The Collected Letters, Volume 28


TC TO JEAN CARLYLE AITKEN ; 19 January 1853; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18530119-TC-JCA-01; CL 28: 13-15


Chelsea 19 jany, 1853—

Dear Jean,

I had been repeatedly thinking of writing to you; but your Letter of yesterday brings me to the point. Alas, I am terribly bothered here, and hunted from post to pillar; and rarely get more than a hardly visible fraction of my own mind accomplished with my own time! I wanted to ask you about sending out some bottles of good port or other wine, or good brandy, to my poor Mother, for a New-Years Gift; but I am so totally in the dark about what might be of any real use to her, that there is no good decision to be arrived at easily. She has been (I gather from the Dr's1 very brief descriptions) rather worse than usual, during this sad dark weather; but seems at present to be round to the ordinary point again. By all means, go if you can to see her with your own eyes; and give me the fullest account in your power after you return. Consider also about this small Gift of wine or whatever else, and give me some rational advice about it.— — Jack writes from time to time; but his Notes are of the old brevity, of the old fugitive sketchy character; and seldom give one a clear picture of anybody's situation, even of his own. I gather, however, that he seems in superior spirits, and much happier than heretofore,—having made a lucky conquest in this new change of life. Poor fellow, he has had enough of the other way too; long wandering without fixed home in this world: we will heartily rejoice in his new acquirements, and hope with some confidence that he has made a real improvement in his way of life.

Nothing particular is passing here with us; the old linsey-wolsey story of weak health, bad weather, and many outward evil elements, very indifferently borne up against, or made good, by heroism of inward endeavours! I am pestered even with paper, at a great rate; and obliged, as you see,—on this kind of paper at least,—to try writing with iron pens, and endure their melancholy contradiction! My one remedy, as usual, is work; in the world I have nothing else to look to with hope of benefit;—and yet, in spite of my struggles, I do not get well on at present with any work that is visible at all; tho' I don't consent to be idle either (in which case I should, before long, probably need a “place by mysel’‘”),2 but keep fighting along under ground, in hopes some day of getting above it.

The other night, you can tell Aird, I took a long walk thro' lanes, over heights, and by new unknown streets (4 miles or more in all) to visit a Dr Samuel Brown, friend of A.'s and mine, an amiable and clever man, who has lately removed hither, with his young Scotch Wife, for a shelter & living. I found them both at home, at the very outmost Northwestern Corner of Babylon,3 amid half-built houses, trenches, mud and new bricks (for Babylon is rapidly extending on that and every side), in a nice little modest house, in a do room,—playing an innocent game at whist together. A nice scene, and nice good pair, whom I have often thot of since. They were overjoyed to see me; and we talked a long time,—my walk, with long strides, home again, thro' the sleeping suburbs under the windy moonlight, was not unpleasant. Brown (grandson of Bible-Dictionary Brown)4 is truly a genial kind of soul, whom it was pathetic to see launched upon London. He at present complains a little on the old score; but hopes soon to be equal to a Chelsea visit; and indeed I look forward to pleasant meetings now & then with such a man. A pious and gifted man; but in London in the year ’53: “poor fellow, after all!”—

Today I send a Jamieson for reading (or rather Jane to whom it belonged sends it);5 not worth much I guess!— The Fraser & Westminster6 go regularly to my Mother; and went, the other day. Would you rather that I sent them first to Dumfries;—under conditions, of course, that you are to forward them to Scotsbrig? The newness of them is, I suppose, no object to my Mother: nor indeed do I know that she cares much about them at all.— Acertain how this is (in a quiet way!) when you go to Scotsbrig; and tell me for yourself what I am to day7 with next Fraser.

Uncle Tom's Cabin is the mania of this season;8 what will that of the next be? Perhaps a worse even! The present generation often seems to me like Gadarenes Swine, rushing all with one loud accord “down steep places,” the devil being in them!9— James,10 I believe, is very right abt Uncle Tom: to me, for one, it seemed a pretty perfect sample of Yankee-Governess Romance, & I fairly could not and would not read beyond the first 100 pages of it:—Adieu, dear Sister; God bless you all, man and bairns along with you!— In haste, Yours ever / T. Carlyle