October 1831-September 1833

The Collected Letters, Volume 6


TC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE; 27 January 1833; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18330127-TC-MAC-01; CL 6:309-314.


18. Carlton Street, 27th Jany, 1833—

My Dear Mother,

Perhaps I should not have written so soon, but the Advocate is going off in two days, and I think it is a pity you should not have the advantage of at least one Frank: with all the Franks I can get my Correspondence will prove but a bad bargain; tho' I know you will not think it so.

We were much frightened at first, and then sad and yet thankful, by Alick and Jane's Letter, which found us on the Wednesday morning still in bed, for these Letters seem to go round by Carlisle, and so arrive at a peculiar hour. Poor Alick has had a sad shock; and the death of any human being is a weighty solemn matter. I hope they reconcile themselves to their loss, and in this as in all things study to be submissive, to be teachable; for it is a great truth this which you often tell us, that nothing comes unsent, that all is a Lesson to us, if we will but be wise and learn. William Brand I trust is recovering fast; and will part with that unhappy Beast by the earliest opportunity, for it seems to luck [prosper] nowhere on this side of the Solway. It was a great mercy the poor fellow was not killed on the spot.

The news from Jack gave us great pleasure; for we were beginning to weary for tidings of him: he has still two Letters of mine to account for; so “within the month” we shall expect to hear something.1 I rather guess that October may be the soonest of their return, so many things may and indeed must intervene: but indeed the Lady's will is a quite loose foundation to calculate on, so we must wait and see. I am very glad for all our sakes, and not very sorry for his own, that the Doctor is about returning: he will return with something in his Purse to help him wherever he go, and with something in his Head (better than he had), which is still more important. Now as always we will hope the best.

As for ourselves, all is about as it was and should be. Were it not that I made a point of telling you everything (whereby when no news come you can be sure nothing has happened), I need not have mentioned a paltry little running at the nose, which has been annoying these four or five days, but less and less for the last three. I got it mainly by two Dinners I had to go to: one with old Mr Bradfute, and then another next night with the Advocate; a piece of kindness which I would fain hope no friend of mine may soon press me to again. But now I having caught this bit of cold out of Space in general, Jane who is always ready for whatever is going caught it from me; and so here we sit sniftering in concert according to form. I will have castor tomorrow for my share (all other remedies are worth nothing); and unless the day be dry keep within doors for one four-and-twenty hours, and so be done with it. In all other respects, we are about altogether in the way you wish us in: The finest quiet winter weather; frost alternating with thaw as softly as may be, without blustering or fall; clean pleasant walks and streets to move on; and here and there a blithe face to bid us welcome. Jane is loud in celebrating the Edinburgh shop keepers for their “high notions of honour” as contrasted with the London brethren: how they stand to their price like iron, give you a sound article for solid money, and are not afraid of your stealing anything. Nevertheless she thinks matters have not improved with them since we left the place: their shops have generally a duller dimmer look, all wears the air as if it were not prospering much. Houses, for one thing, they say are quite ruinously cheap; a mansion built four years ago for two thousand pounds will hardly now fetch eight hundred! To such length has this branch of trade been overworked.

In my particular craft there seems to be nothing or very little astir; all people are either selling Penny Magazines, or lying on their oars. I get no good of any Editor or Publisher I have yet seen; come into no closer terms with them; I suppose they rather think me a dangerous sort of fellow: happily too I need not disturb myself a jot about one of them; having work enough elsewhere if I had three hands to work with. The truth is they are all at a kind of stand, poor fellows; and know not clearly on what side to turn them. We see abundance of people; most of them, unhappily, are but unprofitable sights, yet at worst harmless, and good compared to none. Jeffrey is here very often; talking like a pen-gun2 (of very light calibre), always brisk and in good humour: he looks a great deal stronger than he did in London, is a little delighted with his Election; and ready again to go and have himself half-killed—for nothing! Such is man's lot. I have seen Macvey Napier twice: a dry, fainthearted, wooden kind of man, whom I think I shall not get far with. For the rest, he seems honest of heart, shrewd enough, and values me abundantly. Wilson I have not yet seen, and really care not very much about seeing. I rather fancy he dislikes my Radicalism, worse than I do his Toryism: we are likely to meet some day. George Moir (the little Aberdeen Advocate once at Craigenputtoch) gets me Books, and comes up to tea; a clever, lively little fellow: he has got a house and a wife and two small children since we were here: the Jeffreys and he however (owing to Politics) are utterly quarrelled. The best man I see here, indeed the only man I care much about is Sir William Hamilton; in whom alone of all these people I find an earnest soul, an openness for truth: I really think him a genuine kind of man. His learning is great, his talent considerable; we have long talks and walks together. He is the descendent of that “Robert Hamilton of Preston”3 (rather “a foolish man”, as Sir W. calls him) who commanded the Cameronians at Bothwell Brig. So much for my Society here.

