January 1829-September 1831

The Collected Letters, Volume 5


TC TO JANE WELSH CARLYLE; 31 August 1831; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18310831-TC-JWC-01; CL 5:381-389.


London, 30th[31] August 1831. Wednesday Night

Dearest Wife,

Late as it is, I must have a little word of talk with thee before I sleep. Frank and all is ready; and perhaps tomorrow there may not be so much composure.— The Newspaper coming in your hand this morning quickened my motions over to Jermyn Street: I had not gone thither to breakfast; chiefly because I was very bilious and dispirited; partly also because the Youth Glen was here with some work for me. However, in spite of rain-puddles (which smutted all my white trowsers) I was on the spot before noon; and found on entering the Letter of Letters waiting me. My words were few; neither were the answers copious, for there seemed to have been some devilry going on: so, after asking for a frank, I rose and took myself away. The Advocate had written to Murray; but got no answer (whereat he seemed to marvel): for the rest, we did not speak six words; merely when I met John Murray (the Henderland Edinburgh man)1 and spoke to him as he entered the room I was leaving, our Dukekin muttered something about seeing him at the House of Lords on Friday,—some three miles off, whither except in case of need and idleness I shall perhaps hardly trouble myself with going. On the whole, were it not for the franks (which are an immense blessing) I might as well discontinue my attendance at Jermyn Street, where positively there is no good to be got, not so much as a serious word. The man is really, I suppose, very busy; farther I take his friendship for me, as I have all along done, to be perhaps three parts palabra, and one part half-sentiment, half-goodwill. Poor Duke! I will always love him: nevertheless there are two things I vehemently desire: first that I had £60 to pay him;2 secondly that I had my Wife's picture3 out of his hands, which I cannot but think are nowise worthy to hold it. Let me remember also that the pressure of such a situation as mine can be known to him only theoretically; farther that as nothing is to be done what could be said is perhaps of infinitely small moment. Be not unthankful, therefore; be not intolerant!

In any case, I rushed forth with my Letter, and read it in the hurlyburly; with many feelings: gladness, sorrow, love, indignation and defiance. O what a scandalously despicable procedure is that of Alick's;4 brutified repeatedly before strangers! I am exceedingly grieved about it; and anxious when I look into the future and think of my poor brother5 a Drunkard. Do write to him with all earnestness: I myself have a mind to advise him seriously to make some vow on the subject, or join some Temperance Society, or in short do anything rather than go direct to the Devil.

And the Gate at Stumpy! My hands itched to clutch my axe, and shiver it asunder, and (God forgive me!) the block-head also of any one that would have defended it. But calmer feelings are the truer, especially here. Let me hope that your uncle has thrown some light on the matter: at all events, do not you (my poor lonely Jane) levy war with these monsters of the wold; let them burn the whole Farm rather, so they keep off you. Nevertheless I could nearly cry to think that Jane Welsh sits there exposed to such annoyances, from such people, by such causes. But Patience! Patience! One thing I clearly think you ought to do: write to your Uncle George6 as I once proposed, and see whether he will take the Farm, and if so get the present individual thrown out before another Whitsunday. I am quite clear as to this. It will even remain a serious question (altho' George should altogether refuse) whether that unfortunate Savage should not be ejected in any case; seeing the chances are distinctly for a better, at least for one who has not quarrelled with you. The Farm of Craigenputtoch let those who are more interested in it manage: but the House of Craigenputtoch must not be rendered uninhabitable; and shall not, if I can help it. I pity your Mother also; and wish much she had even a slight turn for business.

