January 1835-June 1836

The Collected Letters, Volume 8


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE; 10 August 1835; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18350810-TC-JAC-01; CL 8:182-190.


Chelsea, 10th August, 1835—

My Dear Brother,

Your Letter,1 as you anticipated, has come precisely on the Monday; not long after noon. I fling aside my papers, take out this sheet (which happens to be the last) and will answer you on the instant. The French Post departs now daily; I will up to Charing Cross this evening; and shall hope to be still in time. Would also that it were the last foreign Letter I had to write to you: the prelude of home speech!

The news you send us are as satisfactory as we could hope. Your resolution is taken; wisely, as I think; other persons, and other things, will resolve themselves as they can. My prediction again begins to be that your next route will be homewards. Heaven send it, safe and soon! It is quite right what you determine about going idle. Nothing can reward a man for doing nothing! The significance of life is a doing something. One gets food and lodging, and is found living this way or that, with what Thatkraft [energy] one has realised, with what deeds one has done therewith. I feel more and more of a settled humour in that particular. Much I can even thank that it has been so kind as grow the worst possible; it will take its way, and I shall know what is mine. There seems to me not a “chance,”2 but a perennial behest and invitation for such workman as you, in this place: if the place do little for you, you shall do much for the place. Men are sick and distracted, bewildered, bequacked, bedevilled: come and help them if you can! All men's works are as nothing (the very Iliad and Gospel of Saint Matthew will one day not be); and yet, in all true work, there is such an everlasting something. Let the vanity be killed out of us, were it with whatever pain; let us go on working, in patience, in the name of God.— These things we shall yet peaceably speak of and do: if it be God's will.

We had a Letter from Jean, not long ago; and more lately one from Mrs Welsh.3 Jean writes in the most sensible, practical manner; giving good account of everything: she is well, and they are all going on quite tolerably well. Alick she sees almost weekly; he does not like cattle-dealing, and she is not sorry that it has hitherto been unproductive for him. He had been over at some Cumberland Fair, and seen our Brother John,4 whose family and self seemed to be thriving. Mary was well, and her husband (with two horses) got ample work. Jamie sat at Scotsbrig, calling his first-born “a squealing vermin,” yet much delighted to see it. Jenny and our Mother were at Dumfries at the moment; on their way to Templand, on Mrs Welsh's pressing invitation: our Mother fully as well as usual (she has now got the £140, and put it in the Bank, according to rule; tho' she had not then).— Mrs Welsh's Letter continued the history for another week: there had been such driving in Cuddy-Carts [donkey-carts], administering of blue pills with the best effect (on Jenny), visitings to Mrs Glendinning;5 good looks, expressions of “wonder at being so happy,” then farings off in the Glendinning Coach (free of cost,—in money, or to the farers),—as really were pleasant to hear of. I think all that we love are very tolerably well.— Lastly Mrs Welsh, disappointed of seeing Jane, is actually coming off hither; by the Edinburgh Steamboat: I hope you will meet her here, you well, her well. There will be beds for all,—or we can even swing in hammocks: had we but met!

So is it about Dumfriesshire. As for Chelsea and London, you already guess the main part of the tidings. Since the day your Letter last but one came, I have sat by this desk (with a holiday on ending a Chapter, or so); struggling at that unspeakable Task. I trust, I shall never in Time have such another. Occasionally it has been disagreeable beyond speech. The best of it is, however, that except one (longish) chapter, and some two days of another, it is done! The thing is worse, not very much worse, than it was; but anyway it will stand again on paper, and I shall crow day; relieved from the unspeakablest load. At the time of your return to us (would we saw that!) I hope to have finished; to be ready to rejoice in all points! There is then a period of recreation and vacation; afterwards, a steady spell (of work that I know the nature of); and so the Book is off my hands—and on the hands of whosoever has business with it. Sometimes I think it possible the world may take notice of the Book; sometimes no notice: either way, my contentment is great, had I it but done. Literature, after that, must go its way for a while: I, expecting simple Nothing of it, shall not be disappointed. Hoffentlich[Hopefully] there are other ways of living; other way of dying there at lowest is. Es geh wie es gehen will [Go it as it may]!

