July 1836-December 1837

The Collected Letters, Volume 9


TC TO JANE WELSH CARLYLE; 24 July 1836; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18360724-TC-JWC-01; CL 9:16-23.


Chelsea, Sunday, 24th July 1836.

My dear Womannie,

I promised on a Newspaper that I would write so soon as my Chapter was finished; and that great event having happened yesterday at two o'clock, I with right good will proceed to fulfilment. You will first however get a Newspaper; sent off yesterday, indicating Jack's arrival; sent off in great haste in the evening: there was no time then to do more. He tells me the former scrap of a Letter was not forwarded till Wednesday last; I was uncertain, from your Letter, whether you had not received it, at the meeting at Dumfries.— Pity that this pen spurts!

There has nothing gone wrong since you went away; and now that I have news of your safe nestling beside your Mother, all is well. It was a sad shaking that of the long Coach-ride and whirling on Railways for a poor weak Goody, and would shatter her terribly; neither I fancy is the Country at its best, this rainy season: but still it is the Country; it is your Mother; and the infinite fret and tumult of this place is far behind you. Splash away in the shower-bath; drink new milk (with a little brandy in it); tolerate the Country gossips; possess your wearied soul in patience; and come back to me rested and well, and all will be well. Hast thou recovered any Hope? O thou of little faith!1— Your Uncle never did a more judicious thing in his life than buying you that shawl: for which I thank him with all my heart. I hope you delivered my “special compliments”; it is a cheering kind of kind of [sic] thing for me to remember a broad brave Annandale Man of that figure: how greatly different from the Formulas of Men one meets with, here and elsewhere!— Have you got baked Bread yet? I advise you to heat the oven with coals, and on the whole to realize Bread. Have you Cavaignac's Manuscript,2 or any kind of work? Be not solitary, be not idle.

Here, however, lest I utterly forget elsewhere, I must mention two most important things. The first is; touching a SCRUB.3 Anne, quite radiant when your Letter came, to hear that you were well and safe, said, or rather chaunted, about an hour after, in the querulous expostulatory tone: “But, if ye please, Mrs Cairlile said—she was to fetch us twae Scrubs—?” Tho' sunk into the depths at that moment, I could not restrain a visible smile; and answered, “Surely surely, I would attend to that.” The second thing is, touching those shirt-collars: I find that, especially with the stock, they do not answer on the new shirts so well as they would do if both the front buttons had holes, and got a hold. The collar rubs up behind, namely; and finally loses its place altogether. What you have to do therefore is to make the solid space in the front of the Collar (that is, the space where the tape is, in the old ones) a half inch higher than perhaps you mean (three quarters of an inch will do no ill, even, and be useful otherwise): the second or upper button-hole you need not cut till you return and see the thing. If you have made any already in the old way, I believe even that will do, and you need not disturb yourself with repentance or remonstrance. These are the two important things I was afraid of forgetting.

Since that Saturday Night,4 I have had the most private speechless life of perhaps all men in London. Gibson5 parted with me at the corner of Lad Lane; and I naturally did not go to his walk next day. The weather then, as with you, became cool, became cold, wet; unfavourable for visitations; and hardly two or three mortals (always too at times when I was out) have come to stir the knocker. The French are occupied with Ma mère et ma soeur;6 Cavaignac tho' he had made an appointt with his Doonet7 (the Advocate), and volunteered to that effect, did not make it out till three days after the time; and I have never seen him since, or got up yet to see his women, tho' I meant to do it,—last night, if Jack had not come. The weather catches you in showers; little or no complaint, even for me, of heat: it has rained many hours, even now, is raining and like to rain: I have resumed my flannels cotton-drawers, and write just now in the plaid-gown.— But before quitting Cavaignac, I must tell you a thing I saw at Mrs Buller's rout, but did not discern till a day or two after. Charles Buller led C. away to introduce him to a large lady, whom I afterwards perceived to be Mrs Grote:8 C. went, without struggling, tho' verily like a sheep led to the slaughter; the presentation performed, he made I think five successive low bows to Mrs Grote (a very shower of rapid bows); then, without uttering a word, reeled back, like a sheep from the slaughter (or a calf, for you know how he goes), and landing in a very elegant attitude, stood, five paces off, with his hat behind his back, looking out into space and the general movement of the Rout,—this whole Introduction, Acquaintance, Friendship being begun, carried on, finished and abolished with such incredible brevity as I describe! It was two days before this phenonemon presented itself rightly before me; and it has tickled me ever since. That, I think, is the best method I have ever seen of being introduced to the large Mrs Grote; and to many other women and men.

