October 1831-September 1833

The Collected Letters, Volume 6


TC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE; 20 October 1831; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18311020-TC-MAC-01; CL 6:22-26.


4. Ampton Street, Mecklenburg Square / London, 20th October, 1831—

My Dear Mother,

I got that Paris Letter of John's1 two days ago; and now mean to write you another which may go along with it; and wrap the whole in a Frank, so that you may find them all waiting ready when you call for the Newspaper. The Advocate is not much better yet, and in no case for franking: however, I will leave the Letter with him today, and either he or some other will do it.

Last Monday I wrote to Alick; counting that he would be at Craigenputtoch, and get the message on Wednesday. I still send you both the Newspapers; for I know not how to arrange it: in any case, I calculate that you will duly forward at least the London one to him every Wednesday. I strongly called upon him to write, and settle that and various more important matters: but who knows when he or any of them will give ear to me? I must just guess, and pray and hope the best.

You will see by John's Letter that everything is going on well with him: a pleasant scene, pleasant weather and companions; and what is best of all, some feeling that he is fit for his office, and may perform it with profit and acceptance. Let us continue to trust that his steps may be guided towards Good; that he may return safe and wiser, and be a blessing to himself and others.

As for us we have nestled down here in our tight little Lodging, and are as quiet as we could wish to be. Jane is in better health than she has enjoyed for many months; I too am fully better: we live thriftily; have companions and conversation of the best that can be had; and, except that I hitherto cannot honestly tell myself that I am working (tho' I daily make the attempt to work, and keep scraffling and feltering [struggling and making poor progress]), we ought to call ourselves very well off indeed. The people of the house are cleanly, orderly, and seem honest: no noises, no bugs disturb one thro' the night: on the whole it is among the best places for sleep I have been in; as you may judge by this fact, that more than once we have slept almost ten hours at a stretch: a noble spell of sleeping; of which however both of us, so long disturbed and tossed about, had need enough. The worst thing about our establishment is its hamperedness, which is so much the more sensible to us coming from the desart vastness of the moor at Craigenputtoch: I have a sort of feeling as if I were tied up in a sack, and could not get my fins stirred. No doubt this will wear off: for one needs but little room to work profitably in; my craft especially requires nothing but a chair, a table, and a piece of paper. Were I once fairly heated at my work, I shall not mind what sort of harness I am in. Napier writes to me that he expects a “striking Essay” from my hand for his next Edinburgh Review;2 so I must bestir me; for there is little more than a month to work on.

Some of my friends here are talking of possible situations for me: but as yet on no ground that I can fairly see with my own eyes. I let it be known to every one who takes interest in me that I am very desirous to work at any honest employment I am acquainted with; but for the rest, able to hold on my way whether I find other employment or not. If I can earn myself a more liberal livelihood, I hope I shall be thankful for it, and use it as beseems me; nay I would even live in London for the sake of such a blessing: but if nothing of the kind turn up, as is most likely, then I can also, with all contentment, return to the whinstone Craig, and rejoice that this city of refuge is left me. Truly thankful ought I to be that the Giver of all Good has imparted to me this highest of all blessings: Light to discern His hand in the confused workings of this evil world; and to follow fearlessly whithersoever He beckons! Ever praised be God for it! I was once the miserablest of all men, but shall not be so any more.— On the whole, however, there is work in abundance for me here: men ignorant on all hands of me of what it most concerns them to know; neither will I turn me from the task of teaching them, as it is given me. Had I once investigated the ground fully, I may perhaps lift up my voice, so that it shall be heard a little farther than heretofore. But I wish to do nothing rashly; to take no step which I might wish in vain to retrace.

Meanwhile, my Book, withdrawn from all Bookselling consultations, lies safe in the Box; waiting till the Book trade revive before I make any farther attempt. The Reform Bill, I suppose, must be disposed of first; and when that may be I know not, neither indeed care. If the world will not have my bit Book, then of a truth my bit Book can do without the world[.] One good thing in the middle of all this stagnation is that we are perfectly peacable here, tho' the contrary was by some apprehended. The Newspapers will tell you, as their way is, about wars and rumours of war; but you need not believe them, or heed them: I see no symptom of revolting among the people; neither do I believe that anything short of Hunger will raise them; of which happily there is as yet no approach. So keep yourself perfectly easy, my Dear Mother; and know that we are as safe as we could anywhere be; nay at the first stir of “revolution,” cannot we hasten to the Craig, and sit there, and see them revolve it out for their own behoof!

