October 1833-December 1834

The Collected Letters, Volume 7


TC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE; 20 November 1834; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18341120-TC-MAC-01; CL 7:333-336.


Chelsea, 20th Novr 1834— / Thursday Night—

My Dear Mother,

You are not to take this for a Letter; but for a mere off-put: I am not getting the Bastille taken so readily as I expected; so having seen Buller today I begged a frank from him merely to say that we were all well, and that I would write. It will serve to keep your kind heart quiet about us, which may, not improbably, be disposed to misgivings in such bitter November weather.

The Book continues to form my grand occupation: sometimes I incline to fancy that it will prove not so bad a Book; at other times, it looks poor enough: but in either case, I persevere, and study to remember your old precept at the shearing: “If it were never so little it'll no loup in again.”1 I have a great deal of reading to go thro', and little arrangements to make about it, which consume time: but on the whole “one must just do the best he can.”2

Our new Servants [sic] proves to be a very peaceable well-conditioned creature; and goes along, quite reasonably, and gives no fash [trouble] to any one. Considering what sort of persons London Servants usually are, we have cause again in this instance to think ourselves kindly dealt with. In the inside of the House there is nothing new, except the winter fires, and the great need we have of them. There is a fierce North East wind blowing, so dry that dust flies where the streets are not watered; and everybody you meet has a blue nose and a drop at the end of it. How are you doing in windy Scotsbrig, when it is so cold in lown [sheltered] Chelsea? Many a time I think, If you have a good fire, and are keeping yourself snug within doors? Had one but the little magical glass the Fairy Tales speak of, whereby one could at any moment see those he loved, tho' never so distant!3 But I suppose, it is better as we are.

Our friends are all come back again, and there are meetings and conversings and cullings enough. Mrs Austin has introduced Jane to a very excellent-looking Scotch lady, who lives close by: a Mrs Sommerville, distinguished in the Literary World (very strangely for a woman) as a Mathematician.4 Far better than that, she seems to have a real fund of Mother-wit, good sense and good principle: her husband is surgeon to the Chelsea Hospital (comes from Kelso, she I believe from Fife); she is a woman turned of fifty, and has seen troubles, and seems to have learned from them. I hope she will be a small acquisition to Jane, who has little sympathy with the flaffing [flighty] ways of the Cockney women, and does not esteem many of them much.

The other day we had a call from Miss Morris! Jane had waited upon her many weeks ago, but not found her visible (from ill health), and thought the people she lived with rather pitiful persons. We had supposed poor Miss Morris would not venture to return the visit: however she took a suitable chaise, and with her prim landlady (whom she left sitting in it at the door) actually came. An innocent-looking, overawed, much-compressed young creature; by no means ill-looking, with brown eyes, pale face (or rather brown-sallow, for she was not in good health), small mouth, and nose of fair proportions very slightly inclining to the turn-up sort. We made of her what was possible; and sent her away with honest good wishes.— Have you heard from Jack yet? I fancy if you have not, you now soon will. We were to send him “kind remembrances” from the lady;—whom by and by Jane must go to see again.— We had also two calls from Archy Glen, who has been and is still here vending his Glasgow Manufactures. He looks cheerfuller than he did last time; reports “no change” in his Brother, whom he purposes to see in returning Northward. He had gone to hear Edward Irving at Glasgow: saw him sitting in a chair (being unable to stand) in some kind of public room, and expounding his notions to an audience that seemed to have come mainly out of curiosity. Our other visits to and from were too long to report. Charles Buller is one of the sensiblest people I see: his Mother, from whom a very kind Letter5 came to me not long ago, says they are all going to remove into London very shortly, to settle there not far from us, and we are to be considered as door neighbours. Charlie is going to make himself notable as the most decisive of Radicals; he has come forward with most abundant promptitude on this new occasion; is to be President of a Public Meeting tomorrow night, to which I undertook to go as a dumb spectator (being curious to see such a thing) and probably shall go. You are likely to hear something of it in next Examiner. This grand change of Ministry6 appears to be taken very quietly here; rather with surprise as to what it means, or how it will go on, than with any other feeling. For myself I am sorry about it, as about most changes: there will likely be a new Election of Parliament, the whole country thrown again into ferment; and as for the ultimate issue, Providence alone can foresee it. That it may well end in mischief, nay in confusion worse than the Duke dreams of is but too probable. My work as heretofore lies quite out of it: I am an onlooker merely. God guide it all for the best; and take pity of the poor blinded Sons of men—whose ways the more I look on them the more surprise me.

Do you get the Examiner regularly on the Sabbath? Alick's Courier should in general be at Lockerby then too: Jean sends it off almost always on the very Tuesday, and has never again forgotten her two strokes. Thank her for them. We saw on one paper that Mary had got a Daughter and was doing well; a fact we were very glad indeed to be apprised [of.] Give my brotherly affection to poor Mary. I hope soon to hear more fully about both you [and] her.— In fact, when I calculate, it is but a very small allowance of [news?] that my Annandale friends do allow me. Since the Month of May, as I reckon, si[mply] the number Three! Again I say, my dear Mother, it is on you slow as your hand is that I depend. Oh I know well were your speed equal to your will I should [want not?] for that nor for any other good in this world—or in a better world than this. I will continue writing to you regularly with or without answer; and endeavour to satisfy myself with the assurance that you are struggling on in some tolerable way, till I come and see it again with my own eyes. May the good God long keep it so, and enable us all so to struggle on, while our task here continues! But on the whole, take a pen yourself, and tell me faithfully how you are; what you suffer, what you get the victory over, how you get on: any words, any writing will be so welcome to me.7

I must finish off here; and leave you with the promise of not being long in writing again. Jane partly speaks about putting in a little Note tomorrow to you or some of you: I will leave it open for her at least. Give our love to Jamie and his Wife; to Alick and his with his household: repeat to him my request for a Letter; I am very anxious to know what he has decided on; and think he cannot be so busy now.— We are struggling away with the coarsest Scotch oatmeal (finding nothing that suits better) but hope soon to have some of a right sort. Allan Cunningham sent us over (or his Wife did) a little poke of excellent quality; but, alas, it was soon done. Poor Allan has lost a Brother here lately, which grieves him much. He is a worthy kind of man: “a Dumfries mason,” which among poor shards of Cockney wits is something not so inconsiderable. Last night (for a certain Dr Beattie8 from our County had me dining) I got a pinch from a snuff-box made in Jerusalem. The owner of it had been on Mount Sinai, and had some of the very granite rock of it, which if I have time some day I will go and see. He imagined he had seen the very fountains struck out by the rod of Moses! He seemed a most devout, honest man, but had come thro' much, and his head seemed a little heated.— And now good night dear Mother! May all good be near you, especially in you! My best blessings on you all!

Ever your affectionate——

T. Carlyle.