January 1835-June 1836

The Collected Letters, Volume 8


TC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE; 19 July 1835; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18350719-TC-MAC-01; CL 8:177-182.


Chelsea, London, 19th July, 1835—

My Dear Mother,

As the last Letter must have brought you little but unpleasant news, I had it in contemplation, of late days, to write to you again, that if my news were not of the best, they might be the more frequent; for I know well it makes you happier to hear from me when my news are not positively bad. Luckily yesterday there came this Letter from our Doctor;1 which will make my sheet better worth its carriage. Jane is gone out to “a music Party” with the Sterlings (whom I think I mentioned to you; very kind people, who come out to us often of late): she will not be home till late; I have sent the woman to bed, and have the house to myself. I thought once of getting on a little with my Book-writing (on your old principle, which I always remember, “that it will not loup in again”);2 but a better thought suggests itself that I shall do more good writing for Scotsbrig than for the world at this late hour; the rather, as I did my bit of task today, in some manner, and have little force in me to resume it. You shall have therefore what is going; till “the Wife” come home, and send me to sleep.— I regret greatly that my Letters to you have not been so deliberate, radical and complete as they should have been: but you will fancy all manner of excuses for me; which indeed I am not without right to; such “driving from post to pillar,”3 and unsatisfactory hoping and being disappointed, working and being idle, have I had for a good while now. The Burning of that Manuscript has proved hitherto about the very ugliest job I ever had to deal with, in innocency: but I shall get thro' it too, and without doubt (if I be wise) it will prove for good, and not evil. I am at work again, as you will guess; and more at ease with myself.4

Jack has hardly much news from Munich, except the assurance that he is well and thinking of us; which is always welcome intelligence. I had written to him, for Geneva, about the very time he wrote this; probably he may be there by this time, and have got it: but their movements seem uncertain for these last weeks. I have little doubt, his poor Countess is mainly kept from England by her Husband's sudden return; tho' Jack, till he get my Geneva Letter, may be quite ignorant of such a fact. She is really to be pitied, tho' she disarranges us all: if our regret at the postponement of a brother's return be naturally great at the moment, what must hers be to see herself (by some mysterious reason, which she reckons binding) shut out altogether from return, from all her friends, for a time she cannot fix! Jack says, he has “made up his mind” what to do, in either case, let her return to Rome, or come hither. I wish he had told us what his mind was, that he had made up; for there is no fixed light that I can get on it from this Letter or any other. I suppose it may be that he will demand £500 from her, if she be for Rome again; or perhaps liberty to practice which latter I fancy she might make most difficulty about. It is needless to conjecture what he will do or she: my guess rather is that he will come home and let it go its way, he taking his. In the last Letter, we (Jane and I conjointly) after clearly advising him not to go under £500, explained to him how he might take up house with us here, set his Doctor's-Plate on the door, and try his hand. It will cost a very small sum of money; we have houseroom enough, we have some friends: Jane even wrote to him that she had “got him one patient bespoken,” which was a fact (Mrs Sterling being the one). I am not sure but it were literally the best thing he could do. However, after explaining it all with the best accuracy I was capable of, I gave no advice, but left it to his own determination, praying very heartily that that might be guided by a Higher Direction. So we will leave it there; till a few weeks unfold the mystery. You can look at the view of Munich Town on the top of his sheet (a very good device that, creditable to the Paper-maker); and enjoy the innocent record of what he is doing and enjoying there; or rather was, for, likely, it is over now.

Before I forget, let me tell you about that money, which he wants sent to you. It will be too late the first Wednesday; but on Wednesday next after that, which I think is the 29th day of the month, you will find it waiting for you. Ask for “one hundred and forty pounds” payable to yourself “Mrs Margaret Carlyle.” James Aitken will go with you, and manage it exactly as the last was done: enter it on their receipt-books in the name of Dr Carlyle Rome, with interest payable to you. James can clap a “right” somewhere on the next Newspaper, and I shall be satisfied. The interest will “keep you in tobacco”; which is better than doing nothing at all here.

I fancy you may possibly be up in that side of the Country then, at any rate. Mrs Welsh informs us she has sent for you to Templand, which I hope you resolved to go and visit again. She was for you “a couple of weeks” with her; but that can be as the spirit moves yourself and her when there. At all events, however, I hope you will go. She is to come up hither, and will bring us news of you. Tell her if she still hesitate, that she must come; there is no other resource for it. Jane is quite off the thought of coming this year; and as Mrs Welsh proposes visiting London sometime at any rate, there is surely no time so suitable as this. She must bundle, therefore, and get under way.

