January 1835-June 1836

The Collected Letters, Volume 8


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE; 2 July 1835; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18350702-TC-JAC-01; CL 8:168-177.


Chelsea, 2nd July, 1835—

My Dear Brother,

We must not let this disappointment provoke us, or sit too heavy on us; yet surely it is hard enough to bear. All things had been so fitted and adjusted to meet your home-coming (which, however, I never dared to look upon as infallible); I was waiting daily with increased impatience to learn your safe arrival in Paris; when Jane brought in the Letter, I clutched as it as you may fancy, yet with a certain misgiving when I noticed that the postmark was not French; and then—what an instantaneous overturn, extending too thro' Annandale and Nithsdale, and making so many hearts sad! We cannot help it, Boy; we must submit to it, and try to make a new arrangement out of it. One's first thought was a kind of anger in the midst of sorrow; but that, as one looks at it, gives place to sympathy, to real pity. Did you happen to understand that Lord Clare had arrived here home from Bombay? Our theory is that news of this had met your Lady on the road, and given her pause. In which case, what is our sorrow to hers which causes ours! Life's fairest fruit become a poison; one of the lofty of the world thrust down (by unknown fatality) lower than the low; doomed to banishment, as inexorable, far painfuller than that of Botany Bay! Let us pity the heart that suffers, whether it beat under silk or under sackcloth.— However, the practical inference, if this theory is just, seems now to be that Lady Clare will not come to England this year; that she will spend the summer at Geneva, and then for winter turn southwards again. You, close at hand, and with this Bombay fact now before you, will be able to judge accurately. It reduces our problem to a much simpler shape: knowing what others will do, you have now to decide what you will do. I approve much, dear Jack, of the way in which you ask advice from me; to assist you on resolving for yourself. What is clear to me I will now say. In the first place, then, I am quite decided for your not going back to Rome on the old terms: if £500 will tempt you to go back with any cheerfulness, demand at once to have that sum; or else liberty to practice with your old salary. Of these two I think her Ladyship would at once prefer the former: £500 and another year of exile, these are the things you have to balance against each other. And here I confess myself to be quite at a loss. There is no doubt but another £500 would be extremely valuable; yet there are other things valuable too; neither is money, except as a mean not an end, the thing you want. I myself, who stand at this hour rubbing shoulders, as it were, with the gaunt skeleton Poverty, in all its ugliness, feel well that money, except as it might get the tools for working, would in no wise remedy my sufferings; that if a beneficent genius were this day to settle an independency on me, it were in itself as mere nothing. Now is not this, and perhaps more emphatically[,] just your feeling? I see your kind brotherly purpose, my poor Boy, in inviting me to Rome: you think the additional £200 would support me there; that I should be rested, improved; that we should be company to one another, and the certainty of all this would make another Roman season tolerable. It is very kind, my dear Jack, but on practical survey of the matter, one feels in a moment that it will not do. Here, so long as I can hold out, is the place for me; I must learn here to live; or renounce the hope of ever doing it in these climates or under any known conditions. I could not rest in Rome: alas, what I want and have always wanted is not rest but work. Therefore this part of the £500 scheme falls away; remains only as a blessed remembrance to me that I have a Brother with brotherlike heart. And now can you go for the money by itself? Or even if the liberty of practice were conceded you, what outlook is there of your finding practice? This you only can judge. It seems to me, if you had a prospect of realizing something like £500 with practice; I mean, part of it by practice, you ought to be strongly tempted to go: yet here too I am all in twilight, and could sanction any decision you might come to. For I discern very well both that Rome with nothing to do there is a most unsatisfying arrangement for you, and also a losing as well as sorrowful one. You lose another of your best years: your time goes; and what is even more, your spirit and fund of hope. There is not wholesomeness in that Cathedral-mood1 which is so natural to you there: I cannot disapprove of it (far from that), for it is your nearest possible approach to what is best and manliest; but I do regret the circumstances that render it inevitable. There is a considerable weight in this item. It is strange how unfit one grows (towards forty) for forming new friendships, new relations; almost incapable of it. Your meditative devout temper will increase in an inactive Roman life; but that is not the thing in need of increase with you.— On the other hand, what can I offer you in London? Let me be as candid as possible; neither aggravating nor extenuating. There is first, what you well know, the supreme dominion of quackery and triviality, in your profession as in all, perhaps even more in yours than in several. Ask and consider as I may, I can yet see no daylight thro' the enemies to medical success here. Very sagacious people tell you it is all chance. Yet men do live by medicine: I see a scrubby commonplace individual dashing about these very streets with gig and red collared boy; apparently full of business. Willis2 tells me he was evidently getting into work; simply by announcing himself on his door-plate, telling his butcher, baker &c that he was ready to give aid gratis to any poor person that needed it. Willis is but a trivial limited man, yet he is no quack: I find he still makes a handsome peculium annually by some kind of subterranean medical Literature; I mean redacting of Treatises, for ambitious monied Doctors, translating &c &c: all (what Glen3 would call) sotto-voce [quietly], he himself not discerned in the business. In short employment does exist; and one infers and firmly believes that the brave man with patient open heart (Geradheit, Urtheil und Verträglichkeit [uprightness, judgment, and sociability]) must and will find it, and even be kept alive in return for doing it. Now in the midst of this mad quack-vortex, let me tell you also there is not wanting a certain most feeble yet genuine element of worth; better perhaps after all than is going elsewhere. We here, in our obstruction, could bring you into a small circle, where you would ere long feel yourself really heimlich:4 good people, of sense, of principle, of perfect courtesy, one or two of them rich people; but whether it would turn to medical account any great way one might still ask. I think they would mostly like you; and I say, quite soberly, it is the best “society” (in all senses of that word) we ever fell in with anywhere. Farther take this economical item with you: That living with the rigorous thrift which we exercise, yet which does not seem to affect our reception and equal acceptation in the smallest, you might clap your Doctor's Plate on this door, and live with us, looking round you on all sides, a twelve-month for the sum of £100. This is Jane's calculation too; and includes clothes for yourself, and every item, calculated really on a “lucky” scale. This is a very good house; in a neighborhood of respectability, exactly two miles from Hyde Park Corner, and directly on one of the fashionable streams of West End Carriages; the King's Road (from Sloane Street, Belgrave & Eaton Squares &c) leading close by us. Nay we will shift, Jane says, if you found that essential for a trial. Add only that our own resources at this time are just adequate for keeping us one other year in London; and that we are minded to see the thing out in this place before trying another. You see therefore how it stands and fits on that side: our resources you, and that, by God's great goodness, we have all the heart to join them brotherly into union, and front the bad world together not divided. I can advise you no farther, my dear Brother; except, what I trust is superfluous, to give way to no fear, nor other deranging influence, but decide freely, and in a way that will bear acting on. And so wishing you God's blessing to guide your judgement (for surely there is an unseen blessing and guidance, if one seek it well), we wait, with deep interest, what you will determine. It may be the next Letter will bring it; and may be it will not: do not hurry yourself, or shake the fruit till it is ripe.

