January 1835-June 1836

The Collected Letters, Volume 8


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE; 25 June 1836; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18360625-TC-JAC-01; CL 8:355-362.


Chelsea, Saturday [25 June 1836]—

My dear Brother,

I received with great satisfaction first your Newspaper from Edinr; then Alick's from Annan, announcing your arrival there; and finally your long full and instructive Letter;1 to which I have already promised an answer “within the week.” My purpose is, you see, to make good this engagement: good it may be made, and that will be all; for I am two days belated with the work I was at, and the week is on its last legs.

We had begun to wonder, rather uneasily, whither and how you had fared, when the first Newspaper came. It seemed likely you might make a longer stay in Edinr: but I can easily fancy all the contradiction you would experience in that poor hide-bound Athens, and how in a very few days, you might feel that it was exhausted for you, and brave Annandale remaining, still to break open. You do not speak of seeing Mitchell; I fear, poor fellow, there was little hopeful or joyful to be seen about him.2 Gordon3 seemed to say, the Doctors had given him up: he is often in my thoughts since that sad announcement. Or did you step out to Haddington? I think always of the worthy Johnston4 with a very peculiarly kind feeling. He too erduldet das Schicksal [endures his destiny]; but in a gentle humble way, so far, far from me; I often from these stormy granite ridges cast a look into his little distant nest, and wish him with my whole heart well.

It was quite a new notion to me, and very comfortable, that you found Alick living on the Hill; and not without some kind of satisfactory employment. I remember the brave little cottage very well;5 and think I should like much to stay and sea-bathe there for six weeks; looking out silent, upon the silent Cumberland Mountains: but alas bairn—! Tell Alick to be still and steadfast, quiet, nay as cheerful as one can: “A merry heart goes all the day,—A sad one tires in a mile-a.”6 You have confused me as to Mary's house “in George Square.” Did they also remove at Whitsunday somewhither? Or is their house still the one I know, at the corner of Wellington-Street, not far from that of George Street? There is no Square, I believe, in Annan town.7 I am right glad to hear that they continue to struggle on, not without success.— The news are good from Dumfries too, and from Scotsbrig. How well our dear Mother seems to hold out against change and weather! Have we not great reason to rejoice in this blessing, what crosses soever beset us elsewhere? I fancy you at Scotsbrig; leading the delightfullest idle life,—not so delightful to you, naturally, as it were to me. Yet Summer greenness and the breath of the West is good,—among those we love best in the world! Pray enjoy your Sabbath-weeks; preparatory to new effort. Rome will be brighter of sky: but it will want much that you have there.— Tell me how our Mother does now that Jenny is gone; how she works and lives, and adjusts herself. I remember the two little rooms: the Saddle hanging on its nog [peg] (knochen?)8 with a Newspaper over it, and all the pots and pans. No King's Palace in this world is worth half so much to me as that little room. Do you ride; has Jamie the dwarf-carthorse? You will go to Kirkchrist I suppose?9 Mrs Welsh expects you and my Mother up with her. It will be better to take a Gig in that expedition; and I think you will have a pretty drive. Mrs W. expresses herself in very high terms indeed about a certain Doctor of our acquaintance. The Liverpool children are with her, or to be with her; and I think, the Father John along with them for a little. It is not impossible but Mrs Welsh may resolve on coming up hither with you: Jane, I doubt, will hardly get to her, tho' she occasionally speculates about it: a certain Mrs Crichton of Dabton,10 is here and soon returning; “If I should go with her?” Jane says. But it will not be; the heart will fail.11— Have you been to Dumfries again? Have you heard any word of Jenny?12 I sent a Letter to Manchester while you were here; requesting a Newspaper at least: none has yet come: I could like to know that mine had arrived, that the poor young creatures were well.— But now for a touch at my own History since we parted! Forgive much! Worse paper a man seldom had,—such is the march of intellect in these times.

I made little by my breakfast with Morris13 that morning: had to wait an hour and a half, by the clock, in philosophical conversation, which had been much more agreeably spent in silence; and then—joot of tea [cup of weak tea], with continued philosophical conversation: with great kindness however. Morrice's (or he spells it Maurice's) Father14 was there: one of the queerest old men I have seen lately; of brown universally puckered old-healthy complexion, of small stature, of smiles, of precision to a degree; spoke solemn moral and physical Truisms, with the correctness of a Lindley Murray:15 a good old man,—who invited me to see him as I passed thro' Reading. I returned, by Omnibus as far as Piccadilly: duxy [lethargic], weary, heavy of heart. It was not till Thursday, that I got fairly fastened on the Mirabeau: I have gone like a “house on fire” since then; and finished it last night! It is worth little: but there are above fifty pages of it watery offhand stuff, which will bring as many pounds. Mill after all my hurry, does not print it in this Number; but waits till next. À la bonne heure [That's fine]! I am done with it, and have washed my hands of it, and sent it to the Post-Office early this morning. The Fonblanque Articlekin16 has never seen the light: I had hopes Mill might one of these days get it back for me; that I might add a little, publish it [in] his Review, and realize £10 sterling by it: but I begin to doubt, Fonblanque keeps the hold too stiffly, and will not quit. The Diamond Necklace is not to answer, but to come back to me and lie wrapt. “Hence the fermentation!”17

