Unpublished Letters of Carlyle


THE old mother was not ungrateful for her son’s mindfulness. Nothing in their relations is more touching than the brevity and stiffness of her letters, with every now and then some burst of natural affection which even the artificial medium cannot check. Margaret Carlyle had learned to write in adult life for the sake of replying to her son’s letters, but the pen never became an obedient instrument in her hand. She could always have sympathized with Joe Gargery.


SCOTSBRIG, Sept. 13, 1842.

MY DEAR SON, — It is a long time since you had a word from me, though I have had many kind letters from you, for which if I am not thankful enough, I am glad. I am full as well as I was when you saw me last. I am reading the poem on “ Luther ” and I am much pleased with it. I wish the author Godspeed. It is a good subject and well handled, is my opinion of it. I had a letter from John yesterday, he thinks he will see us in the Course of a month or so. We will be glad to see him again if it please God. We have excellent weather here. I do not remember such a summer and harvest. Jamie had a good crop and very near all in and well got up. Isabel is still poorly. She is rather better than she was at one time. How are you after your wanderings ? Write as soon as you can and tell us all your news.

Ever your affectionate Mother,

M. A. C.


SCOTSBRIG, Monday [1840-1851].

MY DEAR JENNY, — I have been longing for you to come here for a long time. I want to send two hams on to London. Could you get a box which would hold the shirts and both could be sent at the same time, If you have not sent them any, bring them over as soon as you can, and come soon. At any rate bring the winter things that Jean sent. We are all in our frail way of health. Give my kindest love to young and old.

Ever your old mother.

M. A. C.

Much as Carlyle had been thinking about Cromwell, another book was to come first, — a book for which his very trip to Cromwell’s country was fruitful in suggestion. At St. Ives he had seen not only Cromwell’s farm, but also St. Ives poorhouse with its inhabitants, — “ in the sun,” to be sure, but neither spinsters nor knitters, nor workers after any fashion, for the simple reason that they had no work to do. The Chartist riots of 1842 remained in Carlyle’s mind with this symbolic picture, and by October of the same year he was deeply pondering the condition of “ the English nation all sitting enchanted, the poor enchanted so that they cannot work, the rich enchanted so that they cannot enjoy.” Over against this contemporary view Carlyle set the life of the monks of Bury St. Edmunds, as told by their chronicler, Jocelyn de Brakelonde; and the result was Past and Present, written, apparently with less struggle than any of the author’s other books, in the first seven weeks of 1848. Although Carlyle went too far in this work, — as indeed lie so seldom failed to do, — Past and Present proved the germ of more than one sadly needed reform ; and the splendid, sonorous passage beginning, “ All true work is sacred,” will remain, one must believe, an inalienable possession of English literature and English morals.

Publication followed in April, and soon afterward Carlyle wrote in his Journal : “ That book always stood between me and Cromwell, and now that has fledged itself and flown off.” Face to face with Oliver again, Carlyle went in the summer of 1843 to see famous battlefields of the civil war. He so planned his itinerary as to reach Dunbar on the 3d of September, — the day of the fight there, the day of Worcester fight, and the day of Cromwell’s death.

This professional journey was preceded by a peaceful month at Scotshrig, and followed by a visit to Erskine which fixes the date of the next letter.


[LINLATHEN, early September, 1843.]

Yesterday by appointment, the good Thomas Erskine took me up at Kirkcaldy, carried me off hither on the top of the coach, bag and baggage. The day was damp and dim, not exactly wet, yet in danger of becoming very. There had been rain in the night time (Sabbath night or early on Monday morning) bat there fell no more. This day again is oppressively hot, dry yet without sun or wind — a baddish “day for a stook.” But they prophesy fair weather now — which I shall be glad of, and the whole country will be glad, for all is white here, in sheaves and stooks, and little got into ricks. We got here about 5 in the evening, a great party of people in the house (a big Laird’s house with flunkeys &c., &e.). I was heartily tired before I got to bed. I do not think I shall be rightly at rest till I get on ship board, then I will lie down and let all men have a care of stirring me, — they had better let the sleeping dog lie! The Dundee steamers are allowed to be the best on these waters, large swift ships and very few passengers in them at present. I spoke for my place yesterday and am to have the best. The kind people here will relieve me down (it is four miles off) and then about 4 o’clock in the afternoon — I shall — light a pipe in peace and think of you all, speaking not a word. I expect to sleep well there too, and then on Friday, perhaps about 3 o’clock, I may be at London Bridge and home by the most convenient conveyance to Chelsea for dinner. This, if all go well, this ends for the present ray pilgrimings up and down the world.

Dear Mother, I wish I had gone direct home when I left you, for it is not pleasant somehow to be still in Scotland and far from you. I speak not the thoughts I send towards you, for speech will not express them. If I arrive home on Friday you may perhaps find a newspaper at Ecclefechan on Sabbath morning, Monday much likelier. God bless you all.


