October 1833-December 1834

The Collected Letters, Volume 7


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE; 22 July 1834; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18340722-TC-JAC-01; CL 7:240-248.


5. Cheyne Row, Chelsea, London, 22nd July, 1834—

My Dear Brother,

Considering how slowly Letters seem to travel between this and Naples, I judge it full time to send you farther news of me, tho' only my first London Letter is yet answered, and the last still expecting an answer. Your Naples Letter1 appeared to have passed three weeks on the road. What day it arrived here I cannot exactly say, for it was sent off to Scotsbrig almost forthwith; but it must be above a fortnight ago; in any case, since I wrote last, more than a month has gone. Our increased distance is one of the evils of that otherwise so desireable country; an evil, however, which will not continue, which while it does last we must strive by greater industry to help.

Shortly after I wrote last there came a Letter from Dumfries, containing the much longed-for confirmation that all was well there. Jean, the writer of it, gives me a brief but clear description of several things; especially of our Mother's new position at Scotsbrig. She had been at Jamie's wedding, as the rest all were; had seen the glorious devotedness of a pair of Turtles tying themselves together by indissoluble bonds; “neither of them seemed to have eyes or ears for any heavenly or earthly thing except the other.” Whereupon she farther quotes a sentence of “the Doctor's,” to the effect that “every dog has his day,” and ought to have it. “Our Mother and Jenny” (I copy Jean's words2) “had made their elopement upstairs with such of their moveables as they could carry; Mr Carleil, as might have been expected, was lost to all earthly considerations but his beloved Isabel. However, with aid of James Austen and James Aitken, on monday, she got her big Bed removed into the big room, and her own close one3 set in its place, with a little Closet left on the farther end to hold her kettle, water-cann &c: Jane's little painted meal-barrel and a beautiful beef-ham also grace this apartment. The close Bed is nicely papered, and the large Press that stood below now stands fronting the bedroom window, between the Bed and the Door. The Clock was to stand at the end of the Chest of Drawers, but has not yet been lifted, and is consequently keeping company down stairs with the new one Jamie bought.” I daresay you can understand this description, and will picture it out in your head as I have done. Jean adds the comfortable assurance that our Mother is in fully average health, and has good hope of her new upputting, and new neighbourhood, the Daughter-in-law seeming to be a very reasonable modest kind of person. Jenny was already in Dumfries at her sewing. Jamie Aitken had taken the painting and glazing of Dr Arnott's new House (at “the Ha'”), and was to stay with our Mother while doing it. Mary and Alick at their respective places of abode were doing well. This is the latest detailed news. Since then I have written both to Alick and to Jean (and to my Mother on both occasions); I expected before this a Letter from Alick, but must not keep you longer waiting for it. I have gathered from Directions of Newspapers and so forth that all is still well; that our Mother has been at Catlinns, at Annan and sea-bathing, and had come about a week ago to Dumfries,—probably, as I myself surmise, to be with Jean on a very important occasion, which cannot now be distant. Mrs Welsh writes to us that she saw her (Jean) “very large and very anxious”: may it all prove well! Such is my Scottish intelligence: I get the Courier weekly in Jean's or her Husband's hand, I send my Mother the Examiner (which Hunt gives me here) every friday: by a certain pair of strokes unmeaning to the uninitiated we inform one another that all is well; and with this I find that I must mainly rest content, for none of them is very ready with the pen, and Jean the readiest is occupied otherwise a good deal, and at a distance from the principal scene. Did you remember William Austin? I think hardly, for he did not come to Scotsbrig till his Brother was free and seeking farms. Poor Will was a tall stately young man; had made himself much liked; fell seriously sick about the time of our leaving Scotland; was anxious to get away about the wedding-season, and be home to his own moors: a younger brother got him mounted accordingly into our old gig; the poor fellow was stupified and partially delirious when they got to Jean's at Dumfries; a Doctor they sent for said it was fever and instantly recommended and arranged a removal of him to the Infirmary: the fresh air reawakened poor Will once more, he insisted and passionately commanded that he should be taken home; but, alas, knew no one when he got there, and some few days after that while his Father was asking him some kind question with little or no hope of answer, fixed his eyes on him, and drew a long deep sigh,—his last! This tragical item sheds a sombreness and pity over all our picture of the Scottish homeland; Fate and Eternity are in the wilderness as in the crowded city.— I sent a little note to Glen, but have heard no kind of tidings about him: His condition when we left him was dubious as ever; our departure seemed not important to him, as indeed of all terrestrial things only his own identity with Napoleon or Louis Philippe was: his look was dull-glazed, turbid, unhappy: he is calcining the horrid dross out of him; will he ever be purged of it? In any case he must be left, as I read him, for long months and perhaps years to burn and suffer. May this also all prove a blessing in disguise!

