The Collected Letters, Volume 12


TC TO JEAN CARLYLE AITKEN ; 15 June 1840; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18400615-TC-JCA-01; CL 12: 167-169


Chelsea, 15 June, 1840

My dear Jean,

I am a sinful man not to have answered your long good Letter1 sooner than now. Alas, now even I can only answer in the hastiest manner. I have been and am very busy. I am endeavouring to write down my Lectures somewhat in the style of speech; as they were, or rather as they might have been, and should have been, and wished to be, delivered to the people. It is a new kind of task for me; and does not prosper as one would expect. The First Lecture, however, is down, finished off; I mean to do the Second at any rate, to begin it tomorrow: we shall see at the end of that how it looks. I determine on publishing the business somehow or other;—in America and here and everywhere,—by lecturing, by printing, or such other audible way as I have! The people do not know about it; and many of them ought to know. But I feel often as if I had better have made a Book of it in my own sovereign way, than lectured it off in that simple prescribed fashion. Perhaps;—and also perhaps not. We shall see.

I stay here; because I am here, and see not on the whole where I could get forward with my work much better. The heat has never yet afflicted me much: I have outer blinds, which are a great help; in very glaring days I stay in altogether till night. The horse is of considerable use; carries me out into the clear afternoon air, the bright greenness of the world; shews me how like Elysium it is. Alas, I know well, if I were there daily and always I should care little for it. Except on compulsion I go little into the Town; call on nobody there;—they can come here, if they want me; if not, I shall like it still better. Our old wooden Battersea Bridge takes me over the River (a toll of one penny or one halfpenny renders even walkers scarce on the other side);2 in ten minutes' swift trotting I am fairly away from the Monster and its bricks; all lies behind me like an enormous world-filling pluister [muddle], infinite potter's furnace,—sea of smoke, with steeples, domes, gilt crosses, high black architecture swimming in it: really beautiful to look at from some knoll top, while the sun shines on it. I plug away, away, some half-dozen miles out; the Monster is then quite buried,—its smoke rising like a great dusky-coloured mountain, melting into the infinite clear sky: all is green, musical, bright; one feels that it is God's world this, and not an infinite Cockneydom of stoor [cloud of dust and smoke] and din after all! Enough of it at present.

Our Doctor wrote to me on Saturday from Glasgow!3 He is there, or rather was there then, with his Patient, on a tour to the Highlands. All well, he indicates; but his Letter is as brief as need be. I was to write that very day (Saturday) but did not, having missed my chance, till this morning: “Post-Office, Glasgow”;—I hope some one will be there still to forward it. He seems to speak of probably staying “till August”: but all is dim in the account he gives; vague as ever.——— By the bye can you explain to me how I got two Courier Newspapers last Saturday! One in the morning, one at night.

My dear Mother must be apprised of Jack and me; that we are well. Explain how busy I am—ah me! Send on this Note, that will be the best way Till I have another hour's leisure. Commend us to James, and all the rest. Good be ever with you all!

T. Carlyle