One day about three weeks ago, walking in the Park (Jane and I), there came a stoory [dusty] withered-looking man up to us: he was David Aitken, the Reverend of Minto.6 Some Cambridge “Installation” or such like being toward, he had started off; then lengthened his route so far. Stoory was poor David; reisted [dusty] in body and in mind. He came down another day, and sat. Bad work in Scotland;7 Highflyers8 triumphing, all manner of seditious “voluntary-Church” people9 janging and jargonning. To the benefit of SALT-HOUND mainly!10 Poor Paterson (do you remember him? Of the Prize-Essay) is dead;11 rather miserably, at Falkirk: he overworked himself; alternated between fits of fierce exertion, and black despondency, not unattended with killing doubts about his Creed itself: it is a natural, but still a most mournful story. There is not perhaps so pure and clear a little creature left in that Establishment,—the course of which seems fast bending downwards. David walked with me to take a glance at our Hospital (built by Wren; handsome, tho' of red bricks);12 then went on his way.

I had a Letter from Boston in America, with the signature “George Ripley”; full of the most enthusiastic estimation; really a good feeling ill-expressed, struggling for expression: Teufelk he calls “a crying out of the heart and the flesh for the living God”; one of the chief signs of the Era, &c &c; and withal bids me by the name of Brother, go on in God's name, and falter for no man. Ripley seems to be a Clergyman of some Church (I think Emerson mentioned him to me): his Letter gave me no comfort at the time, it seemed so overdone; but it does now occasionally some, when I think of it.13 There was a pamphlet (of his writing) sent too:14 but it has not come to hand; W. Hamilton is getting it for me, from “the St Katherine Docks” and Packet ships there—I have sent my other Americans, Germans, &c almost all on their travels: your Elliot15 never came or sent sign.— We had a visit from the good Mr Dunn (Irish Clergyman, Nolo-Episcopari, whom I spoke of): you are pretty sure to like him, and he you. John Sterling has taken a house in Bayswater; is to be here very soon. That also, I imagine, is a future friend for you: there never came athwart me a man of a finer, open guileless, all-hoping, lymphatic-sanguineous temper; one fears only that his Church-profession may prove questionable in these times; that his very life (he so headlong, excitable, his element so confused) may not hold out with him.— Mill has been on the Rhin[e] as I said; probably we may see him back one of these very days. C. Buller has gone to the Country (“on circuit”); Mrs B. looks but feeble, and lives amid nothing but unwholesome clangour, of O'Connellism and so forth; has dismissed homoepathy; consents to be sick, on common medicine. The Austins were here; but are gone: to Boulogne now; where if you waited you might call for them. Mrs A. is a really good woman; nearly ruined by being “a distinguished female.” Henry Taylor we still see occasionally; a wholesome Northman, full of stubborn English stuff, of the slow, quiet, almost dull sort, yet which is not dull. I read his “Poem”;16 feeling that the man, tho' he could [write] no poem, would not have written Nothing: as it proved. Alan Cunningham has not come across me for [some] weeks, but is well: his Brother the Doctor17 was with us the other night (the Sterlings, who came also, adm[ired] his talent pour le silence [talent for silence]); a simple quiet man; Nithsdale mainly tho' he has been four times round the world. Hunt sits near us, radiating good wishes; seldom comes, for reasons known to himself. He is one of the cleverest men I ever spoke with: but unfortunately Cockney-bred; let him gehen in seiner Stelle [go in his place].— Here is a rap at the door! I suppose, I must leave you.— It was only worthy Mr Dunn and his wife come to ask us to Tea on Friday night: Jane was out;—and they went in a minute. I finish my pellmell rubbish-cart of news, by telling you more specially whither Jane is gone. To Marlborough Street, to the Bolognese Contessa's (degli Antoni whom I told you once of), for an Italian Lesson! She volunteered to teach the poor Countess and Chauntress (and even Enchantress for she is that too) a mouthful of English; but the degli Antoni insisted on first teaching her Italian (a most necessary preliminary); and so they go, Jane learning with amazing rapidity, but still in una confusione siccome nella Torre di Babele [a confusion like that of the Tower of Babel]! That Torre di Babele, enounced with the right musical accentuation (for I too heard it), still sings in my ears, and has made me laugh a score of times.