From Dumfries to Naples is a long leap; which, were the foot as free as the thought, I should soon clear, and be with you. That beautiful sea often breathes over my imagination; those blushing Flora and Pomona lands with their azure sunlight, and all resting, as on a thin earthrind, over Hell and volcano-fire!4 My Brother wanders alone in the midst of them, his thoughts also often upon me. Your position, and conduct in it, seems all the best we could calculate on; you are, as you say, “stranded on a Paradise”: what is to be done, but enjoy it, improve it, till you get to sea again? That time too is coming. Your temper of mind is such as I rejoice to see you in; my only farther prayer is that it were possible to express it, more in the only true dialect, that of action. As we said, there is a time coming. Meanwhile, and even as you stand, my advice and caution were not to dwell too much on theory and meditation: DAMIT kannst du's nie zurecht machen [with that you will never be able to settle matters]; our mind is never in the healthy state when it is thinking of itself at all. True, it is in the recovering state, in the state of conversion (necessary for every modern man); for which be Providence forever thanked, as for the beginning of all good. Nay, on the whole, I find it is nothing but recoveries and relapses to the end of the chapter; “walking is but a succession of falls”;5 and we must get along, as steadily, with as little criticism, as we can. That noble feeling of Entsagen [renunciation], which as yet dwells fondly on itself, will, as you grow and live in it, inform every phasis of Existence with a noble heroic significance; you will not need to look within for it, but will see it everywhere written without. Tell me more what you do, even what you see; everywhere attempt to act on the outward world, to study it, to delineate it; more and more to know it, for of its depth there is no end. Or rather let me say, go on as you can, as you are doing, my dear Brother, and may God prosper you on the way! I am too distant to judge accurately, and can only see, with heartfelt satisfaction, that the main result is as it were out of danger.— The possibility of seeing you next May is more than flattering, but we must not trust in it. We will wait patiently; but if we had you once will not let you go again: there is work for us both here, and one way or other we will find workshops. Ruhig, kräftig [quietly, powerfully]!—— Mrs Strachey, I imagine, never saw Miss Morris; having gone before your address arrived. I keep the copy of it here, and sometimes think of making Jane write her a Note, or of calling on her myself; but, on the whole, know not whether it were fit, and so do nothing. Her abode must be within few doors of the House where Irving lived; undoubtedly I have passed it often.6— Do you ever bathe in that fine cerulean brine? I think if I were there I would swim about in it all summer. What a pity that your English are such “hollow masks full of unclean beetles.” They are wedded to their idols; let them alone.7 On the whole perhaps the Lazzaroni [beggars] are the best: does that worthy man still dive for frutta di mare [sea-food]; and turn up his white heels towards the zenith? Mein sey es dich zu rühren, Natur [Oh were it in my power to move you, nature]! Greater is he who gets oysters and smallest shellfish than he who only eats and wears (and so loses), were it millions in the year.

