candlestick

January 1829-September 1831


The Collected Letters, Volume 5


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TC TO JANE WELSH CARLYLE; 22 August 1831; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18310822-TC-JWC-01; CL 5:348-359.


TC TO JANE WELSH CARLYLE

London, August 22nd 1831—

My Dearest little Comforter,

I begin the work of the day with a Letter to thee, in order to start with two good[s] at once, a duty and a pleasure. I got a frank yesterday; have paper of the thinnest (far too thin, indeed); an hour at my disposal before any one call; and so mean to have pennyworths.

Your dear kind Letter did arrive that Thursday night; tho' not till late; with the very latest of the “Twopennies,” I think,—which invaluable class of men keep travelling here all day from 8 in the morning till ten at night. My blessings on thee, little Goody, for the kind news thou sendest! It is all a living Picture, and the dear Screamikin Artist standing in the middle of it, both acting it and drawing it for my sake. I saw your half-insane beer-barrel of a Fyffe, and the midges all buzzing round him in the sultry morning; the racket of the Macturk Chaise; your rushing forth to the Post-office, your eager devouring of my Letter; and all the rest of it, in which, alas, the headache, and the “two hours” of sleep did not escape me. Compose thyself, my Darling: we shall not long be separated come of it what may. And how should we do, thinkest thou, with an eternal separation! O God! it is fearful, fearful. But is not a little temporary separation like this needful to manifest what daily mercy is in our lot, which otherwise we might forget or esteem as a thing of course.— Understand however once more that I have yet taken up with no other women. Nay, many as I see, light air-forms tripping it on satin along the streets, or plumed Amazons curbing their palfreys in the Park with pomp and circumstance enough,—there has no one yet fronted me, whom even to look at I would exchange with my own. And to take into my bosom and clasp there as mine, ach Gott [oh Lord]! there is not such a one extant.— This is an original thought is it not? And yet could any poetic or prophetic revelation please my Darling so, as this repeating of the thousand times repeated? For the truth is, Jeannie, we love one another; which probably is the greatest blessing in this highly blessed world. Yes, as proud as I am grown (for the more the Devil pecks at me the more vehemently do I wring his nose), and standing on a kind of basis which I feel to be of adamant, I perceive that of all women my own Jeannie is the wife for me: that in her true bosom (once she were a Mystic) a Man's head is worthy to lie. Be a Mystic, Dearest; that is, stand with me on this everlasting basis, and keep thy arms around me: thro' life I fear nothing.

But this is what in the language of censure may be called trifling: I must proceed with my Journal of Life in London; leaving sentiment for word of mouth. Unhappily my Paper, as I said, is too thin, so that the reading will not be pleasant, as the writing is not: nevertheless both are possible, and as the heart is willing we shall not fail. I sent Jack for light paper, with a view to franks, and this time he has overdone it.

My narrative must have finished, I suppose, on Thursday night about five o'clock. Jack and I went out to walk and make calls after that; found no one at home but Mrs Badams, who was nigh weeping when she spoke to us of her husband. Poor thing, I can easily see she has a ticklish game to play; for Badams seems to me to be hovering on the verge of ruin, uncertain as yet whether he will turn back, or only plunge down, down. I tell all in this one word: he is in the habit of daily drinking brandy till his head get confused! He began this accursed practice not many months ago, for the sake of an intolerable headache he had, and which brandy (then nauseous enough to him) taken till it made him retch was wont to cure: but now I suspect the nauseousness has ceased; and the brandy (or gin) is chiefly coveted because it yields stupefaction. Poor Badams! his volition seems gone, or quite dormant: he flies into the Country promising himself that he will ride for his health, since nothing else can be done as yet; and, said his wife, he has ridden twice these five months. He lounges on a sofa; and does nothing, or worse. God help him, and her! For she seems to love him, and sees not how to help him. I spake comfort to her, and have still hopes, but not unmixed with fears. Badams's Gig has broken down with him all to shivers at full speed, and he has not found his legs yet, which indeed are lamed by the fall, and will not carry him.

