October 1833-December 1834

The Collected Letters, Volume 7


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE; 28 October 1834; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18341028-TC-JAC-01; CL 7:322-330.


London, 28th October, 1834—

My Dear Brother,

About a week ago, your Letter,1 which had been rather longed for, arrived to make us a happy day; and even now, I daresay, it may be doing similar service at Scotsbrig; for I sent it off thither in a frank, with store of other news last Saturday. Our Mother was very anxious about you, by reason of that Eruption of Vesuvius, which I had striven, probably with no full success, to convince her, did not much concern you. As you say, if we were not stupid creatures there needed not thunderbolts and volcanic explosions to teach us by what tenure we hold our life! Dangers deep as the Infinite Abyss environ us at all moments; nevertheless till our moment come, we are preserved, and work as if in safety. One other remark I cannot but make, in reference to that fearful death that has passed so near you: it is How unfair we are in estimating our own lot. What a small tho' never so hearty joy we feel at this providential escape of yours, compared with what our endless sorrow would have been had the devouring lightning buried you in that ruin! It is thus everywhere: we strike our average far too high, and at best even if we be “very glad” are seldom “very thankful.”— On the whole, however, one feels satisfied to know you fairly out of that Neapolitan Elysium-Tartarus; again safe and lighter of heart in a scene that you are more at home with: let us hope that your next great movement will be northward, across the Alps and sea, hither to Cheyne Row and Annandale!2 Meanwhile I need not exhort you again to do whatever you possibly can (for I know you are doing it) towards getting some professional occupation for your spare hours at Rome: there is no way in which one would like so well to know you employed, both for your present satisfaction and future interests. Never (as I have long felt) till a man get into practical contact with the men round him, and learn to take and give influence there, does he enjoy the free consciousness of his existence. Alas I have long felt this, and felt it in vain. Nevertheless there is a kind of inextinguishable hope in me that it shall not always be so; that once, for some short season, I shall live before I die. With you the prospect is much nearer and surer: if not at Rome, this winter, then here in England, say next winter, you shall actually try what force is in you to work in you vocation. The difficulties for us both, as we often admit, are great; but we will front them resolutely, and by God's grace they shall not conquer us. At lowest and worst, you have still reading, the power of study, reflexion and observation to fill your winter with. The great thing is to take care of the hours, the months will take care of themselves. If there is anything still in Rome that you have not mastered according to your wants, think that you may not have another opportunity there. All this of Art, Pictures Architecture and so forth, I feel, were most sapless provender for my poor soul at present: at the same time I see more and more that there is something in all that; an indisputable element of our modern existence; which I could still wish (and some years ago could have much more passionately wished) to understand and make mine. On the whole, dear Doctor, I will give you up to your good genius; adding only my hopes, especially my wishes and prayers which you always have. I like to hear of your Journal: there is always a benefit in that; were it only that in writing down things we are forced to think of them more distinctly. Go on, in all true ways, and prosper!

With regard to our British affairs, take the comfort of knowing that all is much as it was; and nothing worse than that. We had a Letter from Mary at Annan, not long ago, in which again was a little section by our Mother herself. She was there on her way home from Dumfries, where she had just left Jean and her child doing very well: Jamie (of Scotsbrig) seemed to be with her, “in the market,” running about, and had just seen Ben Nelson, who had that day received his Teufelsdröckh, and read a chapter of it. Our good Mother spoke cheerfully; seemed to be well; was very desirous of news, which, as above said, she has now got. They said nothing of Waugh, to whom also I had sent a Teufelk. Mary who never talks in the language of complaint represented her husband as getting a full share of what work was going; and all things with them as quite tolerably prosperous. I sometimes send her an old Newspaper, when I have one; Jane, to whom that Letter was addressed, wrote to her since by the late frank.3 No word of Glen; whose state, I fear with you, is hopeless for the present. Alick will not write; nor do I hear what arrangement is made with his farm: Mary mentioned him as well, and “talking about writing.” Their harvest, I understand, was very wet at first, but grew dry enough in the end. We have sent for some Oatmeal and Butter out of Annandale, and shall probably hear again ere long. The money &c was all right; as indeed you might learn by my former Letter, which I fancy would reach you before yours got to me.— As to London the only news with us is that the new Book is fairly under way, and doing not so badly. The first three Chapters are finished; and now there is a kind of pause for a day or two before I start with the fourth, which may be headed “Taking of the Bastille”!4 One knows not well what to think of so singular an attempt as it is; for tho' studying rather zealously to avoid cramp phrases and all needless cause of offence, I feel at every sentence that the work will be strange; that it either must be so, or be nothing but another of the thousand-and-one “Histories,” which are so many “dead thistles for Pedant-chaffinches to peck at and fill their crops with”;5 a kind of thing I for one wish to have no hand in. Jane rather thinks “it will do.” So I struggle along with the best heart I may; and will, if possible, have the thing out in the course of spring. For the present I am busy reading all manner of Memoirs of Mirabeau; especially a late large work by a natural son of his “fils adoptif” [“adopted son”].6 If they have it in Rome (4 volumes are already out), you too might find it interesting. Mill got it, I may almost say bought it, for me, the other day: he is, as always, the most helpful of Book-providers (I have some 150 volumes of his even now!), and really seems to take a pleasure in assisting me. The Diamond Necklace Fraser, after reading it, thinks ought not to be published till after the other; a judgement I rather agree with; tho' poor Mill, who had set his heart on “reviewing it,” is obliged to express the most tragi-comical regret. In regard to Books, I will only add that a Teufelsdröckh is on its way to Rome for you, perhaps some two weeks ago: a Dr Hamiche7 (I think) took charge of it, by solicitation of one Eastlake a Painter here, whom I first met with among the Rennies;8 of whom more by and by. Hamiche (if that is the name) has been in Rome before: whether he is to be one of your “eight practicing Doctors” this winter I know not, but you will see. As for Teufelsdröckh I think he rather meets with approbation and recognition in his bound up shape: had the thing come out as a Book, it might perhaps have done something; yet, after all, so questionable a production is probably “just as well” in its actual middle-state of published and unpublished; it cannot be lost now, by fire or accident; afflicts nobody, and is ready if ever wanted.— The business of Literature (which indeed while occupied writing, I think little about, and care almost nothing for) looks not as yet more motherly nutritive upon me than it did. I think, if ever I am to live by it, I must have some vehicle of my own, and a public of my own: Poor Leigh Hunt, with a three-halfpenny Journal, gets (as I understand) “8 guineas a week”; which for me were Potosi9 wages. The Chancellor is going to take off stamps.10 We must see about it by and by. A most questionable enterprise! But if the Ishmael is cast forth into the Desart, with bow and quiver in his coat of wild skins,11 shall he not shoot such game as there is? Depend upon it, he must and will! In the mean time his task (and let that suffice him) is this Book of his: forward, and be done with that. Das weitere wird sich zeigen, sich geben [Anything further will show, will develop].

