August 1843-March 1844

The Collected Letters, Volume 17


TC TO JEAN CARLYLE AITKEN ; 11 March 1844; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18440311-TC-JCA-01; CL 17: 303-304


Chelsea, 11 March, 1844—

Dear Jean,

These two weeks, I know not well why, I have been incessantly impressed with the idea that I should write to you; and now having the pen in my hand, and Jack having left your Note with me which I have just been reading,—I will send you a word or two, with or without cause.

The machine you speak of for our Mother shall be attended to; I had not read your Note till Jack went away, otherwise I should have spoken about it this night. Poor body, she is but ill off in these rough spring days, and her strength is not now what it has been,—our good old Mother! I believe a great deal of benefit might result from a better diet for her, were there any means of enforcing that. But she will take no pains about it; and struggles always on till hard come to hard.

I sent her yesterday an absurd engraving of myself, which somebody has published in an absurd work here, called Spirit of the Age or some such thing. It is not in the least like; uglier even than nature; and worth indeed nothing. The Picture it is done from is very ugly too, but very impressive, sad, really rather like. A certain young Quakeress at Falmouth sent up a pencil- or crayon-sketch of that, a good while ago; which was always meant for you; but being only half successful, and dreadfully ugly, and of considerable size (being pasted on wood), it has never yet gone.1 We think of actually ridding our hands of it, by the Bookseller,2 about the end of the month. I have also got a Don Quixote for the goodman, which will go at the same time; a poor old copy, but one readable,—extremely well worth reading; for, as I say often, there are few more genial Books in this world. A laughter in it deeper than many a one's tears—Chuzzlewit also shall not be forgotten: what you say of him is the just judgement, poor Chuzzlewit; a really merry-hearted, musical, small chirping brother-man,—equal to the ninth-part of a hero, and precious in a time when even real fractional-parts are rare!

For the rest, I want you to procure for me, from some glover, brace-maker, belt-maker or other worker in light leather, four leather articles like the one inclosed here! Altogether at your leisure, for there is no immediate necessity:—but I have a pair of braces which button themselves by means of a certain kind of elastic substance sewed into four leathers of that kind, and running thro' an iron staple in the apparatus,—in a way greatly to my mind: the ‘elastic substance’ I have, with great difficulty discovered in the shops here; and had three or four new sets of it sewed into the buttoning leathers,—and now these latter, you see are a wreck! Four of them; with due holes made for the sewer:—that will keep me going for some years again!

My Book is still a frightful concern; but I begin to feel that it must at last get under way. Jane has been poorly, and is better again; it was the cold weather mainly— She salutes you all— —Poor old Clyde, what an irreverent, very low-minded proceeding that is! No body of men that treat a good man in that manner can be tending in a good direction,—if they see not reason to repent deeply!3— Good night, dear Jean; blessings be with you and yours.4 / T. Carlyle