I daresay you have not yet seen in the newspapers, but will soon see something extraordinary about poor Edward Irving.3 His friends here are all much grieved about him. For many months, he has been puddling and muddling in the midst of certain insane jargoning of hysterical women, and crackbrained enthusiasts, who start up from time to time in public companies, and utter confused Stuff, mostly “Ohs” and “Ahs” and absurd interjections about “the Body of Jesus”; they also pretend to “work miracles,” and have raised more than one weak bedrid woman, and cured people of “Nerves,” or as they themselves say, “cast Devils out of them.” All which poor Irving is pleased to consider as the “work of the Spirit”; and to janner [talk foolishly] about at great length, as making his Church the peculiarly blessed of Heaven, and equal to or greater than the primitive one at Corinth! This, greatly to my sorrow, and that of many, has gone on privately for a good while, with increasing vigour: but last Sabbath, it burst out publickly in the open Church; for one of the “Prophetesses” (a woman on the verge of derangement) started up in the time of worship, and began to “speak with tongues”; and as the thing was encouraged by Irving, there were some three or four fresh hands who started up in the evening sermon, and began their ragings; whereupon the whole congregation got into foul uproar, some groaning, some laughing, some shrieking, not a few falling into swoons: more like a Bedlam than a Christian Church. Happily neither Jane or I were there; tho' we had been the previous day. We had not even heard of it, when going next evening to call on Irving, we found the house all decked out for a “meeting” (that is, a bout at this same “speaking with tongues”); and as we talked a moment with Irving who had come down to us, there rose a shriek in the upper story of the house, and presently he exclaimed: “There is one prophecying; come and hear her!” we hesitated to go, but he forced us up into a back-room, and there we could hear the wretched creature raving like one possessed; hooing and ha-ing, and talking as sensibly as one would do with a pint of brandy in his stomach: till after some ten minutes she seemed to grow tired, and became silent. Nothing so shocking and altogether unspeakably deplorable was it ever my lot to hear. Poor Jane was on the verge of fainting; and did not recover the whole night.— And now the Newspapers have got wind of it, and are groaning loudly over it; and the Congregation itself is like to split on the matter; and for poor Irving in any case dark mad times seem coming. You need not speak of all this, at least not be the first to speak of it: most likely, it will soon be too public. What the final issue for our most worthy but most misguided Friend may be, I dare not so much as guess. Could I do anything to save him, it were well my part; but I despair of being able to accomplish anything. I began a Letter to him yesterday, but gave it up again as hopeless, when I heard that the Newspapers had interfered; for now, Irving I reckon will not draw back, lest it should seem fear of men rather than of God. The unhappy man! Let us nevertheless hope that he is not utterly lost, but only gone astray for a time. Be thankful also that our wits are still in some measure left with us.

I must now, my Dear Mother, close my scribbling for another time. It is needless to say how ardently I desire and long to have some tidings from you in return. Alas! no Carrier comes hither; we cannot even try to hear of you here on Wednesdays. How are you all? How is my dear Father, whom I meant to have written by this opportunity, but doubt if I shall now find time? How are [yo]u, and all the “little ones” now grown large? Take all great care of yourselves; take all great care of one another: be all well and good in the Spring, when we find you again! “Little Jean,” I know will stand true in the writing way; Jamie also promised solemnly; let him also think of proving himself a true man. Take a large long sheet, fill it full among you, and off with it! No matter how ill it be written they will bring it here for the matter of a shilling, and we shall read it with avidity.—

We are to go visit the Badamses on thursday next, and stay for a day or two: this afternoon I am engaged to dine with the Editor of the Examiner;4 in the course of next month our old friends will all have returned; Mrs Strachey5 among the number.— But now, dear Mother, good day again! We think of you daily I might almost say always: nay morning and evening, the Scotsbrig Butter (which Jane stamps into nice Savoury prints) of itself would force us to remember you. May God's blessing be in and upon you all! Your affectionate Son,

T. Carlyle—