October 1831-September 1833

The Collected Letters, Volume 6


TC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE; 16 March 1833; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18330316-TC-MAC-01; CL 6:342-348.


Edinburgh, 4. Great King street, 16th March 1833

My Dear Mother,

A certain Bishop says, “Hell is paved with good resolutions”;1 so I will resolve no more; but proceed forthwith, tho little more than half my day's-work is done, and execute. The day before yesterday I waited till it was all done, and tea had come, thinking confidently I might still manage: but scarcely were the first three lines written, when John Gordon entered; sat humming and drumming for above two hours; the consequence of all which was that not only did your Letter remain barely begun, but the very Newspapers proved too late for the Post, and yesterday both you and Alick would be disappointed. On the Examiner, however, was written “Tomorrow”; and this time I will keep my word.

Jean's most welcome Letter is grown old now: however, I had one from Alick2 this morning, and happily all was well. When the Postman rung, I knew by the hour that it must be from Annandale, and waited not without apprehension (for I was in a poor, apprehensive, bilious kind of humour): God be thanked that it all proved otherwise. The Thornhill Book-packet, written unluckily the day before Jean's Letter came, could not be an answer to it; so that properly it was my turn to write; they were entitled therefore to hold their kippage [confusion] (which Alick says you were objecting to), and go to their wedding while they had opportunity.3 I suppose it all over now; and probably the most ineffectual pair that ever in this century went together, established “on some pendule of land under the eye of little Grier,” looking out into the future with hope. May it prove happy for them, poor things! “Better a wee bush than nae bield [protection].”4 But, Bairns, as I have often said, I now repeat, If any of you mean to change your life, DO NOTHING RASHLY! It is a fearful sort of thing; that will never in this world be revoked: see that ye be sure, and doubly sure, about all sides of it.

You may see by the date of this that we have changed our abode. The Stockbridge house, very comfortable in several respects, was grievous enough in one: Loud noises overhead, occasionally at very late, or rather very early hours. In these narrow Trough-beds there was small chance of sleep then; that is, perhaps once or twice a-week. To mend the matter, my good Wife with the restless curiosity natural to the female sex left no stone unturned till she discovered what it could originate from. What think you? With favour be it spoken, a woman, carrying on her trade there, no better than she should be! The consequence was we searched out this house (belonging to an old school-companion of the Dame's), and getting it offered for the same rent, we made off without loss of time. The dishonourable Mrs Colquhoun, detected in her dishonesty (for it was like passing a bad shilling), could make no objection to our removal: so we landed on Monday night last; have now a capital bed, with the steadiest inaudible old Bachelor overhead, rooms much better furnished if a trifle smaller; and are like to be as comfortable as need be. I think you and Jean must both remember Great King Street: it was some years ago reckoned the finest street in all Edinburgh; we went along it from the Circus, going to John Gordon's (where I think you once were); our house is the very corner one (the northeast corner), looks two ways into broad free spaces; the second story from the ground: this will make you at home with us again. We can, if we like, stay here till Whitsunday; and do talk of perhaps seeing the May-dew fall.

I had begun a kind of scribblement, and was in the very heart of it, when this flitting nigh overset me; indeed ever since, with cleaning carpet-lifting and what not I am bundled about at a great rate, and sit no two days in one room: however I do sit, and generally perform my length; so that the thing must end itself in the course of next week. It is for Fraser; a foolish story about a certain Italian “King of Quacks,” whom I have long been curious about, and am now going to make known to all the world,—for some forty guineas, if I can get them. You will see it in time. The long piece I did on the Frenchman5 in summer came to be corrected very lately; it also will soon be out, and I hope give satisfaction at Scotsbrig. I have plenty of other things to write; but should now rather lay myself out for getting Books and materials: Craigenputtoch is the place for writing. This same “King of Quacks” ought to pay our expenses here and back again: I am growing little richer; yet also no poorer; the Book can hardly be printed this season, but one ought to be content. I really am rather content: the rather as I do not imagine there is any completer Anti-Gigman6 extant in the whole world at present.

