The Collected Letters, Volume 26


TC TO JEAN CARLYLE AITKEN; 11 October 1851; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18511011-TC-JCA-01; CL 26: 203-204


Chelsea, 11 Octr, 1851—

Dear Jean,—I am very glad to have a word from you again, with assurance that you are all going on at the old pace. Tho' in great haste this forenoon, I will answer you without loss of a post, as there seems some press for a decision on certain practicalities on your side.

Alas, the Scotsbrig “Barrel” (which was a big wooden Box) is already here: Jack, without delay, on his return, packed it off, with Butter and a little meal,—swiftly, the Butter being rather in request here at this season. Jane, after consultation, clearly thinks there will be no good in your getting Honey for us now, on those terms; so pray do not mind it at all. There is good Honey here, and bad; the good, it appears, come to some ⅙ or ⅓ a pound; and for all we want of it, that will do very well. Nor is there the slightest haste about the socks: indeed I have not the least want of the article at present; my poor Mother's last supply, of seven years ago or more, is not half worn out yet; this new one, whenever it comes, will be precious to me as a proof of her unwearied goodness, but I do not otherwise need it. So be quite gentle, “canny as eggs” (according to poor Pate Easton),1 and do not hurry yourself at all.

Today I understand my poor little Book is coming out;—today or soon it must come; but this was a rumour that met me yesterday on the streets. By and by a Copy of it will reach you. I hope my Mother's Copy is tolerably bound, or becoming so? That is a debt I will account to you for; do not neglect to send me word about it whenever the thing is complete.— No “new work”; alas no, there is a long groping and stumbling about before I can hope to fix on any new job that shall seem worthy! But I must try; and keep groping at least. We shall perhaps be a little quieter now, now that the Glass Balderdash is going to take wing. It goes today, forevermore (thank Heaven);—but, alas, there will new and ever new come, so long as we stay in this world, I believe! For example, there is a sublime Hungarian called Kossuth (“Koshoot” they pronounce it) just approaching our shores;2 and blaring and babble enough there will be about him, God wot. To me he is hitherto nothing but a bag of mutinous playactor wind, very doubtful whether he is anything more to anybody; and I mean to keep well clear of him for the present. “Kossuth is coming!” said a joyful little man (Lewes of the Leader) whom I met yesterday on the street: “Kossuth is coming!”— “Yes,” answered I, “but Kossuth will go again; that is perhaps the beautiful part of the news! All nonsense goes, if it cannot be prevented from coming.” From Gavazzi to Jenny Lind, from the Pope of Rome to the President of France3 (and the illustrious little Dottle whom we call “Queen” of England), what an aspect does human “Hero-worship” offer at this date! “Done well, all is well; done ill, all is ill”;—and we see how it is done, wherever we open our eyes just now. Often it almost seems to me as if universal Bedlam had broken loose: one looks heartstruck over the world for one wise tone in the infinite mad hubbub, presided over by King Cole4 (a dirty fat little creature) and Prince Albert with their Glass Miracle! But it is better to be silent than to speak of such things; silence not speech is the part of the serious soul just now.

Since my return from France I have done little but sleep; not for a long while have I executed as much sleep in the same time. Which of course is extremely beneficial to me. I take a walk daily every morning, too; and begin to hope that my Water-Cure Account, when I get it well summed up, will turn out in my favour rather.—Yesterday I wrote a long Letter to Alick; your Note came just in time to get itself entered in the margin. We have not yet had any account of Jenny's Letter. Indeed Jack, as otherwise appears, went suddenly off to Auchtertool in Fife on Wednesday last, and is now there: Mr Welsh (the Elder) fell suddenly ill, and Walter sent express for our Doctor, who immediately went. Some kind of fit; connected with palsy or apoplexy we grieve to understand. All danger for the present is said to be gone again; but the fatal tendency, we fear, cannot go. Poor Jane is very anxious about it: her good Uncle is, as it were, the last of all her kindred to her.—

I am rather well-pleased to think of Jim being delivered from his Latin, into the chance of a more genuine and fruitful employt for him. Decidedly the danger was, he wd have spoiled himself endeavouring to overtake that slippery object, which (thanks to Dominie Maxwell)5 had become almost unattainable for him. Let him now choose deliberately, and stand likewise to his choice.— — Adieu dear Sister: I have at last got a comfortable paper to write on, and my pace rushed along at a great rate! I did not mean to write half as much. A certain Mr Chorley, a zealous adherent, has with infinite labour ferreted me out this kind of paper,—genuine linen rags, the kind I had 20 years ago, before size and plaster came in vogue,—whh is an immense blessing to me. My kind remembrances to James and all the Household. Good be with you all.— Your affecte Brother.—— T. Carlyle