Pepoli called also, one night; made Anne understand that he had been “very ill”; she [told] him that you were got home and about to get well. The only character that has actually got to see me here (for I was out, as you gather when Pepoli &c came) is Beatrice the Pilgernde Thörinn:9 she came and informed me, one day, that Lady Franklin10 had tried and investigated her, offered her the place; and that she —?— had declined it for the “long voyage de mer [sea voyage]”! I was positively very angry at the hapless goose of a woman; and read her a vehement long lecture in bad French; advising her to go instantly and unsay such a folly: my words seemed to distress her, without benefit: she has never come back.11 Miss Fergus12 however sent for me, the other day; said that another situation had turned up for the gomeril [blockhead] (at Brighton I think in a Boarding school, the people are French); which it was to be expected she would be got buckled to. Meanwhile, Miss F. entrusted me with £5 for her, was to send “Clothes” out of Scotland;—I must go and see the poor creature, and make John speak Italian to her. My desire is that I saw her fairly sitting in the Coach. She may live a century without such an offer as this she has refused.

Of the Stimabiles13 nothing; not a Stimabile since I last wrote. It is a week past on Friday night since I saw John (I went thither): I suppose him busied with making his arrangements, poor fellow, and not at all in good heart. My plan was to go to him today; which if things allow I shall still be glad to do. Yesterday (after finishing) I knocked for Mrs S. the Elder; she was not in: I left compliments, and those three little volumes (Maria Williams)14 you were so anxious about.— One night also, being determined to order myself a pair of shoes (trash beyond utterance; ugly and dear, are my late pairs), I called on Allan Cunningham to ask: Not in. Then forward to Willis, to ask: Not in. Wherefore, home;—and the shoes are still unordered. Jack has offered me an old pair; which I think I shall accept. By the bye, James Aitken has a pair of Lasts lying ready, and a cast of my Foot; will you take down these Lasts that image of the Foot (“roots of trieys15 and all), and considering it deeply, and consulting with James who is a judicious man see of you cannot order me a pair of shoes to be made off them? See if you cannot, Goody with that hellen Blick [clear sure eye] of yours! Poor James has sent me two pounds of Mundell Tobacco, by Jack; a sort of thing, which I know not why, almost made me greet [weep]: it was in huge coarse paper; the poor Brother had earned it by the toil of his right-hand: I remembered him a tow-headed judicious herd-boy; and so may many chancings and changings had gone on since then. Thank him heartily from me (but not in the sad mood).— I believe you had also better choose me a pair of winter trousers; you: and set Shankland16 on them, if he have the measure: wide enough, long enough; not too heavy, and of a dim colour! I shall then have nothing to do with Cockney snips for another blessed winter,—perhaps never more in time?

I must tell you about the Mill visit, for I think I sent a token that I was going.17 I went accordingly; our arrangements only failing to this extent, that I did not meet Mill and Grant till we got to the end (thirty miles off), there being two coaches that day. It is a pretty country, a pretty village, of the English straggling wooded sort: the Mills have joined some “old Carpenter's-shops” together, and made a pleasant summer mansion (connected by shed-roofed passages), the little drawing-room door of glass looking out into a rose-lawn, into green plains, and half-a-mile off to a most respectable wooded-and-open broad-shouldered Green Hill. They were as hospitable as they could be; I was led about, made attentive to innumerable picturesqueness &c &c; all that evening and next day: I awoke at three the first morning; at five the next,—when happily we had to return at seven. You would have done little good with the two sisters,18 tho' they are worthy girls in their way. But [it] is a way!—all riveted, and cased, and checked as by coats of mail. There was little sorrow visible in their house; or rather none, nor any human feeling at all; but the strangest unheimlich [weirdly inhuman] kind of composure and acquiescence,—as if under a deadly pressure of Fear, all human spontaneity had taken refuge in invisible corners. Mill himself talked much, and not stupidly, far from that, but without emotion of any discernible kind: he seemed to me to be withering or withered into the miserablest metaphysical scrae [thin, shriveled creature], body and mind, that I had almost ever met with in the world. His eyes go twinkling and jerking with wild lights and twitches, his head is bald, his face brown and dry: poor fellow, after all!—it seemed to me the strangest thing what this man could want with me, or I with such a man, so unheimlich [dismal] to me. What will become of it? Nothing evil; for there is and there was nothing dishonest in it. But I think I shall see less and less of him. Alas, poor fellow, it seems possible too that he may not be very long there seeable,—that is one way of its ending; to say nothing of my own chances! He is for a Tour, however, of “three months,” with his two little Brothers; on the Continent: there is some hope in that. How Mrs Taylor adjusts herself I have not the slightest notion: Mill spoke of Switzerland; and hoped to be off “in a fortnight” (a week now).19 Had I any chance to see him down at Chelsea some evening? “Not the slightest: for”— And the Coach drew up at the Elephant & Castle, and I shook hands with him, and went my way. Little Grant was as assiduous as ever; rather deafer, rather sharper in the nose: really not very well, poor little fellow. My expedition cost me twelve “white shillings”; and I will not go again, by any means, till I be richer.— Since that day, I have had my Mirabeau returned with a sheet of “remarks” on it. The remarks are of no import or little; in a style of great fear-of-offence; accompanied by a Note that I am not to put myself out of humour, with the thing: but let it stand altogether as it is rather.20 I did not put myself out of humour with the thing: I let it lie eight and forty hours; sent it back with a Note that “two” of the things proposed were perhaps improvements; that I kept the “remarks” till the Proofsheets came, but felt as if I could not open “that fatal Manuscript again, for a guinea.” It was cheerfully written; but indicated that “remarking” on the part even of Ablest Editors was a thing to be cautiously done: that if we wrote together, at all (with Hickson21 and Company), we must have very considerable headway allowed us. Truly, it is “impossible” otherwise: your whole soul dries up, and freezes in the miserablest manner. This went off to Mill yesterday morning; I suppose I shall have the proofs soon. He wishes me to write, I forget what more; I wish to feel myself infinitely better at home in the thing before writing much more; and indeed do not care much, if I never write more in it,—nor in any beggarly “dog's-meat cart”22 like it, but take all manner of consequences rather.— This thing I believe will look uglier to you than it is: be content, it is not ugly at all, nor was; it was only brief, and a thing one required to despatch, and put on a practicable footing.

