January-July 1843

The Collected Letters, Volume 16


TC TO JEAN CARLYLE AITKEN ; 19 April 1843; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18430419-TC-JCA-01; CL 16: 130-132


Chelsea, 19 April, 1843—

Dear Jean,

You may fancy we were very glad to hear from Jenny what had taken place. I trust all is going on well; that you are getting out again, and the little fellow thriving. I shall expect a Letter now before very long,—some day when the cradle is steadily going.

It is above a week since I had entirely done with my Book; but the Press-men, the Binders, the &c, it appears, are all taking holiday and heavy-wet1 in these Holy times (what they call the Easter week);2 so that work is hard to be got from them: besides, I believe, our Book-sellers were in no haste till the American Steam Mail should be fairly off without one of our copies in it: on the whole therefore we are not to appear till about Saturday first at soonest. You will get a bundle of copies straightway; with the beginning of May, I should think, they will be sure for you: and then much good may the thing do you! It is one of the most outspoken writings that ever came from me; and has a “dibble of a temper”3 in it, whatever else. The times require plain speech.

Jack is off these two days on an excursion to the Isle of Wight, where he has some friends,—especially a Mrs Richardson, whose husband I think is a Dumfries man, a Doctor that sailed once towards the North Pole.4 Jack is to return perhaps tonight, perhaps not tonight: we had orders to keep all Letters except those of the first day. He is very restless; goes about like a thunder-spaik,5 making an agitated atmosphere wherever he is. He is ill off for a house to hold by, for a wife, for a profession, for any sort of fixation! I do not think he looks in the least like settling himself to anything, of himself. What is somewhat singular, yesterday there turned up the offer of a new place for him in the “family physician” way! Little Jeffrey was down here, and spoke of it by accident; is to come again tomorrow, and see if he can catch the Doctor himself. The salary is very miserably defective, only £250 a-year; but the honour is great and conspicuous, that of being Lady Holland's Doctor, forsooth,—an old cruel-looking insolent touchan, at whose house all the wits and wonders and dignitaries assemble, and where many blockheads are immensely ambitious to be!6 Probably Jack will decline at once; I know one man whom nothing would tempt to accept: but I do not mean to offer any hint of advice on the subject.

Our poor Mrs. Sterling is gone from us; one of the first friends we have lost here by the all-destroyer. She died on Sunday morning last; her life, as it were, rapidly dissolving away in these latter weeks, into deeper and deeper languor, seemingly without much pain: her illness a disease of the heart. Jane looked on her once, about 8 days ago, asleep (for the poor Patient had no strength to see or speak with anybody), and that was their last interview. She was a right kindhearted, honest, loving soul; her loquacities, her whims and all her bits of weaknesses are now grown beautiful to us. The old fellow, who is a noisy, fiery whirlwind (‘enormous gunpowder and considerable shot’), gets great pity from us; left solitary so in his old days, a forty-years partnership suddenly cut thro'. Alas!


My paper is ending; and I have not mentioned my chief errand at all. It is that you and Jenny would go and buy a right good black silk gown for our Mother, and get it made up for her all in due order. She has had several gowns from me; but never one that was good: pray take pains to ascertain what is really the right article, and take that at the price fit for it. I said black silk gown: but if you and Jenny, who