With the Montagues I have somewhat less sympathy. It seems still uncertain whether they will lose anything by him; and their ferocity (except poor Basil) is quite transcendental. On the whole, my original impression of that “noble lady” was the true one: she is an Actress, and very little more. The most ravenous Iety1 dwells in her that I ever noticed in woman. She goes upon words, words. For example, in spite of all the foolish plastering with fine speeches, what have they made of me since I came hither? Never once asked me what I wanted, or so much as come or sent to give me good day. I called once more, and left my card; and shall continue at rare intervals to do the like: but for trust or friendship, it is now more clearly than ever a chimera. One must lean on living bosoms, not on hollow word-bags. And yet if the noble Lady is unhappy ought we not to try if there be any little solace for her? Yes surely, and will.— I smiled (better than the Duke did) at her offer of “giving you money” to come hither. Jane Welsh Carlyle a taker of money, in this Era of the Gigmen! Nimmer und nimmermehr [Never—nevermore].2 And then to think how admirably sure the noble lady was that her “offer” might be made without the smallest risk. Tush! it is all stuff and fudge and fiddle-faddle; of which I begin to grow aweary.— Oh no, my Dearest, we will have no meetings that we cannot purchase for ourselves: we shall meet, nay perhaps ere long thou shalt see London and thy Husband in it on earnings of our own.— From all which the practical inference is: “Let us endeavor to clear our minds of Cant.”3

Friday I spent with Irving, in the animali-parlanti [talking-animals]4 region of the Supernatural. Understand, ladykin, that the “gift of tongues” is here also (chiefly among the women), and a positive belief that God is still working miracles in the Church—by hysterics. Nay, guess my astonishment when I learned that poor Dow of Irongray5 is a Wonder-worker and Speaker with tongues; and had actually “cast out a Devil” (which however returned again in a week) between you and Dumfries! I gave my widest stare: but it is quite indubitable; his autograph Letter was read me, detailing all that the “Laart” had done for him. Poor fellow it was four days after his Wife's death. I was very wae for him, and not a little shocked.— Irving hauled me off to Lincoln's Inn Fields to hear my Double (Mr Scott);6 where I sat directly behind a Speaker with Tongues, who unhappily however did not perform, till after I was gone. My Double is more like “Maitland”7 the Cotton-eared, I hope, than me; a thin black-complexioned, vehement man; earnest, clear, and narrow as a tailor's listing. For a stricken hour did he sit expounding in the most superannuated dialect (of Chroist and so forth) yet with great heartiness the meaning of that one word Entsagen [renunciation]. The good Irving looked at me wistfully, for he knows I cannot take miracles in; yet he looks so piteously as if he implored me to believe. O dear O dear! was the Devil ever busier than now; when the Supernatural must either depart from the world, or reappear there like a chapter of Hamilton's “diseases of Females.”8 But Teufelsdreck will and shall (in spite of the Devil) make his appearance.

At night I fondly trusted we had done with the Miraculous: but no, Henry Drummond too is a believer in it. This Drummond who inhabits a splendid mansion in the West, proved to be a very striking man. Taller and leaner than I, but erect as a plummet, with a high-carried quick penetrating head; some five-and-forty years of age: a singular mixture of all things; of the Saint, the Wit, the Philosopher, swimming if I mistake not in an element of Dandyism. His dinner was Dandiacal in the extreme; a meagre series of pretentious kickshaws, on which no hungry jaw could satisfactorily bite, flunkies on all hands, yet I had to ask four times before I could get a morsel of bread to my cheese. His Wife has had “twenty miscarriages,” and looks pitiful enough. Besides her we were five[:] Spencer Percival9 Member of the House (of Stupids, called of Commons); Tudor a Welshman Editor of the Morning Watch; our Host, Irving and I. They were all prophetical, Toryish, ultra-religious. I emitted, notwithstanding, floods of Teufelsdreckish Radicalism, which seemed to fill them with wonder and amazement,10 but were not ill received, and indeed refused to be gain-sayed. We parted with friendliest indifference, and shall all be happy to meet again, and to part again. The Drummond who is a great Pamphleteer has “quoted” me often, it seems &c &c. He is also a most munificent and beneficent man—as his friends say. Peace and Happiness be with him!11— By the by, I may say that the Jeffreys rolling along Piccadilly had a glimpse of me and Irving, as we walked to that dinner, and a bow from me; and wondered where I had scraped acquaintance with—Paganini!12 For it seems the Fiddler is very like the orator only infinitely leaner, but with loose clothes.

