January 1835-June 1836

The Collected Letters, Volume 8


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE; 16 February 1835; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18350216-TC-JAC-01; CL 8:45-53.


Chelsea, London, 16th Feby, 1835—

My Dear Brother,

“Twopenny” gave his two knocks at the door today; and Jane came dancing up, holding in her hand a Letter, which I knew by her air to be yours.1 We sat down, as usual, and read it together. It seems to have come within the fortnight; and as tomorrow is postday, I answer you instantly; so that this, you may observe, is a minimum of interval. I could not do out my forenoon's task of writing, but wended Townwards thro' innumerable turnings as far as Park Crescent (Portland Place, to see the Bullers, whom however I found removed); we have had rather an influx of visitors since that; and finally Coffee, and see now the night our own, all quiet round us except the melancholy yowling of one poor shrimp-vender: wherefore, on this good sheet, all manner of small intelligence can be deliberately sent. Small intelligence, wholly of a comfortable kind; or the comfortable assurance that there is none.

Since I wrote last nothing unhandsome has passed here. I think I have had no direct Letter from Dumfriesshire (for did not my Mother's Letter come just when I was writing?); but Jean's Courier has come duly with the two typical strokes on the back of it; indeed, I myself was just thinking of writing; and I will do it now along with your Letter: but I reasonably flatter myself there is nothing materially altered. Alick's Farm indeed I see advertised in the Newspaper to be let tomorrow, and with an express notification that “the present tenant” has no purpose whatever of offering for it:2 so doubtless the little shifty fellow will be in at Dumfries tomorrow, and find himself on new ground at night. Whether one should regret it or rejoice at it is uncertain to me here: nothing could be muddier and more hopeless of improvement than his position there; he has ingenuity for managing a far better concern, perhaps even for creating a better on free ground: he calculated on one great improvement as certain, that of not needing servants, which there (as it does everywhere in this certainly dissolving society of ours) filled him with perpetual dissatisfaction. Farming as [is] at as low an ebb now as one could fancy, and small seems the hope of its bettering: prices are dust-low; the Corn-bill itself ruined by importation from Ireland, by the inability of all to eat aught save potatoes!3 And then the Landlords themselves indebted up to the lips! Tillage of the soil is no craft here; it is something only in the Savannahs of the West. I will write to poor Dillick (Dilke,4 think you?) by the frank, and speak an encouraging word to him. Your Letter would give him true joy; for he is a most affectionate creature; “as het as ginger and as stieve as steel.”5

To me, dear Jack, your Letters as signs of the great blessing I have in yourself, are always blessings. You seem to have got upon a true adamant basis at last, and as the effervescence of such blessed novelty (a being-born again, out of Darkness into marvellous Light) gradually subsides, you will see your course ernst und schön [seriously and well], and pursue it in true manhood (almost a miracle in this era!); not without overcloudings and transient bewilderments (for showers and sloughs are on every path); but never, I can prophecy, with more than transient ones. The sun is but hidden, not extinguished to one. Bless God for it, in the depths of your soul; and, for the rest, do not even think more about it than you can conveniently help. “The End of man is an Action not a Thought:”6 it is a pity that one even needed Conversion (as all men do in these Heathen days), it leads to so much self-consciousness, which is always barren, oftenest diseased and productive of disease. In your way of thought, however, I discern such a joyfulness in the midst of deepest seriousness as reassures me against all apprehension: you seize hold of the Real with right heart, and work with most frank abandonment; that is all as it should be. One is brother of all the world (for God made it all), and yet above the world: there is but that way of getting on with it. Do you ever “laugh from head to heel” with your Prussian7 or any other friend? I fear, not yet; but that too is coming, for the soul of Doilter is full of ludicrosity, neither is anything more genial than wise laughter; that is great laughter; ἅςβεστος γελως,—fit for the gods.8— I like well to see you and Brunn walking in the Campagna, in this spring weather, with your long sticks to scare the shepherds' curs, fiercer seemingly than ours, for I have seen a Scottish one frightened thro several streets by the mere attitude and voice of a Mr Greatheart:9 did you? I send my love to good Brunn, or rather to your picture of him, for unhappily I can see nothing more. Such a companion, denied to the most, is a treasure: I have enjoyed it with Edward Irving, but not before or since.— Your position in regard to Lady Clare's illness has evidently been one of very great delicacy, and I wholly congratulate you on managing it so honestly, and that it has ended so well. Homoepathy [sic] is certainly as mad as most things; yet there are many Wigrams.10 We have a Homoepathic [sic] Doctor here (name forgotten), who is working wonders, and riding prosperously: he had been treating Austin “with most marked success”; I believe I did not altogether keep my gravity as Mrs A. was expatiating on him. Quack surely!—or something more, for that derives itself only from quick-silver and Paracelsus,11—not surely such a chimera as this. If “infinitely small doses” were so influential, I remarked that day, then what a Panacea must London Fog be, containing infinitely small doses of almost all substances in the terrestial Planet! Such an Alcahest should swallow Cullen's Nosology, and let us have done with it.12 O Jack, what unspeakable gomerals [fools] are the children of men! Arbuckle13 seemed to me to sum up the merits of Homoepathic [sic] Medicine pretty well: it was equivalent to careful regimen and No Medicine at all.— Heed not the generation of Quacks; they have been, are, and will be to the end of the world; considerable is their money-payment, inexpressibly small their net-profit: let them go their way, go thou thine.