Meanwhile, my own gig-driving, beast-resisting, brave beloved Wifie, let us thank these ill chances, with all their evil, since they help us forward to what is always good: a fixed decision. Considering that such are your views of an abandonment of the Dunscore Tartarus and a trial of the London Terra Incognita [unknown land],—I say at once: let it be considered as resolved on that we are to pass the winter here! And so do you now turn all your thoughts on the arrangements that must be made; and by what means poor Puttoch may be found standing for us in the best possible repair, at the next spring season; when, as I conjecture, the wearied Dyspeptical Philosopher may be once more glad to return thither for a little while. Do not have the thing dismantled in any way: the very thought of it is often worth much to me here. O my little Darling! what a world of wild work for thee: but thou hast a talent for work.— Furthermore, as to the time of your setting out hither, be that left wholly to your own wish and convenience. This place is habitable even now, tho' for three of us; and poor Jack will vacate it by the first of October. I said, last time, that the Town would be empty and stagnant till perhaps the middle of that month; that perhaps we might visit the Bullers, from whom, however, I have yet no farther news: and in these facts does the whole matter lie as plain to my dear Prophetess as to myself; let her therefore decide upon everything. O that I saw her (as one day thro' God's mercy I shall) leaping out of the Coach in this wild hurlyburly into her Husband's arms! Yes, Dearest, I think I will kiss thee before the whole world, and call thee mine audibly, mine forever and ever. Study, then, how it is all to be, and when; and say wherein I must help thee. There are, I think, some £33 lying here, 16 of the Scotch Notes and quite useless for this market: say whether I must send some of these, and how many. Or shall I write to Naso to pay you [for] the Taylor at Dumfries?7 Consider of everything, and command me as thy billetted Lodger.— And now, good night, my own heart's Wife! I will kiss thee a million of times for thy bonny new gown, for thy bonny face and heart; and be all to thee, in this world and in all worlds, that weak man can be. So fear nothing, Love; trust in me and God: tho' forsaken of all, have we not in the worst case one another?

Jack comes up with news that Goethe has written a Letter (containing simply two stanzas of Poetry about the Seal)8 to William Fraser; sealing it, very beautifully, with the Ohne Hast [Without Haste] &c. So the good old man has got his Gift in due season, and rejoices over it. Thus far is well.— Let me mention also that the thing which Glen brought this morning was the Proofsheets of Reinecke Fuchs,9 well printed (45 pages), which I have been partially correcting today, and am but half thro'.— More good news tomorrow. Meanwhile, “supper, Sir!” (alas, not of porridge, for I can realise none here, but of brown bread and milk); so that I must go. Sound sleep, my poor lonely Princess among thy Hills: sound sleep, and dreams—of me! Good night, Darling! God keep thee always.—


Thursday morning [1 September]. I am on foot again; have breakfasted, and will have a word with my Lady before attacking these Proofsheets, and so make sure of at least one little pleasure for the day. I am generally in such haste that I cannot even reperuse what I have written: tant mieux [so much the better]; it is the more like speech.— Take now some narrative of my life since Monday.

That evening, as predicted, I set off to Wardrop's,10 westward close by the Advocate's; and was there by the stroke of seven. A curious gomeril [stupid person] is W.; of strange aspect also for an oculist, inasmuch as one of his own eyes has a white substance in the pupil of it, like a boiled pea, and can see none, as I should think; while the eyelid of the other droops half-down, and must partially shut out his vision there likewise. He speaks very like Church of Kirkchrist, in a straggling murmuring half-articulate tone both of voice and thought; looks close into your face; and sprawls out here and there in his pure Edinburgh dialect a trait of Observation sceptico-gigmanic, of Feeling gregarious if not social. Of private talk he and I had little, except skirmishing on Phrenology; for we were quite a political party: Lord Lowther (who less?);11 one Stewart Mackenzie12 Member for the County of Ross (a dark-complexioned Whig, lean, bilious, whose face consisted almost wholly of a long hook nose and two huge yellow eyes); Captain Ross13 another Northern Member (not poor Phoebe's, I think; but even a stupider fellow, a Tory); then a Mr Trail14 perhaps also some memberkin; lastly an extremely ugly Dr Logan15 a Scotch parson from the neighbourhood of Dunse. I sat and looked, getting little for my pains, except a miserable fit of indigestion, which has not quite left me even yet. Lord Lowther (eldest son of the mighty Earl) is a person in figure not unlike Robert Dickson16 of Annan; redbearded, red-skinned, with clear grey eyes and light hair; has somewhat the manners of a respectable Cumberland yeoman; is very limited, honest and Toryish; farther remarkable for a shade of official pedantry, and (to me) as the first Lord I ever sat with— no matter tho' he were the last. It will be a braver sight, I fancy, that will allure me out again to incur the pangs of a supper-dinner; at least unless I be a fool.

