TC TO WILLIAM GRAHAM; 14 September 1834; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18340914-TC-WG-01; CL 7:296-301.
TC TO WILLIAM GRAHAM
Chelsea, London, 14th September, 1834.
Many thanks, my dear Friend, for your two kind letters; they overflow with the best qualities of letters: affectionate sympathy, and copious news.1 Amid all your sufferings, of which I know too well you have your share, I cannot but reckon you happy in one thing, which properly is worth all the rest: in the blooming unworn interest you feel in all that exists around you; in your warm honest love, fresh as of green eighteen, for all that deserves any love. I could much envy you, were that the word or feeling for such a quality: alas, I am some twenty years older than you in this respect; a poor shrivelled old man, and can only with all my philosophy toilsomely strive towards what comes to you by bounty of Nature alone.2 Long may such a blessed temper abide with you! In all sorrows, it still makes this old rocky thorny Earth a glad home for us, wherein in sheltered interstices bloom flowers. Well it is also when the kind heart is a brave one. “Courage, Brother! Times will mend.”
I put off answering you till either a leisure hour (little likely, in truth to arrive) might fall out when I could write something worth its postage; or the season of franks return, and inanity be carried at something like its value. Your last letter urges me to wait no longer. Here, in this still night, with my Dame sitting silently reading opposite me, and the lamp between us making bright daylight, it will do my own heart good to talk half an hour with you. Let me fly over mountain and stream and many long English and Scotch miles, and settle in the little Burnswark Parlour, where a true welcome awaits me.
Your interest in our poor Edward, which I love to witness, is not deeper than my own.3 Poor, much-altered, heavily-encumbered friend! I never can forget the man he was; one of the largest-souled, truest, most genial men it was ever my blessedness to meet in this world. I say with Uncle Toby: He shall not lie there and die; “he shall march, he shall by——!”4
Since I wrote last I have, with some endeavour, succeeded in seeing him at his own house; a gloomy visit, in that strange Newman Street Pagoda, for he seemed weak and dispirited, and his wife sat by him, also sick, and I supposed suspicious. A few days after he even made out a visit hither; and staid a friendly hour with us. The old Annandale heartiness looked at intervals faintly out of him here; I could speak to him in the old tone. He is evidently very far from well; broken-looking, ten years older than when you saw him last; all hoary around the cheeks and under the chin; has a short ugly cough and hardness of breathing that comes upon him at the smallest effort; is “so weak that he cannot lift his little child to his head.” The Doctor's account, I understand, is that his lungs are affected, tho' as yet only superficially; but that if he persist in the same course of excitement and agitation the affection will get deep enough. For the rest, it rather seemed to us here that his faith in the Tongue-work, and imprisonment in all that mournful business, was getting thinner: I told him that for all his wild errors, wide as the poles from my way of thinking, I prayed for no other medicine but continuance of life to him; if he lived, my faith was he would clear his own way. But life, as I affectionately urged, was a thing we could not dispense with. I earnestly, even solemnly called on him to think of this; to fly, whatever might befal, out of London, which was a Mill of Death for him. He admitted it was true; said, he was himself intending to “ride off” somewhither into quietness and rest till he saw how it proved. Calling at his house, about a week after, I was delighted to find that he had actually done so. The half-daft [half-crazy] servant woman (one of the inspired) could or would tell me no kind of story about him; he was “gone away,” “a good way off,” and as for health “his bodily health was no better.” Yesterday I learned that it was to Somersetshire he had gone; to a Clergyman's house; that he was taking daily horse-exercise, and minded to continue “for weeks or months.”5 This is all my news of the good Edward: I give them all to you in confidence so far as that in your discretion and real friendship for the man may seem to bind you. I design to procure his address, and write to him: a letter not of controversy (for he already knows my whole mind), but of sympathy which he needs more. To print anything about him were wholly lost labour; the whole Tongue-business has fallen out of the world's tread; you may go from end to end of London without meeting a man that speaks of it or him; or even knows what you mean (till he recollect himself) when you speak of it.— I may add finally that your Grange friend rather appears to me to speak, as was natural for him,6 with the zeal and emphasis of Opposition, in regard to the poor Tongueities and their tyranny. I never saw but two of them personally, both rather goodish men; but from all I can gather or infer, I incline to suppose that, in morality, these people generally are of a superior sort; decidedly better than most “Professors” in this City; which, however, is no superhuman praise.— So stands it. what will the issue be? God alone knows. May He turn it mercifully to good!
The sheet is so near full, all with one topic; and there were volumes more to say. I saw Allan Cunningham yesterday, and see him pretty frequently, for he is but a mile off: Broad, brawny and wholehearted as ever. He takes a good deal to me; and I like him as a “great mass of a Scotchman,”7 in body and mind, beautiful to look upon amid cockney dwarfs. He has written a Life of Burns (the first volume of an Edition of Burns) which I wish I could hand you: pray ask for it, at Carlisle, or till you get it; you will find it well worth reading.— I also meet with William Hamilton8 occasionally: always the kindest of men; prosperous in business I should think; a little leaner, no older.
As for myself and small household we go on smoothly in the now customed way; rather solitary at present, “everybody,” as the fashion is, having gone out of town in these late weeks. The poor town nevertheless seems to be pleasanter than I have yet seen it, positively pleasant compared with the Nebuchadnezzar's Furnace9 of our summer. I have begun to write at my poor Book! A most fearful task. I go up occasionally to the Museum to search and ferret in the Library: it is four miles off, or nearly so; thro' the palaces of Belgrave Square, thro' the squalid dens of St. File's [Giles],—the extremes of Life.10 The other week, in a Bookseller's shop, I happen for the first time these five years to open a N. American Review: the first article is a fine-flowing criticism on my unhappy Life of Schiller, which a Boston Bookseller has reprinted: the first of a series of works, he says, partly intended to “give pecuniary encouragement to Literature in America”;—for which object was not this poor Book quite specially suited? At the Book itself I could not but scunner [feel disgust].11
Your Harvest news are frightful. I watch the weather every day, as if you had it like ours. It is damp and ever drizzling; miserable for the purpose, were not yours even worse. On Friday it cleared again; to-day is positively dry: may it but have reached your length. At all events hope ever! Struggle ever!— So wishing you whole heart and better weather, I remain,
Always affectionately, /
My kind compliments at Burnswark, and my wife's to you all. Thanks for your news about Scotsbrig and Catlinns; whence usually I am rather scantily supplied. I reported your compliment to my mother; adding that I believed it the highest you could have paid her. There was a letter very lately from John; yours to him seemed not to have arrived, but could not be far behind. My blessing with you!12