October 1831-September 1833

The Collected Letters, Volume 6


JWC AND TC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE; 6 October 1831; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18311006-TCJWC-MAC-01; CL 6:7-11.


[6 October 1831]

[From JWC:]

My dear Mother

The newspaper would give you assurance that I was arrived in London, and in a condition to write your name; but further particulars concerning myself and the barrel, you are still anxiously waiting for, and now that I find myself at liberty to write, it were inhuman to keep you longer in suspense.

To begin with the beginning— After leaving you all with a sad enough heart, and com[m]itting myself to the mercy of the waves, my case was none of the pleasantest— Alick recommended me to go down to the cabin till the vessel got underway—and I saw no more of the sea till I stepped on shore at Liverpool. It was very stormy, and I was mortally sick the whole twenty four hours. Happily there was no cabin-passenger besides myself. So I had ‘ample room and verge enough’1 to make what demonstrations I pleased. My cousin Alick2 was waiting for me on the dock with a hackney coach which in a few minutes landed me with my trunks &c at my Uncles—one of his men took the barrel in a cart to the office from which it was to be forwarded by the canal. They were all very glad to see me at Maryland Street—and feeling entirely exhausted with my sea-sickness I stupidly let myself be persuaded not to proceed till the Wednesday.3 And by Wednesday I was in worse fettle for travelling than when I arrived for I had almost no sleep the whole time of my stay owing to a Lady in the same room snoring like ten steam engines. My seat was taken in a coach that came straight thro' so that I had no shifting of luggage to embar[r]ass me. My travelling companions were two irish Ladies—who neither picked my pocket of my purse nor watch. and twenty four hours after I started, I had the satisfaction of jumping out into Carlyle[']s arms who with John was waiting for me at a certain Angel Inn—you may imagine the sight of their faces among so many hundreds of strange ones was a joyful sight. They were both looking well—John thin[n]ish but clear and healthy looking. They had a nice little dinner of chops and rice pudding in readiness— Edward Irving came up in the evening and all was well— But I was not to escape so easily— The next day and the next my head was so ill I had to be in bed— On Sunday I got out a little—and saw the Montagus4— On Monday we were hunting after new lodgings—George Irving's being intolerably noisy and still infested with bugs which few houses here are without. We succeeded in realizing a much better up-putting for the same money—in the house of a Mrs Miles and Mrs Page—english people—where I now write— The barrel had arrived the end of the week and been unpacked—so that our flitting was no such light matter. and occupied all Tuesday— Yesterday I had a headach[e] again and to day is the first that I can call my own.

I hope we shall be very comfortable here—the people are of a prepossessing appearance—and the house is the only clean one I have seen since I left Scotland[.] We have a Drawingroom about the size of our own at Craigenputtoch—more elegantly fitted up—with a small but comfortable bedroom opening from it with large folding doors. it is in an airy and remarkably quiet street—and the people assure us they very seldom see a bug. I have no notion of London house keeping yet but am lying back till with ‘weender and amazement.’5 I have reviewed the ground—one fact I may mention as a sample potatoes are a penny a pound—so that we pay three half pence for barely as many as we need—the milk too is ridiculously dear and such stuff after Nooly's6— Thank Heaven we have good butter without running to the shops— And Carlyle has fastened a lid with a padlock on the can— But what place unites all the advantages of both town and country?

I have seen few people yet—not even Jeffrey who is very ill—confined to bed— I was to have gone to him yesterday but could not for my head— Carlyle and I are thinking to walk over tonight when his Ladies are at the House of Lords—[w]hich will suit me best.

John set off on Tuesday Morning7 to join his Countess at Dover—a newspaper has since intimated his safe arrival so far— He was in good spirits for the enterprise and we hope it will be the beginning of much good for him—

Carlyle is reading today with a view to writing an article—to keep Mall—in shaft— They are not going to print the book after all— Murray has lost heart lest it do not take with the public and so like a stupid ass as he is has sent back the manuscript[.] The deevil may care it shall be printed in spite of Murray some time and in the meanwhile it is not losing any of its worth by lying—Jane W Carlyle8

[From TC, 7 October:]

My Dear Mother—I expected to get a frank for this; but the Advocate is sick and bedfast for these two weeks, so that we cannot ask him. I judge that you will much rather pay the postage than wait longer. I received a short note for you from John yesterday, with another as short for myself: it contained nothing but affectionate blessings; intelligence that he had reached Dover in safety, and seen the Countess with satisfaction. They would sail on Wednesday morning, in three hours would be in France, and so I calculate are by this time far on the road to Paris. The whole expedition looked very promising, and I do hope it will turn to good for our poor Doctor, who has a true heart in him and great capabilities every way to do good service in his day and generation. Edward Irving took leave of him on Sabbath night, at the Church after preaching; led him into the vestry with his Elders, and there offered up a solemn prayer (I have no doubt, from the heart) that God might be with him, and bless him in his wayfarings. So be it!— I am to hear again from Paris; and will soon transmit the tidings to you. I gave Jack a Letter to the St Simonians; he expects to pass some weeks in Paris and will see many pleasant & instructive things.

You are to remember that I calculated on getting a frank, and so writing you a whole Letter myself to go along with this of Jane's which was ready last night: so you can get little good of me here.9 I will soon write again, with my usual minuteness. Meanwhile believe, dear Mother, that we are all right, and better than could be expected: our Lodging here is quite superior, without vermin, without noise; quite a dainty little place; my health has improved since the Wife came to look after me; I am about beginning to write something,10 and can hope to spend the winter profitably and pleasantly enough. As for the Bookseller's refusal of my Book I care not a doit for it: I know what is wrong and what is right in the Book without his counsel; I will have it printed one day too: nay if it is not to be printed at all, I can still live and rejoice. By God's infinite grace I know what I am doing; let them see what they are doing[.]

Our address is: “4. Ampton Street, Mecklenburg Square”: I wish you had some means of communicating it to M'Diarmid.11 Perhaps Alick can if he is still with you.

One little corner still remains for repeating my questions after you, which I fear no one will soon answer. Bid some of them write and tell me how you and my Father are, and everything that is going on among you. Take care of yourselves, my dear Mother; this passes for a dangerous season of the year, and winter is coming with its colds and coughs. Be kind to one another: as you often say, we have but a small time to be here. Yet out of God's sight we shall never go. Thank, my Father, for his sad but loving note:12 yours also was not missed. God bless you all.

The paper Profiles13 are very like, and bring every one of you vividly to my mind, when I spread you out on the table, it is as if you were all there.

You will get a Newspaper regularly on Sabbath as you come from church: the Examiner on Wednesday I also think of sending: be sure to send them on to Alick.

This is the ‘great’ night (Friday) for trying whether the Lords will pass the Refo[rm] Bill:14 it is much [f]eared that they will not; but everything is perfectly quiet; and, I think, it is little matter (except for themselves) how they [vote; th]ey are great fools[.]

Jeffrey is not thought to be dangerously ill; but suffers great pain; it is connected with the bowels. We both walked over last night and saw him.

I doubt you will hardly ever make this all out. It is done now; and your affectionate Son subscribes himself

T. Carlyle—


[Jane] Has arrived in London. ‘John’ (Brr John doctor) off for Italy, Travelling Physn to the Lady Clare, where, in that or in other such capacities, he long contind. ‘Barrel’ I don't now recollect, ‘Butterpig & padlock’ I well do,—blessings from my heart on that barrel & that pig!