August 1857-June 1858

The Collected Letters, Volume 33


TC TO ALEXANDER CARLYLE ; 13 August 1857; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18570813-TC-AC-01; CL 33: 23-26


Chelsea, 13 Augt, 1857–

My dear Brother,—I had a pleasant and kind Letter from you not very long ago; awakening manifold affectionate remembrances, and echoes of old times and things, in my mind: I have ever since been thinking from time to time that I wd send an Answer “soon”;—yet, such is the pressure of my affairs, and such my own hurried weak condition, no answer comes till now; and indeed, of late weeks, I have been looking forward to this as the real time for it,—namely, the day's holiday I was to give myself on finishing a certain Section of my sad Book; whh feat has now been brought about at last. The day before yesterday I got a very welcome good little Letter from Tom (thank him for me); but this wd have come on its own score, had there been no new reason.

Ever since I wrote last year from Scotsbrig,1 I have been working like a slave; day and night involved in confusions, of the most unmanageable nature;—the only limit, not to break myself down altogether, in which case there wd be no hope of the job. Never in my life had I a thing so difficult to do; and I am fallen old, and feckless in comparison; hope much dead in me, especially: not fit to handle such huge mountains of rubbish;—yet dreadfully unwilling to be beaten by them, too! Being withal in the most evident state of special ill-health, worse than even naturally belongs to me at this age, I decided on getting a Horse again;2 have had a Horse since November last; and go riding daily as the Sun; whh does (I sometimes think) begin to tell on me at last, or at least prevents me getting still worse:—and so I fight along; and hope fairly to finish this frightful job too; after which I contemplate taking a rest for the remainder of my life, or mainly “a rest.” This is a fine brisk Horse I have got (now into my third thousand of miles, riding upon him “after health”): how often did I think of my poor true Alick who used to buy me horses, and do all things for me, in old days! The poor Cutlugs3 whh you bought for £2"10 at Mainhill4 (do you remember it?), I often think, almost like to cry, of that poor Snaffle;5 & would not give the memory of it for the price of the best Horse now alive! My dear Brother, I know that your affection for me lasts and has lasted, faithful to the end: you need not doubt that mine towards you is, was, and will be the like. That is a mournful but blessed possession for us both, wherever we be in this world.— But the best news of myself I must give too; namely that I am fairly printing that unspeakable New Book; 150 pages of it off my hands forevermore; and if I can hold out wisely I shall verily do it, and get rid of it, one day, in a not discreditable manner! For years back, I have had hardly any other wish left. About this time twelvemonth, if I can go on neither too fast nor too slow, I expect to be rid of Three Volumes;—there will remain then, after such pause as I like, other Two Volumes,6 and not the tenth part of the difficulty in them. Steady, therefore; “steady!” as the drill serjeants say.

My poor Jane took a cold last year, two or three weeks after returning home with me; and could not get out of it again,—ill and weak in a high degree, often confined to bed (never out of doors at all), dreadfully off for want of sleep especially,—all winter thro'. In my hurries this was (to her, still more than to myself perhaps) a great aggravation. Not till the end of May could she get out again; and still she continued far below par in strength,—and I fear, continues so in some sensible degree. There appeared to me to be nothing specifically wrong with her; merely the crisis or summing up of a long tract of sickly sleeplessness &c &c which was come to a head: perhaps she might be a thought better even, could she once gather strength again. Above a month ago, being pressingly invited by the old Misses Donaldson (whom perhaps you remember), she went to Haddington; thence over into Fife (to her cousin Walter of Liverpool, who is a clergyman there,—poor kind “Uncle John” of Liverpool is dead several years ago): she is, this very day I think, coming over to Edinburgh to her Aunts (Grace &c, who live there, in fine suburban air “Craigen Villa”, and are grown very good old Dames, of a strongly religious turn); after a week with her Aunts she goes back to Haddington,—thence home to me; I shd fancy, about the beginning of Septr. She does not appear to have gained much in strength, poor little soul; but we hope she will find herself really profited (as has sometimes been my own case) on getting into her old place, and summing the whole up, as then happens. I used to liken myself to an old garron whose harness, collar &c, had worn it into “raws”:7 going 300 miles off, you get into new harness; which likewise hurts you: but on resuming the old harness, the “raws” are found somewhat mended nevertheless!—