On Saturday morning I set out for Albemarle Street; taking up your Seal by the way; which Seal I reckoned well done (for 10 shillings), and hope the Leddy herself will be of the same mind. Murray as usual was not in; but an answer lay for me: my poor Teufelsdreck wrapped in new paper, with a Letter stuck under the pack thread! I took with a silent fury, and walked off. The Letter said, he regretted exceedingly &c that—all his Literary friends were out of town, he himself occupied with a sick family in the country; that he had conceived the finest hopes &c; in short that Teufelsdreck had never been looked into; but that if I would let him keep it for a month, he would then be able to say a word, and by God's blessing a favourable one. I walked on thro' Regent-Street, and looked in upon James Fraser the Bookseller, and sat down in his backshop to rest me. First of all it became apparent here that Fraser had not and could not have any proposal to make about his Magazine worth listening to for half a minute; but that the whole concern was damnable and well nigh damned. Secondly we got to talk about Teufelsdreck: when after much hithering and thithering about the black state of trade &c, it turned out that honest James would publish the Book for me, on this principle: If I would give him a sum not exceeding £150 sterling! “I think you had better wait a little,” said an Edinburgh Advocate to me since, when he heard of this proposal: “Yes,” I answered, “it is my purpose to wait to the end of Eternity first.”— “But the Public will not buy Books.”— “The Public has done the wisest thing it could; and ought never more to buy what they call Books.”

Spurning at Destiny, yet in the mildest terms taking leave of Fraser, I strode thro' these streets, carrying Teufk openly in my hand, not like a gentleman. I took a pipe and glass of water, and counsel with myself. I was bilious and sad, and thought of my dear Jeannie, for whom also were these struggles, with an inexpressible tenderness. Having rested a little, I set out again to the Longmans to hear what they had to say. The German Lit. Hist. having soon been despatched I describe Teufelsdreck; bargain that they are to look at it themselves; and send it back again in two days; that is tomorrow. They are honest, rugged, punctual-looking people, and will keep their word; but their chance of declining seems to me a hundred to one. Meanwhile I keep looking out on all hands, for another issue. Perhaps I shall have to march thro' the whole squad of scoundrels, and try them all. A la bonne heure! [Well and good!] I have a problem which is possible: either to get Dreck printed, or to ascertain that I cannot and so tie him up and come home with him. So fear nothing, Love: I care not a doit for the worst; and thou too hast the heart of a heroine, art worthy of me were I the highest of heroes. Nay, my persuasion that Teufk is in his place and his time here grows stronger the more I see of London and its philosophy: the Doctrine of the Phoenix, of Nat. Supernaturalism and the whole Clothes Philosophy (be it but well stated) is exactly what all intelligent men are wanting. So again fear nothing; but kiss me, and bid me be of courage. Men talk of their Wives, and how a “married man” must do this and beware of that (contrary to right), as if the Wife were a wretched drag on you, not a fellow Soldier brave as yourself, and true to the death. The Mystic School, be God thanked for it, is what we can call well married. Yes, Janekin, thou art mine; and I would not give thee for three kingdoms.

