July 1836-December 1837

The Collected Letters, Volume 9


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE; 30 May 1837; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18370530-TC-JAC-01; CL 9:212-218.


Chelsea London, 30th May, 1837—

My dear Jack,

Your Letter1 came precisely eight days ago, the morning of my last Lecture but one; little Postie handed it to me on the street as I was going out to meditate. I have since heard from our Mother and written to her, enclosing that Roman despatch; and now the hurly-burly being in some measure over, I will answer you the first thing I do this day.

First therefore of Annandale. My Mother's Letter, written by her own hand from Annan the day before Whitsunday, was mostly about Alick and his going to America; against which step she protested in a very sorrowful way; and I could see had been talking and pleading with the old vehemence of affectionate fear, to all and sundry. She had brought it so far that Jamie, it seems, had consented to surrender Scotsbrig next year to Alick provided he himself could get Craigenputtoch to farm when M'Adam was out of it: upon which our poor Mother wrote piteously to me to get this secured for her and them. I liked the look of all that badly. My conviction is that such an arrangement cannot prosper: but poor Alick is evidently very reluctant to quit home; and one cannot drive him away even to his good. I answered my Mother that I feared it would never answer well; that for the rest Jamie could certainly get Craigenputtoch on such terms as another when the time came, but that I had not spoken of it to Mrs Welsh as yet; that Alick being evidently too late for America this year, except as an explorer by himself, ought to provide some up-putting for his family; and wait without any final determination at all till I came home, if he wanted my advice for deciding. But on the whole that I did decidedly counsel emigration, not for him only, but even if the whole clan went and Mother at the head of them I should think it well.— So stands it. Alick was to quit his Hill house on friday last, but I did not gather whither he was going: indeed the whole matter will continue involved in obscurity till I go and examine it with my own eyes. The kindred seemed all well in health; our Mother had been at Dumfries for some weeks. I fear poor Alick will never do good in this country, encumbered and obstructed as it is: he ought to take a resolution; to amputate where cure otherwise is desperate. There were no other tidings in my Mother's Letter: she longed to hear direct from you, and sent you her blessing; she was very glad about my Lectures &c, and seemed to be going on much as of old.— Did I say last time that Ben Nelson passed thro' this way on his road to Heidelberg where Edward lay ill? Poor Ben returned in 3 weeks a sad-hearted man: news met him at Mannheim that Edward was dead! He had died some two days before Ben got out of London. A young medical Scotchman had watched affectionately over him: he had died quite gently; saying himself that his life had all been smooth, that he had never known misery. Ben seemed to bear the matter with hard Dutch stoicism; not without natural emotion, yet not with very much of it. I never before had discerned what a dogged sort of man he is; obstinate, obdurate, and carries the mark of that too in his physiognomy. I studied to be as kind to him as I could, went to Westr Abbey &c with him, and saw him often: but he did not prove very presentable here; one night when I brought out Hunt to see him, he made an almost absurd figure; contradictory, pedantic, a la “Ewart's shop”;2 at which poor Hunt could only arch his brows. I saw him safe into the Manchester Coach the friday before your Letter came. So ends poor innocent Edward!

My paper is filling with such rapidity that I must hasten to London business. The Book as you will have noticed has been out for several weeks. Your Copy (I have every reason to believe) got to No. 5. P.V. at Paris at least a fortnight ago; but what became of it after I do not guess. There were the two remaining volumes with the title-pages: it were good news for me to hear that you had them at Albano, and were reading them in these hot days you are like to have. As to the reception of the Book here I can say almost nothing: Fraser I think is not advertising it much; but of that he shall be left free master for me: I do not think anything for or against, except as to time merely, can depend on that. Some condemn me, as is very natural, for “affectation.”3 Others are hearty, even passionate (as Mill) in their estimation. On the whole it strikes me as not unlikely that the Book may take some hold of the English People, and do them and itself a little good. Jeffrey writes me a very brisk Letter4 about it last week; full of good augury, of praise and blame, and how I shall infallibly be much praised and much blamed, and on the whole carry my point; really a kind hearty Letter from the little man; which I design to answer today or tomorrow. Mill is writing a review of me for his “London & Westminster,” so they call it now. I have given away very few copies, seeing there is some chance of sale now, and of money still lying in it. I sent one copy to the Churches of Kirkchrist; one to Mrs Johnstone of Grange; three to our own Kindred, two to Edinburgh (Inglis had promise of one): the rest some twenty in all were distributed here, chiefly among those that had helped my Lecturing scheme. We shall see what the thing turns to. It is really rather welcome to turn as it likes. I have done with it; no longer does it strangle the life out of me: there is the fact of facts!

As to the Lectures, I know not whether you saw in the Newspapers which I sent or which you might otherwise get hold of, what indications there were: but the truth is the thing went off not without effect; and I have great cause to be thankful that I am so handsomely quit of it. The audience, composed of mere quality and notabilities, was very humane to me; they seemed indeed to be not a little astonished at the wild Annandale voice, which occasionally got high and earnest; in these cases they sat as still under me as stones. I had, I think, 200 and odd. The pecuniary net-result is £135, the expenses being great, and the mismanagement of Booksellers &c coming in for something. But the ulterior issues of it may by possibility be less inconsiderable. It seems possible I may get into a kind of way of lecturing or otherwise speaking direct to my fellow-creatures; and so get delivered out of this awful quagmire of difficulties in which you have so long seen me struggle and wriggle. We will wait what the days bring. Heaven be thanked that it is done, for this time, so tolerably; and we here still alive! I hardly ever in my life had such a moment as that of the commencement when you were thinking of me at Rome. My Printers had only ceased the day before; I was wasted and fretted to a thread, my tongue let me drink as I would continued dry as charcoal: the people were there, I was obliged to stumble in, and start. Ach Gott! But it was got thro'; and so here we are.— Our Mother was “black-baised,” tho' I had written to her to be only “white-baised”; but she read the notice in the Times, and “wept” she tells me, and again read it.5 One ought to be thankful, and struggle on. Jane went to the last four Lectures, and did not faint.

