brown fists (probably fifty years ago now) which I noticed suddenly interfere in some battle I was fighting on the Ecclefechan street, one summer afternoon,—a memorable and pretty little phenomenon to me!7

The Doctor is here at present; lodges about a mile off (the three Boys, his late Wife's are with him for a week or two just now): I see him almost every night for a little while. He makes no complaint, go[es] about, busy with Books &c; and indeed takes his cross fortune, and confused ups and downs, in a very fine and goodnatured way. He has had a little whiff of ailment (surgical and bilious, I believe,—a boil in a bad place) this last fortnight; but is now out, and stirring as before. Grahame is growing very dim and heavy; perfect health of body, but his memory much gone, poor old man. G. Bell of Whitecastles is dead; his Brother Thomas was gone before: brisk young men whom perhaps you remember.— Dear Brother, this Cover will stand no more weight. I mean to write again soon. God bless you all.

T. Carlyle