Working at this thing so closely, dear Jack, I can have seen or suffered little apart from it. There has been no arrival of importance, human or scriptory. I must except two Germans, indeed, who arrived seeking you. They are Brothers, von Stetten,18 from Augsburg; on a short tour here. They came in, above a week ago, one day, totally mute except in Teutsch, with a letter from Süsskind,19 which I will try to find to-day (tho it contains nothing but kind Empfehlung [recommendation]): they are beautiful young men; I made a desperate effort to articulate a few disjointed statements: took their card (they are Tavistock Hotel Covent Garden); and promised to call, and do all I could;—alas, I have to go this day for the first time! So busy was I; on fire; and then Jane was very ill (with headaches &c for some days): this will be my apology. I design to ask them hither, some evening, if they will come; and to get Rosen or Garnier20 for interpreter. They were going to Scotland “perhaps”; but seemed to have no very fixed plan except that of amusing themselves for a month or two.

The very day you went off, there came hither an ill-starred old Italian Dam[e]21 who made us regret you much. She was sent by Pepoli. A bred-looking, almost stately woman of perhaps five-and-forty, who has once been beautiful: she is driven from Bologna (her native place is Ancona) for some aid lent in the Radical Correspondences (Letters sent under cover to her, Lettere di donne [women's letters] being respected usually at the Post office), she came to Paris with her husband and daughter; has lost both of them by death and all her fortune, heart and faculty; has come over to England, by the maddest advice of somebody or other; and now daunders [wanders] about here, without penny in the purse, plan in the head, friend alive in the world, or even a word that she can speak to anybody:—the most helpless, melancholy forlorn figure I ever beheld with eyes. What to do with her? Jane thinks she will drown herself in the Thames: for she is a proud body, I see, and ashamed to beg tho' unable to dig. She could once “embroider” &c &c: but has now “wept her eyes out,” and cannot see to do it. “Ah cieux [Heavens]!” said Cavaignac: si cette femme là fût votre mère, par example [if that woman were your mother, for example]!” If your Mother were left like that woman! Jane runs doing what she can; has interested this one and that one; will get money &c lady's-maidship &c: the poor body is a very miserable, unaidable distressing object to me.

A few days after you went, there met me, on one of the streets here, coming hither, Dr Beattie,—and the renowned “Captain Huzbie,” Esbie!22 The creature is grown old, atrabiliar; vain as ever, drier than ever, dry now and barren as the ling [heather or moorland grass] of last year. He was for Paris: he has been there, and came back to me (the other morning), to waste an hour of my time and a portion of my patience: I fear I was cruel to him; yet how could one help it? There is not a gleam of sympathy with any generous thing in that unfortunate heart; and its very selfishness has now got black and miserable; vanity, Lucifer's vanity (beg pardon of Lucifer!) burnt out, and become sour-smoking ashes. A more unpleasant object than this poor man (whom I pitied too in the bottom of my heart) could hardly be offered me to view. He is to go next week: I hope to kinder destinies;—and that I have seen the last of him for this bout.

Mill's Father is now understood in his own family to be dying. They seem to have reconciled themselves to it: he is thought (by scandal) to have been a very rigid not to say cruel man to his own; I should rather say, very ill-vested and very resolute methodic;—it seems to me he is one whom his own people might love much more than the world did. I confess I feel a real sorrow to think of him; slowly sinking there.— John Mill himself is no better: I have seen him just once: he looks preoccupied, hampered, very miserable; yet solicits accepts no sympathy from you; a man cased up (against his own will) in the miserablest impenetrable coating of stone and ice. I love very truly the Abstract-idea of him: but the Abstract-idea of him is all you can get; were the man himself never so near you, he remains unattainable.

