October 1831-September 1833

The Collected Letters, Volume 6


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE; 13 November 1831; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18311113-TC-JAC-01; CL 6:45-53.


London, 13th November, 1831—

My Dear Brother,

Perhaps I cannot better employ this fine Sunday morning than in writing you a long deliberate Letter. I am sitting in perfect solitude; a clear little coal-fire burning at my right hand; the sun, with as much vigour as a winter sun may, shining on the opposite houses: all the people shut up in churches or parlours; all things exhibiting a Sabbath stillness, and inviting to clear kind thoughts of the absent Loved.— Your well-filled, welcome Letter came last Wednesday, almost a fortnight before I could look for it; and next evening, accompanied with a copious Communication from my own hand, was on its way to Scotsbrig. I may mention here too that, about a week before, I had had a Letter from Alick, and somewhat earlier one from a whole sisterhood of the Scotsbrig people: both households were well, and in their usual course of avocation; our Father standing the winter, so far, better than usual, our Mother also pretty healthy; Alick digging his potatoes in the solitudes of Craigenputtoch, and except that “like his great namesake of Alexander Selkirk he ran risk of altogether losing the gift of speech,”1 and moreover was a little disturbed at night “by the nursing of little Jane Welsh Carlyle,” to all appearance well enough to live. He had offered (he did not say what) for the Dairlaw Hills Farm; but the matter was not decided, and probably is not yet. They seem to have calculated that he has enough of capital for that enterprise; and, in other respects, I think the vicinity to Scotsbrig would be a great point with him; so that, on the whole, I wish him an affirmative result. Some fixed employment seems to be becoming every way an essential for poor Alick; and, as I calculate, would actually save him from peril. In Annandale, as I learned, “the people at Mill and Smithy were universally talking of Edward Irving as a man that had long been mad, and had now only broken loose”: our Mother charged and entreated me to send her instant notice of your safe arrival over the Alps, which notice her kind heart must this very day be enjoying: these I think are all the news from “our Native” that are worth specifying here. Let us be thankful and contented that there is so much of good, in a world and a time so evil.

Happy were we to hear also of your welfare, and that all things outward and inward seemed to prosper with you. Doubtless in that, as in all human relations, you will have your perplexities to disentangle, for in everything there is a right way and a wrong: yet certainly matters look smooth enough hitherto; and we can trust to your prudence for steering you thro' worse than the worst is like to prove. Be wary, be honest; listen not to the voice of Indolence crying out for Ease, but to the small still whisper of Duty: this is everywhere the rule. I fully agree with you that Employment would be the best of all medicines for your Patient: neither is Employment, or can it be in a world existing by Labour, impossible to find; whether for Peasantess or Princess. Unfortunately, however, it is often very difficult to find: thus Swing2 burns ricks, thus Byron writes Satanic Poetry. What man wants is always that the Highest in his nature be set at the top, and actively reign there. Did Lady Clare seem imbued with a religious feeling, were it only in the “lean and narrow” style of her companion,3 the road to wholesome Activity (such as Beneficence, Self-culture, conscientious creation of the Good) and thereby to peace of mind, were easier; for there you have a vehicle, tho' now a somewhat crazy one. In any case, she has a moral nature, wherein lies the root of weal or woe: this could you but awaken and aliment with fit food, you were her lasting highest benefactor. Perhaps in German Literature (as Literature is now our only symbol of the Highest, and German our only Literature) there may lie some hope. However, you will need to go cautiously to work; to throw out your suggestion as if by accident and historically, that you may not seem to usurp and make yourself a Tutor. Respect, deference, is dear to every one; most of all to the female heart. On the whole, dear Jack, wish faithfully to do well, and better and better light will arise on you. I have still great hopes that you have here entered on a relation, which may prove the beginning of great good to you; that by means of it your painful wanderings may at length cease, and the Ort und Stelle [very place] where you are finally to strike down and break ground, and labour (with marked effect, for this too is in you) become manifest. Let us all walk “as ever in our great Taskmaster's eye”;4 in all sufferings bow meekly down before that Highest Presence; in all actions walk by that Highest Guidance! This many hard lessons (for which be God also thanked) have taught me as the beginning of all Knowledge.— For yourself too you must be laying in much spiritual wealth; pictures at least of grand objects, Alps and Cities and Memorials of Men are ministered in abundance. By no means neglect to keep a journal:5 you will understand everything the better as well as remember it the better. It is not every one that can see Florence; go at evening to the top of Fiesole, wander in Val d'Arno, or among the autumnal leaves of Vallombrosa;6 or gaze of the Medici Gallery and the Moses of Michel Angelo and the Perseus of friend Benvenuto.7 Tell me a little about all this; but chiefly of your humane relations, of yourself and your Befinden [health] and Umgebung [surroundings], for “it is men only that interest men,”8 much more brother that interests brother. I will send on your Letter to Scotsbrig, unless you wish otherwise: any secret thing you can put in some foreign language by your “gift of tongues.” I was much instructed by your sketches of Saint Simonism; concerning which I do not differ far from you in opinion or prediction. It is an upholstery aggregation, not a Promethean creation; therefore cannot live long: yet the very attempt to rebuild the old dilapidated Temple, were it only with deals and canvas is significant.9 Adolphe d'Eichthal is not returned from the North, nor do I yet know his time.

