October 1831-September 1833

The Collected Letters, Volume 6


TC TO JEAN CARLYLE; 25 December 1831; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18311225-TC-JCA-01; CL 6:77-80.


London, 25th December 1831—

My dear Jane,

I borrowed a frank for you yesterday, expecting to have a little moment of time, when I might thank you for your punctual and so highly welcome Letters; and send a word or two in the shape of tidings, which at Scotsbrig, I know, are never superfluous. It now turns out that I have very little time: however, I will make the most of it.

Your last Letter1 gave us both very great pleasure: it brought gratifying tidings, of the welfare of those ever dear to us; it was also most sensibly and well put together; wholly a thing creditable to you. Continue to keep your eyes open: what else has one any hope in; but to think as earnestly as we have power; and then having thought, and ascertained how matters lie, and what they mean, to do, with our whole might, and quickly, whatsoever our hand findeth to do. Properly, as I often say, there is no loss in this world, but even that same so frequent in it, the loss of head. An individual without understanding, wandering about without light to his path, is a truly hopeless figure; other miserable mortal there is, strictly speaking, none. I expect great things of you, as I have often hinted: nothing less than this, that you will prove wise and true; and in what sphere soever you find yourself, act honourably the part assigned you there.2 This is the highest blessedness; found by few in these sad days; and yet, if we consider it, there is now or at any period there is no other possible for us. Be kind to our Mother and Father; be obedient, loving: bear with their infirmities, even where they seem unreasonable: are we not all here simply to ‘bear one another's burdens’?3 And whose burdens should we more cheerfully bear, than those of our Parents, to whom we owe all that we have, all that we are? Your course is, what mine and every other reasonable creature's is: wherever you find Disorder, Disarrangement (be it external, of mere bodily things; or internal, as improper conduct unreasonable feelings of the mind), to gird yourself forthwith, in all faithfulness and honest zeal, to remedy such Disarrangement, by superior Arrangement springing from yourself. The worse that men or things behave to you, do you behave the better to them: this is the grand rule, the sum and substance of all others. I know the task is hard, very hard for flesh and blood: nevertheless great also is your reward. Let us think always, as the Poet Milton said, that “we are ever in our great Taskmaster's eye.”—4

I must send you some sketches of our situation here; tho' there is nothing very new since I wrote so largely, by the side of Jack's Letter from Rome. My own health continues good: I have finished off my Edinburgh Review Paper, and despatched it a week ago, within the appointed time: whether the Editor will dare to print it I cannot say; for it speaks out in plain English upon some things; neither, indeed, should I mightily care, for when I have once told the truth, my part with it is done, and if the world will not listen, the world will just do the other way. The business of writing comes rather awkward to me here: at the same time, now when my hand is in, I do not wish to let it go out again; and so mean to begin tomorrow once more to the trade, and try a sort of sketch upon Dr Johnson. With this I shall require less pains; perhaps a matter of three weeks will see me thro' it. Meanwhile great plenty of other work comes flowing in upon me; I shall certainly bring home enough to serve me thro' the summer, let me work as I may. Two or Three Magazine men are chirping to me with open arms; even offering to raise their prices! Nay, a certain learned Doctor5 of this city, offers me a kind of outlet for my old “History of German Literature” (which went all awry the year before last); and I am not without hope of getting things arranged so that I may close with him. I am doing what I can that way; and shall soon see thro' it. Whether the Book (the already written one) will get printed is still very uncertain: I have partly resolved not to take under £100 for it; and at present everything is kept stagnant by their Reform Bill: indeed the whole business of Literature is a sort of Bedlam-broke-loose, and must soon alter, or utterly disappear; it takes a man with eyes in his head to walk thro' the middle [of it] and kick the dirt of it aside from sticking on him.

My good Wifie has not been so well as I could wish. She made such a hand of herself, gallopping and waking and feverishly fretting before she left Scotland that now she necessarily suffers for it. Her strength is smaller than usual; she does not lie in bed, is not even dispirited; but always in a sickly sort of way. I trust however she is now past the worst; I will take better care of her another time. She is at this moment lying at my back (I mean with her feet behind my back) on the Sofa: she dare not promise to write you a word today (the time too is so near, and so uncertain for people coming in), but will if she can. We see abundance of things and persons, as usual; more and not fewer than are good for us. Tonight I am to go and have tea with the Austins (Mrs A. was here the other day); the Goody is quite out of case for going in such an evening at is looks to be: one of those horrible, frosty fogs; as dark, now at two o'clock, as if it were twilight; smoke everywhere without doors and within, your very nostrils full of soot wholly a London day! The Bullers have come hither; we were asked by them also tonight but could not go. The Montagues I think are declining into a decided indifference on our part, which must soon be disfavour on theirs. A considerable spicing of devilry works and ferments among them: all men are sons of fallen Adam. The Badamses have not been near us for some time: we hear that they are doing well; that Badams, as I advised him, has taken to smoke, which is better than opium and brandy. Irving still rages along here, regarded as a quack by the great body of the public, as a madman by a smaller class: indeed the majority have nearly done thinking of him, you seldom hear his name mentioned. It seems pretty certain that they will take his Church from him; and then worse things may follow: however, I am happy to think that he will not go quite distracted and into a strait waistcoat; but may wander about long (so I judge) with one half of his head cracked, the other sound enough.

I grieve, my dear Sister, that the sheet is at an end (and the time with it) when I might have run on to such lengths. I must wait for another season. Tell Jenny6 that I owe her too a little note for her contribution to the first Letter: tell “Mister Cairlill”7 that I owe him none. Jane said he had promised to write: but has he ever done it?— I sent off a little Note for Alick, which he will get on Wednesday: I hope his new farm will do well, above all that he himself will. Write to me very soon, with all manner of minuteness. The Newspaper has come these two weeks on the Saturday, which gives me the most abundant time to read it. If you should be late yourselves any day, do not mind much,—I can still get a glimpse of it on Monday.— And so for the present, dear Crow,8 I bid thee farewell! Ever your Brother,

T. Carlyle