The Collected Letters, Volume 26


TC TO JEAN CARLYLE AITKEN; 20 December 1851; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18511220-TC-JCA-01; CL 26: 272-273


The Grange, Hampshire / 20 decr, 1851—

My dear Jean,

You must accept in good part this hurried single word, which is all I can send you from this scene of bustle and confusion: it will serve to assure you that we are tolerably well,—where we are, I think, you already know;—and that little bit of information will be nearly all the good it can do you. Judging by the quantity of work we accomplish here, one might suppose we should have ample time for letters at least: but that, owing to various causes, is by no means the fact, but indeed quite the reverse of it; and, to one of my nervous temperament, and entirely quiet habitudes, it is often next to impossible to get even a letter written at any of the hours available to me for objects of my own! Hoohooh, “Ornament and grandeur”—I have no great brow of them at all!

We have great people here, Lord Grey, Lord Lansdowne, a good portion of the Majesty ministry (with their wives); but except on the outside view, all this does not amount to very much; after one has seen these high dignitaries once or twice, the look of them to one is little better than that of other agreeable bonny men. Macaulay was here for two days,—another kind of greatness; not entirely stupendous either. He and I did very well together, however; and I felt his departure a real loss to the party. This celebrated man, tho' perhaps not worth the tenth part of the celebrating, is a really good sort of soul: grandson of a Highland Minister,1 and really very much (intrinsically) like a Highland Minister himself, tho' “preaching” in a very different element, and with a stipend immensely enlarged!— —

Gifted Gilfillan,2 I noticed in the last Critic,3 is very crabbed upon me about the Life of Sterling. He is, upon the whole, a considerable of an ass; and ought to try to keep his temper, or at least to carry a civil tongue in his head. Adieu, dear Jean: we hope to be home this day week or so, and not long after that, you shall have hint of us again. Kind regards to James.

Ever your affectionate /

T. Carlyle