January 1835-June 1836

The Collected Letters, Volume 8


TC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE; 4 June 1835; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18350604-TC-MAC-01; CL 8:128-130.


Chelsea, Thursday, 4th June, 1835.

My Dear Mother,

As I shall probably have a chance for a frank tonight, and am not likely to do much good at working for the present, I propose paying off some epistolary debts, and send you in the first place a little hint of our welfare, and way of procedure. Alick has written us a Letter,1 which came yesterday; assuring us of your continuance in moderate health, which was the best news we could get out of Scotland. They are all flitting and bestirring themselves, jumping hither and thither; it is now just about a year since we were at the same work: people have many fitches (as I once told Jemmy Bretton) “before they get to the crown-head”!2 Let us all be grateful that we have still some strength to carry us on, and are not deserted of Hope, and even of Guidance if we will ask it well.

Last time I wrote, you heard that I had laid by my work for two weeks: I have taken it out again since that, but have been making (at least so far as black on white goes) very small way in it. I have had such a long spell at the business, and then was so tumbled over head in that sorrowful loss of the Manuscript, I feel as if there were nothing more profitable for me than to rest a while, and gather new smeddum [spirit] for assaulting it again under better omens. Not much will be done, I think, till after I have seen you in Annandale. I have great doubts about many things connected with this Book of mine, and Books in general; for all is in the uttermost confusion in that line of business here: but, God be thanked, I have no doubts about my course of duty in the world; or that if I am driven back at one door, I must go on trying at another. There are some two or even three outlooks opening on me, unconnected with Books, about which I cannot write to you yet with any distinctness: one of these regards the business of National Education, which the Parliament is now busy upon, in which I mean to try all my strength to get something to do (for my conscience greatly approves of the work as useful); whether I shall succeed herein or not I cannot with the smallest accuracy guess as yet. Another outlook invites my consideration from America: I have another long Letter from Emerson, and plenty of Yankee good-wishes, and a project chalked out for passing a winter over the water, and lecturing there!3 Something or other we shall devise: in the mean time I let it all lie round me shaping itself; and shall probably have fixed on nothing till after we meet, and have a smoke together, and get the thing all summered and wintered talking together freely once more. It is an awful Distraction this huge Babylon of a City; and yet there are many kind persons and circumstances in it; and I do not doubt I have gained much instruction, correction and profit in it, during this twelvemonth; and behold still, thy servant is here,4 ready and disposed to do the best he can!

Mrs Austin, who went away some two months ago,5 writes to us yesterday in very bad spirits, that her Husband, poor man, is no better, is even sicker for the time. We are very sorry for her, very sorry for him,—who is one of the faithfullest men living, but driven almost desperate by the lying dishonest world he has had to live in. One should not be driven desperate (for this is the place of hope); yet a man may easily be excused sometimes for going that way.

A new young figure, and with him a new family of acquaintances have risen on us: the young man is very clever, and true and kind-hearted; his name is John Sterling: he has written a very superior Book (some years ago); and strangest of all, is a Clergyman of the English Church.6 His Mother7 and Jane are about “sweering [sic] an eternal friendship”: John himself sent me the other day three full sheets and a cover, of criticism on Teufelsdröckh; expressing amazement, admiration, horror—all in sufficient quantity. I really like the youth rather; and shall rejoice when he comes to London permanently (for as yet he resides in the country and only his people are here).

Mrs Montague made out her call to us some days ago: after waiting one complete year! Nothing can look more sorrowful to my mind than that really distinguished Lady now does: a woman with high aspirings and faculty, who built her house on the sand,8 and has now seen it tumble. The truth was not in her;9 and now in her old days she feels the curse that ever attends that. I have no wish to have any farther trade with her or hers, except in the way of quite distant civility. The Truthless are a class of creatures from whom no man can extract profit.

Tonight we are invited to see the great Agitator O'Connell!10 Unless it be wet, we mean to go: it is at Mrs Bullers; one of the meetings called a rout, or huge multitude of people all elbowing one another. You shall hear of it on the cover,11 dear Mother; for I hope to send you a few finishing words tomorrow. My blessings till then!