January 1835-June 1836

The Collected Letters, Volume 8


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE; 23 March 1835; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18350323-TC-JAC-01; CL 8:75-82.


5 Cheyne Row, Chelsea, London, 23d March 1835—

My Dear Brother,

Your Letter1 came in this morning (after 16 days from Rome); and, tomorrow being post-day, I have shoved my writing-table into the corner, and sit (with my back to the fire and Jane, who is busy sewing at my old jupe of a Dressing-gown) forthwith making answer. It was somewhat longed for; yet I felt, in other respects, that it was better you had not written sooner; for I had a thing to dilate upon, of a most ravelled character, that was better to be knit up a little first.2 You shall hear. But do not be alarmed; for it is “neither death nor men's lives”:3 we are all well, and I heard out of Annandale within these three weeks, nay Jane's Newspaper came with the customary “two strokes,” only five days ago. I meant to write to our Mother last night; but shall now do it tomorrow.

Mill had borrowed that first Volume of my poor French Revolution (pieces of it more than once) that he might have it all before him, and write down some observations on it, which perhaps I might print as Notes. I was busy meanwhile with Volume Second; toiling along like a Nigger, but with the heart of a free Roman: indeed, I know not how it was, I had not felt so clear and independent, sure of myself and of my task for many long years. Well, one night about three weeks ago,4 we sat at tea, and Mill's short rap was heard at the door. Jane rose to welcome him; but he stood there unresponsive, pale, the very picture of despair; said, half articulately gasping, that she must go down and speak to “Mrs Taylor” (his Platonic inamorata); with whom Jane fancied he must have at length run off, and so was come, before setting out for the Devil, to take solemn leave of us. Happily, no;—and yet unhappily!5 After some considerable additional gasping, I learned from Mill this fact: that my poor Manuscript, all except some four tattered leaves, was annihilated! He had left it out (too carelessly); it had been taken for wastepaper: and so five months of as tough labour as I could remember of, were as good as vanished, gone like a whiff of smoke.— There never in my life had come upon me any other accident of much moment; but this I could not but feel to be a sore one. The thing was lost, and perhaps worse; for I had not only forgotten all the structure of it, but the spirit it was written with was past; only the general impression seemed to remain, and the recollection that I was on the whole well satisfied with that, and could now hardly hope to equal it. Mill whom I had to comfort and speak peace to remained injudiciously enough till almost midnight, and my poor Dame and I had to sit talking of indifferent matters; and could not till then get our lament freely uttered. She was very good to me; and the thing did not beat us. I felt in general that I was as a little Schoolboy, who had laboriously written out his Copy as he could, and was shewing it not without satisfaction to the Master: but lo! the Master had suddenly torn it, saying: “No, boy, thou must go and write it better.” What could I do but sorrowing go and try to obey. That night was a hard one; something from time to time tying me tight as it were all round the region of the heart, and strange dreams haunting me: however, I was not without good thoughts too that came like healing life into me; and I got it somewhat reasonably crushed down, not abolished, yet subjected to me with the resolution and prophecy of abolishing. Next morning accordingly I wrote to Fraser (who had advertised the Book as “preparing for publication”) that it was all gone back; that he must not speak of it to any one (till it was made good again); finally that he must send me some better paper, and also a Biographie Universelle, for I was determined to risk ten pounds more upon it. Poor Fraser was very assiduous: I got Bookshelves put up (for the whole House was flowing with Books), where the Biographie (not Fraser's, however, who was countermanded, but Mill's), with much else stands all ready, much readier than before: and so, having first finished out the Piece I was actually upon, I began again at the beginning. Early the day after tomorrow (after a hard and quite novel kind of battle) I count on having the First Chapter on paper a second time, no worse than it was, tho' considerably different. The bitterness of the business is past therefore; and you must conceive me toiling along in that new way for many weeks to come. As for Mill I must yet tell you the best side of him. Next day after the accident he writes me a passionate Letter requesting with boundless earnestness to be allowed to make the loss good as far as money was concerned in it. I answered: Yes, since he so desired it; for in our circumstances it was not unreasonable: in about a week he accordingly transmits me a draft for £200; I had computed that my five month's housekeeping &c had cost me £100; which sum therefore and not two hundred was the one, I told him, I could take. He has been here since then; but has not sent the £100, tho' I suppose he will soon do it, and so the thing will end,—more handsomely than one could have expected. I ought to draw from it various practical “uses of improvement”6 (among others not to lend manuscripts again); and above all things try to do the work better than it was; in which case I shall never grudge the labour, but reckon it a goodhap.— It really seemed to me a Book of considerable significance; and not unlikely even to be of some interest at present: but that latter, and indeed all economical and other the like considerations had become profoundly indifferent to me; I felt that I was honestly writing down and delineating a World-Fact (which the Almighty had brought to pass in the world); that it was an honest work for me, and all men might do or say of it simply what seemed good to them.— Nay I have got back my spirits again (after this first Chapter), and hope I shall go on tolerably. I will struggle assiduously to be done with it by the time you are to be looked for (which meeting may God bring happily to pass); and in that case I will cheerfully throw the business down a while, and walk off with you to Scotland hoping to be ready for the next publishing season.— This is my ravelled concern, dear Jack; which you see is in the way to knit itself up again, before I am called to tell you of it. And now for something else. I was for writing to you of it next day after it happened: but Jane suggested it would only grieve you, till I could say it was in the way towards adjustment; which counsel I saw to be right. Let us hope assuredly that the whole will be for good.

