April 1848-March 1849

The Collected Letters, Volume 23


TC TO JEAN CARLYLE AITKEN ; 23 September 1848; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18480923-TC-JCA-01; CL 23: 118-119


The Grange, Alresford, Hants 23 Septr, 1848—

My dear Jean,

We have been here above 3 weeks,—three weeks past on Friday,—and I should have written to you sooner: but the sad truth is, nobody can be worse situated for writing than I now am, tho' one qualification, total idleness from all kinds of work, never was or could be more perfectly vouchsafed me than here! But there is such an incessant frivolous whirl of what I call “laborious Donothingism” that one's whole day is spent out of one's own command; and one arrives at evening after evening, often without having done the most necessary duties. Lord pity those whose existence is altogether bound to such a course. For me a week or two now and then is nearly too much for me; and may serve mainly, I think, to extinguish any envy I might have had of immense wealth and high rank, and to increase my respect for honest industry under what terms soever carried on.

These are the friends, as you guess, whom we used to visit in another part of this County: they have now come to their full titles and estates, the elder Lord Ashburton, lately proprietor of this place, having suddenly died last year.1 It is an immense and quite grand house this, about 3 times as big as Kinmont2 I think; in the middle of immense parks &c &c, with flunkies swarming in every corner: our party varies from day to day, and is of the grandest sort, but to me the most unproductive. The chief benefit I get, indeed, is from the excellent country air and bright weather, and many solitary musings I have in these green spaces,—very sad for most part, but full of meaning to me; I do not think so many old things, old some of them as the beginnings of my life, have come into my head anywhere in a month these many years. When I retire out of the idle gabble, and sit down alone, under some tree or lone shelter, to smoke a peaceable pipe of ’bacco, my thoughts are manifold!— At present we are of very small number, the poor Lady having fallen ill; in a week more (if I can manage to stay so long, but I have often been on the point of running off!) we are to be reduced still lower, and greater “quietness” is promised. We shall see.

Meanwhile Jane keeps unusually well; and I too seem sometimes to be slowly gathering some new health, in spite of “dinner at 7,” and the other influences. That really is all the news I have got to send up to this date: That we are here, thinking of you, and tolerably well.— Today that Note came from Scotsbrig; which I enclose, that you may see a little how they prosper there, if you are quite short of news. And so adieu for this day. Lord Ashn is “waiting for me to ride”: I must off, off! Newspaper as usual, tell James.

Ever your affectionate Brother

T. Carlyle.