The Collected Letters, Volume 27


TC TO JEAN CARLYLE AITKEN ; 22 June 1852; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18520622-TC-JCA-01; CL 27: 149-150


Chelsea, 22 june, 1852—

Dear Jean,

I believe I am shamefully in your debt, this good while; I decide to throw you off a word today before beginning to anything else: that is the only sure plan. With bad paper, bad pens,—and what is more, a perpetual every changing variety of bad;—with the continual whirl of botheration that goes on here from perfectly extraneous intrusive persons; with my own poor daily work, getting always the more obstructed, the weaker I get for doing it: with all these things acting on me, my aversion to write letters, or to write at all, has become very considerable; and goes on increasing I think! Nevertheless, as old Francis Bell said to his wife1 in the dear years, “Tibbie, my woman, if I were going to keep any body, with the meal at such a rate, I would keep thee”— And so it shall be till the “meal” rise even a good deal dearer!—

I sent, the other day, thro' Scotsbrig in the Doctor's Parcel, a small gift to James: Robertson's History of Charles V.; which you too, if you are still short of reading material, may at once embark upon. It gives account of Luther's Reformation (in its own way), and of many other things; in a style that gave universal satisfaction 70 years ago, and makes it still one of the celebrated Books of the world. I can advise the reading of it still; tho' as to the “celebrating,” if one were to go strictly to work, there were two words to that bargain. You do not understand maps, you say? I hope James does; and will get himself some extremely cheap map of Germany, and keep looking occasionally into it as he reads. The worst of maps is better than none; if he can get hold of nothing (no School-Atlas map, or the like), tell me, and I will tear out some old rag for him, or try otherwise what is to be done.

I keep reading here innumerable Books about Frederick; making almost no way in the real study of him. I am fully as well in health as usual; rather better indeed, ever since the influenza, but a little more afraid of damp or draughts of air. We have had perpetually recurring showers, and nothing but veiled cool skies (tho' with a fine genial warmth in the winds) for six weeks back; till now we are thoroughly soaked, after the iron drought; and desirous of sun and drought,—which also appears to have come, since the thunder of Saturday last. Nothing suits me so well as a rainy summer here: an hour's rain per day, and London gives the nicest summer weather I have ever lived in. In the country at present, all is one ocean of luxuriant green; and our western breezes here in Chelsea ought to be almost as fresh as yours at Dumfries, for there is only a thin straggling group of streets between us and the country in that quarter,—after which is the Atlantic Ocean and America merely.

Our German speculation is not quite dead yet; but a letter I had from Berlin gives it a considerable blow: viz. that Berlin (where I chiefly wanted to be) is visible to perfection only in winter and spring: till the “end of Septr,” not even “professors” are there, nor any soul whom I should care to see,—all fled to Moffat-well2 on account of the heats. On the other hand, there are invitations at this fine season, in regard to the country parts. How it will be I do not well discern hitherto.— What concerns us more, is a much closer speculation about taking a long lease of this House, and executing, now without delay, some thorough repairs upon it. Alas, I begin to see that I shall never “get into the country again” to live! I must resign myself to do the best I can here; and see, if I can, to get a little more work out of myself before I die. “Free is the heart,” says Goethe, “but the foot is bound”:3 ah, me! Well, we have had builders consulting &c, and I think there really will something be done,—be begun straightway. Jane will superintend; I (especially if heat come) will fly. That is all the definite news at present. God bless you, dear Sister.

T. Carlyle