But now for the third head of method, namely London. We are getting along here as we can, without cause of complaint. Our house, and whole household inanimate and rational, continues to yield all contentment. Bessy is a clever, clear-minded girl; lives quietly not only as a servant, but can cheer her mistress as a companion and friend. Most favourable change. Jane keeps in decidedly better health and spirits: within doors I have all manner of scope. Out of doors unhappily the prospect is vague enough; yet I myself am not without fixed aim. The Bookselling world, I seem to see, is all but a hopeless one for me; Periodical Editors will employ me, as they have employed me, on this principle: for the sake of my name, and to help them to season a new enterprise. That once accomplished, they want little more to do with me: amateurs enough exist that will dirty paper gratis, and Puffery and so forth is expected to do the rest. Thus they kept a gusting-bone in the Four-towns, and lent it out to give a flavour to weak soup; otherwise hung it in the nook.8 I am much dissatisfied with the arrangement, and little minded to continue it. Meanwhile, by Heaven's blessing, I find that I can get a Book printed with my name on it: I have fixed on my Book, and am labouring (ohne Hast ohne Rast [without haste without rest]9), as yet afar off, to get it ready. Did I not tell you the subject? The French Revolution. I mean to make an artistic Picture of it: alas, the subject is high and huge, ich zittre nur, ich stottre nur, UND kann es doch nicht LASSEN [I only tremble, I only stammer, and yet I cannot leave it alone]. Mill has lent me about a hundred books; I read continually, and perhaps the matter is dimly shaping itself in me. Much is in the Museum for me too in the shape of books and pamphlets: I was there a week ago seeking Pictures; found none; but got a sight of Albert Dürer,10 and (I find) some shadow of his old-teutschen [German], deep still soul, which was well worth the getting. This being my task till the end of the year, why should I curiously inquire what is to become of me next? “There is ay life for a living body,” as my Mother's proverb has it: also, as she reminded me: “if thou tine [lose] heart, thou tines' a.” I will do my best and calmest; then wait, and ask. As yet I find myself much cut off from practical companions and instructors; my visitors and collocutors are all of the theoretic sort, and worth comparatively little to me; but I shall gradually approach the other sort, and try to profit by them. With able Editors I figure my course as terminated. Fraser cannot afford to pay me; besides seems more and more bent on Toryism, and Irish Reporterism11 (to me infinitely detestable): the last Teufelsdröckhis in next No, and there I calculate we shall stop finally short. He offers to risk my Book, and shall have it, simply if I cannot get a better. Moxon, I found two weeks ago, had a kind of eye on the Diamond Necklace (which Hayward-Faust had been telling him about); so thinking it might do to send out this as a kind of forerunner and herald to the other, or perhaps might not do, I went to see Moxon:12 an eager, ambitious, avaricious not quite dishonest man; inferior to Fraser in quality, superior in environment; he threw no light on the business; wanted to see my Ms.; which, when Mill has done with it, he shall. The Diamond Necklace is a kind of attempted True Fiction, but not the best I can give; perhaps it will be fitter not to publish it first. We shall see and decide. Meanwhile, non flocci facio [it is a trifling matter], whichever way it be.— With regard to neighbourhood I might say we were very quiet, even solitary, yet not oppressively so. Of visitors that merely call we have absolutely none; our day is our own; and those that do come are worth something to us. Our most interesting new friend is a Mrs Taylor (thro' Mill, who is said to be in love with her,—in platonic love, versteht sich [understood]), who came here for the first time yesterday, and staid long: she is a living romance-heroine, of the clearest insight, of the royallest volition; very interesting, of questionable destiny, not above twenty-five: Jane is to go and pass a day with her soon (about the Regent's Park), being greatly taken with her. The Austins (whom we find unspeakably wersh [watery, insipid] and wearisome occasionally) are gone to Jersey: the Bullers too are gone, all but Charles whom of late I cannot manage to find at home. Allan Cunningham with his Wife and Daughter made us out last night; we are to dine there some day. Hunt is always at hand, but as the modestest of men never comes unless sent for: his theory of Life and mine have already declared themselves to be from top to bottom at variance, which shocks him considerably: to me his talk is occasionally pleasant, is always clever and lively; but all-too foisonless [weak], baseless and shallow. He has a theory that the world is or should and shall be a gingerbread Lubberland, where Evil (that is Pain) shall never come, a theory in very considerable favour here; which to me is pleasant as streams of unambrosial dishwater; a thing I simply shut my mouth against, as the shortest way. With Huntdom we find it quite possible and simple to manage altogether well; and keep nearly wholly clear of it, except where we can help it which is seldom. I pity Hunt and love him. Irving I have not succeeded in seeing again, tho' I went up to Bayswater once and left my card. I rather think his Wife will incline to secrete him from me, and may even have been capable of suppressing my card: I will try again for his sake and my own. He is said to be better. Mill is on the whole our best figure; yet all-too narrow in shape, tho' of wide susceptibilities, and very fond of us. He hunts me out Books, does all he can for me; he is busy about the new Radical Review, and doubtless will need me there, at least as “gusting-bone.” Ought he to get me? Not altogether for the asking perhaps, for I am wearied of that. Voyons [we shall see].— Thus dear Brother have you a most full and artless picture of our Existence here. You do not despair of us; your sympathies are blended with hopes for us. You will make out of all this food enough for musing. Muse plentifully about us; to me also you continue precious, with you I am double-strong. God be with you dear Jack! Jane stipulated for a paragraph so I stop here.