We are not without society here, from time to time; but still it is not of the rightly profitable sort. The men I want to see are such as could give me some glimpse of practical insight into the road I have to travel; of all which there is yet too little going. Indeed, many with any sense, or insight into anything are singularly rare in this world: one ought ever to be thankful for “the day of small things”! Mill and one or two of his set are, on the whole, the reasonablest people we have: however we see them seldom (being so far off &c); and Mill, himself, who were far the best of them all, is greatly occupied of late times with a set of quite opposite character, which the Austins and other friends mourn much and fear much over. It is that fairest Mrs Taylor you have heard of; with whom, under her husband's very eyes, he is (Platonically) over head and ears in love! Round her come Fox the Socinian, and a flight of really wretched-looking “friends of the species,” who (in writing and deed) struggle not in favour of Duty being done, but against Duty of any sort almost being required. A singular creed this; but I can assure you a very observable one here in these days: by me “deeply hated as the GLAR [mud], which is its colour (die seine Farbe ist),” and substance likewise mainly. Jane and I often say: “Before all mortals, beware of a friend of the species!” Most of these people are very indignant at marriage and the like; and frequently indeed are obliged to divorce their own wives, or be divorced: for tho' the world is already blooming (or is one day to do it) in everlasting “happiness of the greatest number,” these people's own houses (I always find) are little Hells of improvidence, discord, unreason[.] Mill is far above all that, and I think will not sink in it; however, I do wish him fairly far from it, and tho' I cannot speak of it directly would fain help him out: he is one of the best people I ever saw, and—surprisingly attached to me, which is another merit. Hunt is also a “friend of the species,” but we make an exception of him; tho' nowise of the Doctrine as held by him: indeed I find my Cameronian12 rigour, and denouncement of all paltering, poltroonery a[nd “cry?]ing for the want of taffy” has quite scared him into seclusion; and he comes now only some once in the fortnig[ht, and] gives us really a most musical evening (for he is far the most ingenious creature I speak with here), concent[rating] many visits into one: I never in my whole life met with a more innocent childlike man; transparent, many-glancing, really beautiful, were this Lubberland or Elysium, and not Earth and England. His family also are innocent, tho' wholly fools and donothings. We get no harm from them, and some little good: God help him and them! is our hearty prayer for them.— Allan Cunningham and his Wife come down, at long intervals; were here lately in the Scotch “foresupper”13 style: good people in their kind, and friendly to us; incapable of close sympathy. I have mentioned Eastlake, and that I saw him at Rennie's. The man (very inquisitive about Goethe, and otherwise intelligent and courteous) had rather pleased me: some three weeks ago a Mr Cockerell (an Architect, Brother-in-law of Rennie) came down very unexpectedly to ask me to meet him again.14 My rule being to meet all honest persons, I went; and so Cockereldom and Eastlake lay open to me for an evening. Fancy Heraud, condensed clean-washed into the look of a gentleman, into talking (tho' with equal vanity) not of himself, and living in Belgrave or Eaton sumptuosity, after long travels in Italy and the East: that is poor Cockerell; whom I really must feel kindly towards. Eastlake is a man turned of forty with bushy eyebrows and hazel eyes that have a glow in them: the rest of his face and figure is sympathetic-precise rather than better; a rational man, raised a little above commonplace, and yet not far above it: I mean to see more of him, but he cannot come to me just yet, being busy with something. The day I called on this Royal Academician with your Teufelsdrockh (for he lives near Fitzroy Square), I observe Macculloch15 gliding along thro' a cross street. According to my rule, I determined to speak with him, and did it: gradually the poor Economist's apprehension subsided, and he gave me his card with invitation to come and leave mine (I having none about me then); on Saturday last I actually went and did this too, and again walked with the poor man thro' Soho Square till our roads parted: I am not very sure whether it will be worth our while to go any farther together (for the man is of hemp [a rogue]); however, this is nothing to hinder us, if we have any business together. Lastly the Austins are come home again and Hayward (the Faust translator, become ein und etwas [something or other] rather suddenly): we saw them all in full blow lately; talk without end, happiness, admiration (of Mrs Jamieson; and the “swarm that came out with the Annuals,” as Mrs Cunningham called that sort); and had occasion again to envy the “happiness of Commonplace”; not to say le bonheur des sots [the happiness of fools], for that were too strong here. These are all our associates I will hint at: are there not enough? I must add a word about poor Irving for another reason. Poor fellow! I begin to fear it is in sad truth almost over with him. He has been away for some two months in Wales and elsewhere; was much better W. Hamilton said; but had got cold again on the Menai Bridge;16 was worse than ever (“pulse kept down to 100 by strong medicines”), and in spite of all that, was off to Glasgow for some tongue-work, being ordered to it. His wife is now with him: the Doctor imperatively recommends going to Madeira; without effect. My poor friend, how gladly would I help thee! But what is to be done? I have no means, no access no authority. There has lain a Letter written for Henry Drummond on the subject, these three days; but I think now I cannot send it: what could it do, but officiously tell him what he already knows? I am heartily distressed; but there is no use in that. What a Tragedy is Life: der Kerker der da heisset Leben [the prison which is called life]!17—— Alas, dear Brother, the Paper you see is done, and there was still so much to say. Small writing (otherwise a great cramp to one, especially with “such a pen”) can do no more. By the bye, now that you are at Rome, what say you, if we set always the very first post-day (I have missed one this time), and try to do without “overlapping”? It were an improvement, if the time be not too long: try in the case of this.— Finally, dear Jack, as to our goings on here interpret everything for the best, and trouble not your brotherly heart. We are in fair health of body and of mind: Jane (rather complaining today) is distinctly better; I, with some pill or so, once in the fortnight, struggle along. Let us all “walk humbly18 (how much is in that!); walk also resolutely, “in still defiance”19 of insuperable things. “Here you have not your rest,”20 but here you have your harvest field, where ye shall earn rest. At this point little Terrot (the Revd Charles) from Edinburgh came in: he has kept me talking for three long hours, and now that he is gone and dinner over, I shall hardly even by aid of a Postman's Penny get you this off in time. Excuse my haste then: the Margins must be ineffectually filled. Jane has a headache, “will write a long postscript next time,” sends in the mean time her best sisterly love. Gehab Dich wohl [Farewell]! Blessings be with my Brother!

