July 1836-December 1837

The Collected Letters, Volume 9


TC TO ALEXANDER CARLYLE; 5 March 1837; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18370305-TC-AC-01; CL 9:162-166.


Cheyne Row, Chelsea, 5th March 1837—

My dear Brother,

You can judge whether your last Letter1 produced an impression on me. I have thought of little else ever since I got it. From hour to hour the thought of what you tell me comes up, whenever there is any cessation of the huge bustle I am kept in: a thought sorrowful and stern, yet not without some kind of stern blessedness in it. You have not prospered in this our Home-land tho' making a manful long-continued effort to do it; you resolve that there are other lands where you may go and try anew. It is infinitely sad to me to remember how I was whirled away from your sight at Annan-foot last time we parted; and now—when we may meet next, God in His goodness only knows! But it beseems us to do what is needful to be done. Quietly, however painfully, we should do it. Nay in America itself I will still trust to see you; and what is more, under better circumstances than our wont was. Neither should our dear Mother grieve,2 nor will she, as those that have not hope. She knows that on this side of the Ocean as on that, nay in Death itself as well as in Life, we [are] all alike under God's eye: our kind thoughts too can follow one another, constant unimpeded, tho' our bodily footsteps cannot. My Mother too may perhaps go to America and the whole set of us root and branch! Far older Emigrants than she have gone. It is becoming a country this, which all quietly industrious poor and faithful men, ought, one would say, to be in haste to quit. No improvement in it, but the reverse and ever worse, down I doubt to mutual violence and killing, seems to be predictable.— Your resolution, painful to me as it may well be, is one that I dare not say Give up.

I have written to Mr Greig;3 I have described accurately your situation, character, capabilities as to money, faculty, &c; and asked him, as a “favour done to myself twice over,” to give what furtherance he can. He lives in New York State; not far from the borders of Canada: the place is called Cana[n]daigua. I believe he owns much land, or did own and has settled it; and possesses great influence in that region. He seemed to me an especially good kind of man: of great sagacity, integrity; of a douce, solid, sagacious very wholesome and sufficient make of mind. Grahame of Burnswark knows him and can tell you about him. Grahame also I think, has a Brother in New York.4 Do not Emigrants go thither in the first place?—Greig's Letter tho' written cannot go off, I understand, till the tenth of this month. His answer at the very shortest will take another month and more. That brings us into the middle of May before we can hear from him. He is nearly sure to write, unless the Letter miscarry, which there is small danger of; and also to send us some advice which will be worth listening to. But whether it will do for you to wait so long in expectation of it? We should have had it off two months ago. And yet, I remember, there were Emigrants in the Steamboat I went off to London in three years ago, near the Whitsunday time; nay Jane still later found such. You will determine what it is possible and fit to do; tell me in what thing soever now or while we live I have power to help you, and it shall be heartily attempted, done if in me it be. It is fair, and my part; never in any difficulty did I speak to you but your help was ready, as if it had belonged to me by nature. Courage, therefore, my brave Brother! Let us stand to it; let us front it, fasten on it, this “black imbroglio”; and wrestle with it for life: it shall not beat us while life, any fraction of life, is left.— You must write to me as soon as you can possibly make up your mind as to the course you will follow, or as to any part of the course; and on the whole, let me be in clear communication with you, and in possession of all your difficulties, resolutions and procedure.

For me it is determined that I am not to get to Scotland till June at soonest. That scheme of Lecturing, that I have mentioned more than once, is to take effect here! The people of the “Royal Institution” (a kind of sublim[e Me]chanics' Institute for the upper Classes) were “all filled up for this year,” when my friends got the inquiry made: but I remarked thereupon that there was nothing in that—“forty or fifty human beings wanting to hear about German Literature, and one human being ready to tell them somewhat about it: this is the soul and body of the business; we get house-room anywhere we want, and are independent of all the Institutions in the world!” They snatched at this saying; and have set about it with might and main; and a room is secured, and books are opened, and tickets printing, and the Marchionness of Landsdowne5 and great quantities of Ladyships volunteer to come; and it is fixed for the first week of May; and all going on like a house on fire! A kind of shudder runs thro' my whole heart when I think of it. However, it is a thing I have long wanted and meant to try; and so now I will try it: and doubtless get thro' it better or worse. On the first week of May, between 3 and 4 afternoon, two days each week, till my six lectures are completed,—there are to be happily only six: this is the arrangement. I am to speak my Lectures (that is the terror!) I have not a moment's time to write them. We must and will be thro' it; that is the short and the long!—— In the mean time nothing can excel the confusion I am kept in with my two Printers; for they are both now at work, and most irregular workers they are. I sit sometimes, the whole day, up to the armpits as it were amid papers printed and manuscript; books, papers and paper-clippings! They must however be done by and by,—perhaps by the middle of April. The first Volume is nearly all set up, I shall perhaps see the last of it forever in about a week. Then there is a Printer to each Volume; and gallop, “lick for lash thro' the Stanwix”; we have left “the Ricker-gate and Roan's”6 a while ago. The Book is going to be very considerably thicker than I expected;—as long to read as a Meister and a half, I will guess— Did you get the two little things (pamphlets) I sent you (by Glasgow, Templand and Dumfries)? There was one of each sort for you. The Necklace was the last thing I wrote at Puttoch, or ever shall write.— James Aitken ought also to have got an American Review of Teufelsdröckh; wh[ich] you will surely see, and like: they are extremely good to me these Yankees, and I am a great object there!

As you say nothing about health, I infer that your household has escaped this sad Influenza. We have had a bout of it here: at least Jane has; six weeks of pining and coughing: it never fairly laid hold of me; but kept mining at the outworks, and has finally I hope gone its ways. The bitter bleak weather is not good for one. I wish I were stronger for my lecturing: but I must do as I can.— If I prosper in this trial, I think I will let the Yankees hear me some day! Then comes tea to be made by Jenny were it out of the Mississippi water!— Courage my brave Alick! All lands are homes to the brave man. I feel as if the leaf were going to turn with me perhaps for the better with sickness of body and one thing and another I have had since I was fifteen, a very grim existence of it too. Let us hope and endeavour, and silently trust!— Jane charges me to send you her most affectionate wishes. Do not forget me to to [sic] the young Janet; nor nor [sic] to the old. Tell our Mother those news of mine: I will write to her if I find a moment, but if I find none, she will easily understand and excuse. Many thanks for putting right the slates, for putting up the swey;7 and the little keg of ale! A thrawn [perverse] body but a kind one!— God be with you, and guide you whither it is right to go, my dear Brother! I remain now and ever, Your faithful and affectionate, T. Carlyle

We both congratulate poor Mary after her fight; and trust the new William will do nothing but well.