As for our own plans they are all altered too by your Letter; and even in some degree re-made. Jane decided at once that waiting till Harvest for her journey (as her Mother is sitting in hourly expectancy) would answer ill, or worse than something else would: so, her mother being almost all she had to see in Scotland, a Letter is already under way calling on Mrs Welsh to set off and come hither; Jane determining to stay where she is for this year. Mrs Welsh, I rather imagine, will come: then you and I can go to Scotland, at what season soever you are ready. I also wrote to our Mother yesterday, along with your Letter; smoothing the disappointment for her; preparing her even for the possibility of your not getting home this year at all. Poor Mother! I was sorriest for her of us all; but I know she will adjust herself too; and as I said, our meeting will be all the gladder when it does come.— With regard to myself, you would see by the Paris Letter, how I sat in perfect sluggishness; putting all off till your arrival; a state which was daily growing more irksome to me. I have decided on falling instantly to work again, with vigour. If I can write that Revolution Volume (the saddest affair I ever had to manage), I will do it. The first wish of my heart is that it were done, in almost any way: weary, most weary am I of it; I will either write it, or burn it, or—. One thing that will gratify you much is the perceptible increase of health this otherwise so scandalous Faullenzen [sic: idling] has given me. I am also farther than ever from “tining [losing] heart.” Nothing definite yet turns up for my future life; yet several things turn more decisively down (which also is something); among others Literature: I feel well that it is a thing I shall never live by here; moreover that there are many things besides it in God's Universe. The National Education affair, as I probably told you, is off for this season; but all believe, it will and must come on before long: neither am I without a real hope of getting something to do there. Of a kind that would please me much! Then, as a last resource, in the dim background, rises America, rise the kindest invitations thence: I really could go (were all else done), and open my mouth in Boston to that strange audience, with considerable audacity; perhaps it were the making of me to learn to speak. Why then should one complain; with prospects, not without present work? I really in my sane moods feel no kind of tendency to whimper or even to gloom: God's world, “ruled over” by the Prince of the Power of the Air,5 is round me; and I have taken my side in it, and know what I mean as well as the Prince knows. Fancy me as working, and not unhappy, till I hear from you.— I have read a considerable number of foolish Books, also somewhat of Dante which I like much, and find not so hard as might have been; I see people, all kinds of sincere people are welcome to me: I was trimming up the garden, with hoe and shears (that it might be smart for your arrival!) when Jane brought me in (or rather out) the Munich Letter. Last night we had a party! One of the smallest of parties: A Miss and Mr Wilson to meet John Mill. It went off with effect, Jane says; as another (or two) of the kind we had has done. They are easy, cheap; cost one cup of tea, and the lighting of the sinumbra lamp. This Miss Wilson is perhaps our cleverest woman; nowise a “distinguished female”; but a really effectual woman; verging very gracefully towards old-maidhood: better considerably than Mrs Somerville, whom also we can do a little with. A certain Irish Mr Darley I spoke of has been back here, and confirms our good opinion of him: the elder Sterlings are running about us continually,—without offence, or even with help and an honest courtesy. This is the course we go; from the outline you can construe it and complete it.— There has been no direct word from Annandale since I wrote, only a letter from Mrs Welsh, and the weekly Newspaper-emblem that all is tolerably well. “Richie Irving”6 (do you remember him at Annan?) is deceased; also “Bob Robinson,” so long a fixture at “the Buck.”7 Not a word of Glen or of his Brother; of Waugh, or of either of the Nelsons—except that Grahame once mentioned Ben some two months ago, as well, and well affected towards us. I will send Arbuckle notice not to wait for us, if he have not already ceased waiting.