As to myself, I have been thinking more than once that I gave you too acrid a picture of my situation last time, that I need not have troubled you with so exclusive a night-side of the business. However, it assures you of my sincerity. On the whole I am not unhappy. Three fourths (perhaps far more) of all my sufferings proceed, literally as I find from ill health of body. This is a sure fact. After finishing the thing I was at when writing to you, I took a three weeks of almost exclusive reading: the world grew quite sunny to me! I began writing again; my happiness my feeling of strength was great for three or four days, and now it begins abating again, let me work never so moderately. You need not fear my excess of exertion: it is absolutely a saving from day to day, to go on moderately. Let me try it tonight after dinner, tomorrow I am lamed, my fine morning is lost. Under these circumstances, I mean to finish out this Book; and then, by God's blessing, try more earnestly than ever to get my poor clay case refitted a little. There was no Heaven's fiat that I should be forever sick. Wisdom lies not in perpetual sickness; that clearly is unwise. The honest task, which I thank God is henceforth not so obscure to me I will study to do: the talent which God has given me shall not rust unused; but must Booksellers, Able Editors, and the Glar [Mud] Company of such like individuals be a new set of middlemen between me and my task? Health dwelt with the wise men of old; one can find it still, and live, one would think? In short, I positively do not care that Periodical Literature shuts her fist against me in these months: let her keep it shut forever (I say often), and go to the Devil, whom she mostly belongs to, not I! The matter had better be brought to a crisis. There is perhaps a finger of Providence in it: I have now for three and twenty months, hard working, earned no penny by that craft; yet all men seem to admit that I am as able as ever, I have been as willing; I know not even in what I have offended any rule of prudence in it. The secret is [sic] the whole matter is Froth, and grounds itself on Novelty, Bubbles, and unreality; the inference seems, walk out of it then,—if even into knapping of stones, which is a Reality. We will do nothing rashly, but have our eyes open, and study to do all things fitly.— My only new scheme, since last Letter, is a Hypothesis (little more yet) about National Education. The Newspaper had an Advertisement about a “Glasgow [‘National’—crossed over] Educational Association,”14 which wants a man that would found a Normal School, first going over England and into Germany to get light on that matter. I wrote to that Glasgow Association; afar off, inquiring who they were, what manner of man they expected; testifying myself very friendly to their project and so forth. No answer as yet. It is likely they will want, as Jane says, a Chalmers-and-Welsh15 kind of character; in which case: va ben, felice notte.16 If otherwise, and they (almost by miracle) had the heart, I am the man for them! Perhaps my name is so heterodox in that circle, I shall not hear at all, which also will be well: indeed I do not recollect the thing since the Letter went, once in three days. However, it struck me at the time that an Educational Association should be set on foot in London above all; and become the mother of innumerable such all over the Empire. I actually put to paper one day a manifesto to that effect; which Mill, who alone has seen it, thought would perhaps promise something were the Parliamentary jargon a little slaked (and no Tories either out or else in): I mean to show it at least to any likely person, and perhaps give a little industry to it. If I stir in any public matter, it must be in this.17 Radicalism goes on as fast as sane mortal would wish it, without help of mine; Conservativism I cannot attempt to conserve, believing it to be a portentous embodied Sham, accursed of God, and doomed to destruction, as all lies are. But woe the while, if the people are not taught! If not their wisdom then their brutish Folly will incarnate itself—into the frightfullest Reality. I could really work heartily, and unite heartily with men in such a business; hardly in any other. This too however lies in abeyance.— For indeed, Doctor, my grand immediate concern is to get the F. R. done! I saw Fraser some fortnight ago: civility down to the shoe (and nothing said about poor Maginn, whom indeed I had forgotten): Fraser would print the First volume by itself; a great temptation, for it is sore work going on with it; however on reflexion I resist Salthound,18 and determine to fulfil my purpose let the Public say Yea or No; therefore not to print till I have at least another Volume ready. So behold me again at the “Feast of Pikes” (Federation of the Champ de Mars), to conclude that second volume with the death of Louis. I cannot tell thee what I think of the Book: it is certainly better, some ways, than any I have written hitherto; contains no falsehood, singularity or triviality that I can help; has small probably no chance of being liked by any existing class of British men: nevertheless I toil on, searching diligently, doing what I can, in old Samuel's faith that “useful diligence will at last prevail.”19 It is a very great comfort to me that I have the prospect of getting it printed, and so being done with it. Genug davon [Enough of that]!— I should have mentioned among my Hypotheses, a Lecturing scheme in America! Emerson (you know who) sends another Letter full of gentlest regard, of devout encouragement; speaks of such a thing, with offers to inquire &c: I answer that he may at least inquire, survey me the ground. Out of that I draw little hope at present. Mill's Periodical20 is to be out had this new Parliament declared itself (all waits on the Parliament; and there is such a clatter about who is to be Speaker next Thursday!):21 I believe, I might have Able-Editor employment there, were I ready for it; but, as we agreed before, it seems better to wait, were my hands even free. Mill is very friendly; he is the nearest approach to a real man that I find here; nay as far as negativeness goes he is that man, but unhappily not very satisfactorily much farther. It is next to an impossibility that a London-born man should not be a stunted one. Most of them (as Hunt) are dwarfed and dislocated into the merest Imbecillities. Mill is a Presbyterian's grandson, or he were that too. Glory to John Knox! Our Isle never saw his fellow.