I am striving what I can to write small; nevertheless this pen is none of the most favourable, and the sheet is rapidly waning [Monday morning the 14th.— John Mill came in at this point yesterday, and sat till dinner; then in the evening we had Glen: so here I am still].10 I meant to say that I must give you some news, and quit my speculations. Of ourselves there is little important to be said. We are as comfortable in the matter of lodgings and so forth as we could have hoped; a nice quiet place, with quiet respectable people; the only drawback (a necessary one) is want of room, so that I have often the feeling “as if I were tied up in a sack.” I have been endeavouring with some zeal to get a piece of writing done (on the “Philosophy of this Era”);11 but find my hand quite dreadfully out, and must still almost despair of getting honourably thro' it. I find myself to a strange extent the servant of Habits; wherein lies a Poverty, yet also a Wealth, for the chief price of anything is its pretium affectionis [price of affection]. I will not give in; once for all will not: that is the only course. Ach Gott [Oh Lord]! this is a thorny miry path one has to travel; and so dark, so intricate! Nevertheless, forward! forward! I am still meditating some sort of lecture-work: but as yet it lies at a great distance; my tongue is still tacked [nailed]: could one but “cut it with a sixpence,” as they do to speaking Birds, and so give me utterance!— Meanwhile I continue to look about me, and meet here and there with hopeful things. Chiefly among the young: the elder are hide-bound, and have ceased to grow or be green. Glen, as you heard, is returned; and bids fair (in spite of the Montague prognostication) to be a favourite with the Leddy here: I have appointed John Mill to meet him next Wednesday night, and shall see what relation springs up between them. I have also lent him Teufelk to read; which wonderful Book I am again cautiously bestirring myself to get printed, for the “season” has begun, and in rather brisker style than was anticipated. By and by I shall take more decisive steps.— Buller also has come to town; in him too I have some hope. Mill I continue to like: I met with a fresh lot of youths last week by his intervention; one Taylor12 (of the Colonial Office) was the centre of the group, and is to see me again; the rest were Hyde Villiers13 (a Member), his Brother, and one Elliott14 all Diplomatists; whole, pleasant young men,—by whom the world will not be made or unmade. We had a gay breakfast however (from Taylor, in Grosvenor Street), and I did not regret my walk. Going thither among the thick frost-fog, I met Strachey and Buller (B. for the second time) in Piccadilly; the former was fresh from Devonshire, whence Mrs S.15 also is returned, whom we expect ere long to see. Cooke16 came gasping up to me one morning in the Museum; and “g-guessed” that I must be the writer of that Article in the F. Quarterly;17 as some others have done. There is another “genius” of the name of Wilson,18 whom I have hopefully consented to see. Poor Fonblanque has fallen again on the stairs, made his leg worse; so when I went over, I found him fled to Brighton. The Austins too have gone to the country in sickness, and are not expected for a week: during their short stay here we never saw them. So much of my literary Umgebung [surroundings].— In regard to the others, it is still much the same. From the Montagues “good words,” without much sincerity, I fear, and even without much sense: that chimèra of the “Bankruptcy Registrar” has already I imagine evaporated into gas: they are people that can “do thee neither ill no’ good.”19 Procter sometimes lends me Books; I talked with him one evening, “one of the thinnest of men.”— We were five days at Enfield the week before last; found the heartiest welcome (to you many kind messages); saw Tom Holcroft there; next Kenney20 with the old hank [hesitation] in his walk; also C. Lamb, whom by God's blessing I shall not soon see again. The man is clearly verrückt [crazy]; he is humorous as I have said “by denying truisms, and abjuring good manners.” A wretched lame and impotent man; clamours for “gin and water” with a rude barbarism that would disgrace Pate Irrin;21 he also loudly criticized our Scotch porridge that evening, and being swept away, as a troublesome insect should, got more and more obstreperous. Poor Badams sat already dosed, and asleep. Alas! I cannot see thro' that life of his: there is a dark bourbier [quagmire] in the heart of it, wherein some or all are too likely to sink. Poor Mrs Badams interested us a good deal; so did the worthy Badams himself, and Bessy Barnet;22 we only regretted that he had not married her. He seems to be in Town almost daily (tho' we have not seen him since the visit); talks about great things in the Mint, and getting his Columbian affairs arranged: but all lies vague and hypothetical. I rejoiced to see him in stronger health, and puddling and pouring heartily in his Laboratory: I have not yet abandoned hope; but must grieve to see that neither his physical nor spiritual maladies are yet healed. I love Badams and would gladly help him if I could. As to Irving expect little tidings of him, I think I shall henceforth see little of him. His gift of tongues goes on apace, Glen says there was one performing yesterday; but on the whole, even the Cockneys are too old for such lullabies, they simply think he is gone distracted, or means to “do” them, and so having seen it once come no more back. Edward himself came here about a fortnight ago to tea, and I told him solemnly with a tone of friendly warning, such as he well merited from me, what I thought of that scandalous delusion; he was almost at crying, but remained—as I expected him to remain. It sometimes appears to me, the darkest fears are actually not groundless in regard to him. God deliver him! If that is not the Devil's own work, then may the Devil “lay down the gun.”