We have not seen Miss Morris again, but meant to do it yesterday; and now I am to go by myself today, the instant I am [at] the bottom of this page: Jane has a kind of headache and dare not venture out in the heat but I am to try if I can make some arrangement for their meeting some day in the evening.— The d'Eichthal Letter came by the “Threepenny” that very hour your fuller Munich one came: it was inclosed in an autograph from the Youth himself, in tolerable English, announcing with regret &c that he was just setting off for Paris, but would be back in two months.8 It had no date; so the trace of him had quite vanished. We shall indubitably receive him with our best welcome, and might perhaps assist him a little. Very natural those sad Munich impressions of yours! All waxes old, as doth a garment:9 but behind TIME with its mutability and mortality does there not lie something? If not (says Paul), we were of all men the miserablest.10 The notice of good Vogelsang11 was welcome to me, tho' I knew him only as a shadow, imaging faithfulness and brotherly practical love and help. Krankhafte Dunkelheit [morbid darkness] was of all words the very word for Coleridge: I have amused several with it, to whom also it is treffend [pertinent]. Mysticism is krankhaft [morbid] always; from Görves12 I guess you got little. Poor Lichtenthaler!13 yet he stands out; grey, worn not vanquished. Very strange to alight on the City, which you once knew,14 which you had forgotten, which has nevertheless been living on apart from you: one feels as if it had suddenly begun to exist again; and it is such a changed existence. I know that humour,—as of a révenant [sic]!— Tomorrow is postday. Adieu today dear Brother! Affectionate— T. Carlyle.

