1824- 1825

The Collected Letters, Volume 3


TC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE; 6 July 1824; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18240706-TC-MAC-01; CL 3:103-107.


4. Myddelton Terrace, [Penton]ville, / —6th July 1824—

My dear Mother,

I suppose you are not expecting to hear from me so soon again, and still less to hear the news I have got to tell you. The last letter was dated from Kew Green; there will no more of mine be dated there: last time, I was complaining of the irresolute and foolish fluctuations of the Bullers; I shall never more have reason to complain of their proceedings, I am now free of them forever and a day. I mentioned the correspondence which had taken place between the “fair Titania” (as the Calcutta Newspapers called her) and myself on the subject of her hopeful son; and how it was arranged that we should live together till october, and then see about proceeding to Boulogne in France or else abandoning our present engagement altogether. The shifting and trotting about, which she managed with so total a disregard to my feelings, joined to the cold and selfish style of the Lady's general proceedings had a good deal disaffected me; and when in addition to all this I reflected that nothing permanent could result from my engagement with them; and considered the horrid weariness of living in seclusion from all sense and seriousness in the midst of sickness on my own part mingled with frivolity and heartless dissipation on theirs,— I had well nigh silently determined not to go to Boulogne, or even to stay with the people tho' they remained in England. My determination was called for sooner than I had anticipated. After a week spent at Kew, in the most entire tedium, by which my health had begun to deteriorate rapidly, but which I determined to undergo without repining till October, Mrs Buller writes me a letter signifying that they must know directly whether I could go to France with them or not; that if I could not the Boy might be sent to prepare for Cambridge, and that if I could, we must instantly decamp for Royston a place in Hertfordshire about fifty miles off! I replied that the expected period for deciding was not yet arrived, but that if they required an immediate decision of course there was nothing for it but to count on my declining the offer. Next day we met in Town by appointment; there seemed to be the best understanding in the world betwixt us; it was agreed that I should quit them—an arrangement not a little grievous to old Buller & his son, but nowise grievous to his wife, one of whose whims was Cambridge University; in which whim so long as she persists, she will be ready to stake her whole soul on the fulfilment of it. Buller offered me twenty-pounds for my trouble; with an excess of generosity, which I am not quite reconciled to since I thought of it maturely, I pronounced it to be too much, and accepted of ten. The old gentleman and I shook hands with dry eyes; Mrs B. gave me one of those “good mornings” with which fashionable people think it right to part with friends and foes alike; Charlie was in a passion of sadness and anger—to be forgotten utterly in three hours; and I went my way and they saw me no more. Such is my conclusion with the Bullers. I feel glad that I have done with them; their family was ruining my mind and body; I was selling the very quintessence of my spirit for two hundred pounds a year. Twelve months spent at Boulogne in the midst of drivelling and discomfort would have added little to my stock of cash, and fearfully diminished my remnant of spirits, health, and affection. The world must be fronted sometime; soon as good as syne [late]! Adieu therefore to ancient dames of quality, that flaunting, painting, patching, nervous, vapourish, jigging, skimming scolding race of mortals! Their clothes are silk, their manners courtly, their hearts are kipper. I have left the Bullers twelve months sooner than they would have parted with me had I liked: I am glad that we have parted in friendship, very glad that we are parted at all. She invited me to a rout (a grand fashionable affair) next night! I did not go a foot-length. I want to have no farther trade with her or hers—at least except in the way of cold civility; for as to what affection means, I do not believe there is one of them that even guesses what it means. Her sister indeed likes me, and I like her—but she is opposite as day from night.

Thus you see, my dear Mother, I am as it were once more upon the waters. I got my trunks hither last night—after having kept them just one week at Kew—and paid fourteen shillings for the trip to and fro—so much for having a spirited commander like Titania! I am settled with Irving who presses me to stay with him all winter! That I certainly will not do, tho' I honour the kindness that prompts even an invitation of that sort. Irving & I are grown very intimate again, and have had great talking-matches about many things. He speaks in glorious language of the wonderful things I am to accomplish here; but my own views are much more moderate.

Meanwhile my dear Mother let me assure you that I have not been so happy for a long while. I am at no loss for plans of proceeding, nor is the future overcast before me with any heavy clouds, that I should fret or fear. I am once more free; and I must be a weak genius indeed if I cannot find an honest living in the exercise of my faculties, independently of favour from any one.