John Sterling continues tolerably improving; indeed, looks as well nearly as I ever saw him do. They have ordered him to ride; which he does daily. He came down here, one day, as he sometimes does again; to take Jane up with him to pass the afternoon and evening: he surrendered his fine horse to me, accordingly; and I had the most illustrious excursion, by trot, canter and gallop, far and wide; and returned to him in the evening thro' Hyde Park, considerably comforted, to fetch Jane back. He is for Bourdeaux, he rather thinks now; certainly for Bourdeaux first: and will go about the first of August, to leave time for Rome still, if needful. I am heartily sorry to part with him; he is the friendliest being I have met in the world for long years: I always fear, too good for the world!— Of the Stimabile23 we see nothing here, and not much anywhere, tho' he is always brisk and blithe. Jane and he never seem to meet now without sharp fencing and cutting. Poor “Werter of sixty.”! It is a fast-changing world this; and Today nowhere consents to be Yesterday or Tomorrow.— The degli Antoni24 is very sick, of influenza; confined to her room these several weeks: none of us have got thither; tho' I often pity the poor dame. We were at her Concert;25 she sang, and looked, dimly, in the distance. Jane was led thro' secret Opera-house passages to see her, and shriek into her arms: I remained in my place. Since that (some one else, perhaps one of the Frenchmen, giving me a Ticket) I went to hear an Italian Improvisatore [Improviser]! He is called Pestrucci;26 a Roman, but in bad odour there, owing to his Carbonarism and Friendship-for-Humanity. A man of sixty; with a thin wooden face (of the type of your Engraver's) and nose with a middle-cartilage (do you know that particular turn of the nostrils—expressive of ineffectual audacity, and toil that has not profited?)—a tuft of grey hair as if flung upon the scalp of him; long stalking legs, small body; grey, simple-vehement eyes: this is our Pestrucci. He strode and stalked, raked anxiously his fingers thro' the grey tuft, clasped his temples, sprawled, and got clear with sweat and stew; chaunting in the Cantofermo [plain chant] fashion (really not unlike old Lizzy Herd27 reading the Scripture); and produced—the day of small things.28 I understood the most of it;—enough of it: but was interested in the poor old lean man chaunting and wriggling for a livelihood there, far from home.— We were also at the French Theatre one night; Cavaignac despatched his messenger with a Ticket, and we had to go. Worth while for once! They were acting Figaro; one Monrose,29 from Paris direct, was Figaro; considerably the best comic actor I have ever seen. A fine looking man of fifty; with a fine French face, of the bushy-eyebrowed, black-eyed broad-nostrilled sort: a great deal of hidden-satire in him, and quick insight. Our Loge [box] was a hot hen-coop, in which anything bigger than a Bantam could not have felt comfortable. There was headache and fatigue; and a day lamed for work:—not to be repeated.

Why do I babble all these things to a judicious Doctor? Let me add, however, that I have got my white Hat! A most noble broad brim; price 6/6: of great comfort to me; and this not by the brim alone, I find, but also by the size, which lets in the air about me, and prevents the intrusion of headache: I find my last three or four Hats have been far too little. Jane shrieked, nay almost literally grat [wept], when she first saw me in such headgear: however, I persisted (resolute against headache); and she now says I do very well in it. Cockneydom happily does not seem to mind me at all, tho' probably there is not such another beaver within the four ports of London.— Let me mention also that we had Liston30 here, Liston the Surgeon. He came one evening to see Jane, when all was confusion, Jane lying very sick: he is of enormous size, with bald worn-looking head; a great flatsoled Scotch fellow with much stuff in him, whom I considerably like.— The Frenchmen come here; especially Cavaignac, rather often, and now with strange English in his mouth. There is a great lolloping schoolboy character and fresh French Nature in this C.—and I can do very tolerably with him of an evening. He seems to abound in cash; in want of hope and aim: unhappy enough; with wild bursts of affection and bonhommie; French and yet honest and artless: a wild cameral [large, awkward creature], son of the woods! We have talked about Religion too; and he is not so barren there as one thinks. Let him pass in peace, for the time our two roads lie in sight of each other!

But to wind up now, I say that the Garden must be sorted, which is getting very rank. The Doil crop of turnips31 flourishes amazingly,—struck by the fly, a little; and will have actual bulbs in a few days. Beans, Mignonette and all the rest, are growing and stretching in the most vagrant manner. It will take me two days. After which there remains—The Revolution again. Health or sober strength is not to be thought of till I get done with that. But I purpose to write far faster at it; being really in a rage with it, in a scorn and contemptuous indignation at it. There is (hoffentlich [hopeful]) strength in me to do it. And after that, I will most surely have a rest, if there be rest in the world.— It is a great blessing for me however that we have such a summer. I have yet suffered nothing at all by the heat (tho' I should fear the country must be suffering, for there has been no heat), and we have a little sprinkling of shower almost daily.

But now dear Jack what of thyself? When are we to meet here; when is a Letter to come? Let the Letter not delay, at any rate! As for the meeting, I can advise nothing; what I wish thou knowest: it seems cruel to advise any one to exchange simplicity and leafy Annandale against this infamous Brick Sahara, tho' there is a Brother in it. The red Bed stands in its place. Be happy, my brave fellow; and do what will make thee happiest.— What if I should walk across the world; and come to you in Rome, next year, with the knapsack on my back! There is nothing lost, nothing impossible, if a man will but bestir himself. This Brick Sahara is not hateful to me at bottom, but hateful-loveable; and perhaps one day I shall thank it much.— Give my brotherly heart's love to all our Brothers and Sisters, by name every one, for I remember them all. Tell Isabella, her cheese shall be broken up solemnly when you return: we trust it will do honour to the maker.— It is a very glad thing to me that my Mother will go to Manchester with you. I meant to write a scrap of my feelings to her on a scrap of paper by this cover: yet at bottom what had I to say, which she will not read here, or suppose as well? Jane is gone out, but left “abundant love to you all.” I covet greatly the fresh air, and will go too. Write almost instantly. I will send you a Newspaper probably on Monday.— May God keep my Mother and all of you! Amen!

T. Carlyle.

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