I know not whether you get any Galignani's Messenger,23 or the like; so whether it is worthwhile to send you any publick news. There have been frightful riots at Bristol, some hundreds of lives lost, all the public buildings burnt, and many private houses; quite a George Gordon affair—on occasion of Wetherell's arrival there as Recorder, whom unhappily they took that method of convincing that there was not “a reaction” (in regard to Reform).24 O the unspeakable, blundering, braying, brass-throated, leather-headed Fool and Fools! If they do not pass that Bill of theirs soon, the country will be a chaos, and 200 Tory Lords crying out, who shall deliver us? The Duke of Northumberland is actually fortifying his House here!25— Other riots there have been at Coventry, at Worcester &c; Swing also is as busy as last winter; all London, all Britain is organising itself into Political Unions;26 finally the Cholera has actually arrived at Sunderland: a precious outlook! Truly the political aspects of England give even me alarms: a second edition of the French Revolution is distinctly within the range of chances: for there is nowhere any tie remaining among men. Everywhere in Court and Cathedral brazen Falsehood now at length stands convicted of a lie, and famishing Ignorance cries, away with her, away with her! God deliver us; nay God will deliver us; for this is His world, not the Devil's.— I must to the front of the sheet (would I had three sheets!) so follow me thither[.] All is perfectly quiet in London hitherto, only great apprehension, swearing in of constables &c &c. Neither is the Cholera as yet dangerous: there have been 20 cases it is said (18 deaths), and it has not spread from Sunderland, where it has now been some ten days. Our coals are risen, that is the worst fruit for us. Should the danger grow in the least imminent, we two have determined on flight to Puttoch. Meanwhile I cannot say that twenty choleras and 20 Revolutions ought to terrify one. The crash of the whole Solar and Stellar System could only kill you once. “I have cast away base Fear from me forever,” says Dreck, and he is seldom wholly wrong.— But I must finish here, my dear Brother; some vestige or emblem of a task (at my Review Article) is yet to be done before I go out, and it is now noon. You will not fail to write me with all diligence[.] The Letters come so fast and safe, we could almost fancy ourselves still in the same country. Why have I not three sheets? Adieu dear Brother Ever your affectionate

T. Carlyle

Have you heard of the horrible system of Burking27 that has been detected here? Two cases we have seen detailed and judged of in the Newspapers: this morning, it is said, there are more; probably too the system has been going on in private for a long while. Horrible, most Horrible!— I close now; for you have enough. I will take this to the Post-office forthwith, tho' tomorrow would equally do. Again farewell my Dear Brother! Write to us soon, and always love us.—

George Irving has got new lodgers, Agnes & Tucker pacified, and seems happy and wohlgemuth [feeling well]. The Advocate (in the way of recovery) has gone to Wimbledon, we have not heard of him for a fortnight. Mensbier28 called the other night; and had supper. More Pupils have come to him, he is less haggard than of old— Poor Arbuckle is not in good spirits, and talks of leaving London for some country town: he is a modest fine creature; and in the long run will do well. I fancy he has not yet fixed on any town, for trying; indeed, it is above a week since we saw him; he is afraid of being troublesome. Glen has left Montague, and means this year to study for himself; a result I am truly glad of. No quarrel took place; but simply as G. said, “the end of a paragraph”—where they can handsomely make a full stop. Buller is for a “Law-tutor” and studying it in good earnest. Jane has had a cold, but is now recovering, and greets you well.

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