“Carlyle returned from his travels very bilious,” so his wife wrote to Mrs. Aitken in October, 1843, “ and continues very bilious up to this hour.” He could not refuse a “ certain admiration ” at the state of the house, which had been painted and papered in his absence. Mrs. Carlyle, with her own hands, had put down carpets, newly covered chairs and sofas, and arranged a library according to his (expressed) mind. His satisfaction lasted only three days, for on the morning of the fourth day “the young lady next door took a fit of practising on her accursed piano-forte.” There had then to be another upheaval: “ down went a partition in one room, up went a new chimney in another ; ” and still another library, farther from the piano, was thus contrived. Finally, the young lady, charmed by “ a seductive letter ” from Carlyle, agreed never to play until two in the afternoon. The dinner hour was changed to the middle of the day, because Carlyle thought it would be better for his digestion.

Although these changes, which in Mrs. Carlyle’s account seem planet-shaking, were in the interest of Cromwell, Cromwell remained persistently unwritable. On the 4th of December the historian wrote to Sterling: “Confound it! I have lost four years of good labour in the business; and still the more I expend on it, it is like throwing good labor after bad.” Two days later he put a better face on it to his mother.


CHELSEA, Monday, 6th Dec. 1843.

MY DEAR MOTHER, — We have a letter from Jean this week, who reports a visit to you and gives us a description of what you were about. We were very glad to look in upon you in that way. Jean describes you as very well when they came, but since then (though she tells us of your prohibition to mention it at all) there has been some ill turn of health which we long greatly to hear of the removal of ! I study, dear Mother, not to afflict myself with useless anxieties, but on the whole it is much better that one knows exactly how matters do stand, the very fact, no better and no worse than it is. To-day there was a little Note from James Aitken apprising us that the Books are come, that Jenny is with him. He has evidently heard nothing farther from Scotsbrig, so we will hope things may have got into their usual course again there. But Jamie or somebody may write us a scrap of intelligence, surely ? . . .

This is said to be a very unhealthy season here ; for the past two months about two hundred more deaths in the week have occurred than is usual at this season, but I rather conjecture it is the result of the long-continued hardship the Poor have been suffering, which now, after wearing out the constitution by hunger and distress of mind, begins to tell more visibly! Our weather is very mild, soft without any great quantity of rain and not at all disagreeable. Jane’s cold is gone again and we are in our common way. My Book goes on badly, yet I do think it goes on, in fact it must go : Bore away at it with continuous boring day and night and it will be obliged to go ! I study however not to “ split my gall ” with it, but to “ hasten slowly " as the old Romans said. When writing will not brother with me at all, I fling it entirely by and go and walk many a mile in the country. I have big thick shoes, my jacket is waterproof against slight rain, I take a stick in my hand and walk with long strides. The farther I walk, the abler I grow; in fact I am rather in better health, I think, than usual, if all things are considered. Jack and I had a long walk after Tailors for some three hours in the moonlight streets last night. Today it is damp, but I am for a sally again. Alas, it is but a very poor morning task T have done, but we cannot help it. Adieu, dear good Mother, for our sakes take care of yourself. My love to all.

Yours affection.ly


Carlyle never liked any portrait of himself. The one mentioned in the following letter had made him look like “ a flayed horse’s head.”


CHELSEA, 10th March, 1844.

MY DEAR MOTHER. — It is a shame for me if I do not write a bit of a letter to you. There is nothing else I can do for you at present. I will scribble you a few words of news on this paper, let other employments fare as they can for the present.

I sent your good little note to the Doctor. Jamie’s letter for Alick came duly to hand and was duly forwarded ; I also wrote a letter to Alick myself. Poor fellow. I suppose he has had a very solitary, meditative winter of it over in America, and has no doubt had a great many reflections in his head, looking back and looking forward, with perhaps sadness enough, but it will do him good, I really believe. Perhaps this winter, seemingly one of the idlest he has had, may turn out to be one of the most profitably occupied. My own hope and persuasion is that he will now do well, that he is probably about to begin a new course of activity on better terms than before, better terms both inward and outward, and that in fine, poor fellow, be may begin to see the fruit of bis labor round him and go on with much more peace and prosperity than heretofore. ... I also like the tone of his letters, which is much quieter than it used to be. He does not know, I suppose, in what direction he is to go when April arrives. I urged, as Jamie did, that a healthy quality of situation should outweigh all other considerations whatever, that for the rest all places seemed to me much alike ; if the land were cheap, it would be unfavourably situated &c. I also hinted my notion that a small piece of good handy soil might be preferable to a large lot of antowardly, outlying ground. We can only hope and pray he may be guided well. We cannot assist him with any real guidance. Difficulties beset a man everywhere under this sun. There if be have patience, insight, energy and justness of mind lie will daily conquer farther,— not otherwise, either in America or here. But, as I said. I have never lost hope with Alick, and I have now better hope than ever. We will commit him to the all-wise Governor with many a prayer from the bottom of all our hearts that it may be well with him. To hear and know that he does see good under the sun, fighting his way like a true man in that new country ! — what a comfort to you and to every one of us. My dear Mother, I know your heart is many a time sad about Alick. He is far away and there are others of us gone still farther, beyond the shores of this earth, whither our poor thoughts vainly strive to follow them, — our hearts’ love following them still: — but we know this one thing, that God is there also, in America, in the dark Grave itself and the unseen Eternity — even He is there too, and will not He do all things well? We have no other Anchor of the soul in any of the tempests, great or little, of this world. By this let us hold fast and piously hope in all scenes and seasons whatsoever. Amen.