Scarcely had I reposed some halfhour, when we must off other three or four miles to Allan Cunningham's. They had the Editor of the Athenaeum there, one Dylk, or Dirk (or Dirt, for we could not gather the name all night):13 a brave sort of fellow, openly recognising the right yet continuing to say that one should do the wrong—“All true, Mr Carlyle; but”— There was also a Doctor Something from Edinburgh, the mildest of friendly Dilettantes, who at least looked and laughed always on my side. John and “Dr Irving”14 completed the party. Dylk's wife indeed joined us at tea: a common grey-eyed eating Englishwoman, forty and fat as a sausage. Allan was as ever the kindest of landlords. His Wife I did not like so well: she has grown to be one and somewhat; had a dinner far too rich, as I thought; silver forks, hock, claret &c: in all which there lay for me both good and evil: respect for her guests, yet also incipient gigmanhood, where it was least of all looked for. We had immensities of talk; and Dylk (a sort of Edinburgh Rutherford-Advocate—with the nose beaten to a point) heard mysticism for the first time with astonishment enough. I think I shall see him again; for he is not a Liar if he could help it. Neither was George Rennie forgotten. They knew only that he lived somewhere in that vicinity, was but an amateur statuary, not likely to do good in it; rather sullen and snappish, being in bad humour with his Wife's relatives who lived “in a grand way” in the West, and “looked down” on their sister because she had married a statutory character. I could not discern clearly whether my calling on him were proper or not.— W. Gray15 is in Oxfordshire, and I shall not see him: he is said to be very idle, by choice and not by choice.

Sunday morning had a snip of a note from Empsom[n]: walked over to Jermyn Street: saw the Duke; Rutherford (who was the “Ed Advoc” alluded to above);16 and the “Saym relish,”17 from whom I borrowed a snuff. Had to tell the Duke openly (or not at all) how it stood with my Manuscript; felt clear and sharp as a war-weapon for the world was not brotherly to me. The Charlottes18 were at Church. I consulted the Duke in a window about Napier; found my own idea confirmed that he was anxious enough to have me write, but afraid lest I committed him. So that “agreeing about subjects” would be the Difficulty. Jeffrey asked to see my Ms. when the Longmans had done with it: he would look thro' it, and see what he could talk to Murray concerning it. I gladly consented: and thus for the while the matter rests. Murray is clearly the man, if he will: only I have lost ten days by him already; for he might have told me what he did finally tell in one day. It is said, he drinks a little liberally.

We had also some talk about John. The Countess of Clare, namely, had written again, asking to know his terms. Jeffrey seemed to think it a very fine opening for London Practice; said he should consult Dr Holland,19 and not be too sticklish about terms. Thither accordingly the Doctor has been; returns since I began this Letter with advice to hint at something like £300; but not to be too stiff, for the “opening” is good. He is at this moment writing his Note to the Lady, having in vain endeavoured to see her, as he came along. For I have now for the time bullied the Procrastinating spirit pretty well out of him. On the whole, he is not (bating this) so foolish as we thought: I even feel assured that he would prosper as a medical practitioner; as a man, at all events, he is very greatly improved, and stands on a basis now. I think this a fortunate outlook for him; and have some thought that it will come to a bearing; and be the beginning of better things. Heaven grant it!

William Fraser, who hastened into town when he heard of my arrival, called yesterday (had called the night before): he was to be here again today at eleven; but has not come, tho' it is now after one. Always unfortunate with the best intentions.20 A very genteel man, in reality: thin copiously whiskered face, thin irregularly Roman nose; mouth curved with exaggerated delicacy, blue timorous laughing eyes: very fond of me, and somewhat afraid. He knows all the Craft here; and can at least point out the objects to me, if not show me the way. We are to dine there tomorrow, and see some of the Miserables called Literary. I go with Dreck (in the worst issue) to Jeffrey next morning and also get a frank.—

Thus stands it with me, Dearest Love and Goody. I write all down: tell the Dumfries Postmaster to mind Saturdays also, and I will continue to write twice a week, or at worst send some Newspaper or other memorial. It does myself “so much good.” Dost thou mind, thou little Gipsey?——