I told you there had been a Letter from Dumfriesshire. Mrs Welsh writes to us oftener, with full news of everything (our Mother was at Templand, did I tell you?): but she7 is still in Edinburgh, tho' soon returning now. Alick on this occasion was the correspondent: I had written to him just three days before, so that his Letter would be put into the Post Office and mine taken out by the same messenger; I wrote again very soon after. He has actually done with Catlinns. It was let by auction on the day advertised; to somebody for £12 less than his rent: that somebody I suppose is glarring [wading in the mud] and ploughing over it (poor fellow) in these very days; and Alick marches at Whitsunday first. He wanted much to have counsel: I could give him little except in general; farming seemed to me also a thing he was probably as well done with; Annan and some kind of graindealing there looked the likeliest. It seems to me not improbable that he will try himself there: he was to see Ben Nelson8 about it, he said; his tone of temper was good; cheerful, and determined to have another fly at it. He will perhaps find himself much better situated in that way of life; there is better society to be had there; more of interest; a freer field in several respects. He seemed very grateful for your Letter; charged me to send you his thanks over and over again. I hope we shall see him in Summer, doing better.— Our good Mother added a little postscript; in the same meek cheery temper they are all in: Jean was to get her some ruled paper at Dumfries; with the aid of which she might really write a very reasonable Letter.— I get a daily Globe Newspaper from Mill (he leaves it in masses, every two or three days, at a shop in Knightsbridge): copies of this I circulate among them far and wide: one or two weekly to my Mother; who also pretty regularly gets the Examiner, furnished me by Hunt (whom for the rest I do not see once in the month), tho' I myself sometimes omit to send it. The aspect of Politics seems to me the wretchedest; and happily there are several people here who never open their mouths on that subject. I have sent a Newspaper or two to poor Johnston at Haddington; to Arbuckle, to Glen,9 &c &c. There is little other good in them: only we felt rather ashamed that Whiggism was all out a week before we knew it, down here in our village stilness!— Peel apparently will be out soon too:10 and then? Des Sottises [some stupidities]!

Your practice at Rome is literally of the profitableness that all good work is of: for this world, Nothing. Never mind, my boy; take more of it, if it offer; a nervous Dowager is one of God's creatures too; and worth relieving if one can do it. The shabbiness of taking a man's time and labour from him for nothing is great but I fear, not unexampled. These people in all ways are seeking another than wisdom, and will find it. As for your place with the Countess I very much incline to think with you that after September you should be ill to deal with as to any new engagement there. Subsistence for some years you have laid up: free toil, if it brought only a morsel of bread, were more blessed; and one thing is always true, there are more sick. Decide on nothing however; but keep yourself busy inquiring, preparing to decide. I believe Doctorship here to be at as miserable a pass as well could be: “Homoeopathy” the ready road to fortune in it; quackery as from old abounding. There are two grand Homoeopathists I find: Doctor Quin,11 and Doctor Bel'uomo (Beautiful Man!) an Italian.12 Mrs Buller has taken into it; finds the most astonishing relief &c &c: Austin has paid off Quin. I could interpret all Mrs Buller's wondrous cases-in-point: the old story of imagination and nerves, Fantasiestücke [pieces of fantasy]! Dow of Irongray13 worked a miracle even: it is the food of quacks.— This, however, I fancy is the thing to be striven against everywhere by the true man of every craft. I trust (if God will) we shall meet “before June be done”: I with my Volume finished, you with your Travel; and then we shall do our very best to decide on something wise. A journey to Scotland among the first things,—on foot!