You bid me “call on Patience” in this Book of mine. Dear Mother, it is the best and only good advice that can be given. X do endeavour to call on patience and sometimes she comes, and if I keep my shoulder stiffly at the wheel withal, we shall certainly get under way by and bye. The thing goes indeed, or now promises to go, a little better with me. I stand to it as I can. But it will be a terribly difficult job and take a long time, I think. However, that it is a useful one, worthy to be done by me I am resolved, and so I will do it if permitted—the return and earthy reward of it may be either great or small, or even nothing and abuse into the bargain, just as it likes. Thank Heaven I can do either or any way as to that, for this time, and indeed, often when I look at it, the prizes people get in this world and the kind of people that get them seem but a ridiculous business. If there were not something more serious behind all that, I think it would hardly be worth while to live in such a place as this world at all. In short I hold on the best I can — and my good Mother’s picture looking down on me here, seems to bid me “call on Patience ” and persevere like a man.

Jane has not been very well in these cold stormy weeks, but I think is now getting better again. It is the spring weather, which this year has been the real winter ; all manner of people are unwell here at present. You in the North have it still worse, far worse than we. Many a time have I asked myself what is becoming of my good old Mother in these wild blasts. Surely you keep good fires at Scotsbrig ? Surely you wear the new Hawick sloughs ? Jane finds hers very warm and nice ; but the thing you might improve greatly and never do is your diet. I think you should live chiefly on fowl. A hen is always fair food, divide her into four pieces —she makes you an excellent dinner of soup and meat for four days. This you know very well for others, but never learn it for yourself. I am very serious. You should actually set about this reform. Do now — you will find it more important on your health than any medicine or other appliance you can think of. Jenny, I suppose, is still at the Gill. When you feel tired of solitude again she will come back to you. The bairns as they grow will be quieter and give less trouble. Poor Jenny, no doubt of it, she has many cares of her own : we should all be gentle with her, pity her and help her what we can.

But now I suppose you are very impatient to know what is in that paste board roll tied with string. Open the string with your scissors and you will see — one of the ugliest pictures ever drawn of man. A certain person here has been publishing some book called “ Spirit of the Age,” pretending to give people account of all the remarkable men of the age ; he has put me into it — better luck to him. He wrote several months ago requesting that I should furnish him with some life of myself— forsooth ! This I altogether hegged leave respectfully to decline, but he got hold of a picture that a certain painter has of me, and of this he has made an engraving, — like me in nothing, or in very little, I should flatter myself. Let Isabella roll the paper of it the contrary way and then it will lie Hat, if indeed the post office bags do not squeeze it all to pieces, which I think is fully as likely and will be no great matter. I sent it to you as to the one that had a right to it. Much good may it do you !

Jamie said he would write. Let him do so — or else you yourself ought to write, or both will be best. Jack and I were at Dinner together among a set of notables the night before last, came home together smoking two cigars, all right. Adieu, dear Mother, my big sheet is done. My regards to Isabella, to Jamie and them all. My blessings with you, dear Mother.

Yours affect.


In 1844 there was “ no Scotland ” for Carlyle, but early in September he went to Mr. and Lady Harriet Baring at the Grange. The Baring friendship had begun to rise into his life, — not yet in the form of a cloud.

All the rest of the year Carlyle stayed closely at home, working on Cromwell, and seeing fewer people than usual. The following quaint fragment belongs to this period, from which Fronde has preserved none of Carlyle’s letters or journal record.


CHELSEA, 16th Dec. 1844.

DEAR JENNY,—I dare say you can knit Wristikins. It has struck me in these cold days I might as well apply to you to have a pair. The best pair I yet have is a very old pair now, which either you, or I think Jean, knit for me at Hoddam Hill when you were little bairns many years ago. They have beautiful stripes of red yet, as fresh as ever. In fact I sometimes wear them in preference to the pair Jane has bought for me out of the shops here. Being already provided as you see I will not in the least hurry you as to the matter — wait till you have leisure, till you can get right your colors &c. &c. — only I will tell you what kind of thing will suit me and how you can do it when convenient. The great defect of all my present wristikins is that they are too slight, too thin, and do not fill up the cuff of the coat, which is rather wide with me. They should be at least double the common thickness of those in the shops. If you had fine, boozy yarn and took it two ply it will make a pretty article. Then as to color, it should be deep for our reeky atmosphere here ; red is beautiful, a stripe of good red, and holds out well, but perhaps the basis had better be some sort of brown. Please your own eye. There never was a good horse had an ill color. As to breadth I think they should be at least three inches. . . .

