July 1836-December 1837

The Collected Letters, Volume 9


TC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE; 27 July 1836; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18360727-TC-MAC-01; CL 9:23-27.


Chelsea, 27th July 1836—

My dear Mother,

Owing to such visiting and running about as there has been of late,1 you and I have fallen more out of correspondence than usual: it seems to me a long time since I wrote you a Letter. This day Jack and I have determined on both of us sending you our news, in the hope of getting a frank to carry them: he is busy upstairs, I down. As you have ventured so far Southwards, farther then you ever were before, a certain degree of encouragement is more than ever due. I bid you, dear Mother, very heartily welcome into England. When they have got their Railways set up, which will whirl one to London in ten hours more, we may hope to get you even as far south as this.2 You will “see London”; which, however, I apprehend is a sight you will not be in great ecstacies with. The persons that are in it, particularly one “long ill-put-together cameral3 of a person in it, will be much welcomer as a sight. Six or seven whole Parishes covered with brick, a Town as long as from Scotsbrig to Colinn Tollbar:4 this is not a thing one rejoices much to see. I apprehend, there is plenty of it in Manchester without going farther.

Jack was extremely welcome to me on Saturday night, just as I had done my work, and was likely to begin feeling the solitude more. There was a wild moss-hag5 of a man with me at the instant, extremely astonishing to see here: one Farries, I think from Mosshead in Tundergarth;6 a son of the Peat-breast,7 whom I had seen once at Alick's at Catlinns,—whither he came uninvited, and sat silent getting a little tea. He had come up hither, he said, to see “a Cousin who had made a fortune”; and also to get a place for himself. The Cousin he had seen; the Place he had not got. I strongly recommended America; was really sorry for the poor smoke-dried dim-visaged wild man;—but soon got him out of the house; proposing to walk with him as far as the Post-Office with your Newspapers.— On my return Jack had refreshed himself with mutton-chops; we made two Tumblers of brandy punch (Manchester brandy, if I mistake not); and were as comfortable as the circumstances allowed. Jack looked, and looks, very gawsy [large and jolly]; seemed much improved by his Scotch journey: that first night, his “nerves,” of course, were greatly “dadded abreed [worn to pieces]”;8 but he had a fine sleep, and all is right again. We have run far and wide; dined with the “Reverend Mr Dunn” (where was a wild Irish Navy Captain, overflowing with noise good-nature and absurdity); drunk tea with John Sterling, &c &c. For the rest of this week, I am idle as man can be; seeking only how I may repose and amuse myself.— It is a cheerful circumstance which has turned up, that the day of departure is not till the first of September after all; and then that very probably Jack may return in Spring next.

My unfortunate Book goes on now, at a far quicker rate; I shall surely be done with it some three months hence: I have done the first Chapter of the last Volume: it is a long Chapter, and the worst there was to do. Besides I mean to splash along at a much swifter pace in this Volume, with less of care; for the kind of subject has altered, and requires that mode of treatment at any rate. “It will not be a bad Book,” as I always tell you! And so I shall get my dressing-gown paid at last; and have an unspeakable sorrow shuffled off my hands.— The Article on Mirabeau will be published in some two months or less; I will take care to send you a copy of it, which, after so long a fast from writings of mine, I hope you will read with great appetite.

This summer has not been nearly so hard on me here as last was: indeed the weather was not above one week oppressively hot; there have been great quantities of rain: I fear the Summer is far worse for the Country than it has been for me. The crops they all say look well; but one finds it difficult to credit that. There has never been any continuance of effectual heat to nourish any growing thing as it needs. My confident prophecy is a defective harvest; which will be good for some, but very bad for many. I was out, 30 miles at Mill's country place, the week before last: the wheat seemed all very healthy; but the ears wanted, I thought, fully a third of their usual length. From America also the harvest news are not good. Bad harvests are surely bad for the world; and yet good harvests too are bad as we have sometimes seen: the poor man finds meal cheap but no work to do, no money to buy meal with. Many things are in a mad state among us in these times.

In the last Newspaper I read a notice of the death of my old Friend Mitchell. It gave me a very sorrowful emotion. He was the oldest friend I had; one of the most innocently, gently industrious, well-doing persevering men. John had written to me about him; and affected me, not a little, beforehand. He was just one year older than I am.— John Sterling goes away on Saturday morning next: also a loved friend, one of my last; obliged to fly to warmer countries for his life, if indeed he can save it then. His family goes all with him; he has shifted and shifted of late years: we have a shifting time. I know not if I mentioned to you how an Uncle of his,9 an excellent man who came sometimes about us, was cut off suddenly, after a few days illness in Spring last: the old Grandmother10 (Mother of this one; young Sterling's Grandmother) is come hither to live with the elder Sterlings; a bent woman of ninety-one. They thought the shock of her favourite Son's sudden death would kill her; but Nature is kind, and makes the very old incapable of feeling much: the old Great Grandmother took it sweetly; chirrups and talks (I have seen her once) as lively as a cricket, and looks as if she might weather many a thing yet.

There has been a Letter from Jane; but hardly with later news than you already have: it was written only some two days after John saw her at Dumfries. She spoke of the great kindness of all people to her; had been exceedingly gratified to see Robert's face look into the Coach for her at Manchester; praised Jenny for her “still ways”;—and on the whole was got well home, and had determined to begin mending: that was all she could as yet tell me. I have little doubt she will get better fast; I do not press her to return till she be stronger again: sickly here so far from all help is a very bad way of it. She has indeed had too much of the Town: two years of it, without a week of interval. The very whirl of the thing, so long, is enough to shake a weak creature.— Anne ploosters [flounders] along here, without the smallest complaint or voluntary misdemeanour, and really does extremely well. She is considerably improved in all ways, I think: she does not want for sense, in her own rude way; above all things, she is good-natured, patient, robustly assiduous: usefuller to me than the delicatest Cockney Servant within the “four ports of Cockneydom,” acquainted with all servant-work to a degree, but unable to do it to my thank [deserve my gratitude]; nay needing rather (if there were no other resource) to be shoved softly out of doors, and bid depart from your sight forever and a day! To me a Coal-John Establishment11 (every man his own dish-washer) used often to seem the only reasonable way of it here.

Jenny and you, aided by the assiduous Merchant,12 must get up a long Letter for us out of Manchester. There is no doubt but you must; and will?— Jack comforts me greatly by his account of your health, of your customary ways at Scotsbrig. Take care of yourself, my dear Mother; take care of yourself for all our sakes!— It seems the Canns are up; but put on the wrong vents as I learn: it is most barbarous, most shocking. The cann always goes on the vent you want to save from back-smoke. I wish I were there for one half day. Also Canns are far better than Slates; there is no doubt of it: but “fool fashions” will come up.—— Jane was going to employ you to get me some new flannel drawers for the winter. The old stock are wauked [shrunk], got cold and little and uncomfortable: they were very good for 2 winters. You will see Jane I hope: but do not tire of Manchester and your children till the stour and reek grow too bad for you. Tell Jenny what I say about writing. My blessing upon her and her young man; may their life prosper with them for Time and beyond Time!— Now, you will write soon? Adieu dear Mother! Your affectionate

T. Carlyle