Did I tell you that the Bullers had settled here? They are in their new house near Storey's Gate (Westminister), close by Willis's. We were at their Park Crescent house, one night, dining; all very good: Roebuck the Radical our main man; a smallest and neatest of men, miniature classical head, with miniature aquiline nose, screeching argumentative voice; radical-logic, limitation, vehemence, self-conceit—all in the superlative. The little face, when you look close to it, is all minutely wrinkled; anger, dissatisfaction, vinaigrous (small-beer-aigrous) unrest looks painfully out from it: a hidebound barren man, with only audacity considerable; likest Robespierre of anything I have seen. Charles is become a main writer in the Globe; and really does it well, lightly with suavity and vigour in the Newspaper way. What is to come out of him I know not: hardly much; he is so light of purpose; were he not a very good fellow, they would spoil him with adulation and laudation; which they have not yet done. We were at Willis's one night, and had abundant beautiful music. He is a good innocent creature Willis,22 sincere and pure as far as he goes. With his lank hair and serious-formal countenance, he reminds me of Relief Elders23 (or some such) I have seen in Edinr; and he, in such new guise, is here!—— Dear Jack, it is past eleven; I had porridge in the middle of last page, and Jane is off. She will add a P.S. tomorrow I hope. My headache (unusual) is gone with writ[ing] to you. One pipe, and then to bed. God be with you dear Brother.

Affectionately ever, /

T. Carlyle

[JWC's postscript:]

Dearest of created Doctors ! I would fain “cull a few flowers” to make thee a dainty postscript, but the soil alas yields only dry thistles: for I am in “the pipeclay state” as Carlyle has designated a state too common with those who are too well furnished with bile. I went the other day (distracted that I was) to a great modern fashionable horrible dinner the effects of which tho I partook of it only in infinitessimally small dozes, are still painfully working on me. It was at Mrs Manderson's (George Rennie's Sister's)—there was huge venison to be eaten and new service of plate to be displayed; and Mrs G Rennie talked about the “aars” (arts) and the great Sir John24 favoured us with “idears” on the Peel administration—and the next day my head ached—and I was ready to imprecate the fire of Heaven on the original inventors of a modern dinner. Wont you write a book when you are become an authoritative doctor and denounce all such practices ? We are going to morrow to Mrs Taylors'—whom I would like that you knew and could tell me whether to fall desperately in love with or no—and on Friday to Mr Taylor's (the Author of Philip von Arlenvelde [sic]) a goodish man but no Poet.25 My Mother is in Edinr enjoying “the kindness of these people26 infinitely [;] she sends her love to the Doctor and hopes to see him in summer. She mentions having seen James Johnston at Haddington looking healthy and in wonderfully good spirits. My hearty regards to thee dear John and a kiss (if you care about such things).

Hunt's second son has left his Father's House and seemed disposed to take refuge in ours. The Huntites are all good humoured with us again but we fight shy of them.

Car[l]yles' book gives great satisfaction so far as it is gone to John Mill and me—I cannot imagine that any intelligent well informed individual should find it other than the best book written in our times—but doubtless there are fools enough in the World—and even some who are not fools but totally unacquainted with figurative language for whom it will be a world's wonder and store of offence.

I see nothing of Mrs Irving—I think her a selfish insincere woman and am best clear of all concern with her—they say she purposes remaining in London tho' her children cannot exist in it.— She hopes to keep up a ferment about her but it is a idle hope[.]

I tried to finish the Promessi Sposi27 lately but there was no indignation to make translation nor kind encouragement either so “I skipped all the remarks” and got an idear28 of the story and so lost it. I read too little—walking takes up so much time when you must always go out dressed—and then—one needs to be well dressed here—to be respectable— and I can only manage to be well dressed by making my own clothes—for dressmaker's bills would cause huge dismay in our little purse. In the backwoods one stuff gown would suffice!

Mrs Montagu send[s] no message comes not it is well[.]

[no signature]

[TC's postscript:]

I will write to Scotsg tonight, if I can. Tuesday (2 o'clock): my task has fared indifferently, but I must be content. Take my adieux again, dear Jack!

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