The Collected Letters, Volume 27


TC TO JEAN CARLYLE AITKEN ; 20 March 1852; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18520320-TC-JCA-01; CL 27: 72-73


Chelsea, 20 March, 1852—

Dear Jean,—I duly got your Note; and must plead guilty to the charge of delay in writing. No man, in fact, was ever less inclined to write, even to those he loved best, than I at this time. My inward affairs are fallen into such an abstruse condition, I am forced to admit myself to the strictest silence, and the profoundest solitude, in regard to them: I do not fancy there is, in the British Empire at present, intrinsically a more lonely soul,—and that especially in the most crowded mass of human creatures that there anywhere is under the sun. My way of thinking is so different from that of all the people about me here or elsewhere, my abhorrence of jarring and jargon gets so considerable! I am not so ill off when left well alone, to look facts in the face however ugly they be, and get them gradually sorted by my own poor but sincere endeavours: but all talk, especially all writing— And then the scandalous bitter eastwind, and the sunless frozen dust-clouds, have been acting unfavourably on me: in short I have not, except upon a kind of compulsion, written the smallest Note to anybody for many days; that is the fact! “Works aye maistly in a place by himsel,” as James says!— You must be patient with me till I reemerge, get my head above water again, and fall into the speaking category once more. Of my affection at least, whether I write or not, you will do me the justice to entertain no doubt at any time. And let us pray for the poor monster, that he may get out of his black thunderclouds and bottomless quagmires, into daylight and firm ground again,—by and by!

There has been nothing passing here that was of interest to us; tho' Ministries have changed &c &c. The prevalence of frozen eastwind (the disagreeablest weather I can recollect for a long time, and really unfavourable to health for their skins) was a much more important fact for us. Lady Derby (the Premier's wife) intends, it wd appear, a great turn out in her way on the last evg of the month, and has sent me a card among others. I really am not quite sure but I shall go for a few minutes, and see what the “scoonerils [scoundrels]” are like! But I doubt that is not probable either.— Nobody expects much, or fears anything, of this Derby go: the fact that poor English Toryism is obliged to depend on the tongue of a base Venetian Jew (who has nothing else but a glib tongue, with a brass face and heart) speaks eloquently as to it and some other things! On the whole, we had better not think of all that; the less we think, the quieter our humour will likely be.

I keep reading still about Frederic the Great of Prussia, but without making almost any true progress towards understanding him or his affairs. Partly I cannot get the right books here: even when I send for them, at my own charges, the delay is quite overpowering (as experience shews), and before the book arrive, you will have helped yourself otherwise, and fallen out of conceit with it. We sometimes talk of quite lifting anchor and going over thither (Jane and I) for a six months: but this is quite a secret, observe. The worst is, however, I do not care rightly about the subject; do not kindle readily now about it or any other subject. That is the chief fruit I yet trace of rapidly advancing years,—a thing to be looked for, along with worse things which have wonderfully hitherto been spared me, at this stage of my history.

Jane has been a little put upon her mettle this last week: our servant-woman (an excellt steady, clockwork kind of elderly person) broke altogether down under the cold weather, lost her voice, seemed like to lose her very life, and finally last saturday, went away to go to bed and try to recover (which she is now doing, we hear). Some tumbling in consequence. At length however all is settled again, on a good basis,—active quiet little lass to do the fires, the door, the dishes &c, and first-rate matron of the neighbourhood who comes in daily two hours to cook:—we do really very well indeed, and can let the poor Servant woman take her time in recovering.

Jack writes us this morning; short Letters come pretty frequently from him: our good old Mother is wonderfully well by his account; for the rest they are in some uncertainty about disposing of young Jamie, not knowing well into what line to forward and advise him.—

You get the Critic; and always forward it to John? That is the right way. Unless you would like better that I sent it first to John, whereby you wd not be harried or troubled farther with it? Tell me which, if you can remember.— And on the whole write again soon, and I will answer perhaps better. For after all I do not mean to fall quite silent (in spite of the above sad considerations!) and if I write at all, it shd be to Sister Jean among the first!—Adieu dear Jean.

Yours ever affectionte

T. Carlyle