Unpublished Letters of Carlyle


AFTER several visits in Scotland during the summer of 1838, Carlyle went home again to Scotsbrig. On his return thence, he spent a few days in Manchester with Mrs. Hanning. " He had been put to sleep in an old bed, which he remembered in his father’s house.” “ I was just closing my senses in sweet oblivion,” wrote he, “ when the watchman, with a voice like the deepest groan of the Highland bagpipe, or what an ostrich corncraik might utter, groaned out Grooo-o-o close under me, and set me all in a gallop again. Groo-o-o-o ; for there was no articulate announcement at all in it, that I could gather. Groo-o-o-o, repeated again and again at various distances, dying out and then growing loud again, for an hour or more. I grew impatient, bolted out of bed, flung up the window. Groo-o-o-o. There he was advancing, lantern in hand, a few yards off me.

' Can’t you give up that noise ? ’ I hastily addressed him. ' You are keeping a person awake. What good is it to go howling and groaning all night, and deprive people of their sleep ? ’ He ceased from that time — at least I heard no more of him. No watchman, I think, has been more astonished for some time back. At five in the morning all was as still as sleep and darkness. At half past five all went off like an enormous mill-race or ocean-tide. The Boom-m-m, far and wide. It was the mills that were all starting then, and creishy drudges by the million taking post there. I have heard few sounds more impressive to me in the mood I was in.”

The following letter belongs to the time between the Hannings’ departure from Manchester and Mr. Hanning’s sailing for America. Kirtlebridge, where they were now living, is a few miles southeast of Ecclefechan. " The little ' trader,’ ” the “bit creeture,” was probably Mrs. Hanning’s first child, Margaret Aitken Carlyle, who was not yet two years old. The reference to the new penny post marks an era.



DEAR JENNY, — Had I known definitely how to address a word to you, I might surely have done so long before this. We have heard in general that you are stationed somewhere in the Village of Kirtlebridge or near it, and we fancy in general that your husband is struggling along with his old impetuosity. From yourself we have no tidings. Pray, now that the Postage is so cheap, send us a pennyworth some day. I address this through Alick, fancying such may be the best way.

I enclose my last letter from the Doctor. I wrote to him the day before yesterday to his final destination. I calculate he may have got my letter to-day, — that is two days after his arrival. By that note all seems to be going well with him ; — we are all well here, as well as our wont is, and fighting along with printers, proof sheets &c, &c. Jane cannot regularly get out ; so horribly tempestuous, wet and uncertain is the weather, which keeps her still sickly, but she never breaks actually down. How is the little “ trader,” as Jean or some of them call her ? I remember the “ bit creeture ” very distinctly.

This is the worst year or among the worst for working people ever seen in man’s memory. Robert must not take this as a measure of his future success, but toil away steadfastly in sure hope of better times. It is well anyway that you are out of Manchester ; nothing there but hunger, contention and despair — added to the reek and dirt! Be diligent and fear nothing.

Do you often run over to see our dear Mother in her Upper Room yonder ? It will be a great comfort to her that she has you so near. Pray explain to me what part of the Village it is that you live in. I thought I knew it all, but I do not know Firpark Nook. Give my best wishes to your Goodman. Accept my thanks for your written remembrance, from one who always silently remembers you in his heart.

On April 23 of this year Carlyle wrote in his journal, “ Miscellanies out, and Chartism second thousand.” A month later he relieved his mother’s anxiety about the last of his lectures on Heroes and Hero-Worship : “ I contrived to tell them something about poor Cromwell, and I think to convince them that he was a great and true man, the valiant soldier in England of what John Knox had preached in Scotland. In a word, the people seemed agreed that it was my best course of lectures, this.” Certainly his last course of lectures, this. He never spoke from a platform again till twenty-six years later, when, as Lord Rector, he addressed the students of Edinburgh University. He detested the “ mixture of prophecy and play-acting.” In the midst of his own work of making ready these final lectures for publication, Carlyle found time to push the London Library along. He thought England, as regarded its provision of books for the poor, in “ a condition worthier of Dahomey than of England.”

Yet, in spite of this good and successful work for the library, Carlyle was of a mind to write, on July 3: “ Alas! I get so dyspeptical, melancholic, half mad in the London summer : all courage to do anything but hold my peace fades away ; I dwindle into the pusillanimity of the ninth part of a tailor, feel as if I had nothing I could do but ‘ die in my hole like a poisoned rat.’ ” He was apparently brought to the pitch of applying to himself this most terrible word of Swift’s by the necessity of serving on a special jury. Let us set over against it what he said—never to be too often quoted — about a friend whom he found sitting smoking in the garden one evening, with Mrs. Carlyle: “ A fine, large-featured, dim-eyed, bronzecoloured, shaggy-headed man is Alfred ; dusty, smoky, free and easy, who swims outwardly and inwardly with great composure in an inarticulate element of tranquil chaos and tobacco smoke. Great now and then when lie does emerge, — a most restful, brotherly, solid-hearted man.” Taken together with what Tennyson himself called “ the dirty monk ” portrait, this probably gives a better picture of him than most of us could have made for ourselves with the eye of the flesh. Other, less welcome visitors came to Carlyle that summer, — among them a young woman from Boston, whom he called “ a diseased rosebud.” But America sent money as well as flowers, and the summer, according to Froude, brought the net result up to four hundred pounds.

By August, the lecture-writing now two thirds done, Carlyle, having so far taken no holiday, made a week’s ridingtour in Sussex on the back of the gifthorse, Citoyenne. “ Mrs. Carlyle described to us, some years after,” says “the skilful biographer,” “in her husband’s presence, his setting out on this expedition ; she drew him in her finest style of mockery, — his cloak, his knapsack, his broad-brimmed hat, his preparation of pipes, etc., — comparing him to Dr. Syntax. He laughed as loud as any of us, — it was impossible not to laugh ; but it struck me, even then, that the wit, however brilliant, was rather untender.”