On Tuesday, I called on Bowring with a view to Fonblanque; found him out of town, but to be back again probably on Thursday morning; which opportunity you see I have not embraced, the weather being wet, and a better pleasure and duty awaiting me at home. Returning I took to read Schiller's Life (the Goethe one);17 was ere long interrupted by Irving; to whom I expounded frankly my theological views, which he received with kindness yet with thoughtfully puckered face; seeing it diverge so from his own thaumaturgic theory. From the “work of the Spirit” I have been pretty well relieved of late. Irving and I are to walk out to Coleridge's this evening after tea.18— Of Dilke's tea (Dilke is the name) I have little to say, except that the man is very tolerant, hospitable; not without a sense for the good, but with little power to follow it: and defy the evil. That is the temper in which I find many here: they deplore the prevalence of dishonesty, quackery and stupidity; many do it (like Dilke) with apparent heartiness and sorrow: but to believe that it can be resisted, that it will and shall be resisted; herein poor Teufelsdreck is well nigh singular. The fat Lady too,19 fat as she was, proved pleasant; she played me tunes on an indifferent Piano, and sang to them well; was hospitable, good-natured, perhaps kind. They have two or three fine Italian pictures, and a certain Kunstgefühl [feeling for art]: are better considerably than the average of mortals. Touching the Cunninghams and the wild Irish Dandy and tamed English Driveller that formed the remainder of our party, there is nothing to be said.— At home I found a confused Note from Empson, urging me to call on Mrs Austin (who “would give the world to see me”) and arrange about John Mill (the Spirit of the Age man) that is, about a meeting with him.

My Wednesday's adventures are partially before Goody's eye already. After reading her Letter on the muddy pavements of Picadilly or its neighbourhood, I turned northward zornigen Muthes [in an angry temper], to that same Mrs Austin's residence; which proved to lie some four miles off in a pleasant rural spot, about a mile from this. The lady was in, but “so sick she could see no one hardly”; bestirred herself however at sight of my card, and after some toilette preparations blessed my bodily eyesight. I am not sure but I have here found a sort of friend for Goody thro' winter; at least so I thought, and even partially said. Mrs A (her Husband is Professor of Law in the despised and despicable London University) is the most enthusiastic of German Mystics I have ever met with: an exceedingly vivid person, not without insight, but enthusiastic, as it were astonished rapt to ecstacy with the German Apocalypse; and as she says herself verdeutscht [Germanized]. But I must give you some notion (according to laudable wont) of her visual aspect. Conceive Kate Gilchrist20 beaten out into symmetrical length (the middle size) with a pair of clearest, warm blue eyes (almost hectically intense), considerable mouth, and moustache on the upper lip, compared with which thine cannot name itself (mole and all) in the same week: an eagerness, a warmth in her whole manner and look, which has in it something feverish; as indeed her ill-health seemed to disappear at sight of me, and her face became tinged with a pure flush, which I liked not the look of, it was too conconsumptive [sic]. She would have talked with me till yet, but I was in no mood for prattle; so after settling that I was to take tea there (or hot water, if the weed be green) on Friday night, when Mill and Empson should be summoned,—I took myself away. She had informed me that a Letter despatched towards me, without my address, was at that time wandering over London: a Letter grounded on some mistake, by the servant, of Empson's mumbling, whereby she thought I had called. Said Letter actually came last night; delivered by a young man Coke from Norwich,21 whom I kept to tea. This poor young man I find is partially a disciple of mine, and talks of a small suffering remnant more by the title of “us.” He is very modest, distinct, earnest-looking, honest-looking. The “Signs of the Times”22 we had settled to be by you, Sir! Taylor of Norwich had become an old Sensualist; was grieved a little at some parts of his Review, which he imputed, good easy man, to Sir W. Scott. This Coke has some small office in the British Museum, whither he invites me (himself invited to come back hither) to see the more secret sort of curiosities. Almost the only comfort I have had since I came to London is the sight of these poor Disciplekins, whom with Mrs Irving I might as well call, “Children in the Laart”: for they have evidently believed in me, and are ready for more light, could they or I procure such. To investigate their quality numbers and aims will be my best work thro' the winter. Men united are strong; Single the strongest is weak. Nay what if Goody too, as I said, should now more resolutely unfold himself; and show other talents than that for silence, whereof she has many and rare? I long to see how the Scottish sense of my little Dame will comport itself amid the copious outpourings of a Mrs Austin; perhaps as a habitable castle amid boundless shifting quicksands. Nay Mrs Austin writes; why should not Mrs Carlyle, whose endowment I suspect is considerably greater? I promised that you would agree in condoling over the lot of women: “Oh! I should so like!”—for in truth the rude hand of Time has not yet sufficiently demolished the bloom of that beautiful enthu-si-as-m.23 Nous verrons [We shall see]!

