The Collected Letters, Volume 12


TC TO JEAN CARLYLE AITKEN ; 19 December 1840; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18401219-TC-JCA-01; CL 12: 369-370


Chelsea, 19 Decr, 1840—

Dear Jean,

It is a good while since we heard any whisper of you, or you directly of us; only the Newspaper strokes give some assurance that nothing material is wrong. It is pity to trust to strokes, now that Letters cost only one penny sterling! Here goes a little word for you, accordingly; till time give us convenience for more. First however let me mend the pen,—hang it and the paper both for me!—the wretched “factory stuff” in that and in all kinds which the Cockney people manufacture [letter torn]ys, grieves me often to the soul.

I know not if you were ever expressly informed that Jack was here with us lately for a few days; he and his Patient. They staid at a Hôtel in this region of the Town (less than 3 miles off, that is!) and we met as often as possible. I wrote an account of the whole thing to Scotsbrig; but perhaps they did not communicate it to Dumfries. Jack struck me at first glance as a very little fatter and fresher than when we saw him formerly. His Patient is altogether a comfortable man,—not insane, properly speaking, at all; but so timorous, nervous, so very blate [shy], as to be in continual danger of getting into quandaries that would infallibly make him be accounted mad;—and send his great property to the Lawyers, as a [con]sequence. I have never seen the [effects of?] money so palpably noxious and even [letter torn] any other man. If he had his bread to [earn], I believe he would ail no more than any of us, but be even a very amiable man!— Jack talks ever and anon about quitting the situation; yet I should not wonder if he staid in it a good lucky time: it seems a situation made for him in his present humour; loose as the wind, yet £1000 a-year attached to it; and as for its annoyances, he says himself, “How can you gain £1000 a-year without some trouble for it?” If his own purposes do fix themselves at any time, he will surely quit, and ought to do it; but otherwise Why should he

My own reading goes on,—dull as ditchwater, wide as the Solway sands: we shall see what comes of it, if anything. I also begin to feel a notion of printing my Lectures that are written. There is small temp[tation] [word torn]ney, perhaps it is all the bette[r] [words missing] to speak should come from within[, not from w]ithout.— I live as solitary as I possibly can. My own thoughts are often ugly company, but generally far the profitablest. The uglier they are, the more reason have you to keep company with them till they be got into order a little!

Jane sits prisoner in the house this week or more; decidedly healthier than last year, but still inadequate to this December climate. We have rigorous frost, with sky the colour of drugget; occasionally considerable powderings of snow. I fancy it will last, it began so deliberately. Poo' Gawna's (poor gardeners) are begging with frozen cabbage-stocks;1 I yesterday gave a wretched man a penny who was singing barefoot in the snow.

You have here Jack's last Letter, just arrived; and a nice little Note of our Mother's.— Adieu dear Sister. With love to James, Yours ever

T. Carlyle