On the eve of riding forth, Carlyle wrote to his mother. The Bullers, mentioned in the letter which follows, were the family of Charles Buller, to whom he had been tutor. Buller died eight years afterward, in the midst of a brilliant parliamentary career. The “ clergyman ” was probably the Rev. Julius Hare. I find no record of a visit to Erskine until three years later. Carlyle had written to his brother John, in the winter of 1838 : “ Did you ever see Thomas Erskine, the Scotch saint? I have seen him several times lately, and like him as one would do a draught of sweet rustic mead, served in cut glasses and a silver tray ; one of the gentlest, kindliest, best bred of men. He talks greatly about ‘ Symbols,’ and other Teufelsdröckhiana ; seems not disinclined to let the Christian religion pass for a kind of mythus, provided men can retain the spirit of it. . . . On the whole I take up with my old love for the Saints.” And from that time Carlyle held much salutary communion with “ St. Thomas,” as Mrs. Carlyle used playfully to call him.


CHELSEA, 1ST August, 1840.

MY DEAR MOTHER, — Before setting out on my long-talked-of excursion I must send you a word. I am to go to the Bullers’ place to-morrow, a place near Epsom (the great race course) some eighteen miles off. I am to ride out with a Macintosh before my saddle and a small round trunk the size of a quartern loaf fastened behind, and no clothes upon me that bad weather will spoil. I shall be one of the most original figures ! I mean to stay a day or two about Buller’s, riding to and fro to see the fine green country. I have written to a clergyman, an acquaintance of mine on the South coast some 40 miles farther off : if he repeat the invitation he once gave me, perhaps I shall ride to him and see the place where William the Conqueror fought &c. and have one dip in the sea. I mean to be out in all about a week. The weather has grown suddenly bright. I calculate the sight of the green earth spotted yellow with ripe corn will do me good. After that I am to part with my horse : the expense of it is a thing I cannot but continually grudge. I think it will suit better henceforth to get rolled out on a railway some 20 miles, clear of all bricks and reek, to walk then for half a day, now and then, and so come home at night again. The expense of a horse every day here is nearer four than three shillings, far too heavy for a little fellow like me, whom even it does not make altogether healthy. I have offered to give the beast to Mr. Marshall (son of the original donor), who kept her for me last winter. I hope he will accept on my return. It will be much the handsomest way of ending the concern. If he refuses I think I shall sell. I meditated long on riding all the way up to Carlisle and you ! But in the humor I am in, I had not heart for it. These Southern coasts too are a still newer part of England for me. I give up the riding Northward, but not the coming Northward yet, as you shall hear.

My Fourth Lecture was finished three days ago. On returning strong, as I hope to do a week hence, I will attack my two remaining lectures and dash them off speedily. The Town will be empty — none to disturb me. About the end of August I may hope to have my hands quite free, and then ! Thomas Erskine invites me to Dundee &c. There are steamers, steam coaches, — I shall surely see you.

Alick’s good letter gave me welcome tidings of you. I had read your own dear little epistle before. Heaven be praised for your welfare. I am glad to hear of “ the peat-shed ” and figure to myself the cauldron singing under your windows. I have written to-day to Jack. There had come a letter from Miss Elliott for him from the Isle of Wight : he once talked of settling there. I know not whether that is still in the wind again. He will have to decide about the Pellipar affair in three weeks or less.

To-day I enclose a little half sovereign. You must accept it merely to buy gooseberries : they are really very wholesome. I am to go into the City to send off some money for the Bank at Dumfries. I am in great haste. I will write again directly on my return if not sooner.

Alick’s letter, tell him, was the pleasantest he has sent for many a day. I thank him much for it and will answer soon. I still owe Jamie a letter too : he is very patient, but shall be paid. Did you ever go near the sea again ? This is beautiful weather for it now. It would do you and little Tom good, I think.

Jane still likes the warmth and salutes you all. Wish me a good journey! It is like to be a very brief and smooth one. Adieu, dear Mother.

Carlyle was disappointed in his hope of going home. He did not visit Scotsbrig again for another year.

So long before as January, 1839, Carlyle had written to his brother : “ I have my face turned partly towards Oliver Cromwell and the Covenant time in England and Scotland.” He continued to read and think much on the subject ; and in the autumn of 1840 he wrote to Mr. Erskine : “ I have got lately, not till very lately, to fancy that I see in Cromwell one of the greatest tragic souls we have ever had in this kindred of ours.” But in this letter to his sister, as in so many another, there is no mention save of the close family kindred of the Carlyles: —


5 CHEYNE ROW, CHELSEA, 7 October, 1840.

DEAR JENNY, — Will you take a word from me to-day in place of many hundreds which I wish I had the means of sending you ? My time is very limited indeed, but the sight of my handwriting may be a kind of enlivener to your kind thoughts about me. My dear Mother tells me you are afraid sometimes I may have forgotten you. Believe that never, my dear little sister, it will forever be an error if you do ! The whirl I am kept in here is a thing you can form no notion of, nor how natural or indeed inevitable it is for me to give up writing letters at all except when I am bound and obliged to do it. You have no lack of news from me; to my Mother at least I send abundant details. Did I not answer your letter too? I surely meant and ought to have done it. If at any time you wanted the smallest thing that I could do for you, and wrote about, I should be busier than I have ever yet been, if I did not answer. — In short, dear Jenny, whatever sins I may have, whatever more I may seem to have, try to think handsomely of them, to forgive them. And above all things, consider that whether I write many letters or few, my affection for you is a thing that will never leave me.

My Mother tells me frequently how good you are to her ; what a satisfaction it is that you are so near her. I thank you a hundred times for your goodness to her ; but I know you do not need my thanks or encouragement — and to me it is a real comfort to reflect that you, with your true heart and helpful hand, are always so near. Surely it is a duty for us all, and a blessing in the doing of it, to take care of our Mother, and promote her comfort by all means possible to us! I will love you better and better for this.

