candlestick

January 1835-June 1836


The Collected Letters, Volume 8


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TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE; 30 April 1835; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18350430-TC-JAC-01; CL 8:100-106.


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE

Chelsea, London, 30th April, 1835—

My Dear Brother,

Your Letter1 came on Monday; right welcome as all your Letters are; and with the best news it could bring us: that you are well, and almost on your way homeward. Would you were but safe arrived! It is among the liveliest prayers I form at present; one with which more of my hopes lie connected than with any other. Let us trust that this blessing also will be vouchsafed us, by the kind Power to whom we owe many.— I would have answered you in time for Tuesday's post; had I not, calculating your probabilities of movement, judged that there was no haste; that, of course the newer your news at Bologna were the better they would suit you.

To begin as usual with Scotland. I had a Dumfries Courier today with the two strokes on it; I have heard from our Mother herself since I wrote to you; and have nothing that is not favourable to report. Jean too has sent me a Letter; later I think than my last to you. The chief article of tidings is that you have a new Nephew and Niece; belonging more immediately to Alick and Jamie; the Nephew is Jamie's: both the Mothers were well; the poor (νηπια τεηνα) “unspeaking infants” are to be named, or most probably are named, James and Margaret, in memory of whom you know.2 One generation passeth away, and another cometh!3 It is the Law of our Being here; and all men must obey it.— Our good Mother writes cheerfully as ever; has “nothing to complain of”; lives, I daresay, just now in one hope more than any other that of seeing us both beside her again once more, were it only for a time. Alick seems to have finished a bargain for some House at the Howes (beside Annan): no particulars are yet given; but I suppose there is some park or parks attached to the House; and that Alick means to stand on the outlook there, and see whether there is nothing in the Dealing way that he can profitably strike into. I mean to write to him soon, tho' he is in my debt; and expect to get more special intelligence. So far as will appear at this distance, there seemed nothing likelier among his capabilities at this time. We shall pray and even hope that it may be a favourable change for him; the beginning of a much more genial way of life. He has struggled as toughly and with as poor result, in his line, as many of us have in ours: a hard little button, that will not let himself be beaten; which indeed is properly the only victory one can gain in this world.— I had a Letter from Burnswark4 also; full of kindness, praises, friendliness: of the hope that we three were to wander one other day on the sides of that old Roman Hill, under bright weather. Poor Graham seems to have dark clouds lying in the distance; but he does not dwell on them: there is much in such a man; so full of brotherliness, of heart and health, and right temper towards all things.— We often hear from Mrs Welsh, who is most minute in sending us word, and even writes previously to Dumfries for Annandale news. Poor George Welsh (of Boreland, Jane's Uncle)5 is not expected to live many days: he has been wasting (with dyspepsia, and inflammatory tendencies and habits) these several years. Old Carlyle of Sandbed, I noticed in this day's Courier, is gone: aged 93. He was the oldest human figure of my world: our Father's first Father-in-law. I remember riding past his house (from Hoddam Hill) one dewy May night, ten years ago; and hearing the sound of his Evening Psalm ascend amid the whispers of the Brownmoor Wood,—towards Eternity.6 Man's Life is as a Shadow;7 but there is a Spirit in Man that dies not; also in what Man does, if he take heed to it.— And now I must take you Southward, as far as Cheyne Row here; and the desk I now write at.