I am struggling onwards, what I can: but my fear still is that the matter may be protracted beyond calculation, and our Divorce continue. In these circumstances I have been thinking whether if Delays immeasurable do actually take place, it were not better for thee to come hither than me to return thither empty-handed. I have yet whispered this to no one. The worst is, London is very vacant at present: no one here you would take much interest in: nothing but Saints, who would look on you cordially. What if we should take the Bullers['] invitation, and see Cornwall till the town fill again. (Jeffrey says he does not see that the Parlt will rise till November.) But in any case am not I here? I have been computing how it is: we have about £40 in money on hand; Nap[i]er's £36 to call for; and Cochrane's on the way: in all a Hundred pounds clear. Why not spend the winter here as well as in Edinr, where is little enough to attract us? Even in this very Lodging I see not but you could live very well; at an expence of some 45/ per week. It is a quite heartsome room (larger than either of our own), well gilt and papered, with a large folding window (which will be rather cold in winter), and a bedroom of the same size above it; and the bed large enough to hold us both. It stands apart from carriages, is well-aired, has noises innumerable, yet I sleep in it till half past seven. The Servant is a rugged Scotchwoman, very honest and through-going: a mixture of Grace Macdonald and Grace Caven. Think how you would like it, in case of the worst.— Or perhaps we could do some other way. For example Fraser has a house in the West, which he would fain be quit of for the winter: only I fear it would be far too expensive for us; and Betty were ill to transport.— You could travel quite easily: for some five pounds Embark at Annan; rest in Liverpool; then take the Mail, and jump down into my arms.— We have nothing good here, but the butcher meat. The worst milk, potatoes, butter &c &c. But things can be carried (I think I remember) from Liverpool hither for twopence a stone! Canns of of [sic] butter our own Noolie will give us:21 hams &c; especially valuable were a barrelkin of preserved Eggs. But I need not go into details: do thou consider it all maturely over; and with thy own prophetic spirit give it me back interpreted. The question is, if it so turn out: Shall I linger here apart from thee; or come home re infecta [with the business unfinished]? Let us both think of it, and so be ready by and by to do what is best.

I have finished all my novelties, or nearly so, and as I anticipate nothing remarkable in my history today, I may seal even now, and save myself the fatigue of a second journey after Post-offices.— Will not the Goody's Letter be here tomorrow night; nay tonight, if she wrote on Wednesday! I think I shall learn to call on the Jeffreys on the Post Mornings, and so save 10 hours of expectation. Count on my writing; and let us rejoice in these blessed franks.

Irving would have had me to Woolwich today to see my Double, with him; as indeed I was invited: however I declined. He (Irving) sends you his love: also the Cunninghams have repeatedly desired remembrances to the “hilltop.”

Where is Alick? tell me of him. What a wondrous law-plea!— Also judge whether my Mother needs a Letter, and if so send her one. Did I give you the Complts from Liverpool? Commend me also to your Mother; and see whether there is anything I can do for her here.— I have got me a pair of excellent duck trowsers, 16/; and the Greatcoat mended, 1/. I must have a waistcoat also. Miss Lawson's shirts are excellent; her collars detestable; all cut away in the middle, so that man's art cannot make them stand up. However, I have others: nay they can be bought here at 1/ apiece. I wish I had more cotton stockings with me: but indeed the weather is very greatly cooled since last week. On the whole, I want nothing but my Goody, and her I do hourly want.

Adieu then Dearest! Think of me with constant affection as I do of thee. O are not we happy, were we ten times poorer? True to God; true to one another: there is our watchword. The Devil and the World cannot prevail against us: we will front all things, and not single but double.

Bid Alick scribble me a line (for the frank carries three ordinary sheets) if he is still there.— Write boundlessly thyself, and kiss me and take me, and be my own Jane forever. Yes, auf ewig [eternally]! Thy own Husband

T. Carlyle

There is a full narrative of the Goethe Seal in the Allgemeine Zeitung,22 it seems; how it got thither, unknown. I expect to see it tomorrow.—And now Dearest one last kiss! Take care of thy Head, and love me. A Dieu!

I meant to inclose the Buller's Letter, wherein you also (if here) are kindly enough invited by Mrs Buller to Cornwall.23 But I will not now for fear of over-weight[.]

The Examiner send on yourself

The Letter contains nothing—but good humour, estimation & [covered by seal] what I have said. Napier's may go.

[Written beneath seal:] bad wax!

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