You would see by my Mother’s last letter, where the Doctor is at present. I have heard nothing since I had a Newspaper from Dumfries, the other day, no letters. I mentioned that the box for Scotsbrig was to be sent off; it went accordingly and is now on the way to Liverpool, likely to be with you soon. There is a small parcel in it for you. We rejoice to hear that Robert prospers in his business : it is difficult to prosper in any business at present. A man of industry, sobriety, and steadiness of purpose; such a man has a chance if anybody have. Jane is certainly in better health this year than I have seen her for a good while. We wait to see what she will say to the cold weather ! I myself am as well as usual; no great shakes of a wellness at any time. I expect to be busy, very busy this winter, which is the best consolation for all things. How I should like to hear of Jamie’s harvest being all thatched ! My love to my Mother, to Alick and all the rest. Jane unites with me in special remembrances to Robert and the glegg little lassie.

Yours, dear Jenny, in great haste, in all truth,


Late in November, Carlyle, “greatly against wont,” went out to dinner. Among the people he met were “Pickwick ” and old Rogers, “ still brisk, courteous, kindly affectionate — a good old man, pathetic to look upon.” Carlyle’s acquaintances did not always grow in his favor, and six years later he said of Rogers: “I do not remember any old man (he is now eighty-three) whose manner of living gave me less satisfaction.” In this winter of 1840-41, his dissatisfaction with things in general made him think at times of so desperate a move as retreating again to Craigenputtock. Still he kept on with the reading of “ needful books.” “ He has had it in his head for a good while,” said Mrs. Carlyle to a correspondent, on the 8th of January, 1841, " to write a ‘life of Cromwell,’ and has been sitting for months back in a mess of great dingy folios, the very look of which is like to give me locked-jaw.”

Mrs. Hanning’s second child, Mary, was born December 24, 1840.


CHELSEA, 15th January, 1841.

DEAR JENNY, — We have heard very frequently from Alick of late about you, for which punctuality we are greatly obliged to him. You have had a bad turn, poor little Jenny, and we were all anxious enough to hear from day to day, as you may believe, how it went with you. Alick reports of late, yesterday in particular, that you are now considered out of danger, steadily getting better. We will hope and believe it so, till we hear otherwise. You must take good care of yourself. This weather is good for no creature, and must be worst of all for one in your situation. Do not venture from the fire at all, till the horrible slush of snow be off the ground.

And what becomes of our good Mother all this time ? She could not be at rest of course if she were not beside you, watching over you herself. Alick struggles to report favourably of her. but we have our own apprehensions. What can I do but again and again urge her to take all possible precautions about herself (which however she will not do!) and trust that she may escape without serious mischief. If you were once up again I will fancy you taking care of her. It must be a great comfort to have you so near her — within walking distance in the good season.

We have never had here so ugly a winter : first violent frost, snow &c., then still nastier times of the thawing sort: for a week past there has been nothing but sleet, rime and slobber, the streets half an inch deep with slush and yet a cake of slippery ice lying below that; so in spite of daily and hourly sweeping and scraping, they constantly continue. I, with some few others, go daily out, whatever wind blow. I am covered to the throat in warm wool of various textures and can get into heat in spite of fate. Jane too holds out wonderfully, ventures forth when there is a bright blink once in a week; sits quiet as a mouse when the winds are piping abroad. We understand you are far deeper in snow than we. I believe there is now a good thick quilt of it lying over the entire surface of the Island.

The Doctor was here till Tuesday morning. We saw him daily with much speech and satisfaction. A letter yesterday announced that they were fairly settled in Wight again. He looked as well as need be.

I have sent by Alick a bit half-sovereign to buy the poor new bairn a new pock. You must take it without grumbling. Tell my dear Mother that she must take care of herself, that I will write to her before many days go. Better health to us all. Our kind wishes to Robert. Good be with you every one.

Your affectionate brother,


Here is another and a more highly elaborated bit of London weather from an undated fragment in Mrs. Hanning’s possession at the time of her death: —

“ Our weather is grown decidedly good for the last three days ; very brisk, clear and dry. Before that it was as bad as weather at any time need be : long continued plunges of wet, then clammy, glarry days on days of half wet (a kind of weather peculiar to London, and fully uglier than whole wet) : — a world of black sunless pluister, very unpleasant to move about in ! The incessant travel makes everything mud here, in spite of all that clats and besoms can do ; a kind of mud, too, which is as fine as paint, and actually almost sticks like a kind of paint! I took, at last, into the country, with old clothes and trousers folded up; there the mud was natural mud, and far less of it, indeed, little of it in comparison with other country. We dry again in a single day of brisk wind.”

Early in 1841 Carlyle arranged with Fraser for the publication of Heroes and Hero-Worship. “ The Miscellanies, Sartor, and the other books,” says Froude, “ were selling well, and fresh editions were wanted.”


CHELSEA, Saturday [February, 1841].

MY DEAR GOOD MOTHER, — Take half a word from me to-day since I have no time for more. I had forgotten that it was Saturday till after breakfast I learnt it, and ever since there has been business on business !

We received your good little letter one evening and sent it on to John. Thanks to you for it. I had a letter too from Grahame about his Miscellanies, for which he seems amazingly thankful, poor fellow. We will not tell him about the Ecclefechan Library — let well be!

John also sends word of himself — all right enough, the “probability ” that he will be here again before long.

Jane and I are well, rejoicing in the improved weather, not the best of weather yet, but immensely better than it was. Some days have been sunny and bright, a pleasant prophecy of spring.

I have bargained with Fraser for my lectures. They are now at press, that kept me so very busy. He would give me only £75, the dog, but then he undertakes a new edition of Sartor, too, (the former being sold) and gives me another £75 for that too. It is not so bad, £150 of ready money — at least money without risk. I did not calculate on getting anything at present for Teufelsdroeckh. You see we are rather rising than falling, “ mall in shaft,” at any rate. That is always a great point. Poor Teufelsdroeckh, it seems very curious money should lie even in him. They trampled him into the gutters at his first appearance, but he rises up again, — finds money bid for him.

On the whole I expect not to be obliged to lecture this year, which will be an immense relief to me: I shall not be broken in pieces, I shall have strength for perhaps some better things than lecturing.

You spoke of going to Dumfries: I am always afraid of your getting hurt on those expeditions, but I suppose you will not be able to rest without going. I wish Jean and you both were through it.