You are very brotherly and considerate with your care about my health. I believe every word of the precepts you send: it is a melancholy truth that toil and effort in this task of mine often defeat their own object. There are days of the dreariest dogged wretchedness and ineffectual endeavour, when in four and twenty hours one does not accomplish the work of one. I do believe, it were better to give it up wholly; and go out, and run the country: however, I cannot hitherto at any time determine on that. It seems to me as if I had no chance in the race, except the tortoise's chance: stubborn perseverance, were it at the rate of an inch per day. My whole wishes are bent to be done with this re-writing; surely the most leaden, discouraging, all but intolerable task I ever had to do; in which there is this only that spirits me on: the feeling that I ought to do it, that I can do it, at least and lowest that I will. O were I thro' it! I fancy I should fly then, as on wings, thro' the free natural portion of my enterprise. Courage! I still hope to have it over, by the time you appoint for arriving; and so a great double happiness (negative and positive) shall fall to me at once. Now you fancy that I am working myself down: but I assure you, my health is not bad, nor worsening; I am yellow indeed and thin, and feel that a rest will be very welcome and beneficial; nevertheless I repeat, my health tho' changed, seems to me decidedly not worse than it was. I can walk farther than I used to do: my spirits if never high are in general quiet, contented even (zufrieden, aber mir ist nicht wohl dabey [Content, but I don't feel good about it]!): I have more and more a kind of hope that I shall get well again yet before my Life end. With health and peace for one year, it seems to me often as if I could write a better Book than any there has been in this Country for generations: if it be God's ordering, I shall get well; if not, I hope I shall work on indomitably as I am. Beautiful is that of brave old Voss, and often comes in my mind: “As the Earth, now in azure sunshine seen of all the stars, now in dark tempests hidden, holds on her journey round the sun”!8 Good also is this that you give me: Lass es um Dich wettern [Let it storm about you]. I really try to do so, and succeed.— I am pretty well on with my Third Chapter; and have been doing much better for the last ten days; both because the work is more towardly, and my wits are more about me. For three weeks previously I had a sad time of it: there came like a dark thick veil over my poor head, so that I could see nothing, but sat there piecing the incoherent that would not cohere; miserable enough! It was partly the spring weather too; for all the world had its influenza; my little Dame here has hardly done yet with the Cold she had. I refused to go out to any party, even to tea; struggled on, and am here, under better omens. Mill and I settled: he pleaded for the £200 or some intermediate sum; but I found we must stick by the rigorous calculation of it, and I took £100. Since then, I have seen almost rather less of Mill than before; nor am I sorry at it, till this work be done; there is an express agreement that we are not to mention it till then. He is a pure-minded clear man every way; but with the strangest, unluckiest Utilitarian husk round him, which he will never cast off: it strikes me very much how all these people look forever at some theory of a thing, never at any thing. Poor Mill's Platonica is, as you judge, little likely to help him: indeed all his friends are very anxious about it; I for my share can see no wholesomeness in the witchery of the woman; nothing but passionate revolt (against much that will not be revolted against), exaggerated apperçus [sic, insights], rather than calm thoughts; petulant sparkling, no wise shining: a bad connexion, consider it as one will! Mill has out No 1 of his “London Review,” and an Article of his own in it (against some Anti-utilitarian Cambridge Professor), which the Radicals exceedingly admire: it has precision, closeness, coldness,—barrenness. Barren, indeed, as Saha[ra] is the whole Review; as soft to lie down on, as green and productive, as the Pavement of Bond-S[treet] one's soul scunners [shudders] at the thought that this is for the present the truest thing going in Eng[land. I] believe I might have plenty of work (for a time) in this new Enterprise; but they shall not tempt me from the other duty. We shall be provided for, one way or other,—independently of the Devil. Indeed it often strikes me as strange what an “unspeakable composure” I have got into about Economics and money. It seems to me I should not mind a jot if hard had come to hard, and they had rouped me [sold me up] out of house and hold [refuge], and the very shirt off my back: I should say, Be it so; our course lies elsewhither then. Thou, my brave Doil, shalt share thy poor purse with me, if I need it: as yet I know no other mortal that shall. So forward, my Boy; let us “go with God”; towards what God has chosen us for! We have struggled on hitherto, without taking the Devil into partnership; the time that remains is short, the Eternity is long. My little Heldinn [heroic wife] is ready to share any fortune with me; we will fear nothing but falling into the hands of the Destroyer.—— I find I shall have no space to say a word about our Company-keeping and many etceteras this time. Be content; and hope that we shall soon have faculty to speak of it together. We have seen Mrs Somerville (an unblameable, unpraisable canny Scotch lady, of intellect enough to study Euclid, and not more than enough); Taylor (von Artevelde, a man who grows on me, slowly), Sandy Donaldson (from Haddington) &c &c: plenty of people, and really rather good people, beyond the average. The Austins are gone: to Hastings; thence to Boulogne: no mortal seems to remember that they ever existed here, tho' their door was like a winning-post on a race-ground—for (aimless) carriages, and carriage-ladies. DAS hole der Teufel [Let the devil take that]!—While I went with your last Epistle (mine I mean) to Charing Cross, I met Lord Jeffrey in Pall Mall; grey dusty, “just two hours in Town.” I saluted the little man and lord with real heartiness: he has come fiddling about us ever since till last Sunday, when he took leave for the North. He is dimmed and wizzened; a man grown old without the dignity of age, one pities and rather likes him. Valeat [Let him flourish]!— By the bye, your money never came, nor no hint of it yet. Did a Letter from the Lady to her Banker miscarry? Of the sum itself there can I suppose be no risk; yet I wish you had chanced to say something of it in your letter. Our good Mother has been waiting ever since your Letter came, to pay her visit to Jean when I should “remit the bill”: I wrote last week that she was to wait no longer.

