The Collected Letters, Volume 4


TC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE; 20 October 1827; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18271020-TC-MAC-01; CL 4:261-264.


21. Comley Bank, 20th October (Saturday) [1827].

My own dear Mother,

I know not that my month is yet expired, or you expecting to hear from me: but I am well assured that you will be glad of this letter; for it brings you welcome news. Jack is arrived in Holland; has the dangers of the German ocean behind him, and his broad foot on the fog [heath] once more! I had a letter from him two hours ago, which has travelled with to me an almost inconceivable rapidity, having been written in Rotterdam, only last Tuesday morning.1 The Doctor, it appears, had a roughish passage; was becalmed in the Frith here, lay four and twenty hours at anchor in Yarmouth roads, and then was blown with a vengeance right over to Holland. On Saturday morning (only this day week), he saw the Dutch coast, “like whinbushes rising over the edge of the sea”; then a pilot came on board, with a petticoat on, a little squat fellow, whose “voice was like lead-drops falling on a dry wecht”;2 and he, with his petticoat and six pairs of trowsers beneath it, led them all safe into Rotterdam harbour on monday morning. Doubtless I was very glad myself to hear of all this: for tho' I believe there was no special danger, I was not without my own anxiety[.]

I know not whether Alick told you that on board the packet Jack had met with an old class-fellow on his way to France, one Dr Laing3 from this neighbourhood. They two were to set out on foot together as far as Leyden, where the Doctor expected to get steam to convey him on to Cologne, the regular boats from Rotterdam thither, being all engaged for a week by the Queen of Wirtemberg and her train. I calculate that the Doctor is already far on his journey; and enjoying himself not a little by the way: he was well furnished with letters of Introduction to people of consideration and kind feeling; so that for the present we may dismiss him, with the hope, grounded on all sorts of probability, that he is well and doing well. He did not fail to send his most affectionate remembrances to all and every one of you. In a day or so I must write to him; that a letter of welcome may be waiting for him at Munish when he arrives. The poor slough [lazy fellow] will surely be much improved every way, by this journey of his; and by and by, I can have no doubt, we shall all have cause to be proud of him. He has a true affectionate heart, and a good stout head, and Time will give the rest.

I had some expectation myself of seeing you shortly; but that is passed away now. Brougham is gone from Penrith to London; and Jeffrey writes to me that he could get no certainty out of him about this Professorship; on which indeed he did not like to press him, till Brougham should have seen more of my writings. I have accordingly sent off to him last night my last long Paper, which is to come out in the next Edinburgh Review; but what effect it may have on the result of this business, may still seem very uncertain. Jeffrey appears to think that for the present no one will be appointed; but that the thing will be left open for months, perhaps for years, to take what turn circumstances may give it. I myself am half inclined to think so too; and certainly it seems as if I had no right to put any great faith in it as it now looks. There is one great thing in my favour, however: I positively know not yet whether I should wish it or not wish it! This is the simple truth; so that equanimity regarding it is easily enough preserved. But in two days I expect to see Jeffrey, who returns from Harrowgate tomorrow, and he will tell me more.

Meanwhile I am going to begin another Paper for a new London Review, also on a German subject;4 and after that, I purpose writing another on some Italian subject5 for Jeffrey. Money will come in, in this way, and my mind will be more and more spoken out. It is surprising to see how much stir these bits of writing cause here in Edinburgh: the people seem to think that I am a genius6 perhaps, but of what sort Heaven only knows. They will learn better by and by, if I be spared among them, either at Craigenputtock or anywhere above ground. In the mean time I am content enough; certainly no worse in health since you saw me; but on the contrary sometimes of opinion that I shall in the end get quite well; a result which I anticipate the more, the less I really care about its happening. O my dear mother! it is not a healthy body that is the best, but a healthy soul: this I hope I more and more see into. Have we not all our crosses, each his burden in this pilgrimage; and is not the best blessing his who bears it most wisely? Often the whole thing seems to me a cloud and air-image, which in the eye of our immortal spirit will melt into nothingness, like the morning shadows before the Sun!

I am truly concerned to learn that you are not all so well as you should be at Scotsbrig. Alick tells me that your foot is better, and that Mag is quite recovered: but how is my Father? Will you beg him or Jamie to take the pen and let me know, never so shortly, how it stands with him? This foggy weather too is doubly ill for rheumatism; and doubly vexatious for one that has still stuff out, which however I hope is not your case. I must again entreat some of you to write.

And now when are we to see you and Jean? My coming down has become uncertain, and at all events distant by several weeks: but why should you wait for me; why not step into the coach yourselves, and I will wait for you any afternoon, at the Coach-office, and show you all the wonders? We have really set our hearts upon your all coming hither; and for us, the sooner the better. I wish much you could tell us something definite about it soon. On the whole, I almost fear you will be for waiting till I come down to Puttock, to see about the “house and cow's grass”7 there. This cannot be for six weeks, and then it will be winter. I think I must send Alick to stir you up: I am to write to him, on Wednesday, last week being barren of news.— I send my best affection to every one of the good souls at Scotsbrig: forget not to insist on my request to my Father. And why should not Jean write? Tell her that we will take it very handsome if she do. Does Jenny bring home her medals [yet]? Does Mag keep well?— I am ever and always ([my dear M]other) your affectionate son—

T. Carlyle—

Jane gave me a ring on the anniversary of our marriage-day; which you will see on my little finger; and truly well it looks!

The slut porter brought us in the firkin and cheese, on thursday, the day after Geordy went out: there was no shadow of a letter. The butter is truly eminent; I think, the best we have yet had: but the firkin will not keep the brine! What is to be done? I have tightened the hoops; and Alison is getting some pot or other to set the whole in. I could not have pulled out the wrong lid? It was the one the address stood on.

Jane is this moment come in, and sends her best love to all of you individually: the poor lassie has been complaining a good deal for two weeks; but I hope, as she does, it is nothing. The cheese we have laid by, as yet unbroken up; with the notion that at least it looks well. Was Alick not drowned with wet?— I fear you will hardly make out this letter; it is written in some haste, and with an eagle's feather, which has already written many weeks.— Adieu!