By the bye, did I ever sufficiently tell Isabella that her butter continues excellent, none better. I owe Jamie a letter too. Alick ought to have been apprised how good his bacon was — was, for alas, I myself eat the most part of it and it is done: some weeks ago his tobacco ran out; I never told this either — I forgot everything !

Well, dear Mother, this is all I can say in my hurry. I will write again soon, but with two Books at the printer’s with &c., &c., what can a poor man do? Be good bairns, one and all of you.

Your ever affectionate


When the proofs of Hero-Worship were finished, visits to Richard Monckton Milnes (afterward Lord Houghton), and to the James Marshalls at Headingly, gave Carlyle what seem to have been his first glimpses of life in great country houses. On the 17th of April, 1841, he communicated his impressions to his wife: “ I never lived before in such an element of ‘ much ado about almost Nothing ; ’ life occupied altogether in getting itself lived ; . . . and such champagning, claretting, and witty conversationing. Ach Gott ! I would sooner be a ditcher than spend all my days so. However, we got rather tolerably through it for these ten days.” Visits to his mother, Miss Martineau, the Speddings, and a month in lodgings at Newby — where he probably did not think of Redgauntlet — disposed of most of the remaining holiday, and brought Carlyle back to Cheyne Row in September. The book would not yet begin itself. “ Ought I to write now of Oliver Cromwell ? Gott weiss ; I cannot yet see clearly.” Toward the close of this year, Carlyle was asked to let himself be nominated to the new History Chair in Edinburgh University. He declined, with noble thanks.

“Our brother,” whom Carlyle writes of to Mrs. Hanning, was their half-brother, already referred to, who had emigrated to Canada in 1837, and died there in 1872.


CHELSEA, 24 Nov’r, 1841.

DEAR JENNY, — Here is the American letter you spoke of. It arrived yesterday, and to-day, after showing it to John, I send it to you. I do not exactly know what part of Canada it is dated from, but the place lies some hundreds of miles north-west of where your husband is likely to be. Our brother seems to be going on in a very prosperous way there.

On Sunday last the Doctor showed me a letter he had written for you. It appeared to be full of rational advice, in all of which I agree. You must pluck up a spirit, my good little Jenny, and see clearly how many things you yourself, independent of all other persons, can still do. You, then, can either act like a wise, courageous person or like a fool, between which two ways of it there lies still all the difference in the world for you. . . . I assert, and believe always, that no person whatever can be ruined except by his own consent, by his own act, in this world. Your little bairn will get to walk, then you will have more time to sit to some kind of employment. This will be your first consolation.

I know not whether our Mother is still with you, but suppose yes. I wrote to her a very hurried scrawl last week. Pray take good care of her from the damp and cold. I will write to her again before long. By Alick’s letter of yesterday I learn that the Doctor’s Book for her is safely come to Ecclefechan. You can tell her farther that I have now settled finally about her Luther and it is hers. The cost was only some 26 shillings instead of 28.

Jane has again over-hauled the drawers which you had such work with ; the best plan was found to be to clip the leg off altogether and put in four new inches above the knee ! Good be with you, dear Jenny, with you, and them all.

It is evident from one letter and another that, after the removal to Dumfries and Mr. Hanning’s departure for Canada, Mrs. Hanning spent more time at the Gill than in Dumfries. “Poor Helen” was Helen Mitchell from Kirkcaldy, an entertaining as well as a faithful servant. She came to Cheyne Row toward the end of 1837, was reclaimed from drink by Mrs. Carlyle, but fell hopelessly into it again after eleven years of service. “ Her end was sad, and like a thing of fate.”


CHELSEA, 8th January, 1842.

MY DEAR MOTHER. — You have been wandering so about of late times, and there has been such confused trouble going on, that I have not got you regularly written to. It seems to me a long while since we had any right communication together. To-day I will scribble you a word before going out. Alick says you are for moving over to Gill again to bear Jenny company till the day lengthens. If you be already gone they will send this after you.

The great trouble there has been at Scotsbrig must have been distressing to every person there, from the poor father and mother downwards. You, in particular, could not escape. The weather also is sorely inclement and not wholesome for those that cannot take violent exercise ; yet Alick assures me you are “ as well as usual.” Nay, he adds that you mean soon to write to me. I pray you take care, dear Mother, in your shifting to the Gill and during your stay there in the stranger house ; it is bitter weather and looks as if it would continue long frosty. Tell me especially how you are, what clothes you wear, whether you get good fires. A warm bottle is indispensable in the bed at night. You have books to read, daily little bits of work to do; you must crouch quiet till the sun comes out again.

A considerable noise has been going on about that little Review-Article of mine which I sent you. The last page of the Divine Right of Squires has been circulating widely through the Newspapers with various commentary and so forth. This I by no means grudge : as the thing is true, it may circulate as widely as it likes. It can do nothing but good (whether pleasant or painful good) being true, — let it circulate where it will. If a word of mine can help to relieve the world from an insupportable oppression, surely it shall be very welcome to do so! The man has paid me for this “article” (£24) but I think I shall not soon trouble the world again with reviewing. I mean something else than that if I could get at it. On the whole, what with Edinburgh Professorships, what with Covenanter Articles, we have had rather a noisy time of it in the newspapers for a while back. It is not unpleasant, but except for aiding the sale of one’s books, perhaps it is apt to be unprofitable. Fame ? Reputation? &c, as old Tom White said of the whiskey, “ Keep your whiskey to yoursel’! deevil o’ ever I ’se better than when there’s no a drop on’t i’ my wame?” which is a literal truth,— both as to fame and whiskey.

