August 1843-March 1844

The Collected Letters, Volume 17


TC TO JEAN CARLYLE AITKEN ; 21 February 1844; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18440221-TC-JCA-01; CL 17: 276-277


Chelsea, 21 feby 1844—

Dear Jean,

I have had your two Letters, the last of them yesternight. Thanks to James for doing what I wanted in regard to my Mother's money: here is the Sum, four pounds, which will be payable on Monday, and again make all straight between us.— I had a Letter last night from Jenny, which indicates that our Mother has got back to Scotsbrig, and seemed to be rather improved by our1 journey. I hope she will keep snug and warm, at home now, in these rough spring blasts and frosts. Winter seems to be here again for the third or fourth time in these late weeks. Yesterday we had sharp frost with clear sky and sun; today it is snow fast degenerating into sleet and rain.

Two nights ago Jack had a Letter from Alick: if it have not yet got round to you from Scotsbrig, you may expect it soon. It is a very distinct good letter; gives one a clear view of his present locality; but, of course, what he was to do when the Spring came remained still a problem to him. You did well to write;—poor Alick, he seems to be recovering his serenity in some measure, and I think will do well in that new land.— Jamie Brand's Letter is the darkest I ever saw in the world! I have not yet got an attempt made to read it, but will, and take some order about conveying news of it to Alick.2

When your Muirhead3 comes, I will recognise him for what you describe; and if any chance of helping him arise, not omit it. He is coming to a very disastrous shop, I doubt, poor fellow. The quantities of unoccupied workers, and poor squalid people begging about the streets, are considerably greater than usual in other years: I believe the distress is now deeper in London than it ever was in those years; we do not feel it at first, till it tell upon the rents, but then we do feel it, and are near two millions in number!—

I shall have to struggle and bore and dig amid endless rubbish, in a most deplorable way, for a long while, I find, before this Book of mine can shew face in the world! There is no help for it. I feel when I am in good humour that I can do it; which is a great comfort: then again, much oftener, it seems to me a thing undoable, barren, fruitless:—in both cases one must just hold on. The strength of man is his obstinacy—in a good cause!

One of the Cousin M'Kinnows4 has sent me a Note, which you see here, and a considerable sheet of doggrel verses, “on the death of Wallace” &c. Poor fellow,—he seems a fine openhearted creature; but is seeking deliverance by a most impossible path. Burn his Note when you have read it, and speak nothing of it. I will answer him today when I am clearing off score. Do not omit to write! And be good and busy and brave;—and fare right well, dear Sister! Your affectionate / T. Carlyle

—Pity I had not taken a bigger bit of Paper:—but indeed my haste is great!—