July 1836-December 1837

The Collected Letters, Volume 9


TC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE; 22 January 1837; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18370122-TC-MAC-01; CL 9:124-128.


Chelsea, 22nd January 1837—

My dear Mother,

I fear I must seem an undutiful son for my silence of late; I have meant to write almost every day these two weeks; but really I have been very busy. Jack's Letter, which comes with this, signified to me that for you it would contain little new, as you had received one like it, shortly before, of your own. Tho' accompanied only by this poorest dud you ever read, it shall go off now, without waiting longer.

The best news I can send you is as it were conveyed without writing. Do you know the nature of that scrap of print? It is a piece of the Book! The Book is actually done, all written to the last line; and now after the usual higgling and maffling [procrastinating], the Printers have got fairly afloat, and we are to go on with wind and sea. There is still a great deal of constant business for me, in correcting the Press,—as much as I can do, we will hope; for they are to print with all the rapidity they are capable of; and I make a good many “improvements” as we go on, especially in the first volume. It will be six weeks yet; and then the Book will be about ready; and a copy will go off for Scotsbrig, I am thinking, as early as any other. Take that scrap of print, in the meanwhile, as a good omen; like the leaf that Noah's dove brought in the bill of it.1— I have had a very sore wrestle, for two years and a half: but it is over you see, and the thing is there. I finished about ten O'clock at night on friday gone a week;2 really with a feeling of thankfulness, of waeness [sadness], and great gladness. I could almost have grat [wept], but did not. Jane treated me to “a bread pudding” next day; which bread pudding I consumed with an appetite got by walking far and wide, I daresay almost twenty miles, over this “large and populous city.”3 My health is really better than anybody could expect: the foundations of this lean frame of mine must be as tough as wire: if I were rested a little, I shall forget the whole thing; and have a degree of freedom and lightness of heart unknown to me for a long while.

As to the reception the Book is to meet with, I judge that there will [be] ten enemies of it for one friend; but also that it will find friends by and by; in fine, that, as brave old Johnson said, “useful diligence will at last prevail.”4 It is not altogether a bad Book. For one thing, I consider it to be perhaps the sincerest Book this Nation has got offered it for a good few years; or is like to get for a good few. And so I say to them, “Good Christian people, there it is! Shriek over it, since ye will not shout over it; trample it and kick it, and use it in all ways ye judge best: if ye can kill it and extinguish it, then in God's name do! If ye cannot,—why then ye will not. My share in it is done.”— That is the thing I propose to say, within my own mind, to “ma' friend Charles Little,”5 and all manner of other friends and foes, about this matter. One infallible truth, most precious for us all, is, that I am shot [rid] of it, and you are all shot of it.— So let us print with despatch till the Finis is printed; and then shut our lips as to it for a twelvemonth coming.—

Since Jack's Letter, I have incidentally had two notices of him. One was thro' John Sterling, to whom in the South of France he had been writing; and reported himself well. The other was a Newspaper from himself at Rome within these three days. It had two strokes on it, in token that all was still tolerably right.— Whether he is likely to get much practice in Rome one does not see hitherto; but he starts on a safe basis, that of being supported already. It does seem he is getting somewhat to do. I wrote to him, requesting more explicit accounts next time.

I have sent you my best news; and must now send you my worst;—which happily is not of a deadly nature either. It concerns this Influenza, which all the world has; which poor Jane who never misses anything of that kind, could not escape. She took it, eight days ago precisely; with cough, pains in the back, &c; and being otherwise unwell at the time, she suffered really sharply for some days. There was the utmost weakness, incessant coughing; sometimes violent headache; really a hard business. However, for the last three days she has been decidedly better; the last two days especially she has got round fast: the cough is brought under; and we hope it is mainly over. She is sitting writing a little, behind me, at this moment.— There never was any such universal thing seen here in my time; “everybody sick” &c &c; as you will notice abundantly by the Newspapers. The truth is, our weather is the nastiest that mortal need wish: fog, damp and frost and rain, in perpetual round. Many a time I think what is becoming of you in Scotland; for the Disease seems to extend all over this quarter of the world; and your climate at Scotsbrig is not likely to be to be [sic] much better than ours. I pray you, dear Mother, to neglect no precaution. Avoid going out, especially in morning or evening; keep roaring fires on, to drive away this poisonous damp: above all, see that “you take something to do you good”; a good garrison within makes always the best feature of the defence. I pray Alick, when he reads this, to ascertain that you have a Keg of right ale; and to get you one directly if need be; that is, if one is not already got. I am sure he will attend to this.— If indeed you had already taken the disorder!— But I am going on the principle of hoping to the last. At all events, somebody must write to me with all convenient despatch. A Letter: it is not safe to deal in Newspaper conveyance. There came a Newspaper here, last week, charged 19 shillings and odd pence, for being “written on,” as they had marked it. I looked at it; could not for my life say whose hand it was: it looked like Alick's; but might be Hanning's. I, of course, refused it (as indeed the Postman directed me to do, being a very civil body): but I fancy we ought to take warning by it for they will be on the outlook now.6

I wrote to poor little Jenny at Manchester this last week: I try to believe that she is getting round again. I told them all my news that seemed likely to interest; and asked them to write. I also strove to impress on Jenny the necessity of careful regimen, exercise and attention to health, such as she had not been used to at Scotsbrig, but which that smoky confusion of a Manchester infallibly requires.

There are two bits of scraps for Dumfries,7 which you must send on, under cover to James Aitken as soon as you can. They are about the Herald Newspaper for John; as you will see explained in his Letter. I care nothing about it for myself: James and Jean, if they like, may take a glance of it at Dumfries, and then send it on to Manchester; it will still be in time here. I mentioned it to Jenny: it might be a kind of good to her where she is.—— Alick will now therefore understand how it is that he has been so ill dealt with about his Courier of late: I have sent it always on to Jack; but the instant this Herald is set on foot, we return to the old plan. Tell him farther I wish much to have a Letter from him. What do you say about America? I dare not say anything about it more. May a good Counsellor assist to judge what is best! Alick has had a sore enough wrestle, poor fellow; but we will not be beaten yet. We are nothing like beaten.

This unfortunate sheet is done, however! You seldom got a verier dud; but it was all I could engage for. I thought I should have had more leisure while the Proof-correcting went on; but I must crave farther delay. I beg you all to remember me; and be good to me till you see me,—and when you see me! I trust that is coming too; not far off us now.— The Lecturing Speculation, which I spoke of in my Letter to Jean, has taken no shape yet, and is neither off nor on: I cannot get it attended to for the present. We have a fresh supply of cash (for this Mirabeau); and were not thro' the old: “always been provided for.” Our oatmeal is done; we sup on arrow-root, milksops, &c, reasonably well.— I mean to send you all copies of that Diamond Necklace Paper (and of the other too),—if possible in the beginning of February; but the people are unpunctual blockheads, so I promise nothing. Good night my dear Mother; may God be near you all! Jane sends her love to every one of you. I will not be so long in writing again; especially now that Franks are come in fashion once more.— I had a million other things to say; but they remain all unsaid. Surely I shall see you all before long. Surely this wretched damp mist will blow away, and there will be blue sky and sunshine. Good night my dear mother mia [madre.] Your affectionate

T. Carlyle—