August 1843-March 1844

The Collected Letters, Volume 17


TC TO JEAN CARLYLE AITKEN ; 26 December 1843; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18431226-TC-JCA-01; CL 17: 215-217


Chelsea, 26 decr, 1843—

Dear Jean,

Your Letter has just come to hand: you do well to let me know exactly how it stands with poor Jenny in regard to her Economics. I left £5 with her when I quitted Annandale; but Jack probably is behind-hand with his payment. I have written to him that we ought to introduce a fixed regularity into the business, as a mighty improvement which will cost nothing more at all;—that whichever of us is the one in arrear (for I know not who it is) at present should straightway send off£5 as due at midwinter (22 decr), and then the other to be ready with his £5 at midsummer (22 june). I am to see Jack tomorrow night probably; but in the mean time I bethink me that it will be as well to pay the money thro' the Bank, and settle with him about it at leisure. I will take what order is possible that regularity be observed in future: Jenny will know better what she is about in that case. You can send her this money as soon as there is opportunity. Her work, if she make shirts &c, she may give in the case of Jack and me by way of payment; but the stuff she buys out of shops and pays money for is to be repaid her; five pounds meanwhile come at the two extremities of the year; and so with her other industry she may be able to make a fend [living]. She is a thrifty orderly little body; and will make the best use of whatever is given her;—and shall not be left destitute while she behaves herself and I have any means to stand by her.

This present Bank-draft here inclosed, James will observe, is for Seven Pounds. The two supernumerary sovereigns you are to take directly to the poor Griers, the sick ones, John and the other,1 and smuggle them into their hands with the smallest possible quantity of noise, and leave them there. The poor creatures! One's heart is sore for them; but what help can be given? The mite shews a willing mind, and that is nearly all. Alas, what would this Life be if there were no Eternity behind it!———

Enclosed here is another review which has been clipt out, and is adapted for travelling by post. The writer is a notable kind of Puseyite Clergyman here, a friend of John Sterling's:2 it may perhaps be worth twopence to you and our Mother. I meant to send it on to my Mother at Gill; but now I think it may be as well to let you have a sight of it first. Will you send it down to my Mother by the Cummertrees Post on friday.3— Jamie sent me a Letter from Scotsbrig yesterday; our Mother is gone to the Gill, with intent to “stay there till the days grow a little longer.” I design to write to her one of these days, and will say that the review is come or coming. Jamie complains of cheap prices; mentions the great dropping of certain farm-rents, and how impossible it is to go on at present prices.4 He keeps a good heart, poor Jamie, in spite of Isabella's illness and all the rest of it; and is a brave little fellow, as I have always found him.

My unfortunate Book prospers as ill as ever Book did; in fact, the Book I have on view, on that subject, is beyond all others that ever were attempted by me, difficult to do;—perhaps impossible? No; I will not allow myself to say that; that shall not be said! However, about ten days ago, I gathered accurately together the fruit of six weeks' hard writing; and fairly burnt it all in the fire: there is an end of it. I am now trying the thing on another tack. If one had not the obstinacy of a mule (among other gifts), there would be no getting on in Literature,—or elsewhere. I will do this thing yet, either well or ill; or get a terrible fall with it, if I live.— For a week or two I rather fell off my sleep; but have taken that in flank also, and nearly got the better of it. “Steady! Steady!” as the drill-serjeants say. Jane is pretty well,—and will write, I suppose, before long. She is gone out at present; and cannot in words send her love. All the world here is devouring geese turkies and other Christmas provender. It is really striking to see with what admiration the common people stand before the huge stacks of beef and mutton at Butchers' shops, and seem properly not to admire or ever have admired anything else! Goodbye my dear Sister; blessings on you and yours. / T. C.