I shall not succeed in gathering up this poor straggle of a letter now. I am in haste; and the day is hot, hot. We have suffered abundantly from heat and drought, these late weeks. The Parks are brown bare as an old scratch-wig; give dust if you stamp on them; are rent into cracks. Our Springs have not failed; but they say it is not so, in the South, where the people (as in Picardy, Normandy too) are ill off that way. Many a day, I do not go out at all till sunset: this day I have fled into the back-room; a bedroom (intended to be yours!); I look out on trees, grown dingy, but still trees; the sun, roasting, gives me a headache on the other side of the house. In Scotland they complained of wet not long ago, and did not know their mercies.— Have I mentioned anywhere that the King is (said to be) “going to change his Ministry in eight days?”18 It is really possible: the poor man seems wending rapidly to the Devil, and much else with him. Glück beym weg [Good luck on the way]! I saw Sidney Smith:19 did I not tell you? We have not seen Miss Morris; and fancy she must be out of Town.

I fear Jane will not be home in time to give you any postscript: her love you may authentically regard as sent. She is ill off at present about servants: the one we had (who suited very well) had to go off to Deptford, to wait on a sick Mother, and is not like to come back. Jane has written to Miss Donaldson20 to get her an East Lothian one, and ship her hither. They are a miserable set of persons here: I often say (in my haste) “I would rather be my own servant once for all, and have done with them,”—living Diogenically. It is really true; but not quite convenient at present.— I like very well the temper you are in towards your Lady and all that umgebung [environment]. It were sad to part otherwise than in friendliness and handsomely at lowest. Take patience where you are: it will soon be done. You are not to go by Paris? If you did go, would you inquire among Print-sellers for Vernet's Caricatures (I cannot tell you which Vernet; but they are all during the Revolution; of dresses, &c: referred to often by Mercier) [:]21 I have searched here on all sides, but none knows anything. If there is such a Collection of Caricatures, I would give say £2 for it, poor as I am. If not collected, stray ones might perhaps be got. I find the whole F. Revolution new to me in a manner, when I bring it actually home. The Thing happened, was visible of one form or the other: he who paints a Fact and Truth, paints something.— But now, my dear Jack, I must be off: my very head is getting sore; dinner is near ready, and the paper done. You can get no margins this time. God be with you my dear Brother! Come safe home to us, and soon!— Your affectionate,

T. Carlyle.

I must not forget to say that our Mother had a most kind message for you in Jean's Letter; full of the old pious cheerfulness, resignation to whatever you might decide on, and prayer that a Higher Guidance might be vouchsafed you. Withal there was still a kind of determination that you were to be at Scotsbrig soon!— I think, if you come safe, we two ought to go forthwith. I am grown greedy of the Country; and there is country and much else. Our London is grown very thin—of Carriages. I wish I were in deep woods, an hundred miles from it, dusty den that it is!

Hôtel des Bergues, Bergnes? Bagnes? I have blotted the letter for safety.22 Perhaps no Hôtel would have done equally,—or better.

After dinner.— Jane gave Mrs Manderston (Margaret Rennie; Manderston was Captn of the “Bridgewater” Indiaman)23 a line for you: did they come?

I go now: I will have a shower-bath when I come home. Jane is not returned; she went & was to come in “one of the Omnibii.”

I have owed Grahame of Burnswark a Letter this long time; I wait always till there be something Definite.

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