There has no answer come from the Glasgow people: on this good ground, that they have none to send. They are a chimera, or nearly so. Weir (once of Edinburgh, now able Editor of the Glasgow Argus) was here lately, and I inquired about them: Collins the Chalmerian Bookseller14 and such like, with views of putting down the Voluntary Church Association, or some despicability of that kind; a Letter from me must have gone to their heart like a knife. The Government will perhaps one day need such a person; in which case I will actually try: Mill thought it not unreasonable the other night.15 But for the present I have work, work!— Our visitors and visitings are what I cannot give you account of this time: not that they are many; but that the sheet is so near full. One Taylor (Henry Taylor, who has written a Philip van Artevelde, a good man, whose laugh reminds me of poor Irving's) invited me to meet Southey some weeks ago. I went and met Southey. A man of clear brown complexion, large nose, no chin, or next to none; care-lined and thought-lined brow, vehement hazel eyes; huge mass of white hair surmounting it: a strait-laced, limited, well-instructed, well-conditioned, excessively sensitive even irritable-looking man. His irritability I think is his grand spiritual feature; as his grand bodily is perhaps leanness and long legs: a nervous female might shriek when he rises for the first time, and stretches to such unexpected length—like a lean pair of tongs! We parted good friends; and may meet again, or not meet, as Destiny orders. At the same house since that Jane and I went to meet Wordsworth.16 I did not expect much; but got mostly what I expected. The old man has a fine shrewdness and naturalness in his expression of face (a long Cumberland figure); one finds also a kind of sincerity in his speech: but for prolixity, thinness, endless dilution it excels all the other speech I had heard from mortal. A genuine man (which is much) but also essentially a small genuine man: nothing perhaps is sadder (of the glad kind) than the unbounded laudation of such a man; sad proof of the rarity of such. I fancy however he has fallen into the garrulity of age, and is not what he was: also that his environment (and rural Prophethood) has hurt him much. He seems impatient that even Shakspear should be admired: “so much out of my own pocket”! The shake of hand he gives you is feckless, egoistical; I rather fancy he loves nothing in the world so much as one could wish. When I compare that man with a great man,—alas, he is like dwindling into a contemptibility. Jean Paul (for example), neither was he great, could have worn him as a finger-ring. However, when “I go to Cumberland,” Wordsworth will still be a glad sight.— I have not been fortunate in my Pen tonight; indeed for the last page, I have been writing with the back of it. This and my speed will account for the confusion. Porridge has just come in. I will to bed without writing more; and finish tomorrow. Goodnight dear Brother! Ever yours!

Tuesday 3 o'clock.— My dear Jack, I have not gone out, being so busy with this first Chapter: congratulate me, I am done with it already! I will now walk with this up to Charing Cross after dinner; which will still do. Jane has been out all morning, and could not write a postscript: she is in now, and sends you her sisterly affection,—would like heartily, I do know, to read Manzoni, with you again.17 Since I took out this margin to write on it there has come a Letter from one John Bull (an Engraver you have heard me speak of;18 whom I met again six months ago in Cheapside) offering a large job of translation into German (some Book of Coast Scenery; monthly, with much Letter-press): would it had been the other way (for the payment is prompt), or that you had been within reach of it! I will write to Bull; but for you I fear it is out of the question.— Mill also has written this morng to say that he cannot think of so little as £100: we must abide by that nevertheless, I fancy.19— Did I ever tell you that young Dixon20 had gone home (from Woburn Buildings) to Annan again? He was led a most slavish life, and seemed wearied of it: I saw him once there; he came hither to take leave.— Ld Jeffrey, most likely, is in Town at present: he will probably call here, but not, surely, with much rapidity. He has my true wishes; and I (theoretically) have his: but we cannot help one another. Our Mother has never said anything of Teufelsdröckh; but I learn from Alick that Clow of Land is very fond of him! A certain Sir W. Molesworth (a Radical Utilitarian M.P.) also “sent for a copy.” Oh that I had more paper! But we shall meet, if Heaven please. Adieu! this is the end.

The Austins are about leaving this country to go and settle at Boulogne: it will be a kind of loss to us; for tho' the lady is a “river of talk” (intolerable to me oftenest), yet she is friendly and cheery.— We called for Miss Morris there lately: but she was absent; I think, at Chatham: we left cards.

Allan Cunningham's brother sometimes sits an evening with us: the New South Wales Cunningham; a sea doctor; a modest almost simple, intelligent man: he has seen much and can tell it you.21 Had you ever a “soft corn” (this is what Doctor Cunningham calls it)? A tight shoe (which I will rip tomorrow!) has given me one.

Will you and Dr Brunn walk to Pasquin (do actually) and make my compliments to him!22 Adieu dear Jack! finis here.

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