My new book, I may tell you now, is to be something about that same Civil war in England which Baillie was in the midst of; I think mainly or almost exclusively about Oliver Cromwell. I am struggling sore to get some hold of it, but the business will be dreadfully difficult, far worse than any French Revolution, if I am to do it right: — and if I do not do it right what is the use of doing it at all ? For some time I tried actual writing at it lately, but found it was too soon yet. I must wrestle and tumble about with it, indeed at bottom I do not know yet whether ever I shall be able to make a Book out of it! All that I can do is to try, till I ascertain either Yes or No. For the rest I am grown too old and cunning now to plunge right on and attempt conquering the thing by sheer force. I lie back, canny, canny, and whenever I find my sleep beginning to suffer, I lay down the tools for a while. By Heaven’s great blessing I am not now urged on by direct need of money. We have arranged ourselves here in what to London people is an inconceivable state of thrift, and in our small way are not now tormented with any fear of want whatever, for the present. To myself my poverty is really quite a suitable, almost comfortable, arrangement. I often think what should I do if I were wealthy ! I am perhaps among the freest men in the British Empire at this moment. No King or Pontiff has any power over me, gets any revenue from me, except what he may deserve at my hands. There is nothing but my Maker whom I call Master under this sky. What would I be at? George Fox was hardly freer in his suit of leather than I here : if to be sure not carrying it quite so far as the leather. Jane, too, is quite of my way of thinking in this respect. Truly we have been mercifully dealt with, and much that looked like evil has turned to be good. One thing I must tell you as a small adventure which befell, the day before yesterday. On going out for walking along one of these streets an elderly, innocent, intelligent - looking gentleman accosted me with “ Apologies for introducing himself to Mr. Carlyle whose works &c, &c. He was the Parish clergyman,” rector of the Parish of St. Luke’s, Chelsea ! I replied of course with all civility to the worthy man (though shocked to admit that after seven years of parishionership I did not know the face of him). We walked together as far as our roads would coincide, then parted with low bows. I mean to ask about the man (whose name I do not even know yet!) and, if the accounts be good, to invite a nearer approximation.

Jack will be with us to-morrow evening, we expect ; oftenest we see him only that once in the course of a week. He is healthy, cheery and as full of talk and activity as I ever saw him. His Patient and he walk daily, or drive, or ride several hours, which is a good encourager of health. He seems likelier than ever to stay a good while in this present situation, to realize a good purse perhaps, — and then retire as a half-pay. Jane sticks close in the house ever since the frost began, for near a week now ; she is in very tolerable health. Poor Helen, our servant, heard the other night of the death of a poor sick (asthmatic) sister at Edinburgh, which grieved her to the ground for a while and still greatly afflicts her; we are sorry for the poor creature.

Alick’s long letter, you can tell him, shall be answered by and by. I had also a letter from Jean not many days ago. I have extremely little time for writing letters. You must all be patient with me. Commend me to poor Isabella, whose affliction we deeply sympathize with.

Yours affectionately.

On February 26th Mrs. Welsh died at Templand, in Nithsdale, where she had lived since her daughter’s marriage. Carlyle had now to pass two months and more at Templand in the settlement of affairs. By the death of her mother Mrs. Carlyle regained possession of Craigenputtock, the rent of which, £200 a year, she had settled on Mrs. Welsh. “Thus, from this date onward,” notes Carlyle in the Reminiscences, “ we were a little richer, easier in circumstances ; and the pinch of Poverty, which had been relaxing latterly, changed itself into a gentle pressure, or into a limit and little more. We did not change our habits in any point, but the grim collar round my neck was sensibly slackened. Slackened, not removed at all, — for almost twenty years yet. ... I do not think my literary income was above £200 a year in those decades, — in spite of my continual diligence day by day.”

The “ cheery little cousin ” was Miss Jeannie Welsh, daughter to John Welsh of Liverpool, before mentioned, and mentioned again in the last paragraph of the following letter.


CHELSEA, Friday, 4th June, 1842.

MY DEAR MOTHER, — A letter from Jenny came in the beginning of the week ; then last night another from her for Jack, which seemed to have been written at the same time, which also I opened as it passed, — forwarding them both thereupon to Jack. Jack’s address is 3 Chester Terrace, Regent’s Park. Tell Jenny to copy this, and then she will know it henceforth. You must also thank her very kindly for the word she sends me about you and about the rest. I find your eyes are still sore, and I doubt this hot weather will do them no good. Perhaps keeping out of the light as much as possible might be useful. I would also recommend to abstain from rubbing as much as you can. If Jack know any likely eye water, I will make him send a receipt for it. This is a very troublesome kind of thing : — but surely we ought to be thankful that it is not a worse thing too !

Jack was away in the country last week, but is come home again. He was down here on Wednesday night to tea, as fresh and hearty as ever. They are to be in London mainly, I believe, all summer. He will contrive plenty of “ jaunts ” &c., I suppose. It is, as formerly, an idle trade, but a very well paid one. It was precisely on that Wednesday that the Queen had been shot at. These are bail times for Kings and Queens. This young blackguard, it seems, is not mad at all; was in great want, and so forth ; it is said they will hang him. Such facts indicate that even among the lowest classes of the people, Queenship and Kingship are fast growing out of date.

My poor wife is still very disconsolate, silent, pale, broken-down, and very weak. I urge her out as much as possible ; her cheery little cousin, too, does what she can. Alas, it is a very sore affliction ; we have but one mother to lose. I speak to her seriously sometimes, but speaking cannot heal grief; only Time and Heaven’s mercy can.

As for me, I sleep tolerably well, and also have now begun to work a little, which is still better ! I shall have a terrible heap of reading, of meditating, sorting, struggling of every kind. But why should I not do it, if it be a good work ? I feel as if there did lie something in it. I will grudge no toil to bring it out. I go often all day to the Museum Library and search innumerable old pamphlets, &c. It is a nasty place, five miles off, and full of heat and bad air, but it contains great quantities of information. I refuse all dinners whatsoever, or very nearly all. I say, “ Well, if you do take offence at me, how can I help it ? In the whole world there is only one true blessing for me, — that of working an honest work. If you would give me the Bank of England, and all set to worship me with bended knees, — alas, that would do nothing for me at all. It is not you that can help me or hinder me ; it is I, even I.” Pray that I persist in this good course.