How long is it, dear Mother, since I now had a scrape of a pen from you? Not one of them has written to me; were it not for the two scratches of Jean's hand weekly, I could not know what evil might not have befallen one or all of you. I will not blame you; for I know it is the ability not the will that fails: nevertheless do set about it, with your own hand, you there; it is only difficult not impossible. I want greatly to know how you get on in your two Scotsbrig Rooms; how your health is; what you are employed with,—whether my winter coat is spun; and a thousand things. You must really write.— M'Diarmid says there is very bad hay-weather;5 so I must imagine James and men weltering occasionally, not in the best humour, among wet swathes. Let him be patient and canny; it might have been worse.— I am very anxious about Alick, to learn how he fare at Annan; what his outlooks are there. Tell him, in my name, to let nothing dishearten him, tho' many things combine against him. It is a very truth that Time and Chance do happen to all men;6 lucky Chance, as well as unlucky. The brave “little stool”7 shall not be beaten: he has a heart and hands, and the world is wide. Jack, I find, dislikes Cattle-dealing too; but agrees to the plain fact that even it is better than idleness. Like all earthly employments, it may be pursued in two ways, wisely and in the spirit of truth and soberness, or foolishly and with the fruits of folly. Give my kind brotherly love to Alick and his household; and bid him write by his earliest leisure.— I get no newspapers now; so you must make my explanation to all I was wont to visit in that way. Except for that use I hardly regret the want of Globes. They were very uninteresting to me; wearisome with their endless jargoning and “threshing of the straw”: except when rather idle, I did not read much of them. Mill is not to be back for some four weeks yet. His Review is going on; but rather languidly I think: it is but a languid concern in itself; dull angry radical men most of them, not worth naming where men were. Mill does his own best, and is the main stay of it. I have written nothing yet, and shall be in no great hurry till I see farther.

You have heard that I am working again. I prosper considerably better than formerly; and see the weary day'rk [day's work] growing gradually a little less. By Heaven's favour, I shall be thro' it; and surely not forget it for a long while! Nay, if I can have it done, as I first proposed, before coming off to Scotland, that will really be far better. I go jogging on, at any rate, according to ability; and no man should ask more of me.— My health is decidedly better than it then was. Indeed, this Summer, which has been so unthrifty for your fields, has answered me and our streets much better than last did: there is always wind blowing, breath to be had; the pavements seldom get burning hot; one can quite readily endure it. The summer has been changeable; but we have evidently a third less of rainy weather than you. Sometimes I do not go out at all till the evening; and then a long roam over “the Parks”; a beautiful region, one of the main “temporal blessings” of these parts. Hyde Park itself is a fine expanse of smooth sward, with noble clumps of oaks and other towering wood; I should think nearly three times as big as all Scotsbrig farm. You can think what a comfort that is, close upon the dusty streets. Wellington's House is at the Corner of it, two miles from this. We went into it (having got an “order,” by favour of the Sterlings) to see the furnishing out of the Tables for his grand Waterloo Dinner, which he gives yearly: it was the richest thing to be seen anywhere; more gold-plate, vases and splendours than I shall ever have occasion for.8 The Duke himself was visible for a moment; a tough-looking old steel-grey figure; really “one of the tightest old quarry-boys in the whole Howerigg.”9 Since that, I saw a Grand Review in Hyde Park, where the veteran was again.10 The people ran round him (when it was all done) huzzaing; at which he seemed to me not unlike greeting [weeping]; he lifted his hand refusingly from time to time; was chewing with his toothless lips; nostrils inflated, colour going and coming: I felt kindly drawn towards the old man. He is honest I do think, in his fashion; he had fought his way round half the terrestrial Globe, and was got that length; and at no great distance (from him and me) lay—Eternity too!— The old King11 came driving to the ground, near where I was standing: he was in regimentals with a most copious plume of feathers, so that while he sat all shrunk together in the open Carriage, you saw little else but a lock [lot] of feathers, and might have taken our Defender of the Faith for some singular species of Clocker [brood hen] coming thither. On dismounting, he shewed an innocent respectable old face; straddled out his legs greatly (which seemed weak), rested on his heels, stiddering[supporting] himself, and looked round with much simplicity what they wanted next with him. The Review itself was a wheeling and marching of foot and horse, several thousands; a flaring and a blaring from trumpet and drum, with artillery-vollies, sham-charges, and then a continued explosion of musketry and cannon from the whole posse of them, like a long explosion of Mount AEtna: all very grand.

And so enough of clatter! Jane should be here now very soon, or should already have been here: at all events I am tired. I declare there she is! Exactly at the right moment! down to open!— (The Sterlings sent their coach, and I heard wheels.)

20th July.— My Dear Mother,—there is little to be added today, after the copious details of last night, cut short in that way, in the nick of time. I meant to write a fraction of a Note to Jean at Dumfries: tell her so, and to take the will for the deed. I cannot do it today; my work is all lying about me, not progressing in the best way, and I must go out with this to have it franked, and also for the sake of a walk. Tell her farther that I know not whether she is in my debt or I in hers; but I desire her to write to me, and soon. Remember us kindly to Mary; say that I hope to breakfast with her yet this year, and eat of her banna' [bannock]. What is Jenny doing? Is she at Dumfries?— Have you ever been at the Sea-bathing yet? You are more convenient now than ever; I am persuaded, it will do you good.— If you see Grahame tell him that I meditate writing, and regret that writing is still the only way of communicating between us.— Now write, dear Mother! Take care of yourself; keep up your heart, and I will not tine [lose] mine. God be with you, my dear Mother!— Jane sends her loving regards to all of you. I am Ever

Your affectionate /

T. Carlyle.