April-December 1844

The Collected Letters, Volume 18


TC TO JEAN CARLYLE AITKEN ; 24 May 1844; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18440524-TC-JCA-01; CL 18: 50-51


Chelsea, 24 May, 1844—

Dear Jean,

I ought to send you a small word today, in return for the two you have written me I have not a syllable of news; but to apprise you that I have none, is worth doing.

Jack had a Letter from Jenny, with one side of it written by our Mother; he brought it down to me, I think the day after yours came. Our good Mother: her rugged pious handwriting is always like a kind of sacred thing to me,—I read it like a voice from the very heart! She does appear to be getting into better health now, and to have been in a worse way than I ever clearly understood while it lasted. The fine summer weather, which I always promised, does not come for any of us. I hope our Mother will still take every care of herself: this easterly withering weather seems to me really unwholesome for everything that has life, animal or even vegetable. Almost everybody here has had his Influenza; three days ago I, very unexpectedly, got hold of the skirt of one for myself; but by prompt measures I drove it back again, and feel now as if it were nearly off. We are to have a bad harvest, I suppose? The fields here are getting altogether brown: Hyde Park dusts your shoes worse than a highway when you walk thro' it.——— The Town is roaring with torrents of carriages; swarming with all manner of idle and busy people: from all ends of the Earth, and for all conceivable purposes and no-purposes, we have them here. I study to keep out of it as much by my best ingenuity I can; I am to dine today, but it is the first time these many weeks, and with “the Wilsons,” our oldest friends here.

My Book goes on not so badly, everything considered. I hope in good moments that I shall get it done some time; in other moments, that seems flatly impossible: but either way, I torfle [flounder] on. It is like a whole universe of quagmire, out of which I have to raise a tolerably elegant brick palace! I have sounded, and weltered, and splashed; in all my life I have not had such a job. It will be long yet; but it is fairly begun now, I hope, and equal or superior to half finished.— I say sometimes, to follow Literature well, you need first “the obstinacy of ten mules”:—indeed a touch of that quality, well tempered, is indispensable I believe in most lines of business!—

Jack is driven now into an upper room in his house,—an inconvenient lodgement for him: he surrendered his own rooms for a time to oblige his landlady, whom he likes. The inconvenient upper room may possibly the sooner send him to the Country: however, he still lingers here, and has yet set no time for going. He is in fact, at bottom, idle, without definite errand anywhither; he flatters himself too for most part that he is “working,” at other rare times I suppose he cannot so flatter himself, and feels somewhat unhappy. Poor fellow, I really am very sorry for him sometimes,—and angry at other times: but in both cases I strictly hold my peace, having in fact not the smallest possibility to help by speech, but for the reverse indeed. I believe I and my Literature &c &c have been a great bewilderment to this good and truly gifted younger brother of mine;—that if he had not had me in the world at all, it had perhaps been better for him! We are very powerless to help one another in this world; our poor good wishes in our hearts are almost all we have to offer one another!— God be with you dear Sister.

Your affectionate /

T. Carlyle