Poor Isabella does not seem to profit by the warm weather. I would recommend the shower bath to her. I take it daily here. Tell Jenny that there is no hurry about the shirts. She can go on with all leisure. Did Jamie ever learn from me that in the drawer of their washstand, if he will pull it out, there lies for him a little piece of new stuff for rubbing on his razor strop? I always forgot to mention it. Our weather here is excellent, threatening to be too hot by and by, which, however, I shall not grudge so much this year. Broiling weather to me will be the basis of a plenteous year for all. There is much need of it!

But I must end, dear Mother. I write hardly any letters except to you, so you will accept this as the best I can do at present. The subscription for Burns’s sister is doing well, in Liverpool at least (under John Welsh). My affection to Alick and all of them. You will get this when you go to the Preaching.

My blessings on you, dear Mother, and all love.

Your son,



CHELSEA, Monday Morning,

4th July, 1842.

MY DEAR MOTHER, — Before setting to my work, let me expend a penny and a scrap of paper on you, merely to say that we are well, and to send a bit of ugly and curious public news that you cannot yet have heard of. On Saturday night it was publicly made known that Francis, the man who last shot at the Queen, was not to be hanged, but to be sent to Botany Bay, or some such punishment. Well, yesterday about noon, as the Queen went to St. James’ Chapel, a third individual presented his pistol at the Majesty of England, but was struck down and seized before he could fire it; he and another who seemed to be in concert with him are both laid up. There is no doubt of the fact. The two are both “young” men ; we have yet heard nothing more of them than that. The person who struck down the pistol (and with it the man, so vehement was he) is said to be a gentleman’s flunkey; but I do not know that for certain and have seen no newspaper yet. . . . Are not these strange times ? The people are sick of their misgovernment, and the blackguards among them shoot at the poor Queen : as a man that wanted the steeple pulled down might at least fling a stone at the gilt weathercock. The poor little Queen has a horrid business of it, — cannot take a drive in HER clatch without risk of being shot! Our clatch is much safer. All men are becoming alarmed at the state of the country, — as I think they well may.

Jane and her cousin have this morning been got off to Windsor by the Sterlings. The jaunt in the open air will do the poor Wifie good.

John is very well. I parted with him last night near his own house rather after 10 o’clock.

Adieu, dear Mother. Here is a foolish Yankee letter of adoration to me. Burn it!

Your affectionate,


The picture of Sartor measuring himself for shirts to be made at long range, as it were, is memorable even in the annals of Cheyne Row.


CHELSEA, 21 July, 1842.

MY DEAR JENNY, — I am glad to hear of your well being, and that you have got done with the shirts, which is a sign of your industry. They will be well off your hands, and I have no doubt will be found very suitable when they arrive here. In the meanwhile I do not want them sent off yet till there are some more things to go with them. I am in no want of them yet, and shall not, I think, be so till it will be about time for the meal to be sent from Scotsbrig. At all events, you may look to that (for the present) as the way of sending them, and therefore keep them beside you till some chance of delivering them safe to my Mother or another Scotsbrig party turn up. There is no haste about them ; the meal cannot be ready, I suppose, till the end of September, if then.

In the meanwhile I want you to make me some flannel things, too, — three flannel shirts especially : you can get the flannel from Alick, if he have any that he can well recommend. You can readily have them made before the other shirts go off : I have taken the measure to-day, and now send you the dimensions, together with a measuring strap which I bought some weeks ago (at one penny) for the purpose ! You are to be careful to scour the flannel first, after which process the dimensions are these. Width (when the shirt is laid on its back) 22½ inches, extent from wrist button to wrist button 61 inches,1length in the back 35 inches, length in the front 25½ inches. Do you understand all that ? I dare say you will make it out, and this measuring band will enable you to be exact enough. Only you must observe that at the beginning of it. . . . HoityToity ! I find that it is I myself that have made a mistake there, and that you have only to measure fair with the line and all will be right; the dimensions as above, 22½, 61, 35, 25½.

If you could make me two pairs of flannel drawers, I should like very well too, but that I am afraid will be too hard for you. This is all the express work I have for you at present. Neither is there any news of much moment that I could send you. Jane continues still weak, but seems to gather strength, too. I keep very quiet and very busy, and stand the summer fully better than is usual with me here. John still continues in town, and does not speak of going yet. We meet every Sunday here at Dinner.

Our good Mother, you perhaps know, has got over to Jean for some sea bathing about Arbigland. We hope they are all well about Gill, and that a good crop is on its feet for them. Give our kind regards and continual good wishes both to Mary and Jamie, and accept them for yourself. Next time you write you had better tell me how your money stands out; and if at any time, my dear little Sister, I can help you in anything, be sure do not neglect to write then. Our love and best wishes to you, dear Jenny.

Your affectionate brother,


In May, on his way back from Templand, Carlyle had stopped to visit Dr. Arnold at Rugby, and in August he went to Belgium with Mr. Stephen Spring Rice and his younger brother. Of this trip Carlyle wrote an extraordinarily vivid account under the title of The Shortest Tour on Record. The picture of the poor lace-maker and her habitation, at Ghent, makes one think, by a queer, austere contrary, of an earlier traveler and his adventures.

In August, also, Mrs. Carlyle had gone to the Bullers’, in Suffolk. Twenty capital pages of Letters and Memorials make her visit live again.


CAMBRIDGE, 7th Sep., 1S42.

MY DEAR MOTHER, — I am sitting here in the “ Hoop Inn ” of Cambridge, in a spacious apartment, blazing with gaslight and nearly solitary. It strikes me I may as well employ the hour before bedtime in writing a word for my good Mother, — to explain to her how I am, and above all what in the world I am doing here ! There is a magnificent thunderstorm just going on, or rather beginning to pass off in copious floods of rain, and there is no other sound audible in this room ; one single fellow-traveller lies reading the Times Newspaper on the sofa opposite, and the rain quenches even the sound of his breath.