John has not been here, or away from Scotsbrig, since soon after Newyearsday last. He came up hither about that time; to dispose of some troublesome tho' occasionally profitable shares in a Ship,8 which had been bequeathed to him: this he successfully da very wise act), and soon after returned to Scotsbrig. There he seems not to be doing much,—selling off old bequeathed Libraries (at Chester9 this, by Letter sent from Scotsbrig); corresponding with or about his “four wards” (rather indifferent subjects than otherwise I shd judge), occasionally having some of them with him there, &c &c;—he does not speak of setting up a House of his own, tho' now abundantly wealthy for that; seems to keep much at home about Scotsbrig; and to be healthy and contented there. He is a placid sanguine creature; looking always at the “sunny side of his cloud” (as our dear old Mother used to say);—and has a much more satisfied life than some others of us.

Dumfriesshire and all places are what they call “prospering” at present: many circumstances perhaps (the California gold, I privately reckon, most of all)10 have given such an explosive impulse to “trade,” all corners of this Country are testifying [to] it.11 To me it is by no means exclusively beautiful, this enormous effulgence of wealth, and with it of luxury and gaudery and folly, on the part not of the wise men of the community (for it is not they that the “wealth” mainly falls on):—it is on the contrary inexpressibly ugly to me when I reflect on it; and I perceive that the Devil is in it, he in fact and no Saint! However, that is the course at present; all things rising in price; all manner of gamblers getting “fortunes” &c &c: and by and by there will be a very burbly account to settle indeed!12 I often think, for myself and you, we are better not concerned in it: I just above the fear of poverty and nothing more; you ditto, with your own bit of the Earth's surface secured for a field of honest industry to your children and you. There are more secrets in Heaven's ways of doing “kindness” to men, than men are always aware of.— At The Gill, at Scotsbrig they are in health, I think; Jamie a very good farmer (I perceive) and respectable honest man; things going the right road, with more money-profit than formerly, at The Gill too. Of Jean at Dumfries, a sim[ilar]13 account is to be given:—“all well” was the word two days ago.

Poor old Graham at Burnswark continues bodily in excellent health his Sister extremely frail; but both of them, he especially, much sunk in mind from what they were. In Miss Graham, I thought, it was mostly depression and darkness from ill health: but with him, memory is quite gone for practical purposes,—and this too is about the sum of the matter, for his “intellect,” by itself, seemed much the same as ever when I saw him last year. John goes up from time to time; but finds it a very sad monotony I think, and has never the least change to report.

Tom's Letter yesterday gave me a sad glimpse into that Emigrant Steamer that took fire in your River! I had read the thing in the Newspapers with a very miserable feeling, for it seemed to be mere neglect and want of sense: but I did not know there was anybody we were specially concerned in there. Poor Jenny & her Household may well think with a strange shock of that poor Annandale Sister & her Goodman:14 Horrible indeed!— Give my affectionate regards to Jenny the first opportunity you have: if I were once a little more my own master, she shall hear from me again. Also to your own Jane, “Jane the Second”;15—I can never think of her except as of a little child good at reading; and she has got a long way out of that!—

There was an account from Tom (I think to the Dr in winter last) about an adventure in Maple Sugar with his Brother-in-law;16 whh I read with much interest. The two rugged sons of Nature reading Homer in the Bush, while their pans boiled, made an admirable picture to me,—full of health, and rugged honest life and worth. I once thot to have written to Tom specially a word under this Cover: but on the whole, it will not now do; and you can tell him all I specifically had to say. Two other Volumes are ready for him here (one comes generally monthly17); I think I shall wait till there is a third then off with them. There are to be about 15 in all.18 Also you can tell him, our Harvest here (all but the hay whh was average) is said to be excellent. Certainly there has not been so hot a year in my experience here. I am writing now (as I am often obliged to do) in the open air,—under an “Awning” in the speck of garden; whh I whh I19 find a very useful invention. May was mostly winter's self: but in june & since we almost defied the W. Indies now & then. Scotland is far cooler, I hear.— Adieu, dear Alick: blessings be on you & what belongs to you. A Letter when you can.

Your affecte Brother / T. Carlyle