TC TO JEAN CARLYLE AITKEN; 30 June 1847; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18470630-TC-JCA-01; CL 21:245-247.
TC TO JEAN CARLYLE AITKEN
Chelsea, 30 june, 1847—
There has just gone off for you a small Parcel of Books,—I should say, for your care, as there are very few of them, and these very insignificant, that are for your own behoof: it is, as usual, other people that are to profit by your position in the Carrier's town. Save one or two, of very small size and moment, you will find inscribed to yourself or James; ditto to Jamie of Scotsbrig, either one or two ditto to Jenny: the essential body of the thing consists of two little Parcels, which you will find addressed, one to a David Ferguson (a poor little Schoolmaster, an old schoolfellow of mine) at Annan; the other, still smaller, to Mrs Johnstone of Grange (Waterbeck):1 poor Davie Ferguson's Book is an American Copy of my Cromwell, which I wished to2 poor body to get, and comfort himself by; Mrs Johnstone's is an American Copy of Heroes and Sartor, all in one volume, not worth much, if it be not as a memorial of me from old days to that worthy Lady. These two Parcels (of Jamie's and Jenny's I need not speak) you are desired to forward swiftly, securely, and to pay the carriage! I have inclosed two dozen Postage Stamps for that latter object;—and so ends this weighty commission. I fancy the Parcel will be with you in about a week.— They are printing the F. Revolution here again, that is the only news I have on such subjects. The Miscellanies have been lying in print (3d editn in 4 volumes), these many months; but the Booksellers, by a piece of jockeyship in the small way, have put me off a little: and indeed, it seems, “there never was such a year for Books as this, so utter a stagnation of all sale, for the last 30 years,”—the “money-market being so dreadfully tight”! Enough of all that.
There came a Letter from Alick yesterday; which you will most likely see in a day or two, so soon as our Mother has done with it. All well in Alick's circle: a thing that amused me somewhat, was his blasting certain frightful old oak logs by gunpowder, and so making them removeable! He has bought his new Forty acres, I know not whether wisely or not; and Jack and I have sent him off the money to pay for them. For his own sake, still more than for our own, I hope poor Alick will be able, as he evidently purposes, to pay it back again by and by.
Jack I found yesterday, on going to him about this matter: sitting in a linen coat, with bare neck, and in a slipshod and rather raised-looking [excited] condition; up to the chin among Dante Papers, which he is at last getting ready for a Bookseller, in hopes to be partially rid of them. That I think will be the chief advantage to him; but that, as matters go, will be considerable. Money, or other personal advantage, does not seem to lie very clearly in the enterprise. The Jewsbury concern, one almost regrets to say, appears to have gone wholly to smoke! Geraldine is off to Essex three weeks or two ago; and even before her departure, “shares in the market” (as the phrase is) “were decidedly getting flat.” Poor Doctor, I wish he were married (to a good wife); I wish at least he could get some fixed residence for himself! I know no man who would have profited more, had a strict commander been appointed over him, twenty years ago, and continued severely active ever since.— Probably, I guess, he will return to Annandale before long; and stay there, doing out his Dante.
Our own movements lie utterly in the vague yet; never once turned over, or canvassed. I calculate loosely on a glimpse of Annandale and my dear old Mother again: but I am too bilious and melancholic to do much good there beyond a few days. For the winter I sometimes even think of going over to Italy, Germany &c for a while. My “new Book” is as yet deep-buried; very deep under rubbish, dry and wet, wide as my existence, and too tedious to speak much of to you! I believe, however, there does, if I live, lie one other Book in me;—one knows not what lies in one: as my friend Oliver says, “we must serve our generations,” do what is in us while Time lasts, “and then we shall get to rest.”3—
The other day, I had an interview with a Royal Highness, no less,—a foreign Royal Highness. The Duke of Weimar is here on a visit to the Queen;—a young man he, the grandson of Goethe's Duke.4 His Grand Duchess's Secretary (a curious little German Irish Scotchman) brought a letter of introduction to me:—some intimation by him that a visit from me would be kindly taken by this high Dame, in her wing of the Palace: intimation politely declined.5 Then an express offer from the Grand Duke to come hither; which of course could not be declined. Accordingly the young Royalty, at an appointed hour (4 p.m, a day or two ago), came driving up, “in an open carriage, with two puce-coloured flunkeys,” a whiskered Chamberlain (Baron something, a most awestruck-looking man, “officially awestruck”),6 and the little Scotch Irish Secretary. We managed altogether well, this young Royalty and I; bowed, and complimented one another with both civility and sincerity; “glad to see the Grandson of Goethe's Friend and Protector, the descendant of Luther's Friend and Protector”; shewed him a Portrait I had of this Elector “Frederick the Wise” (Luther's man at the Diet of Worms), which evidently pleased him much.7 “A bonny eagle-eyed lad,” of some three-and-twenty; not at all without honest sense and faculty; straight as a rush; clear-voiced (something Scotch in the accent of him); and very much the gentleman, as one might expect. “Do not forget me,” said he; “come and see us yonder!” and so went his way.
My Paper is done. Send this to my Mother for news of me. Jane's kind love to you all; and mine I have not room for another word. Your affe Brother