Well, dear Mother, you heard that Jane was gone into Suffolk to Mrs. Buller’s, and perhaps you understand or guess that she continues still there; nay, perhaps Jack may have informed you that on Thursday last (a week ago all but a day) I, after long higgling, set out to bring her home. Home, however, she was not to go quite so fast. Mrs. Buller, rather lively up in that region, wanted her to stay a little longer, wanted me also, I suppose, to go flaunting about, calling on Lady this and Sir Henry that, and lionizing and amusing myself as I best might in her neighbourhood. She is very kind indeed, — more hospitable and good than I have almost ever seen her to anybody. The place Norton is a quiet, sleek, green place, so intersected with green, wide lanes (loanings) all overgrown with trees that you can hardly find your way in it, — like walking in some coal-mine in paths underground ; it or any green country whatever, as you know, is likely to be welcome to me. One day I walked off to a place called Thetford in Norfolk, about 8 miles from us. It was the morrow after my arrival, and I did not know the nature of the lanes then. I lost my way both going and coming, and made the distance 12 or 13 each way, but got home in time to dinner, and was all the better for my walk. Afterwards I never ventured out of sight of Norton Churchtower without first drawing for myselfa little map of my route from a big map that hangs in the lobby. With my little map in my waistcoat pocket I feared nothing, and indeed in three days knew all the outs and ins of the country ; — for Mrs. Buller in that interval had contrived to borrow me a farmer’s horse to go about on. Was not that a friendly office to a man like me ?

But to hasten to the point! Mrs. Buller’s, I knew beforehand, was but some 30 miles to the east of Cromwell’s country ; his birthplace, the farm he had first, and the farm he had second, all lie adjoining on the Westward, either in the next County, which is this (Cambridgeshire), or in Huntingdonshire, the one Westward of this. Accordingly, having talked a long enough time about jaunts and pilgrimages, — about it and about it, — I decided at last (the women threatening to laugh at me if I did not go) on actually setting off, and accordingly here I am, with my face already homewards, the main part of my little errand successfully accomplished; and a “ riding tour ” through the country parts of England, which I have been talking of these dozen years or more, has actually taken effect on the small scale, — a very small scale indeed. I have ridden but two days, and on the morrow evening I shall be at Norton again, or near it. My conveyance being the farmer’s horse above mentioned, my fatigue has been great; — for it is the roughest and dourest beast nearly that I ever rode, and to-day in the morning, to mend matters, it took to the trick they call “scouring,” — in a sullen, windless ninny niawing. — Many a time I thought of Alick and Jamie in these Cambridge Fens, and wished one or both of them had been near me. But I let the creature take time (for it would have it), and it gradually recruited again, though not brilliant at the best; and indeed I shall be very willing to wish it good-bye tomorrow evening, were I at Norton again. Poor brute, it cannot help being supple and riding as with stilky-clogs at its feet! It has eaten four and a half feeds of corn to-day, or I think it would altogether have failed.

But at any rate I have seen the Cromwell country, got an image of it in my mind for all time henceforth. I was last night at Ely, the Bishop’s City of this district. I walked in and about the Cathedral for two good hours. Thought vividly of Cromwell stepping up these floors, with his sword by his side, bidding the Priest (who would not obey his first order, but continued reading his liturgies), “ Cease your fooling and come out, Sir.” — One can fancy with what a gollie in the voice of him. I found the very house he had lived in. I sat and smoked a pipe about nine o’clock under the stars on the very “ Horseblock ” (harping-on stone) which Oliver had often mounted from, two hundred years ago. It was all full of interest, and though I could get but very little sleep at night, I did not grudge that price. To-day I rode still farther Westward to a place called St. Ives, where Oliver first took to farming. The house they showed as his I did not believe in, but the fields that he tilled and reaped are veritably there. I sat down under the shade of one of his hedges and kindled a cigar, not without reflections ! I have also seen his native town Huntingdon, with many other things today, and am here now on my way homeward, as I said, and will not trouble my dear good Mother with one other word of babblement on the subject at present. No country in itself can well be uglier ; it is all a drained immensity of fen (or soft peat moss), and bears a considerable resemblance to the trench at Dumfries, — if that were some 30 or 40 miles square, with Parish churches innumerable, all built on dry knolls of chalky earth that rise up like islands. You can tell Jamie that it bears heavy crops ! oats, beans, wheat, which they are just concluding the leading in of at present; the rest of the country being done a week or two ago.

Dear Mother, was there ever such a clatter of a letter written ? And not one word of news, not one word even of the many hundred I could use in inquiring ! We return to Chelsea, I expect, about Monday first. Saturday was to be proposed, but will not stand I believe. Jack is already gone, on Saturday last, to Cheltenham, and then for North Wales. Right glad am I for him and for you that he is to come into Annandale for a little while. Poor fellow, it is long since he has been there, and he too has his own feelings and straits which he does not speak about often. My dear Mother, I will bid you all good-night. I send you my heart’s best blessing o’er all the hills and rivers that lie between us to-night. The thunder is gone, and the rain. I will send you a little word when we get to Chelsea ; perhaps there is something from yourself for me already forwarded to Norton. I doubt it. Good-night, my dear true Mother.

Ever your affecte.


I know not whether Alick has now any communication with the Whitehaven Tobacconist ? A quarter of a stone might be ventured upon along with the Harvest meal, or by the Doctor or some other conveyance. It keeps in the winter ; it could not be worse than my London tobacco all this year. Tell Alick about it ; he rejoices always to help me whenever he can.

Carlyle’s pilgrimage to Huntingdon, St. Ives, and thereabouts is not to be confounded with his former Cromwell journey — to Naseby — undertaken a few months before, with Dr. Arnold. Froude’s account of Carlyle’s investigation of the battlefield was (necessarily) so incomplete that I venture to quote here two highly interesting letters from a long afterward published book, — Letters of Edward Fitzgerald. Says Fitzgerald, in a memorandum on the subject:—

“ As I happened to know the Field well, — the greater part of it then belonging to my Family, — I knew that Carlyle and Arnold had been mistaken — misled in part by an Obelisk which my Father had set up as on the highest Ground of the Field, but which they mistook for the centre-ground of the Battle. This I told Carlyle, who was very reluctant to believe that he and Arnold could have been deceived — that he could accept no hearsay Tradition or Theory against the Evidence of his own Eyes, etc. However, as I was just then going down to Naseby, I might enquire further into the matter.

