candlestick

October 1831-September 1833


The Collected Letters, Volume 6


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TC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE; 22 January 1832; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18320122-TC-MAC-01; CL 6:94-98.


TC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE

4. Ampton street, Mecklenburg Square, London, / 22nd January 1832—

My Dear Mother,

It is not very long since I wrote to you; yet I make no doubt you are wearying to hear from me again; as indeed I am to write again, for there are few things that give me greater pleasure. A Letter from Jack having arrived,1 I have now a decided call made on me; and snatch a few minutes as I can get them to fulfil it. You have no notion how hard it is even to command minutes here, such streams of visitors and other interruptions come upon one: for example, since I wrote the first sentence of this, there have been no fewer than six persons, simultaneously and successively, breaking in on my privacy, and I have had to talk almost as much as would make a volume. First, Glen and some insignificant etceteras; then John Mill with Detrosier2 (the Manchester Lecturer to the working Classes, whom you may have seen mentioned in the Examiner), and, much stranger, an actual Saint-Simonian Frenchman,3 arrived as a Missionary here! I have since taken my dinner; and now sit writing before tea, after which we have another engagement: to go and hear the famous Mr Owen4 (of whom also the Newspapers are full enough) preach in his “Institution” for the perfection of Society, or for something else equally noble, which I forget. So you see partly how I am situated, and will take the wish for the deed.

My worthy and kind Correspondent “little Jean” has been rather stingy with me of late; tho' I must speak in regret rather than in blame; for were she to dry up on me, what should I do? Remind her only how very long it is since I had a Letter, and how gratifying a Letter from her always is. I am not in any great anxiety, for I struggle always to hope the best: indeed Alick wrote to me last week, bringing down the good news, at least want of ill news, to a recent date: neither will I now let myself believe that anything bad has befallen; but think always that some soon coming day will bring me direct confirmation. Alick said that you, my dear Mother, were fully as strong as usual; that the rest were all well; only that my Father5 was again afflicted with his old complaint of cold. I pray you take all charge of him; let himself too avoid all exposure to these winter damps: he should get himself warmer clothing, above all sufficient shoes, or well-lined clogs; and not stir out at all, except he cannot help it, especially when the Sun is not shining. This advice applies also to you; only that I know you are yourself much more of a doctor than he is.

We are struggling along here in the old way, and now see better what we are going to do, and when we are to move. Jane has been sickly almost ever since the winter began; but by rigorous adherence to regimen is now fairly recovering, and already much stronger than she was. The weather here has been more uncomfortable, and the place altogether more full of annoyances, than one could almost anywhere else experience: reek [smoke] and glar [mud] and fogs damp and dry, these are the grand elements man Lives in on the streets of London. Were it not that the city is full of people whom it is pleasant and profitable to converse with, this is nowise the habitation I would choose for myself. You are ill-lodged, in brick houses, thin as shells, with the floors all twisted, and every article indicating its showiness and its weakness. You are ill-fed, unless you can live upon beef; your milk is of the bluest, your water of the muddiest; your eggs rotten, your potatoes wat[e]ry, and exactly about ten times the price they are in Annandale, namely one penny per pound! You are ill-bedded and ill-clothed unless you prefer shew to substance; all these things are against you. Nevertheless there is a great charm in being here; at the fountain-head and centre of British activity, in the busiest and quickest-moving spot that this whole Earth contains. I find myself greatly enriched with thoughts since I came hither; and by no means disposed to repent of my journey. Nor am I without encouragements, such as I need, for holding on my way: in all open minds, I find ready access; and sometimes even grateful invitation: all people, good and bad, think of me not very much otherwise than I want them to think. Let us fight the good fight, then! In due time we shall prevail if we faint not.6 I esteem it a great blessing that I was born, that I am a denizen of God's Universe; and surely the greatest of all earthly blessings that I was born of parents who were religious, who from the first studied to open my eyes to the Highest, and train me up in the ways wherein I should go.7 My motto is always: Reverence God, and fear nothing; nothing either of man or devil!—