The horse which Carlyle describes to his mother as “ a very darling article ” was a new one, called “ Black Duncan.”

Of Addiscombe Fronde writes: “The Barings had a villa at Addiscombe, and during the London season frequently escaped into the Surrey sunshine.”


CHELSEA, 12th July, 1845.

MY DEAR MOTHER, — My hurry is indeed great, but it, ought to be greater than it is before I neglect writing you a little word this week as I did last. I am whipt about from post to pillar at a strange rate in these weeks.

Jack’s visit to you was a welcome piece of news here. The good account he gave of you was much wanted. We are very sorry indeed to hear of poor Isabella. It seems as if nothing could be done for her. and her own weakness and suffering must be very great. Jamie is kind and patient, you may assure him of our sympathies. A sudden turn for the better may take place, I understand, as of its own accord all at once. Let us keep hoping the best.

The back of this sorrowful Book is now broken. I think another month of stiff labour will see it well through. They are printing away at the second volume — about half done. I have to go along amid endless confusions, the way one has to do in all work whatsoever. The Book will, on the whole, be better than I hoped, and I have had some honest thoughts in the writing of it which make me the more careless what kind of reception the world gives it. The world had better try to understand it, I think, and to like it as well as it can ! Here is another leaf of a proof sheet to be a token to you of our progress. So soon as ever it is over I am off for Annandale. The heat has never been very oppressive to me, never violent beyond a day or two at a time, then rain comes and cools it again. I get considerable benefit of my horse, which is a very darling article, black, high, very good natured, very swift — and takes me out into the green country for a taste of that almost every day. I sometimes think of riding it up into Annandale, but that will be too lengthy an operation.

Jane is going to Liverpool to her Uncle’s in a fortnight. She will stay with them a week, then another week with some country friends in that quarter. I wished her to go to Scotland and see old friends there at Haddington and elsewhere, but she is rather reluctant to that. She is not very strong and has many sorrows of her own, poor little thing, being very solitary in the world now. In summer however she is always better.

I have heard nothing from Jack of late days. I suppose him to be still at Mr. Raine’s. Perhaps uncertain whitherward he will go next. At any rate country is better than town at present, — free quarter than board-wages. I expect he will come back to you again before the season end.

We were out at a place called Addiscombe last week among great people, very kind to us, but poor Jane could sleep only about an hour each night — three hours in all. I stayed but one night, came home on my black horse again. Some peace and rest among green things would be very welcome to me — and it is coining soon, I hope. Adieu, dear Mother—my kind love to you and to all of them. I am in great haste and can speak but a few words to mean much by them. My blessings with you.

Dr. Carlyle’s Dante, which he was very “ eager upon,” was the prose translation of the Inferno, so well done that many readers have regretted that the translator did not proceed.


CHELSEA, 31 Oct’r, 1845.

MY DEAR MOTHER,— You will take a short word from me rather than none at all, to tell you that we are all struggling along here without disaster; which indeed is all that is to be told. I write also to see if I can induce you to make use of one of those Letter-covers which I left, and to send me a small line about yourself and how you are. Except one short line from Jamie to the Doctor, I have heard nothing at all since I left you.

There has been no rain, or almost none whatever since I left Scotsbrig; so that, I hope, tho’ your weather can hardly have been so favourable, Jamie is now over with his harvest, and fast getting all secured under thatch-andrope. The Potatoe business, as I learn from the Newspapers, proves very serious everywhere, in Ireland as much as anywhere ; and over all Europe there is a rattier deficient crop ; besides which, the present distracted railway speculation and general fever of trade is nearly certain to break down soon into deep confusion, so that one may fear a bad winter for the poor, a sad thing to look forward to. They are best off, I think, who have least to do with that brutal Chase for money which afflicts me wherever I go in this country. “ Give me neither poverty nor riches, feed me with food convenient for me.”

Our freedom from rain has not hindered the November fogs from coming in somewhat before their time. The weather is not wholesome, many people have got cold in these late days. I advise you, dear Mother, to put on your winter clothing and be cautious of going out except when the sun is shining. In the morning and evening do not venture at all. This is the most critical time of all, I believe, these weeks while the change to winter is just in progress. I thought myself extremely well here for a week after my return, and indeed was so and hope again to be so — much improved by my journey, — but last Sabbath, paying no heed to these frost fogs, I caught a little tickling in my nose which rapidly grew into a sniftering, and by the time next day came I had a regular ugly face-ache and fair foundation for cold in all its forms, which required to be energetically dealt with and resisted on the threshold. Next day, accordingly, I kept the house strictly and appealed to medicine and their diet, and so on Wednesday morning I had got the victory again and have been getting round and growing nearer the old point ever since — in fact reckon myself quite well again, except that I take a little care of going out at night &c. Jane has had a little whiff of cold too, but it is abating again. We are taught by these visitations to be upon our guard. The Doctor is quite well, tho’ I think he sits too much in the house, being very eager upon his Dante at present.

