January 1835-June 1836

The Collected Letters, Volume 8


TC TO ALEXANDER CARLYLE; 18 February 1836; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18360218-TC-AC-01; CL 8:298-301.


5. Cheyne Row Chelsea / 18th Feby 1836—

My Dear Brother,

I was much shocked today on opening the Newspaper to find in it a brief announcement that your little Margaret had been taken from you last Saturday.1 Apparently the call had been very sudden; for Jean, writing to me the week before, said nothing of any illness.— I remember the gleg[active]-looking little creature in its Mother's arms; and feel sorrow for you all. It was not to know the good and evil of Life, poor little child; but to be called hence and cut off, while yet but looking into the world! The course of human destiny is “fearful and wonderful”2 ever as of old. Alas, one can say nothing, nothing;—except, if it so might be, what the wise have submissively said before us: “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away; blessed be the name of the Lord!”3

I trust neither you nor Jenny will give yourselves up to unavailing distress, or lament beyond measure. Some natural tears are due and unavoidable; the innocent ways of such a being, briefly lent us, will plead painfully in the parents' bosom: but what then? Is not all Human Life a Shadow; and whatever lives fast going down to Death? We shall all be gathered thither ere long: “we shall go to them, they will not return to us.”4—— My dear Brother, I feel how vain all words are; whatsoever I could write would fall useless, where the stroke has fallen. It will show only that I grieve in your grief, and feel as a Brother for what befals you, which is the little all that man can do for man.

I had thoughts of writing to you these several days; but this sad occurrence hastens me: tho' I have no time or composure to write anything, I send you this Note of Remembrance; with Jack's Letter,5 it will not be worthless to you.

Jack as you will notice gives us hope of seeing him before many weeks. I sent him off last week's Examiner (which accordingly my Mother missed); I must write to him, the final Munich Letter, one of these days.

What is to become of us all when he returns, and consults, does look uncertain: but that it will be blessed to meet again, and exchange counsel once more, that is not uncertain. I think in general we have “a wide world,” tho' full of impediments, and must set our face handsomely to it. For myself I cannot be said to fear anything, or almost to hope anything from this old country of ours. Things have grown so utterly contradictory and impracticable round me that I have, as it were retired within my own citadel, and very quietly bid them welter their way, and do, in short whatsoever it is their pleasure to do. By the grace of Heaven, I mean to keep my own senses clear, my own heart free and ready; and innumerable cobwebs shall be nothing but cobweb to me. But on the whole surely my position here is a very strange one,—as indeed is usually appointed for the like of me. Many men honour me, some even seem to love me; and withal in a given space of time I shall have no bread left here. So we must go and seek it elsewhere then? Clearly; go, were it to Jerusalem (as our brave Father used to say);6 and seek cheerfully—whatsoever is allotted us. All things are tolerable, all losses but the loss of oneself; which latter is not entailed on us.

But after all there is a brighter side of possibilities; and much may be better than we think. For this also we shall hope to be ready, to be thankful; and to do wisely with this too. Lucky they who as poor Cowthwaite expressed himself can “do owther way”!7

Meanwhile, what forms always my best and indeed for the present my only news: the Book still progresses. I do hope you will all be amused reading it some day before very long. Were it once finished, I think I shall be one of the merriest men,—for a little season! I am in a new Chapter, the ground fairly broken; and do not take the thing too violently. I am getting on far better than I did. There are but two Chapters more, and then the Second Volume is done. One other tough spell for the Third; and then—! I think the subject is good; and I study to handle it as well and faithfully as I can. Courage! Courage!

Jean gratified me not a little by the news that your trade this winter had been profitable and favourable. It was surely time that you should find some encouragement somewhere; of late years, on all hands, you have had enough to struggle with. I long to hear the particulars, and what you aim at now, or whether that salting trade still goes on for a while. I suppose, farms, as usual, are mad[, you] contented, since it is so, to let them go their own way; and let another than you be ruined [by t]hem. M'Diarmid says the quartern loaf is sixpence, that wages are “very steady,” and all as usua[l is] go[ing o]n wheels. I shall be most particularly happy to hear it confirmed; and see anywhere in [page torn] [Britain] evidence of it with my own eyes!

The news I co[uld s]end you from this Babylon would be [page torn]. We have had two days of the fiercest blustering Nort[h wind], and plenty of February dust; on th[e whole] weather that I do not dislike. Plenty of wind, and this flat region and huge smoke-cloud is beara[ble] [page torn]: but O the summer, the hot burning stagnancy of Summer! Perhaps it will not be so bad either: they [say] last summer was the worst known for long.— John Mill is very sickly and weak; I am obliged to go to see him, he cannot come out at night: he lives two miles off, and I get a pleasant crack [chat] with the man in his own room, tho' he looks but very poorly, and I think will have a long traik [illness] of it, most irksome for him, as hitherto he has never known sickness. A certain Mr Hickson,8 a famed Shoemaker and Farmer of these parts, invites me today (tho' I have never seen him) to come out [to] the Country, to his Farm, for a day or two, since Mill, whom it would profit, will not go without me. As this brave Hickson will take us in his own vehicle (for he is a man of much substance), I seem bound to go; it will do me good too: I want to see the man besides and his ways. So probably we shall go next week.— Buller is struggling away in Parliament;9 his Mother has the grandest Radical Parties; at none of which have I assisted this year; tho' I see the good people all, from time to time, with pleasure. Parties of all sorts, as they do but fret my nerves, and hinder not help my one task of Book-writing, are a thing I rather avoid.— We see Allan Cunningham sometimes; hardly any other Scotchman. Of Mrs Irving or that set of persons not a whisper comes our way, this long while; except lately some hint that they had settled much cash on Mrs I., and were getting wilder otherwise than ever,—writing to the King and so forth. They are still heard sometimes loudly preaching on the streets hereabouts; but seemingly without effect.— Jane is sitting by me, rather better than she has been of late. She has been plagued with colds &c all thro' winter; never very ill, yet never well. She bids me send you and Jenny her affectionate remembrances and sympathies. I expect you will write soon. God bless you and yours, dear Brother!

T. Carlyle.

Friday morning.— It seems possible that my Mother may be with you. There is no haste particularly about her Note or Jean's.— Will you give our united kind love to Mary an[d] her Household. In haste: fare well to you all again!— T. C.