July 1836-December 1837

The Collected Letters, Volume 9


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE; 21 September 1837; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18370921-TC-JAC-01; CL 9:308-313.


Chelsea, 21st Septr, 1837—

My dear Brother,

Your Letter to Jane dated 4th Septr arrived here yesterday; the one to my Mother1 was likewise duly received and read by me at Ecclefechan. The latter was pierced thro' in two places, and appeared to have been fumigated; the Chelsea one of yesterday had escaped that formality. Communication being so obstructed, I lose not a day's time in sending my answer. You have me here with the top of the morning, in my old up-stairs establishment; I will tell you everything that I can call to mind.

That cholera business seems to be a very frightful one; the cholera itself, and then the precautions against it, and panic on account of it. Men are great blockheads and very miserable. Your last Letter is the true emblem of a country suffering dreadfully by Heaven's visitation, and still more by its own folly and frenzy. We remember well enough how it was in Dumfriesshire, yet with this difference in our favour, that village was not shut against village, and we had only the madness of Fear in an isolated inorganic shape. God preserve you, my dear Brother, in the middle of these perils! As I used to say for myself, Are we not at all times near to Death; separated from it by a mere film? God will preserve us till our days and their work are done: therefore at least we will not live in bondage to the vile tyranny of Fear. Expose not yourself without duty to do; that is very clear: but with duty again, one will dread no exposure. And for the rest, hope and let us all hope that it will quickly pass. As for you, you had a call to go thither where you now are: the distinct call to go and seek your daily bread. As for the rest of your party, that, flying about at their will, have flown into the threat of such a danger,—what can one do or say but pity them, but help them with all faculty one has? Would to Heaven it were well over for you all! I will not send this last Letter of yours to my Mother; but only some general abstract of it, drawn in my own way: she gets terror enough out of the Newspapers; in which no horrors of Palermo, no massacre of an Englishman at Rome is omitted.2 I will write to her today or tomorrow; and say that you were still well, that she must trust to Heaven for you still. But on the whole do not neglect, as you prescribe for us, to write and convey us assurance by all methods. How much were a weekly Newspaper worth at present! But we cannot get it; we must go on as we can without it: I will keep up what obstinate trust I can that nothing has befallen. And so no more of cholera.

I continued at Scotsbrig till Wednesday gone a week3 (this is Thursday); much in the old way till the last. Nothing had gone wrong, or had altered notably. Jamie was getting on with his harvest, with very tolerable prospects of crop, with good weather till the last week. He then in the dark rains had begun talking of the “last three” drowned harvests; but I think it is all altered now; there is a steady dry East-wind blowing here, which indicates drought for the whole Island. The potatoe-crop was excellent everywhere; a great blessing for the poor. Trade also seemed partially reviving. Alick had, some four or five weeks since, taken possession of the House at Ecclefechan, and was laying all flat with flagging &c: the day before my departure Jamie Aitken was there glazing, and the whole House lay open. In ten days more Alick calculated on being off for Manchester and Liverpool to buy goods. They seem all to think he has a fair kind of chance there; he himself is in full activity about it; doubtless much happier than he was. Jean and her child had come down to see us before my departure; then Aitken, as hinted, to fetch her back, and do Alick's glazing; he had a gig, and went off at nightfall of the Tuesday. The night when your Letter to my Mother came, I was at Alick's, and wanted yourself much there. I had walked over in the evening, understanding that Alick was a little unwell: some kind of cholic or “British cholera” which many people had, which Jamie for one had a two-days trial of. Poor Alick on my arrival lay not a little unwell, but very ill; crazy in utter delirium, his skin all red and hot, and nothing but pain confusion and contradiction to be got out of him. The house was all rubbish and disorder; poor Jenny alone, with two children at her feet and another on her arm. It was one of the ugliest scenes I ever saw. I dreaded violent inflammation of some sort; and on my own responsibility went directly for Simpson.4 A doctoring-bout followed; four hours work: but we learned that the delirium came partly from whiskey-punch which Jenny had remedially administered (as she confessed with tears) at the beginning of the business; Simpson's senna et-ceteras did their duty; and next morning all danger was over. Alick at the time of my departure, and all of them, were quite well in health.— But as I was saying we did bundle, my Mother and I, on the Wednesday morning, in a spitting East rain, and got under way for Annan and the Steamer, Alick driving us in one of Jamie's carts. Breakfast at Mary's: a most tidy, dextrous little creature Mary, her husband too one of the best-conditioned men: there is a speculation, I may say here, about getting them into Stenniebeck Farm5 this year; which I hope will take effect; I engaged to help, and you had already promised to help. Ben Nelson too accompanied us to the Jetty; we splashed on board, and said farewell. My Mother stood her voyage excellently; hurrying direct thro' Liverpool next morning, we got to Hanning's to breakfast, and all was happily over. Our Mother is to stay there probably for a number of weeks; “till she tire.” Rob and she do very well together, tho' he is as coarse a cub as I ever had to do with: kindly disposed, obliging, but coarse as hemp; I had all the difficulty possible to prevent him from calling me “thou,” “will-ta” &c! My Mother looked sad enough when I went off, but behaved herself well; the last wae looks she had abide with me as such things do. She sent many blessings to you, and charges that I was to send her word when you wrote. My stay in Manchester was of some thirty hours: on the Friday night I got safe into the inside of a Coach (the same you came in), and with less flurry than usual, arrived here by omnibus, next night to tea; finding all clean and tight, a fire burning, and Jane hid behind the outer door to welcome me. I had been absent twelve weeks and some days.