Thus, Dearest, hast thou a picture of what I do or am trying to do. And now I must off: for the day wears apace; and the Proofsheets are clamorous. I feel loth to conclude, as if it were again bidding you farewell. We shall meet soon; and not on Paper but in Reality: there lies our Comfort.

So go, my little Love, and set thy clear little head to work; and make the best arrangements thou canst. I advise thee, as yet, in nothing: write what is the aspect of things; and where doubt is I too will consider. Poor Crummy (Noolie), poor Harry!24 By the way, with regard to the former I bethink me of once saying that your Mother's would not be a good place for her to winter in; that I would not leave her with Alick on any consideration: please simply to regard all this as unsaid; and that I have no will in the matter, and no wish except that the poor brute should be happiest herself, and give the most happiness. Do altogether as seemeth good to thee. Perhaps Alick does not want the beast much: he would very probably winter her rather ill; yet could not altogether destroy her, or make her leaner than she was: therein lie the whole conditions of the matter; do in it as thy judgement bids.

I am for some tincture of cardamum or other bitter; for positively my inner man is ill. Thou art not here to feed me and lead me: I am in great want of my Wifekin; but live in hope. Thanks, Deary, for thy news from Scotsbrig and messages thither: thou must go down, once more, and bring me all the news: nay, I forgot, the starting-place itself is Annan. O that it were all over; and the Screamikin here by me; and a little, a very little Rest vouchsafed us!— The Book as you see I need not torment myself so much with pressing forward; we shall be here to see it thro[']—“or publish it on our own account, my love.” —Darling!— Yet I wish it were out; for now is the time for it.— By the bye, is it worth while to mention that Dilke showed me something in Blackwood by Wilson about—my speech at Dumfries!25 Gracious powers, is the world distract? Also that the Dud-of-Duds, Heraud has a Review of Taylor and of me in this Fraser; and hopes, it may be right for him “to stand on my shoulders”:26 he is a cratur well nigh sui generis [in a class by himself], perhaps well intentioned, but always unfortunate. A Dios! My Dearest: think of me, and ever love me. Thy own

T. Carlyle.

I will try to get thinner paper next time: this will not carry another scruple. The day is thoroughly wet: the first of the kind we have had yet. Alas! it is now past one (for I have been taken off). Kiss me, and adieu.

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