They are not to publish the Cromwell till “ the middle of next month ” — about a fortnight.

“ They are not to publish the Cromwell till the middle of next month,’ ” wrote Carlyle in the preceding letter. As a matter of fact the book did not get out until December.

Carlyle and his wife did go to the Barings in the middle of November, and the date of the following undated fragment thus swings between the 1st and the 15th of November. Carlyle says here that they were invited to the Grange ; Froude, that Mr. Baring and Lady Harriet were at Bay House, in Hampshire. “ Grange ” is probably a slip of the pen.


CHELSEA [1/15 November, 1845].

... It lies perfectly ready, but the Town is still very empty; besides they are getting ready a Portrait,, the rudiments of which John and I went to see the other day, but did not very much like. I fear it will not turn out much of an ornament to the Book or a true likeness of Oliver ; but we cannot help that. Nor does it very much matter. — For the rest, I am and have been nearly as idle as possible ; merely reading Books, and doing other small etceteras.

There is an invitation to go down to the Grange (where I was the other year), for Jane and me both, “ for a few days ” (perhaps three) ; but I think it is not certain whether we can accept in such a state of the weather, etc. It will be within the next ten days if at all. We are very quiet here at home ; hardly anybody yet coming about us : and indeed in general it is, the fewer the better, with us.

I cannot yet learn with the least distinctness whether John is for Scotsbrig or not ; but I continue to think he will after all come down and plant himself there with his Dante for a while. I have fully expressed your wishes to him in regard to that; and certainly if he do not come it will not be for want of wish to be there.

Jenny, I suppose, is home again : all is grown quiet in the upstairs rooms. My dear good Mother, let us not be sad, let us rather be thankful, — and still hope in the Bounty which has long been so benignant to us. I will long remember your goodness to me at Scotsbrig on this occasion, and the sadness that is in it I will take as inevitable,— every joy has its sorrow here. . . .

If I think of any Carlisle Tobacco I will send word about it in good time; if I send no word, do not in the least delay about it.

“ In February, 1846, a new edition was needed of the Cromwell. Fresh letters of Oliver had been sent which required to be inserted according to date; a process, Carlyle said, ‘requiring one’s most excellent talent, as of shoecobbling, really that kind of talent carried to a high pitch.’

“ He had ' to unhoop his tub. which already held water,’ as he sorrowfully put his case to Mr. Erskine, ' and insert new staves.’ ”

Other editors of letters, before and since, have had such cobbling and coopering to do.


CHELSEA, Monday, 29th June, 1846.

DEAR JENNY, — I heard of your arrival in your new place at Dumfries a day or two ago, and on Saturday I sent you a newspaper which I suppose you will receive this morning. You will understand it as a hasty token that we are in our usual way and still mindful of you, although there has been little express writing of late.

No doubt you will feel a little lonely, unaccustomed, and now and then dispirited and anxious in your new situation. Yet I do consider it a very fit change for you to have made, and believe confidently you will find yourself much more comfortable than you have been in your old place, if once you are fairly hafted to the new one. Do not be discouraged, my little Jenny, I know you will behave always in a clouee, prudent, industrious and wise way, and there is no fear of you, if so. You will be mistress of your own little heart at any rate, free to follow your own wisest purposes. I think you will gradually find work, too, which may be useful to you. In short this is a fact always, in Maxwell-town and in all towns and situations, — a person that does act wisely will find wise and good results following him in this world and in all worlds ; which really is the comfort of poor struggling creatures here below. And I hope you understand firmly always that you have friends who will never forsake you, whom all considerations bind to help you what they can, in the honest fight you are making. So do not fear, my poor little sister ; be wise and true and diligent and do the best you can, and it shall all be well yet, and better than we hope.

Getting into a new house, it strikes me, you must find various things defective and not yet in order, so you must take this bit of paper from me which James Aitken, on Wednesday first, will change into three sovereigns for you — and you must lay them out in furnitures and bits of equipments such as you see needfullest. I know nobody that could lay them out better and make more advantage of them than you will do, only you want to consider that this is a supernumerary thing, a clear gift, and that your regular income (which John said was to be enlarged — whatever he may have settled it) will arrive at the usual time independently of this. And so, iny blessing with you, dear little Jenny, and right good days to you in this new dwelling, — right wise days, which are the only good ones.

