January 1835-June 1836

The Collected Letters, Volume 8


TC TO JANET CARLYLE; 23 December 1835; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18351223-TC-JCHA-01; CL 8:270-272.


Chelsea, 23d December, 1835—

My dear Jenny,

No Letter could be welcomer than yours, bringing favourable tidings as it did, at the time when we were apprehensive that something was wrong with you. It is the first Letter you have sent us; but must be the beginning of many. Do not spare us with Letters: it will improve your handwriting, and be everyway a good exercise for yourself, were there nothing more; and to us always, the smallest contribution of news will be welcome as flowers in May. Just do as you have begun doing: write down whatsoever comes readiest to hand; not minding whether it be well-worded or ill-worded; understanding only, with clear assurance, that the minutest piece of intelligence you convey from those Two Upper Rooms, in any kind of words whatever, will be welcomer than all rhetoric could make anything else.

It does not seem as if that cold had completely left you yet: you must be very careful about it; avoid damp, cold feet, exposure to sunrise or sunset; above all things, take care of derangements in the stomach, for it all begins there.— We have had a new Letter from Dumfries since you wrote; which however does not bring any very minute intelligence of recent date from Scotsbrig: we take the comfort it suggests, that if anything had been gone far out of joint there, they would have heard it, and told us.— Alick wrote a part of that sheet; and his hand was welcome to us, as he may know. Pray thank him for me, as well as James and Jean, till I get time to do it myself.1 What that Bacon-affair may turn to one cannot conjecture: no doubt, it is natural to grasp eagerly for employment, and anything is better in several senses than nothing; we must hope that good will come of it. So far as I understand, it is better on the face of it than Cattle-jobbing; which indeed seems to be of all extant trades the worst every way. I grieve to learn that there is small outlook for farming; yet it is what I expected.2 The German Proverb says, “There are remedies for all things but Death”; a very true Proverb. We must wait with our eyes open; do nothing rashly, do all things bravely patiently.

I have not forgotten your new Coal-Box; which I welcome heartily into that corner. It is pity Alick has not yet got up the chimney-cann! Tell him from me that the sooner it is done the better; that it will grow no easier at all to do by never so much waiting. Also mention again in your next Letter whether it is done.

As for me the principal news is that I have got another Chapter of that weary Book finished, better or worse. I felt rather feckless, dispirited, confused: but the thing went off when I roused myself; I found with joy that I could still go along writing as of old. A long task is still to do; but it is all natural work now; no writing of burnt stuff, which latter surely is the miserablest of all human trades, enough to break the heart of a man. I am in better health than I was; and will go on cannily,” well remembering John Richie's admonition: “The slower thou rides” &c.3 It is in my favour too this fine hard weather we have: a ringing black frost all round; I saw the people today skating on the pond of St James's Park, the nose of all persons blue, gardeners &c thrown out of work will soon be begging “Pity the poor froze-in Gardeners!’”4 It is winter fairly. People are to eat “Christmas Dinners”: there are walls of beef, that might be built into beef-stacks, and such multitudes of dead turkeys &c &c as fill one with amazement. We are invited out also to eat on that great day; [but] I for my own private part do not mean to go: all dinners make me unwell for days after; I feel stupified, sick while they go on; a misery in the eating, a double and treble misery after it! My one business for the present is to get my task forward; whatsoever will help me in that is a blessing; whatsoever not, none.

The paper is done, dear Jenny; and makes but a poor return for your full sheet. You will have more elsewhere, if not as mistress, then as bidden guest; for Jane is busy on my Mother's behoof at this moment. Take care of yourself, my little Bairn; take care of our dear Mother, who is near you, more dependent [on you] than on any of us. “Do not shorten but lengthen”;5 and [word obscured by seal]e always—— Your affectionate Brother,

T. Carlyle—

The Barrels have never come! We sent to the place; and were informed that the “Ships had to go in by Belfast,” and took long time; that whenever they did come, &c &c. We use what patience we have. The oatmeal only went done the other night: we have taken to arrow-root, which for the time I like fully as well. They will come by and by[.]