As for the people here they are very kind, and would give us three “dinners” for one that we can eat: otherwise I must admit them to be rather a barren set of men. The spirit of Mammon rules all their world; Whig, Tory, Radical, all are alike of the earth earthy:7 they look upon me as a strong well-intending, utterly misguided man, who must needs run his head against posts yet. They are very right: I shall never make any fortune in the world; unless it were that highest of all conceivable fortunes, the fortune to do, in some smallest degree, my All-wise Taskmaster's bidding there.8 May He, of his great grace, enable me! I offer up no other prayer. Are not my days numbered: a span's length in the sea of ETERNITY? Fool is he who would speak lies, or act lies, for the better or worse that can befal him for that least of little whiles. I say, therefore, Lie away, worthy brethren, lie to all lengths, be promoted to all lengths; but as for me and my house9 we will not lie at all. Again I say: God enable us! and so there it rests.— Ought not my Father's and my Mother's Son to speak even so?10

Among the new figures I have seen, none attracts me in any measure; except perhaps Knox's Dr M'Crie,11 whom I mean (as he rather pressingly invited me) to go and call on, were I a little at leisure. A broad, large, stiff-backed, stalking kind of man; dull, heavy, but intelligent and honest: we spoke a little about Scotch Worthies and Martyrs, and I mean to ask him more. My notion of writing a Book on that subject rather grows than decays. We get Letters enough from London: very affectionate from Mill; from poor Leigh Hunt (a ruined Poet), from Jeffrey &c There was one even from Badams;12 but of the briefest: I grieve to understand that poor B. is decidedly taking to Brandy, and in great danger that way of utter ruin. His Wife unhappily cannot hinder but rather help: one might wish even that they would part, and go each his way. Poor Badams! Yet while there is Life there is Hope. From the Doctor I hear nothing more; but am now expecting ere long to hear.

Now, however, we must turn to the other side. If I tell you that our health is very much what it was (the old Doctor still coming about Jane, but professing his inability to help her much), I think there is a very copious picture of our condition here. As for you, my dear Mother, Alick would persuade me that you are in the usual way; “resigned wonderfully, and even contented.” He says, “it is only after having had something [to] do with this world that one can learn rightly to love and reverence such a life as hers.” Be resigned, my dear Mother: “still trust in God”; He will not leave us, nor forsake us; not in Death itself, nor in aught that lies between us and Death. On our love moreover count always as on a thing yours by good right: the longer I live the more I feel how good is your right. Let us hope then to find you well, in the early days of May, if not sooner; once again in this Pilgrimage to meet in peace. Might we but meet in peace, where there is parting no more! This also, if it be for good, will be provided us. God is great; God is Good!— The rest I fancy to be busy in their several vocations: the men sowing; in which work I hope a little “March Dust” is not denied them.13 Tell Jean not to take offence at me for not writing; nay I will write to her (with all the seriousness in the world) before many days go. Alick hints that she has great things in her eye.14

Hoho! Here at this point comes again a “double ring,” and the Postman hands me in two Letters; one of which is from John! He dates 28th Feby;15 is very well; expects now to be in Britain by the next month of June; that is, only three months hence. It depends, he says, altogether on Mr Burrel's getting strong enough for travel; he is for England as soon as possible, and Lady Clare will not leave him. Jack says: “I was greatly interested with what you write about my Mother” (I forget what it was; some truth doubtless). “Tell her I think she may expect to see me this summer. I may find an opportunity of writing to her again before leaving Rome.”— But I need not quote: for I will make up a Book-parcel; next Tuesday if possible; certainly the week after next (that I think will do better); and you will see the whole, with letters for yourselves too, at your leisure. So no more at present.— Let me add however that we expect Mrs Welsh and her Niece Helen (from Liverpool) to be with us on Monday: they talk of staying a very short while, but may perhaps prolong it. Mrs W. has succeeded in getting her ground let, and retains the House: I think, she gets £35 rent; much less than she expected: yet still the place is cheap enough (£ 10 for such a house and garden).— Here comes Jane in, with news that at a sale of pictures (belonging to the late Lord Eldin), two floors of the house have fallen in (half an hour ago), and of course many persons are lamed, perhaps some killed! I hope it will prove exaggerated; perhaps even untrue.16— My other Letter was from Leigh Hunt, who talks of sending his eldest son to see us at Puttoch!17 We shall see what will come of it. And now, my Dear Mother, it is close on dinner time; and I give up. Am not I a good boy for writing so much? I pray all good for all of you. Yours always, Dear Mother!

T. Carlyle

The Little Opium-eater Dequincey is here; but busy getting a Bankruptcy transacted: he talks of coming to us, but we hardly expect him. Wilson I met transiently; am to see him again next week, at Gordon's—if I will go, which seems doubtful, for the man I doubt is hardly worth an indigestion. The Tories are very sick here.

Jane says, “Very good: but you have put nothing for me, tho' I bade you”: here it is then—something for you.

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