So ends my travel's history6 for this season. I must gather myself together now, and see what I will do. There is surely more possibility for me than there was. Much has improved since my departure: yet unhappily there is one chief thing not right, my poor Jane's health. She had taken slightly to coughing again, ten days before I came; a phenomenon that saddened me much. Had there been no cholera in Italy I think I should almost have urged her to go and try it. As it is, she [feels? no] cowardice, no despondency; we will do the very best we can, and hope all things. I myself beli[eve] she is really grown stronger since we parted; this cough too has abated very visibly since my return. Having no Book to write this year, I shall not feel so fretted, shall not fret any one: there will be a cheerfuller household than of old. What I am to do,—except clean the Garden in the first place? Mill wants me to write him an Article on Walter Scott;7 most probably I shall do that: there is no promise in it, but also no prohibition: it will bring a few pounds into my pocket, and my hand in again. They are very desirous to have me write; but their Review is a most barren one, neither are they themselves fruitful. Seemingly my best money resource will be in new Lectures in the Spring season. To this I will sedulously turn myself, to see what is practicable, in good time. Meanwhile I am to be considered as a kind of successful man. The poor Book has done me real service; and in very truth has been abundantly reviewed and talked about and belauded: far more than I had any expectation of. Neither, apparently, is it yet done. There is last week a very high-toned thing in the Examiner,8 which I have joyfully sent off to my Mother; I will also try to get you a Copy: the joy one has in the pleasure one's friends will have to read such things is the only legitimate joy belonging to them. Did you get the Times review I sent? There were since then three (very shallow, laudatory) articles in the Glasgow Argus that I saw; several others that I heard of: on the whole, a well-received Book; handsomely off one's hands; thank Heaven! The critic in that Examiner is one Fo[r]ster as I learn, the man I gave liberty to think of Goethe whatsoever he reckoned fittest, a blustering bubbly-jockish [like a turkey] kind of man, from whom surely I expected not praise.9 Let me lastly thank your unknown Scotch lady (of Mr Wright's Correspondents) for her eulogy; which surely is the highest of all.10 And now good-b'ye to the Book; with gratitude to Heaven.— John Sterling has indeed been in Bourdeaux, but is now here again with all his family! Wife and children are to stay with his Father; he himself the cholera excluding them from Italy is to winter in Madeira. He waits only till he have married Maurice; not to be for a fortnight or three weeks yet, everybody regretting that he should linger so long. I see him almost daily the good John; one of the welcomest sights any man could have. Mill is just going into Monmouthshire to rusticate; many Friends are still here, have returned hither, Miss Martineau &c; all of them very kind to us. Poor Mr Dunn is lying not well; the Wilsons are still in Worcestershire. I will trouble you with no more of them at present:—for a reason that you may see.11 O my dear Jack, take care of yourself, and pray Heaven the next Letter may bring us better news. We can do nothing more but wish and hope. The £190 business was given in charge to James Aitken, who I doubt not, has transacted it before this: you will have above £1000 in the Bank now; a thing useful. Jane is down stairs, sewing table-covers, not much troubled today; some Mrs Crawford12 is to come and give her a drive in the sunshine: perhaps she may write you her own salutation. Now a Letter with the soonest. Adieu dear Brother; may God keep you!— Your ever affectionate— T. Carlyle.

Jane “feels wearied” today; desires me to send her love and say that next time she hopes to write a considerable postscript. We shall see.— I should have told you there were manifold remembrances sent from Nelson and Graham. I had them both with me, to deepen the confusion, at Scotsbrig the night before I went off. Poor Ben could scarcely deliver his message for you with clear articulation; “if ever you went thro' Heidelberg”—he could say no more. He is sunk into great sorrow; which however he can cast behind him ever and anon. I believe a Letter from you would give him real satisfaction; tho' he hardly looks for it. Grahame continued to the last stupid and kind. He accomplished the bringing of Menzies13 to Scotsbrig! A dull glass-eyed reverend man, of great good humour, who talked and took his tea, without offence to any one. Clow of Land is off, near America we hope by this time. They had a rude passage across the Solway to begin with; I sent him a Note for Greig: all men wished him well.

I saw old Mrs Irving once at Annan: full of tears, of clatter, of curiosity and confusion; a melancholy wreck. Dixon14 saw [sic] a little better. Poor Margaret (Ferguson) is dead at Liverpool. Mr Martin15 of Kirkcaldy is dead; the Marquis of Queensberry was in the article of death.16

Wull of Breckonhill17 continues to practice at Annan; Davie Ferguson18 has given up drinking: neither of them were seen by me. Nor did I see more of Waugh. I did not go again to Templand; I saw nobody at Liverpool: the Welshes I have since learned were at sea homeward the very day we were.

Little Mylne (the Roman) is M.P. to appear in a new character!19

Adieu dear Jack! This ends[.]

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