The Collected Letters, Volume 28


TC TO JEAN CARLYLE AITKEN ; 11 August 1853; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18530811-TC-JCA-01; CL 28: 244-245


Chelsea, 11 Augt, 1853—

My dear Jean,

Your Letter came the day before yesterday; and I need not say how welcome it was. Your news of our dear old Mother,—nothing in this world could be so welcome as good news from that quarter, which yours were in some degree! Thanks for them. My heart and imagination are filled with that matter; and all manner of sad things, so sad, yet so tender, pious and blessed tho' sad,—lie always in the background of whatever I think or do.

I am not without hopes our good old woman is now gathering a little strength, and may have a more tolerable time of it. Alas, if I could but do anything whatever for her, it would be some comfort; but I can do nothing, and all remains a fruitless wish with me. Jane spoke something about a Bath Chair she had been proposing,—it is a nice little spring chaise with a hood over it, runs softly on four wheels; a weak person can sit there, and be easily drawn about in the open air. I think often, my Mother might get some good of it; and make little voyages to the Fairy Brae, round the Garden, or wherever she liked upon roads (if you flung the loose stones off them first): no doubt, your James could get it easily for us at Dumfries, or John is in Edinr even now:—I wish you would propose it again; and, above all, would consider the business yourself, and see whether there is not feasibility in it. One thing I do know: If my poor Mother would take it and try it, I should consider the price of it the best spent money I have laid out for 7 years past! Indeed I know not where or how I could spend money, ever in my life again, more to my advantage.— Consider this business, try it well; and tell me whether there can nothing be done in it. Or if my Mother wd not have a Chair bought all at once, we could easily hire one, and let her make a trial of it? I am persuaded there is no safety for her but in avoiding those “stimulants,” and momentary helps, and trusting to the general influences of regimen and air, so far as possible. A little ride every bright day, when she was able to be up, could not fail to do good.

I am myself fully better since Jane came home: she keeps the house more snug about me;—she, furthermore, recommended tincture of rhubarb to me; which really has done me an immense good for the last ten days! I have only taken six teaspoonfuls yet (on occasional mornings), and the effect (which, alas, I know will be temporary) is hitherto better than that of any drug I can remember in that sad quarter of my experience.

All summer I have been more or less annoyed with noises, even accidental ones, which get free access thro' my open windows: all the tinkering and “repairing” has done me no good in that respect. A very despicable, very intolerable sort of sufferings,—as poor Aird and others, can testify! At length, after deep deliberation, I have fairly decided to have a top story put upon the House, one big apartt 20 feet square, with thin double walls, light from the top &c, and artfully ventilated,—into which no sound can come; and all the cocks in Nature may crow round it, without my hearing a whisper of them! My notion is, it really will answer. John Chorley, a practical Liverpool railway man who is very loyal to me, went to Cubitts the Chief Builders here, told them my sad case, “a Literary man” &c &c; and they agreed to send a right man, with estimates, with &c &c: and here accordingly he is this very day mounting his scaffolds and ladders from the street,—to work altogether from the outside; and to have done “within six weeks”! I did not think of building again so soon: but Jane too encouraged and urged me; and indeed I have a feeling that this may prove one of the usefullest things I ever built. Our next neighbour's poultry (and even his poor self, a coarse and poor but not a bad one), I perceive, will before long be got quite rid of: but henceforth I hope to be independent of all men and all dogs, cocks and household or street noises,—which are waxing every year in this Chelsea with the furious building &c that now goes on in the once quiet suburb!— As everything is rigorously estimated, and Chorley is to be Clerk of the works, I design not to interfere in the business at all; but sit at my work within doors. If it grow too bad, we can run to Addiscombe, only 10 miles off, and beautiful enough for the Queen & Albert (or a still better pair): and the very thought of that renders one more patient from day to day.

My poor Book makes no progress; but it shall make, if I live! It keeps me very unhappy; and is in fact an unmanageable kind of business; wanting more rage and energy than I have yet bestowed on it

Of course you are needed at Dumfries; but I hope you will not go just yet, as my Mother likes to have you.—— If you have nothing to read, tell me, and I will send some Book.— Jack has written twice; enclosing your last Letter to him. Give my regards to Jamie & Isabella. Jane is gone out, or she would send her grateful remembrances to you all. My poor Mother's pot of marmalade; blessings on her for it!— Adieu, dear Sister: send another word soon. Yours ever T. Carlyle