And now I am delving the Garden to compose myself, and meaning to have things leisurely settled up here, and then start for Scotland. I should much approve of your scheme of going all in a bod[y; in]deed I have tried it every way: but it will not do. Quiet observation forces on me the conclusion [that] Jane and her Mother cannot live together. Very sad and miserable you will say. Truly; but so it [is. I] am farther bound to say that that chief blame does verily not lie at our side of the house. Nay who would be in haste to lay blame anywhere. But poor Mrs Welsh with literally “the best intentions” is a person you cannot live with peaceably on any other terms I could ever discover than those of disregarding altogether the whims emotions caprices and conclusions she takes up chameleon-like by the thousand daily. She and I do very well together on these terms (at least I do); but Jane and she cannot live so. They must not go to Templand together. And now whether she could do well at Scotsbrig with me or not is a question too. It seems best therefore that I go by myself; that we try for a few weeks and see. Mrs Welsh seems to think of going off home in a short time: but Jane I think prefers being left here, and thinks she should even do better without the perpetual pouting and fretting she is tried with let the rest go as it might: besides she will not be alone, having Mrs Sterling here, a kind warm friend. So then it seems to be settling itself: that I shall go shortly at any rate; that she shall stay here, alone if her Mother will not continue with her, and thereafter see how the thing turns. How long I shall be able to brook Scotsbrig is not certain either; but surely I do not design returning hither to the heats of London, which I detest as to summer climate above all places on Earth; not till the cold shew face again, or at least the coolness. Had you been here what pretty jaunts we might have made! But you are not here. I will get Books, perhaps take a little work with me; I mean to have some horse or garron [small, sturdy horse]; to hold my peace and rest myself, of which really I have some need. In the mean time I believe my health is not fundamentally hurt; rest will cure me. I must be a toughish kind of lath after all, for my life here these three years has been sore and stern, almost frightful, nothing but Eternity beyond it in which seemed any peace. Perhaps better days are now beginning. God be thanked we can still do without such; still, and always, if it so be. Esperons!— Your next Letter had better be directed Scotsbrig. You will tell me how you get on in your summer solitude; what you think and do; above all when there is any chance of seeing your face again. I had a Guide Newspaper (new Radical Newspaper of Buller's &c) with some praise in it by Hunt;6 I thought Who will assuredly be glad to see this besides my Mother who has got one? I could answer, Brother Jack only. Be steady my boy: we shall see what becomes of us. Your medical adventure at Rome appears to have ended very tolerably: it is really a fair sum you have got; coupled with the consciousness of having actually been practicing, it ought to satisfy you. What to do next we shall see better by and by. But here is the bottom of the paper! My interior is hot, hot; I am not in mood for writing. Besides the paper is too small, and the pen bad; but I found no remedy on looking in the drawer. I grow better in health however, daily. I delve, as you heard; I walk much, generally alone, thro' the lanes and Parks; the weather has been cold and suitable for me if for nothing else; it is not yet grown intolerably hot; when it does I shall run. I have lived much alone for a long time; refusing to go anywhere; finding indeed no pleasure in going anywhere, in speaking with any one. I have not seen Alan Cunningham for two months: I am going one of these months. I went one night to the Bullers to meet Lady Lewis.7 She kindly remembered you, spoke of a book of yours she still had: an earnest cultivated, strictly-limited estimable woman. The rest of the thing was dull-droning Radicalism, platitude and tedium; I do not mean to go soon back. Jane, who is to write a P.S. will tell you herself how she is. Adieu dear Jack. Gehab' Dich wohl mein wackerer [Best of luck my honest fellow]! I shall see whether there is a margin left. Auf ewig [forever]. T.C.

[JWC's postscript:]

Dear John I do not find that my husband has given you any adequate notion of the success of his lectures; but you will make large allowance for the known modesty of the man. Nothing that he has ever tried seems to me to have carried such conviction to the public heart that he is a real man of genius and worth being kept alive at a moderate rate. Lecturing were surely an easier profession than authorship ! We shall see. My cough is quite gone and there [is] no consumption about me at present—I expect to grow strong now that he has nothing more to worry him. I saw a little man who knew you in Rome—Fortescue his name was—he was laughing at the recollection of your quarrels with Miss Hoare.8

[TC's margins:]

I had a flaming Letter from Emerson in America in laud of the Mirabeau &c; second edition of Dreck, and what not:9 “goot worts Master Slender, goot worts.”10 Little Miss Martineau has out her Book on America; a Book buckramed into “formulas,”11 and yet not altogether choked in them; a goodish Book, by one good. If she were not so deaf, I could like her very well.

Worthy old Dunn was one of my hearers, when toothache would allow. He is one of the best of men. He was for bespeaking me to breakfast with him in company with Whately the Dublin Archbishop;12 no day was fixed: my curiosity is not great. Mill has given me the Biographie Universelle: very handsome. I am for it bound, it and others of my books.

Excuse this mean dud of a Letter, and write directly to Scotsbrig; I will do better next time. Adieu dear Brother. T.C.

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