I have owed Jean a letter this long time. Tell her a box of supplements to Cromwell (one for each of you and two new copies of the whole book —one for my mother, the other for Jack) will reach her in a day or two, which she will know how to dispose of. For the rest. I am fast getting through my book, — it is mere tatters of work now, — and expect to be off northward before long. Northward we do mean ; Jane sometimes talks of being oft’ this week and I to follow in a week or two. To Seaforth, Liverpool, is June’s first place. I, of course, will soon be across if once there. Good be with you, dear sister.

Yours always, T. C.

Do you address the next newspaper to us if this come all right. That will be a sufficient sign to us.


CHELSEA, Saturday, 17th October, 1846.

DEAR SISTER, — That letter for the Doctor reached me last night with instructions, as you see, to forward it to you. There is another little one from poor little Jane, which I like still better, but I am ordered to return it to my mother. Alick is going on very tolerably and seems to do as well as one could expect in his new settlement, — somewhat bitter of temper yet, but diligent and favoured to see the fruits of his diligence.

We are extremely quiet here, not writing, or expressly meditating to write, resting in fact, for I find Chelsea greatly the quietest place I could meet with. This long while I read a great many books of very little value, see almost nobody except with the eye merely, find silence better than speech—sleep better than waking! My thoughts are very serious. I will not call them sorrowful or miserable ; I am getting fairly old and do not want to be younger — I know not whether Jeffrey would call that “ happy ” or not.

Our maid Helen is leaving us, invited to be some Housekeeper to a brother she has in Dublin, at present a rich trader there, “ all upon float ” as I sometimes fear. Jane is busy negotiating about a successor, hopes to get a suitable one from Edinburgh or almost to have got such. You have not written to me. Tell Jenny I will send her some word soon. My kind regards to James. Good be with you and your house, dear Jean. Jane is out, and therefore silent.

Ever yours, T. C.

Between 1846 and the spring of 1849 Carlyle had made the acquaintance of Louis Blanc. John and Jacob Bright, and Sir Robert Peel.

On the 30th of June, 1849, Carlyle started on a journey through Ireland, — the notes of which were printed after his death, — and returned on the 7th of August. He went directly to Scotsbrig, where, “ owing to cocks and other blessed fellow-inhabitants of this planet,” he was a good deal disquieted. In Scotshrig he remained, however, till the end of August.


SCOTSBRIG, 18 August, 1849.

DEAR SISTER JENNY, — Here is a Draft for your money, which you will get by presenting that Paper at the Bank, when the Martinmas Term comes; I wish you much health and good industrious days till the 22nd comes round again; and have done nothing more gladly, I may say, in the payment line than write this little paper for you, ever since the last was written, I think. It gave me very great pleasure to see your neat little Lodging and thrifty, modest, and wise way of life, when we were in Dumfries the other day. The reports of all friends agree in testifying to the same effect. Continue so, my good little sister, and fear nothing that can befall. Our outward fortune, lucky or what is called unlucky, we cannot command; but we can command our own behaviour under it, and we do either wisely or else not wisely; and that, in real truth, makes all the difference, — and does in reality stamp us as either “ lucky ” or else “ unlucky. For there is nobody but he that acts foolishly and wrong that can, in the end, be called “ unlucky ; he that acts wisely and right is, before all mortals, to be accounted “ lucky ; ” he and no other than he. So toil honestly along, my dear little Jenny, even as heretofore; and keep up your heart. An elder brother’s duty to you, I trust I may promise, you shall never stand in want of while I live in this world.

Take the next Courier (which Jean will give you for the purpose) and address it in your own hand to me : “ Care of John Fergus, M. P. etc., Kirkcaldy,” — or in fact if James Aitken write that, it will be all the same, —and I shall need no other sign that you have received this Note and Inclosure safe. You can tell James to send only one Courier that way ; but to direct the other to Scotsbrig till further notice.

Our Mother and I got well home on Thursday; the thunder-showers hung and fell heavy on all hands of us; but we escaped with little damage from them, — got no rain at all till we were on the top of Dodbeck (or rather Daneby) Banks; which rain was never violent upon us, and had as good as ended altogether by the time we reached the old Gildha Road. Our Mother’s new bonnet, or any of her clothes, suffered nothing whatever. There had been great rains here and all the way; the fields all running brooks, and the roadconduits hardly able to contain the loads they had. It was a good deal clearer yesterday; yet. in the evening, we had again a touch of rain, which I saw was very heavy over in Cumberland. Today is a degree brisker still, tho’ with remnants of thunder-clouds still hanging, so we fancy the “ Flood ” is about terminating, and the broken weather going to heal itself again. Jamie has some cattle rather suffering by the “ epidemic,” which, in the last year, has destroyed several; his bog-hay, too, is of course much wetted; but he is otherwise getting briskly enough along. You are to tell James Aitken that there is “ an excellent spigot ” here already for the water-barrel, so that he need take no farther heed of that, at least, till he hear again.