My movements for a while must be rather desultory. My first is to the northward. Among the worthy persons whom I have met with here is a Mr Beddomes,1 a friend of Irvings, a graduate in medicine tho' his business is in chemical manufactories at Birmingham, where I understand he is rapidly realizing a fortune. This man one of the most sensible clear-headed persons I have ever met with seems also one of the kindest. After going about together for a day or two, talking about pictures, and stomach-disorders in the cure of which he is famous, and from which he once suffered four years of torment in person—what does the man do but propose that I should go up to Birmingham, and live a month with him that he might find out the make of me, and prescribe for my unfortunate inner man! This in a style of frankness which left me no doubt of its being really intended for use not show. I have consented to go with him; and we are to set out either together or not as I think proper in a few days. I understand he keeps horses &c, and is really the frank hospitable fellow he seems. Of his skill in medicine I augur favourably from his general talent, and from the utter contempt in which he holds all sorts of drugs as applied to persons in my situation. Regimen and exercise are his specifics assisted by as little gentlest medicine as possible. On the whole I think I never had such a chance for the recovery of health, and I am glad indeed that it has been put within reach of my acceptance. I intend to set off in about a week; there is a fine coach that starts from our very door and carries one up between 7 in the morning and seven at night—for one guinea. Beddomes a bachelor about 35 years of age determines that I shall live in his house and be always under his eye: he means to treat me with fish and wine and strong drink, and then with gruels and syllabubs, that he may see what it is that ails me. I am going to take books, and read and ride or stroll about Birmingham, and employ or amuse myself as seemeth best. Sometimes I think of beginning another translation, sometimes of setting about some original work. I am already acquainted with several literary people here, whose acquaintance would be a great comfort and some assistance to me in a case of that kind. Meantime I have set Procter (a poet of the place, whom Jack knows by the name of Barry Cornwall) to inquire among the Booksellers here and see whether any of them want such a thing as a translation from the German of any thing I should like; and I have written to Bide (Boyd) yesterday sounding him on the subject. I expect his answer in a week: and I care very little whether he deny me or not. For you must know I have resources in abundance independently of him. Meister, I understand, is doing very well; and I am not without some hopes of a second edition ere long. I rejoice more and more in the dexterity of my bargain. There was a review of Meister in Blackwood's Magazine: they speak very kindly of me as a translator, and call upon me to translate a multitude of other things which they name. In short, I am provided with abundant resources, and do not think there is any fear of me.

When I arrive in Birmingham, and sooner if any great delay occur, that is about ten days hence I will write to you again, and explain matters more minutely. I long earnestly to hear of you all; Jack's letter was a treat in itself, but it only increased my appetite for more. Let me still hope that you are all well! There is no earthly wish so near my heart. Jack tells me you are reading Meister: this surprises me; if I did not recollect your love for me, I should not be able to account for it. Schiller's Life is in part printed: I expect to see it wholly next month. I have still some thoughts of putting it forth as a book. But the bookseller lives at such a distance that I very seldom see him, indeed have only seen him once since I arrived. When I send you it, you will be better satisfied.

Now you must tell my dear Tongleg to write diligently, commanding Alick also to aid him. Did I not send them their fill of letters last week? I shall be obliged to be more brief in time to come, for this is among the last franks I shall get from Buller.

But, my dear Mother, are you well? I can only silently hope that you are; and earnestly conjure you to take care of your health as the most precious thing in your possession—precious not to yourself alone, but still more precious to me. Oh my dear M[other,] what would become of us, if we had to part forever? But we a[re] in the hands of a good Father; surely He will have mercy on his creatures.— Remember me to my good Mag: her figure that night before I went away is yet present to me. Tell her how much I think of her conduct and character and what affection I bear her. Mary also! poor Mall, she is a true-hearted Ettercap [spider or ant: little creature] of a body—and I like her wholly. Are Jane and Jenny still studying with Mister Rae? Tell them to be diligent while time is. My kindest affection to my Father and the rest of my faithful brothers. Let me hear of them all, all! May God keep them and restore them all to me! With you of Mainhill—hearts so honest and so faithful, I am rich, betide what will. Adieu, my dear Mother! I am ever your affectionate Son,

Thomas Carlyle