[JWC's postscript:]

Again only a postscript my dear John! but I will write one time or other.—WILL.13 As yet I am too unsettled. It is in trying to write or read, above all things, that I feel how much I am in a new position. When I look round on my floors once more laid with carpets, my chairs all in a row &c &c I flatter myself the tumult is subsided—but when I look within! Alas I find my wits by no means in a row; but still engaged at an uproarious game of “change seats the King's coming.”14 I read dozens of pages and find at the end that I have not the slightest knowledge what they were about— I take out my notebook day after day and write the day of the week and month and so return it— Pity the poor white woman!15 She will find herself by and by, and communicate the news to you among the first. For I am sure you care for her, and would rejoice in her attainement of a calm wellordered being for her own sake. At all rates we are well out of Puttoch—every where is suffering in store for one, but nowhere did I ever find or do I ever expect to find suffering of so base a sort as we had there to front[—] suffering which one gained so little by fronting with all the philosophy one could bring to bear on it— We shall do better here I confidently predict— I wish you saw our oldfashioned house and how comfortable our whole environment looks— You will see it before long I hope—and, if it will draw your heart any sooner home (or rather I should say your person for your heart I know is already here) I will seek out Miss Morris and make love to her in your name—or my own—as you like. God keep you my dear Brother and bring you home to us—

[TC's postscript:]

Much more to be said, room all done! I had a story to tell you about my health: it is not worse health, (perhaps ultimately far better), but quite different health. I do not understand myself: my tendency is bilious but rather your way; I now can take too much exercise, and in spite of not strong coffee to breakfast, might sometimes require opium rather than aloes. I begin to suspect that the water has some share in it; very hard water. On the whole I feel better, I think, not worse; but must wait to see. I sleep well some six hours, or more.

We have set up the noblest shower-bath here in the back-kitchen (for £1"2"6 in all) and splash ourselves daily: it is only a bucket and cylinder on pullies against the ceiling; no case around it, but as good as the King's. We breakfast at 8; to bed soon after 11; dine at 3. I am not in Town twice a week; Museum is my main errand.— Montagues we never see; and are I think done with.

Did I tell you that James Jeffrey the Annan Mason was dead, some time ago?

Here is Bessy to say “Dinner quite ready, Sir”: the Post will be ready too against the time I have done with dining. We have none but a Threepenny nearer than the top of Sloane street.— Write immediately my dear Brother; and may all Good be with you.— Ever yours, T. Carlyle.

Andrew Anderson advertises reading a course of Lectures on Surgery in Dumfries!—16 Menzies is settled Minister of Hoddam. People angry at Sharpe.17

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