I could not quite handily get packed (owing to Garthwaites tailoring) for this day; so I put it off till Monday; and am fixed for that morning (10 A. M.) to be in Edinburgh about one o’clock and over in Kirkcaldy in good time, where Jane, as I conclude, is arrived since yesterday and expects me against the given time. Give my kindest remembrances in Assembly Street; what our further movements from Kirkcaldy are to be, Jean or some of you will hear in due time. No more at present, dear Sister, with many blessings to you all.

Ever your Affectionate Brother,


In 1850 the Latter-Day Pamphlets were published. In spite of the outcry against them, Carlyle’s regular “ public ” was not disturbed. Froude estimates that about three thousand persons were then buying whatever he wrote.

Carlyle said in his Journal for October of the same year: “Four weeks (September) at Scotsbrig: my dear old Mother, much broken since I had last seen her, was a perpetual source of sad and, as it were, sacred emotion to me. Sorrowful mostly and disgusting, and even degrading, were my other emotions. God help me ! ”

The next, letter concerns the departure of Mrs. Hanning to join her husband in Canada. It is the only one in this collection from Mrs. Thomas Carlyle. “ Jane ” is Carlyle’s sister, Jean Aitken, — Jane only by courtesy, he somewhere says.


5 CHEYNE ROW, Tuesday [spring of 1851].

MY DEAR JENNY, — I sent off yesterday by railway to Jane’s care a bundle of things which I hope may be of some use to you in your preparation for departure. They are not much worth as they are, but you have a great talent — at least you had when I knew you — for making silk purses out of sows’ ears, a very valuable talent in this world. For the rest what can I say to you but that I wish you good speed in your great adventure, and that it may turn out even better for you than you hope. Decidedly it is an adventure in which you ought to be let please yourself, to be let follow the guidance of your own heart without remonstrance or criticism of others. It is my fixed opinion that between man and wife no third person can judge, and that all any of us could reasonably require of you is that you should consider well what you are about to do and that you should do nothing from secondary motives. If it be affection for your husband and the idea of doing your duty by him that takes you from your family and friends so far away, then go in God’s name, and may your husband prove himself worthy of so much constancy. In any case you will have no cause for self reproach. But if it be impatience of your position here which is driving you away from your kind old Mother and all the rest who love you so well, then God help you, my poor Jenny, for you are flinging away all the real blessings of your lot for an imagination of independence. I hope, however, you are quite justified by your feelings towards your husband in leaving all to follow him. You have always seemed to me to cherish a most loyal affection for your husband, and I will never believe, however appearances may be against him, that a man can inspire such an affection in the wife he has lived years beside and yet be wholly unworthy of it. So farewell, dear Jenny, and God go with you.

Affectionately yours,


By 1851 Carlyle had begun to think seriously of Frederick the Great as his next subject, and it soon became evident that he must walk in whatever footsteps of his hero were still visible. Carlyle reached Rotterdam September 1, 1852, at noon, and was there met by Mr. Neuberg, — " a German admirer,” says Froude, “a gentleman of good private fortune, resident in London, who had volunteered his services to conduct Carlyle over the Fatherland, and afterwards to be his faithful assistant in the ‘ Frederick ’ biography.” Carlyle returned to England in October, but many distractions — among them repairs in Cheyne Row and the funeral of the Duke of Wellington—kept him from starting with Frederick. During the winter lie wrote something, and threw it aside. On the 13th of April, 1853, he wrote in his Journal, “ Still struggling and haggling about Frederick.”

There is neither struggling nor haggling, however, in the letter which follows. The “ Talbottypes ” mentioned here were, like “ Daguerreotypes,” glimmering prophecies of the merciless photograph.



22 Apt. 1853.

MY DEAR JENNY, — Though it is a long time since I have written to you. no mistake can be greater than that I have forgotten you. No, no, there is no danger of that. My memory at least is active enough! But I live in such a confused whirlpool of hurries here as you can have no conception of, and always in poor weak health, too, and in corresponding spirits, and for most part when my poor stroke of work for the day is done (if alas, I be lucky enough to get any work done one day in ten, as days now go!) — I have in general nothing for it but to shut up my ugly cellar of confusions and address myself to the task of being silent — writing no letter whatever but those I absolutely cannot helpThat is the real truth and you must not measure my regard for you by the quantity I write, but by quite other standard.