I think I told you that my Paper for the Edinr Review was sent off: I have since that seen it in print, and expect that the Public will so see it, in a few days. It is resolute enough, earnest enough; and will no doubt do what good it was worthy of doing: more I cannot ask. Another Essay on Samuel Johnson, which I counted on finishing in three weeks, is, alas, still only put upon the stocks:8 I have been sadly held back; first by a dirty snivelling cold which plagued for a week, then by all manner of outward and inward little hindrances, not to forget the great one, my own lazy disposition, which I have forever to strive with. But now I mean to push and press forward, and hope ere long to be thro'; were it, as Geordy Farries often felt “with an awfu' struggle!”9—I have plenty of other work lying for me: among other things let me not forget to mention that I have as nearly as possible made a bargain about publishing that Literary History of Germany, which you heard so often of, considerable part of which is already lying written: a sponsible enough kind of man here is to give me £300 for it, against next November; it is very likely, in a day or two, we shall sign and seal about it, and the whole business will be agreed upon. Besides this, I have as much work for Magazines &c as I can set my face to, and more. All this being fairly settled, and in the mean time it having become pretty evident that my other Book (Teufelsdreck) cannot be published just now; at all events, not without being nearly thrown away,—what remains for us but that we make ready, and in due time point our toes homeward? We have settled that we are to leave this in March; tho' the precise day and date, the manner of our journey, whether we are coming round by Edinburgh first &c &c all remains unfixed. So that we shall (God willing) see you all with the first fine weather of Spring! Let us trust and hope that it will be in peace and cheerfulness; in thankfulness to the Giver of all Good, by whom such blessing is vouchsafed us!

I am not going to trouble you with any public news; you see enough of that in the Newspaper; and as for my own ideas on the matter I reserve them till we can speak face to face when I return. It seems as if it would be months yet before their Reform Bill were passed, and in the meanwhile all business is crippled; especially all business in Books; which, at any rate, is in the wretchedest condition every way, and indeed one of the most melancholy features of this melancholy time. The Cholera yet keeps at a distance from us; indeed it seems to be getting far nearer you; however, I will hope that our Annandale may escape the scourage, which frightens people so much; and in my opinion, quite needlessly frightens them, for scarcely have we seen a year in which some Typhus fever or other customary pestilence did not work far greater ravages. The poor people are all quiet, tho' very miserable many of them: it is almost positively painful to walk these streets, and see so many cold and hungry and naked and ignorant beings, and have so little power to help them.— Poor Hogg the Ettrick shepherd is walking about here; dining everywhere, everywhere laughed at; being indeed the veriest gomeril [good-natured fool]. He appears in public with a grey Scotch plaid, the like of which was never seen here before: it is supposed to be a trick of his Bookseller (a hungry shark, on the verge of bankruptcy) who wishes to attract notice from the cockney population, and thereby raise the wind a little. He drank whisky punch at that dinner I was at; and clattered the arrantest goodnatured janners [foolish talk].— Jeffrey often comes here, running over in great haste; and is brisk and busy as a bee.— Did I tell you, or did you notice in the Examiner that poor Doctor Becker is dead of Cholera at Berlin? He was a kind pure worthy youth, whom we in particular regret much. A still more striking death has happened at our very hand: that of Mr Strachey, after only a week's illness: not long ago I met him and Charles Buller one morning in the street, and now shall never meet him more. Mrs Strachey is said to behave with great resolution and resignation: I have not seen her for a long time; indeed she rather seemed to be ill at ease with me, perhaps under some awe of me: however, I mean to go myself and see her, so soon as I can command a day.— The Bullers are here, both parents and sons, all in the friendliest relation to me. I dined there lately, and am very soon going back: the two boys are promising fellows, and may one day be heard of in the world. Charles is almost the most intelligent young man I converse with here.—

I must now go, my dear Mother, and let you go. It will give you great comfort to find that Jack is so well: his Letter is unluckily quite too full of Roman antiquities, about which no one of us care a penny-piece; however it brings nothing but good news so far. It grieves me to see that he has yet got none of my Letters except one: I have written three others, which will surely reach him: meanwhile I am going to write a fourth, and send it off by a still safer conveyance, by the Florence Ambassador's Bag: Jeffrey (and Fraser too) has engaged to procure me that favour. I will tell the Doctor to be a good boy; and not to write us any more geographical Letters. We may probably hear from him again next month; yet if not, we should not get uneasy, seeing how very irregular the Italian Posts seem to be.

Alick requested me to write “for next Wednesday”: but as I had a Letter already on the road for him, it seemed needless to charge him with postage for anything I had to say: so if you can send the inclosed along by Nottman10 next week, it will be nearly the same. I hope the Catlinn[s] [s]peculation is considered a tolerable one, and that the new Tenant [will] bestir himself and balance himself (these are the two things to be done) and make an [torn] manful figure there. He has much good in him; and I still trust, will more and more succeed to cast the evil out of him. The constant faithful effort that way is all that any of us can make out.

You must give my brotherly affection to all the young ones; tell them that I vote with you as to this truth: that the only blessing in the world is that of good behaviour, which lies in power of every one. They must love one another: “Little children love one another,”11 this was the departing farewell precept of the Friend of Men. Tell my Father that I love and honour him. Take care of him, dear Mother, and of yourself, that I may find you both well. God ever bless you all!

I remain, My dear Mother, Your affectionate Son, /

T. Carlyle—

The Newspaper comes quite prettily every Saturday about Noon. Punctuality is a great virtue.

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