As for the Chapter entitled September, the poor Goody knows with satisfaction that it is done. I worked all day, not all night; indeed oftenest, not at night at all: but went out, and had long swift-striding walks (till ten) under the stars. I also slept in general tolerably: for the last two days, however, I have been poisoned again with veal SOUP (beef being unattainable); I will know again! The Chapter is some 36 close pages: not at all a bad Chapter;—would the Goody had it to read! A hundred pages more, and this cursed Book is flung out from me. I mean to write with the force of fire till that consummation; —above all, with the speed of fire; still taking natural intervals, of course, and resting myself; the unrested horse or writer cannot work. But a despicability of a thing that has so long held me and held us both down to the grindstone is a thing I could almost swear at, and kick out of doors; at least, most swiftly equip for walking out of doors. Speranza [Hope], thou 'Spairkin [Despairing]23 Goody; Hope, my little Lassie, it will all be better than thou thinkest!— For two or three days I am to have the most perfect rest now. Then Louis is to be tried and guillotined; then the Gironde &c &c: it all stands pretty fair in my head; nor do I mean to investigate much more about it, but to splash down what I know, in large masses of colours; that it may look like a smoke-and-flame conflagration in the distance,—which it is.

The inclosed Minto Letter24 was rather ill used by me; at the words “great [day,] the 13th,” I (being indeed busy, and deprived of 15 pence) put it quickly into the drawer, and proceeded again: but at night I did take it out and read it; with remorse, with pious sensibility, How beautiful Nature is. Even to the stoory [dusty] and the withered! And what does it cost thee,—unbrotherly Churl?— If you thought there were any enjoyment for you at Minto, why not go? You are not writing a “French Rn a History”; nor living on veal-soup.— In the Newspaper (Courier last) I read with a very sorrowful shock the notice of the Death of Mitchell.25 John had been writing to me of him; he had been many times in my sad memory; my earliest, innocentest friend.26 Murray27 (he is Editor of something) seemed to have drawn up that epicedial Paragraph: in the Editorial-Undertaker style,—to him most indifferent; and it is over, and one has him no more, never more!—

Jack and I have talked immensely since he came; he has mounted up stairs now and is quiet. My mother and he passed thro' Liverpool (on Monday, I think): he regretted much that it was so early (8 o'clock, or some hour the Railway performed at) that he had to pass the Maryland-Street door, without knocking and brief greeting. He seems not in very high spirits, nor do I wonder at it. This morning, however, there came a Letter that W. Fraser is to be in Rome over winter. I think his medical way of treating you was unjust to himself and to you; tho' the scientific fact it went on was true: were our nerves better, we shall all be able to judge more justly. “Also ye shall bear one another's burdens”:28 upon which everybody cries, then, before all, in God's name, take mine!— Shall I go to Sterling's tonight? To Cavgn's? For the weather is cleared.

My dear little Janekin! I must leave thee now. Write a long Letter: they are all very pleasant, very good for me; but the “reposing humour” would give me most pleasure of all. Gehab Dich wohl! Sey hold mir; hoffe, zweifle nicht [Farewell! be kind to me; don't doubt]! Kiss your kind Mother for me; say I wear her brown waistcoat, not without remembrances, daily: it is the respectablest piece in my suit. Give kind regards from me to Mr Mundell, worthy old man; his Wife also you must include: and do not forget Mrs Crichton, but go and see her, and stay a day with her now and then. Adieu, au revoir!

Ever affectionately thine,

T. Carlyle.

I have not called on the Degli Antoni nor any individual creature; but I will now. There were compliments [from] the Sterlings elder and younger, from the &c &c. Jack salutes you with brotherly goodwishes, Lebwohl [Farewell]!

The sound of the Threepennies has ceased: I think I have not one Threepenny; certainly not one worth carrying a yard. “Is Mrs Austin gone?” I know not, in the least. Ach Gott, how stomach-sour, hot and burnt-out I am! It is near dinner (of Steak); then for a walk in the sun, and breeze. Anne does really well enough; puddles along without complaining, (I think certainly) without cheating &c &c. She is worth any three servants I have seen here for me. Write soon. Send an old Newspaper (if you have one) with two strokes (if possible) instantly. This is the end.

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