T. Carlyle.

I had almost forgotten to mention a little revolution in our Household: Bessy is away about 10 days ago, and one Jane (from Lancaster) reigns in her stead. There was no quarrel, a deliberate feeling on all sides that it was not going to do. Bessy herself seemed to be in the most unhappy unwholesome state of mind; I sincerely pitied her, and also wished her with her Mother, or some one that could love and console her. She has suffered much from Badams, and for him: I spoke to her what I could in the way of advice and counsel; but am very dubious as to what will become of poor Bessy. If she can save herself into a reasonable kind of life, it will argue the rarest faculties in her. Old Jan[e] her Mother is a good woman, and there is nothing else favourable. Poor Bessy is proud as Lucifer, she is woestruck, violent, and does not even speak the truth always.— Oh when I look into poor Badams's existence, and Kennydom and all the rest of it, I could shudder—and thank Heaven that from me all such things lay far.—

Our new girl was brought by Mrs Charles Montague from Lancaster as nurse or maid, to the Miles's in Ampton street; then violently entreated, then turned off, and so (after character &c) hired by us. She is a very innocent looking creature, and does perfectly well.

Poor James Johnston at Haddington has lost his good Jenny: this is all that I know; I figure him as very lonely there with the two children motherless. He is often in my head since—

I saw the burning of the Parlt Houses, having noticed it from a window here. A great crowd: “there's a flare-up for 'Ouse o Lords,” “there go the hacts” &c &c Matthew Allen found me there: a man making much money, they say a man whom one can omit therefore now better than in his poverty.

within 2 minutes of 5 ½ o'clock! News and Paper both done. Adieu dear Jack!

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