The Collected Letters, Volume 26


TC TO JEAN CARLYLE AITKEN; 12 November 1851; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18511112-TC-JCA-01; CL 26: 225-226


Chelsea, 12 Novr, 1851—

My dear Jean,

I yesterday sent you off a little Book, Highland Notebook the title of it, where you will find various little pieces fit enough for a quarter of an hour's reading. The Author was once a printer with M'Diarmid, I believe; then went off to edit some kind of Newspaper in Huntingdon (O. Cromwell's old place), and is now a prosperous Newspaper Proprietor as well as Editor in Inverness these many years.1 I do not think his worth very great, or beyond what he will be able to eat the real wages of before he quit this world: but in fine he may do for the occasion, and we will be thankful accordingly.— In regard to your reading, I think it is a pity, since you have time and energy, that you did not get some weightier kind of Books, out of which real knowledge might come to you; for example, Book of History, of which there are several at Scotsbrig or attainable enough elsewhere; which you could read carefully, having a map at hand, and attending to the chronology,—that is, keeping both places and dates steadily before you:—for example, have you ever read any good History of England (Hume's, Henry's);2 Robertson's Scotland; Robertson's America (a most entertaining book), his Charles V &c &c?3 There is a good stock of such Books; and that is the way to read with advantage. I recommend also Homer's Iliad, and Translations of all the old Greek and Roman Books called Classics; of which Jack, I believe, has some store; at any rate plenty of them are to be had now comparatively speaking, and very cheap. It wd be worth your while to have some solid good Book always at your hand too (like James)4 when you have a little leisure. Take some thot of this; and, after consulting Jack, and still more your own real notion, ask me to help in any way I can.— — I am glad to hear James takes to Geometry: that is a noble department of human acquisitions; and if he were once fairly started in that, he may prosecute it on his own strength to any extent he likes. Let him state all his difficulties to the Doctor, who was an excellent pupil of mine in old days, and understands the subject perfectly (or did “above thirty years ago”!) and may assist in getting him lifted fairly into it. Once in it, he will walk forward on his own legs, as far as needful.

We are very quiet here; with weather a little better than yours, tho' too often it is very dark and a little uncleanly, owing both to our smoke and our natural sky. On the whole I consider myself a little better for my steepings, and roamings on the mountains, last autumn: far enough from what men call well, but actually a little clearer, and more within conception of being well. I read pretty diligently, but cannot flatter myself with being yet near any regular promising Enterprise of the Writing sort; that, I am afraid, will need a sad struggle first! Meanwhile I am thankful to be silent, to be allowed to go about mingling so little in the loud braying nonsense that is everywhere so prevalent around one, and which makes one's very heart sad and sore. No refuge there for one; refuge only out of all that, if anywhere!— I have had some extensive rides lately, on a horse of A. Sterling's for which there is not otherwise employment: the country is still beautiful when the sun breaks out on it; and in Richmond Park or other such places one can get big spells of solitary cantering, on the finest turf, with nothing but deer and trees round one, which is to be thankfully accepted by the sick soul.— Jane is pretty well; walks daily with Nero. We keep out of the way of “Kossuth” and all noise and stump-oratory. I think of writing a Note to my Mother this very day, one being due again.— Good b'ye, dear Sister. Be a good bairn; be all good bairns! Yours ever

T. Carlyle