The Collected Letters, Volume 4


TC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE; 6 January 1826; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18260106-TC-MAC-01; CL 4:3-6.


Dawson's Lodgings, 21. Salisbury-Street, / (6th Jany) Friday-night. 1826.

My Dear Mother,

As I cannot conveniently come upon a newspaper, without buying one from an office, I think it will be more suitable to send you a sheet from myself, that so you may rather have a packet of intelligence from your ain bairns, than from the crowned heads and other dignitaries of the Earth, with whom we have less to do. I know you are full of anxieties about us; therefore I delay not a moment in setting you at rest.

The first and most important piece of intelligence I have to communicate is the assurance that I am arrived in perfect safety, and proceeding in my affairs with all imaginable prosperity. Many a time yesterday, as the wild blasts came howling round me, I thought of your dismal imaginings, and wished that you could have known how snug I was, and how little I cared about the tempest. From the road on this side of AE1 Bridge I looked over my right shoulder, and saw Barhill and Burnswark, and the Tower of Repentance (no bigger than a moderate pepper-box) all glancing in the clear frosty breeze; and figured you out as smoking diligently, and wondering “how that poor habbletree was fenning ava”;2 while the “poor habbletree” was fenning as well as any one of you.

Sandy would bring up my history to the date of my parting from the hospitable home of John Grier;3 a parting so hurried that I had not time to bid a syllable of farewell even to my Brother. I buckled up my dreadnought, and thought that a better hour would come. On the whole that dreadnought did essential service throughout the day: cased in it, I turned my back to the breeze, lit my pipe as occassion served, and sat whiffing in the most composed frame of mind, defying all the war of the elements, and knowing chiefly by report that it was “a very rough day.” The poor “mason lad.” who sat beside me, suffered most: the rest left us at Moffat; so that he was exposed on all sides; and being very insufficiently wrapped, he grew exceedingly cold. I pitied the poor youth, and thought of the small vein of enterprize which he was pursuing thro' such hardship, and of his parting from his mother, and the sorry welcome that his light purse would procure him at his journey's end. Twice I revived his fainting soul with a touch of tobacco-reek, which he inhaled with rapture from my instrument; I also now and then lent him a lap of my cloak, for which he repaid me gratefully with a bit of gingerbread; and the result was that when we reached Edinburgh about half-past four, he was not either dead or speechless.

Jack was out of doors when I arrived; and his beef-steak waiting for him by the fire; an arrangement which I took the liberty to alter by consuming the victual myself. I had lain down on two chairs, to smoke and read, with a glass of ale at my head and a clear fire at my side, when Jack entered, and stared with delighted astonishment at sight of me. He had inquired out a very promising abode for me in this street; a place with two bed-rooms and a parlour, regulated by a landlady of good aspect and recommendation; the spot in short where I am now writing. I slept here last night, and finding every thing as quiet as possible, we bargained for the place this morning (at 16 / per week including fire—in the parlour all day, in the large bedroom from five o'clock): Jack has transported his luggage from the old lodging; settled with the landlady, and so forth; and here we are fixed down in the same habitation once more with every prospect of being as comfortable as it is in the power of Edinburgh in our department of it to make us. I slept last night a most sufficient sleep; and see nothing to hinder me from sleeping any night here as well as anywhere. The house too is at the very verge of the town, almost close on Salisbury crags; so that the air is almost generally altogether as fresh as Hoddam Hill or even Mountain Blow itself. On the whole I doubt not we shall be very well here in all points.

I have also seen Tait the Bookseller; and given him the stuff for setting on the Printer, who I expect will commence operations tomorrow. It also appears that the Books will not be difficult to get from Germany; so that for this matter likewise there is nothing but good aspects. And then when I have fished the little trifle of cash out of this tumultuous fishpond, I hasten home with my stock to old Annandale and my Mother, and have tea “as well as ought in Ecclefechan,” with friendly talk and much social smoking as in the days that are past.

I found Jack in perfect health; and as he declared, in want of nothing. He has drawers and night-shirts, or will get them from me; the butter holds out stoutly, and is of excellent quality; and the meal is still a considerable way from being done. When Farries comes out, I wish you would send a few eggs; for they are 1/6 per dozen here, and the st[ock] that I have will soon be done. Another little touch of oatmeal would also be acceptable; together with Jack's cheese; and any cocks or cockerels that may be superfluously crowing about the Hill, for Jack thinks they are much better and cheaper [than] beef. I must not forget to ask you for that copy of the Life of Schiller, which I intended for Goethe: you can wrap it in gray paper, and stow it in the box. Also if you have any room, send Monro's Anatomy4 with the Plates for Jack: he intends selling it here. Perhaps it may be good, as you have so many packages, to take the household bread-box from the nook for a week, and send it hither with Farries; using the press in Tom's bedroom in the interim [as] a bread-store, now that Tom is not at hand to scold about the mo[rsel]s that may be scattered on the floor. We will return the box with the return of the Carrier, with a supply of letters in answer to the supply we hope to receive on his arrival. Before the end of next week, we hope to have engaged a newspaper, which we will send you regularly “to let you know we are in being 'tis intended for a sign.”

Now, my Dear Mother, I have told you all my tale: hurried and irregular as the confusion of a new settlement allows it to be; I must now conclude, for plain reasons, and beg of you again to take no unpleasant thought for us here: but be certain that all is well with us. For yourself I must again repeat my strictest injunction that you take tea twice every day, and a bit of loaf to it, and make yourself as comfortable as the wild Hill-top will allow you till my return. Tell Jane that I command her on pain of my high displeasure to make you this same tea, evening and morning, whether you ask it or not. Bid her mind this as she loves me; for I will soon be back and require a rigorous account of her. I will tell the other Jane to write to you, and all of us will love you; and every thing will be well, as the kind Giver of all Good has hitherto ordered it. I also mean “to go to the Kirk at least once a day.”

Alick will not fail to write by the Waffler all and sundry that has befallen since my departure. Let him tell me how he sold his beefers, what he is doing and purposing to do. He is a shifty5 little fellow, tho' he cannot like the Engineer pull baskets from the well. I need not bid him keep an eye on His Honour6 and His Honour's man, and trust them no farther than his eye can follow them. Bid him keep an eye also on farms, and try to haud [hold] his gear together. Jane also must write to me by the box; positively must the old Craw: I dreamed last night that she came gliding in with a shovel-full of coals, and alas she was sleeping then, on the other side of the hills. Jenny I saw greeting [weeping] within the window when I went away: say I will give her a penny when I return. To my Father and Mag and Jamie and Mary (that was to be my housekeeper) present my warmest affection; and ask them in my name for letters. Be good to me my dear Mother as you have ever been; trust in the bounties of our All merciful Father, who carries us all in the arms of his Love; and fear not for me or your self. I am ever your affectionate son

T. Carlyle.

[In margin:] You need not mind sending any cakes. Tell Wightman the Elder that I mean to do his message tomorrow. Jack sends you all a thousand goodnights from his honest heart; and he and I are off to the Post office, so soon as I have supped my porridge, his being already down. Finis.