“ On arriving at Naseby, I had spade and mattock taken to a hill near half a mile across from the ‘ Blockhead Obelisk,’ and pitted with several hollows, overgrown with rank Vegetation, which Tradition had always pointed to as the Graves of the Slain. One of these I had opened; and there, sure enough, were the remains of skeletons closely packed together — chiefly teeth — but some remains of Shin-bone, and marks of Skull in the Clay. Some of these, together with some sketches of the Place, I sent to Carlyle.”

Fitzgerald, in a letter which has apparently not been preserved, sent the results of this first investigation to Carlyle. He wrote also from Naseby the following letter to Bernard Barton : —

[NASEBY], Septr. 22, /42.

MY DEAR Barton, — The pictures are left all ready packed up in Portland Place, and shall come down with me, whenever that desirable event takes place. In the meanwhile here I am as before ; but having received a long and interesting letter from Carlyle asking information about this Battle field, I have trotted about rather more to ascertain names of places, positions, etc. After all, he will make a mad book. I have just seen some of the bones of a dragoon and his horse who were found foundered in a morass in the field — poor dragoon, much dismembered by time : his less worthy members, having been left in the owner’s summer-house for the last twenty years, have disappeared one by one, but his skull is kept safe in the hall: not a bad skull neither ; and in it some teeth yet holding, and a bit of the iron heel of his boot, put into the skull by way of convenience. This is what Sir Thomas Browne calls “ making a man act his Antipodes.” 2 I have got a fellow to dig at one of the great general graves in the field ; and he tells me to-night that he has come to bones ; to-morrow I will select a neat specimen or two. In the meantime let the full harvest moon wonder at them as they lie turned up after lying hid 2400 revolutions of hers. Think of that warm 14th of June when the Battle was fought, and they fell pell-mell: and then the country people came and buried them so shallow that the stench was terrible, and the putrid matter oozed over the ground for several yards; so that the cattle were observed to eat those places very close for some years after. Every one to his taste, as one might well say to any woman who kissed the cow that pastured there.

Friday, 23rd. We have dug at a place, as I said, and made such a trench as would hold a dozen fellows, whose remains positively make up the mould. The bones nearly all rotted away, except the teeth, which are quite good. At the bottom lay the form of a perfect skeleton : most of the bones gone, but the pressure distinct in the clay; the thigh and leg bones yet extant; the skull a little pushed forward, as if there were scanty room. We also tried some other reputed graves, but found nothing ; indeed, it is not easy to distinguish what are graves from old marlpits, etc. I don’t care for all this bone-rummaging myself; but the identification of the graves identifies also where the greatest heat of the battle was. Do you wish for a tooth ?

As I began this antiquarian account in a letter to you, so I have finished it, that you may mention it to my Papa, who perhaps will be amused at it. Two farmers insisted on going out exploring with me all day : one a very solid fellow, who talks like the justices in Shakespeare, but who certainly was inspired in finding out this grave ; the other a Scotchman, full of intelligence, who proposed the flesh-soil for manure for turnips. The old Vicar, whose age reaches halfway back to the day of the Battle, stood tottering over the verge of the trench. Carlyle has shewn great sagacity in guessing at the localities from the vague descriptions of contemporaries; and his short pasticcio of the battle is the best I have seen. But he will spoil all by making a demigod of Cromwell, who certainly was so far from wise that he brought about the very thing he fought to prevent, — the restoration of an unrestricted monarchy.

The substance of this letter was of course communicated by Fitzgerald to Carlyle, who promptly and gratefully replied.

CHELSEA, Saturday, 25 [24] Sqptr. 1842.

MY DEAR SIR, — You will do me and the Genius of History a real favour, if you persist in these examinations and excavations to the utmost length possible for you ! It is long since I read a letter so interesting as yours of yesterday. Clearly enough you are upon the very battle-ground;—and I, it is also clear, have only looked up towards it from the slope of Mill Hill. Were not the weather so wet, were not, etc., etc., so many etceteras, I could almost think of running up to join you still! But that is evidently unfeasible at present.

The opening of that burial-heap blazes strangely in my thoughts : these are the very jawbones that were clenched together in deadly rage, on this very ground, 197 years ago ! It brings the matter home to one, with a strange veracity, — as if for the first time one saw it to be no fable and theory, but a dire fact. I will beg for a tooth and a bullet; authenticated by your own eyes and word of honour ! Our Scotch friend, too, making turnip manure of it, — he is part of the Picture. I understand almost all the Netherlands battlefields have already given up their bones to British husbandry ; why not the old English next ? Honour to thrift. If of 5000 wasted men you can make a few usable turnips, why, do it!

The more sketches and details you can contrive to send me, the better. I want to know, for one thing, whether there is any house on Cloisterwell ; what house that was that I saw from the slope of Naseby height (Mill-hill, I suppose), and fancied to be Dust Hill Farm ? It must lie about North by West from Naseby Church, perhaps near a mile off. You say, one cannot see Dust Hill at all, much less any farm house of Dust Hill, from that Naseby Height?

But why does the Obelisk stand there ? It might as well stand at Charing Cross ; the blockhead that it is ! I again wish I had wings ; alas, I wish many things ; that the gods would but annihilate Time and Space, which would include all things !

In great haste, Yours most truly,


Both Carlyle’s letter to Fitzgerald and that to his mother from Cambridge are notable illustrations of the insatiable hunger of the eye which went far to make him the great writer he was. The print of those teeth on his mind is shown in Cromwell, where we read: “ A friend of mine has in his cabinet two ancient grinder-teeth, dug lately from that ground, — and waits for an opportunity to rebury them there. Sound, effectual grinders, one of them very large ; which ate their breakfast on the fourteenth morning of June, two hundred years ago, and, except to be clenched once in grim battle, had never work to do more in this world ! ”

Charles Townsend Copeland,

  1. So that each sleeve is 19¼ inches long.
  2. Referring to a passage in the Garden of Cyrus, near the end : “ To keep our eyes open longer, were but to act our antipodes. The huntsmen are up in America, and they are already past their first sleep in Persia.”