[JWC's postscript:]

My dear John— All things seem to go awry with us at present but surely surely times will mend. Even I who am apt to be a Prophet of evil, more than is useful for me never once dreamt of disappointment in the matter of your coming home. But what can we do but be patient, and try to keep hope alive in our hearts in spite of all discouragements,— What you will determine on further is now the question with which we shall anxiously occupy ourselves—for me I dare not give you any advice, if you were disposed to listen to it—this only I feel sure of like the rest of us that you ought not most decidedly to go back on the present footing—that if you are to commence practice anywhere here is as likely a place as any other—and that the present time is fitter than any other—unless some very distinct advantage offers itself for delay.

One thing more—I yesterday got the promise of one patient for you15—and on all days of the year I can assure you of my sisterly love—Decide then with your own better light and let us proceed to act—bless you—


[TC's postscript:]

You will see Sterling's (projected) duel with Roebuck in the Times.16—I find I could get employment and, nay, writing there; but I will have no trade with that. Old S. amuses me a little; has eyes, has had them on men and men's ways many years now: a trenchant, clean-washed military old gentleman, with a tendency to pot-belly. Roebuck seems to be becoming a kind of English Marat. He has not the stuff of Marat; is more like some poor acidulent cold-implacable Robespierre.

Cooke (from Norwich,17 do you remember him) has quitted the Museum, threatens to set up as Literateur, Compiler, Annotator &c &c: he is grown dirty to a pitch, is longwinded, commonplace; comes hither happily not above once in the 3 months; then we give him tea.

Enough dear John! I here do say finis, and leave you with my brotherly prayers! Good be with you and not Evil!


Buller (who also edits the Globe Newspaper, or writes daily in it) is “coming out” among the Radicals. He and I, except in a tête à tête which happens rarely, get but little good of each other. He has a straggling indefinite wish to shine; becomes argumentative, becomes extinguishable: I go very seldom, tho' they are always extremely kind to me. Old Buller18 is here sometimes, plays a game at Chess with Jane: he is one of the best men of his kind now living. What Charles will grow to is still undecided; possibly something very considerable, possibly a failure à la Sheridan,19 or so; hardly in any case an earnest character, successful as a man. But he is very loveable; and spontaneous for most part: a good creature.

Why should I blot your page [preceding 4 paragraphs are written between the lines, with the sheet reversed] with such stuff as this? Let me end here.— I wrote to Alick by our Mother's frank; an encouraging word: I had heard nothing from him or of him since I wrote before. I spoke of Longdike Farm (to let); but knew not whether there was any feasability in it.

Miss Morris was unfortunately not in yesterday: I left a card for her and a kind message. Jane and she must “exchange threepennies;” that is to say Miss M. must be invited hither for a day: she is a good girl tho' schüchtern [shy].

Jane's dull headache continues; or she would have written better. I have a great disposition this morning (Friday, the date of all these margins) to say, Throw up that melancholic business, and come! But I dare not say it, and do not. Jane is already scheming out “what rooms” are to be yours, &c &c; and getting it all concocted and dished. The £100 is even a too liberal calculation; by rigour of thrift £50 might almost do. You have a home always, while a Brother has one: understand this without restriction. I fancy Lady Clare will offer you the £500; then will come the weighing! I suppose farther her Ladyship does not care one straw now or henceforth about your interests? Yet if a man can alleviate human pain, he is master of a godlike secret, which in all lands of the Earth will make men care for him. Courage Boy!

It seems to me, the reign of Quackery is, in some departments, past its height perhaps; and there has begun to be a reaction even here. Several persons are deeply sensible of the misery, and silently wishing (preparing, if they saw how) to resist it.— How much money could you have in coming home just now? near £500?—

I met Burgess20 your old Episcopal of Rome the other night at George Rennie's. A mixture of the puddinghead and featherhead; an absurd individual,—with excellent nervous system.

I will write to our Mother again, probably before we hear from you.— You will have time to take up the matter in all lights, in all humours, and to find out the truth of it. God bless you, dear Brother, and guide you in this as in all things!— And now for a little work myself! Let us all work, and hope. A Dieu!

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