We regularly see your letters here and are very glad indeed to observe that you get on so well. The fits of ague-fever you had at first were a severe introduction and began to be alarming to us, but I can hope now it was only the hanselling of you in your new climate, and that henceforth you will go on with at least your old degree of health. One thing I have understood to be of great moment (indeed I am sure of it), in the Canada climate; it is to take good care that your house be in an airy situation, quite free from the neighbourhood of damp ground, especially of stagnant water, and with a free exposure to the wind. That undoubtedly is of great importance. You are accustomed from sound old Annandale to take no thought at all about such things, but you may depend upon it they are necessary and indispensable considerations in your new country. I beg you very much to keep them earnestly in view with reference to the house you live in. Plenty of dry wind, all marshes &c. at a distance, and there is no more danger of ague in Canada than in Scotland; that you shove up your windows in season and keep your house clean as a new pin—these are advices I need not give, for you follow these, of course, of nature or inveterate habit, being from of old one of the neatest little bodies to be found in five Parishes! In all remaining respects I find you have chosen clearly for the better, and I doubt not are far happier in your re-united household than you ever were or could have been in Dumfries. It was a wise and courageous adventure of you to take the Ocean by the face in search of these objects, and all your friends rejoice to learn that it has succeeded. Long and richly may you reap the rewards of your quiet, stout and wise behaviour — then and all along, under circumstances that were far from easy to manage; and God’s blessing be on you always, my poor little Jenny ! I hope, too, poor Robert has learned many a thing and forgotten many a thing in the course of his hard fortune and wide wanderings. Give him my best wishes, temporal and spiritual. Help him faithfully what you can, and he (for he lias a kind enough heart) will do the like by you — and so we hope all will be better with you both than it is with many, and continue to grow better and better to the end. I recommend myself to the nice gleg little lasses whom I shall not forget, but always think of as little, however big they grow. My blessing on you all.

No doubt you know by eyesight whom these two Talbottypes represent; mine is very like — Jane’s (done by a different process) is not quite so like, but it will serve for remembrance. I begged two pairs of them awhile ago and had one sent to Alick (Jane slightly different in his set), the other pair I now send to you and wish only it were some usefuller gift. However, they will eat no bread and so you may give them dry lodging, that is all they want.

I heard from the Dr. at Moffat the day before yesterday. He reports our good old Mother being in her usual way and now with the better prospect of summer ahead. Poor Mother, she is now veryfeeble, but her mind is still all there and we should be thankful. The rest are well. John is to quit Moffat in July. Jane sends her kind regards.

The White mat on Jane’s lap is her wretched little mess in- dog “ Nero ; ” a very unsuccessful part of the drawing, that!



MY DEAR SISTER, — This letter brings very sorrowful news to you, probably the sorrowfullest I may ever have to send from Scotsbrig. Our dear and good old Mother is no more: she went from us, gently and calmly at last, on the Sunday just gone (Christmas Day the 25th) at four or ten minutes past four in the afternoon: The Dr., Jean, Isabella, Jamie, and I standing in sorrowful reverence at her bed-side; our poor suffering Mother had lain in a heavy kind of sleep for about 16 hours before; and died at last, rather unexpectedly to the watchers, so sudden was it, without struggle or seeming pain of any kind. We had to think “Her sufferings are over; and she has fought her fight well and nobly; and as for us, — we are left here alone; and the soul that never ceased to love us since we came into the world, is gone to God, her Maker and ours.” This is the heavy news I have to send you, dear Sister; and nobody can spare you the sorrow and tears it will occasion. For above a year-and-ahalf past, our dear Mother had been visibly falling fast away ; when I saw her in August gone a year, her weakness and sufferings were quite painful to me; and it seemed uncertain whether we should ever meet again in this scene of things. She had no disease at that time nor afterwards, but the springs of life were worn out, there was no strength left. Within the last six months the decay proceeded faster and was constant : she could not much rise from bed ; she needed Mary and Jean alternately to watch always over her, — latterly it was Jean alone (Mary not being strong enough) : and surely Jean has earned the gratitude of us all, and done a work that was blessed and beautiful, in so standing by her sacred task, and so performing it as she did. There has been no regular sleep to her for months past, often of late weeks and days not much sleep of any kind: but her affectionate patience, I think, never failed. I hope, though she is much worn out, she will not permanently suffer: and surely she will not want her reward. Our noble Mother too behaved like herself in all stages of her illness; never quailed into terror, lamentation or any weak temper of mind ; had a wonderful clearness of intellect, clearness of heart, affection, piety and simple courage and beauty about her to the very end. She passed much of her time in the last weeks in a kind of sleep; used to awaken “ with a smile ” (as John described it to me), and has left a sacred remembrance with all of us consolatory in our natural grief.

I have written to Alick this day, a good many other details, and have bidden him send you the letter (which is larger and fuller than this),—as you probably in asking for it will send this to him. I am in great haste, to-morrow (Thursday 29th Dec.) being the funeral day, and many things occupying us still. I will therefore say no more here; your little pieces of worldly business will, I hope, be satisfactorily and easily adjusted before I return to Chelsea, and then it will be somebody’s task (John’s or mine) to write to you again. For the present I will only bid. God bless you. dear sister, you and yours; — and teach you to bear this great sorrow and bereavement (which is one chiefly to your heart, but to her a blessed relief) in the way that is fit, and worthy of the brave and noble Mother we have had, but have not any longer.

Your affectionate Brother,


With a few days excepted, the Carlyles spent the whole of the year 1854 in London. There was little but the Crimean war to distract Carlyle’s attention from his long struggle with Frederick.

Charles Townsend Copeland.