January-September 1845

The Collected Letters, Volume 19


TC TO JEAN CARLYLE AITKEN ; 21 January 1845; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18450121-TC-JCA-01; CL 19: 11-13


Chelsea, Wednesday 21 jany 1845—

Dear Jean,

Thanks for your Note with Sandy's American Sheet, which latter I gave the Doctor yesterday to read (having first read it myself), by whom as I have found since it was despatched towards Ecclefechan the same night.1 None of us, I doubt, wrote to Alick by the last Packet; there is but one in the month at this season. He will have to wait with some anxiety, poor fellow, till the 3d of February now,—or rather till almost the end of February, for no Letter can go till the 3d. The Newspapers with their two strokes would assure him that nothing material had gone wrong. He writes this time to you in better spirits than common: the image he gives one of himself, busy and healthy, is certainly far cheerfuller than we could for many years past get of him in his old home. Poor fellow, I cannot doubt he has come thro' a great mass of trouble and sorrow; but I do hope he is getting to the other side of it now: it is a great comfort to me that I can anticipate more wholesome and better days for him henceforth.

Thanks for your punctuality about Mary. Here is an order for your money, with a small overplus of copper for James the Second, and that small woman, Annie I think, whose anxious innocent little face is very vividly present to me just now.2 Mary we may hope will improve as the weather gets warm; she has a sore toiling life of it, poor bodie.— I have tried the wristikins, and find them quite the thing; thanks. They will be useful if this new frost hold out upon us; they are now the best pair I have,—and the old wristikins of Hoddam Hill3 are probably the next-best!

My Book is in a very distracted state still, after all my long dreary labours on it. But I still labour; it is getting clearer before me: in a while now (alas, a long while still, too likely!) I must and will be out of it; there is no living with such a melancholy burden on one's back. I wish often I were in the silent Country, a hundred or a thousand miles from all these confusions. But that cannot be at present: “There where thou art, there where thou remainest, be busy!”4 My health is not bad considering every thing. I never in all my life was engaged with such a job! Heaven send me out of it; that were now the first of all blessings for me.

Today I have been disturbed in my operations, and quite lamed for the time, by a visit from—whom think you?—Wull Bogs once of Ecclefechan!5 He got in by calling himself an old Annandale friend of mine whom I would be delighted to see. I did not in the least know the unhappy scoundrel: in my life I have seen no sorrier spectacle, more sternly witnessing the inexorable laws of Time and Fate. The poor windy Blockhead, after wandering and lying from East to West, beyond Seas and within Seas, is vain as ever, but shattered now into palsy of body, and I think more than half real delirium of mind; totally shabby in apparel, but talking as if he had the Bank of England for funds and the wisdom and renown of Solomon for glory. I said, I could say, almost nothing to him; looked I suppose, like an Iceberg. I shall not get him out of my head all day. Ellen6 has strict orders never more to admit such a visitor. It has made me infinitely sad.

Yesternight there came a short Note from Jenny,7 to the effect that they were well. “My Mother could not write, her hand had grown so shaky”: which was a feature of the case I did not like! Good old Mother— But I should be thankful too.

Jack's people are leaving their house; but the new people are to keep the furniture,—and after investigation Jack decides that he also will stay. The others are upholsterer people, young, and going off to Liverpool to some good engagement there; the new landlady is a “more experienced woman”: Jack is very well content, with this and indeed with most things. I often rouse him when I happen to walk at night; we go out and have a cigar on the clear streets by moonlight. He has still “hopes” of some employment &c—literary, I rather think, at present.8

Jane has improved, but is not yet strong. She began a few days ago to get down to breakfast; she has also been out of doors once or twice, but is still mostly a prisoner. Our weather here too has been very fluctuating; mostly damp, dark and muddy. We calculate with confidence the Sun will return.

Farewell dear Jean. Do not neglect to send me a little news from time to time. Be always good, hearty and busy; and may a blessing be always with you and yours.— I saw young Clyde lately;9 going for the Netherlands to teach there; very much improved indeed.— Kind regards to James. Ever your affectionate

T. Carlyle