Surely somehow this sheet has been wasted: it is so soon done; gone one knows not how. May it find you well in bright Lombardy, happy on your way hither. Whither shall I write next to you? At Paris I shall perhaps have some commissions. Do you go by Venice again; by Innsbrück? In Lombardy I know nothing to remind you of but Palladio's9 Buildings: they are in Padua, Verona, I suppose in Bologna, and worth asking after. It will be interesting enough to revisit your old München; it changed, and you still more! Remember me to Lichtenthaler;10 I hardly recollect any other. Will you go some evening to your old Coffee-house? Your description of it was the original of Teufel's zum Grünen Ganse [Green Goose].11 I will write no more tonight. A foolish scatterbrain German Bookseller came in after tea (to talk about an unfeasible project), and dispersed all my notions; in time, would have driven me mad. He speaks, rapidly, and in the way a man might run in a sack; such a futile chattering and chewing, and toiling, syringing out boundless ineffectual froth-jets would either make you kill him (figuratively speaking), or yourself die of laughter.— Tomorrow I hope Jane will add a Postscript; I fill the margins— Good night my dear Jack! If wishes can travel so far, you are well.

[JWC's postscript:]

Dearest John— Your letter not only raised our spirits at the time, but has kept them raised ever since—its good influence is traceable even in the diminished yellow of my Husbands face, and in the accelerated speed of his writing. Bless you for it and for the kind feelings which make you a Brother well worth having, a Man well worth loving. Surely we shall not quarrel any more after having ascertained in absence how well we like one another! Alas surely we shall!—for one of us at least is “only a plain human creature”12 liable to quarrel and to do every thing that is unwise— But we will do it as little as possible—and be good friends all the while at heart— The book is going to be a good book in spite of bad fortune—and what is lost is by no means to be looked upon as wasted—what he faithful did in it and also what he magnaimously [sic] endured remains for him and us—not to be annihilated [.] How we shall enjoy our visit to Scotland when the volume is redone! Shall we resume Ariosto where we left him? and the battle-dores are here—and more suitable ceilings! much is more suitable—Heaven send you safe!

The Noble Lady13 has taken up the thread of our old relation but it remains held only at one end—

[TC's postscript:]

Friday half past 2— Dear Jack, I have sat the whole morning scribbling, and made out almost nothing (that will stick): I now give it up; and will go with your Letter to the Post Office—as patient as I can— Whence will you write me next? Let me sit diligent here (judiciously so), and have “all by” when you come to me. O the confusion that is in this head of mine! But I will say no more of it.

Charles Buller has not got into Office in this late change: to the disappointment of his Mother, who I hear is vehement in her expression of it. He will have a chance some other day. I do not grow to like Charles any better: there seems to me great secret ambition in him, with loose unregulation every way nothing strong but his light indolence, his light good humour: Politics bode him perhaps no improvement.

Cunningham and Willis with their wives were here the other night. Willis has no Library work at present, the House is new building. Mary's eldest child has been unwell; Waugh attended it; recovering, or recovered. We have had the bitterest variable weather; till the day before yesterday there began a deluge of rain; and now the wind promises to quit the north,—to the benefit of us all.

Farewell my dear Brother! I finish here with prayer for you (which is for myself).— T.C.

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