I wish I could say that I had fairly begun work, and was once in the middle of some hearty piece of writing, all in fire about it: but, alas, such is not yet my case; I am still only preparing and threatening to write. I go almost daily to the Advocates' Library, rummaging among Books, and searching out a variety of things: by and by, I shall get buckled to the gear, and certainly do something notable,—one would think! In the mean time you can fancy us sufficiently: breakfasting about nine; reading, or innocently tho' still more idly employed receiving visitors till one or two; about which hour I generally go out to walk; then home to dine at four; after which the night is very generally our own, and we spend it in some sort of study till eleven, and then, if all have gone right, are sound asleep by twelve. This is the history of our day.

In the shape of public news I shall only mention two things: first that Dr Brewster has been a candidate for the Professorship Leslie held; and to the shame of the Town Council (an old Tory body now on its last legs) has been rejected, in favour of a young lad, about three-and-twenty, the extent of whose talent, great or otherwise, is as yet known only to himself!4 Brewster, whom I saw one day, has fled back into the country; and now they say is about entering the English Church, having got a Living promised him by Brougham. The scandal of the transaction seems to me considerable. My second piece of news is that a rather strong Society for abolishing Patronage in the Church of Scotland has united itself here, and is taking vigorous measures. One of the leading men is David Dixon (he whom you called the “stupid sonks”) himself a Patron-placed minister; another is Dr M'Crie; another &c &c. I talked with the Advocate about it the day before yesterday; whose opinion it is that they will in some measure succeed. So be it, say I. The Advocate seemed to have very loose notions on the subject; I did my best to set him on a better course; I fear, with little effect.5

We had a Letter from Mrs Montague,6 who says she saw Edward Irving lately; that he has got a large meeting-house fitted up, close by his own dwelling, and has moreover built “six bedrooms with a sitting room for the accommodation of pious clergymen and strangers”! She calculates that he will need £1000 a year of revenue; and knows not clearly what is to be done with him. I had also a Letter from Mrs Strachey,7 inquiring Lady Clare's address, for she had to write to Miss Morris8 the lady-companion of the Countess. The good Mrs S. is full of zeal and pious resignation: could my frank carry it, I would gladly send you her Letter.

But now, dear Mother, I think I have very fairly explained everything to you, and ought to go about my business. I fear poor Jean will have her own difficulties to make out my scribble this time; she must understand that I am again “terribly off” for a writing-table,9 but hope to be in better trim next time. Would she now but send me as faithful an account of Scotsbrig, especially of what and how you do there. I am always anxious about you, as I well ought, my dear Mother; and more than usually in this brittle, unhealthy weather. I pray you again take every care of yourself; as much care of yourself as you would of me: I can desire no more. Avoid damp feet, all kinds of cold. Study also, my dear Mother, to “look on the bright side of thy cloud”: God still mercifully spares us, to see good in the land of the living. Let us trust in Him, who never failed one that trusted: look round too on the warm hearts that still live to love you, and watch over you as you have faithfully watched over them. This is still the Place of Hope: we were evil and unthankful to live in it gloomy and despondent.

Jean must write soon; let her take the smallest pen and the largest sh[eet. I am] much indebted to her writing, since Jamie will not.Jenny I expect will at least add [a] bit of a postscript. I suppose Austin has not yet fixed upon anything: I see farms enough advertised, but fear they do not suit; they are the Marquis's farms. I shall be anxious to learn what is determined on. Jamie and I were talking something about it, at Dumfries: doubtless he remembers.

The Examiner now again comes to me on Wednesday night: I will have it always lying ready at Ecclefechan on Saturday morning. To Alick I have promised the Courier on Friday: so between you, you will see my hand twice weekly. I wish there was some such thing from you: however, I will hope, when I do not see.

Jane keeps her bed today, to subdue the sniftering; she is otherwise very well, and still talks of writing to you all. It is now (and has been for the last two pages) the 28th of the month; a fine morning: and my Cold about gone. Nevertheless I have taken the Castor, to make good better. But now here is the end. Give our kind love to all, let all be assured of our continual love. And so God bless you and guard you, my dear Mother! —I am ever,

Your affectionate son, /

T. Carlyle—

I have on a pair of the Drawers; they answer excellently well.— The Butter is good, good.

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