The Collected Letters, Volume 28


TC TO JEAN CARLYLE AITKEN ; 28 August 1853; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18530828-TC-JCA-01; CL 28: 254-255


Chelsea, 28 Augt 1853—

Dear Jean,

Your Note [whi]ch came this morning was a great comfort to me, as the last [to]o was. I get no other accounts from Scotsbrig which are so [cl]ear as yours. My poor Mother continues still very very weak, I can well see: alas, alas;—but what is capable to be done by way of help to her, that at least you do; and she seems to like your waiting on her the best. I wish I knew of anything I could be of service in. There are Books enough here, for example: cannot I send you some Book, for your slack hours; and of what kind would you like it? Tell me if you want that.

I wrote yesterday to you at Dumfries; I hope James will open the Letter; for it was mainly to announce that the Penknives had arrived safe; that Chorley thought them of excellent promise, and had decided to keep both; which I was very glad of. The price also I will remember, and take care of. Another commission, in the meantime, was added in the Note of yesterday: that of getting me [anothe]r pair of gloves from Dinwiddie!1 You can tell James not to both[er him]self with that, but to let it fall, at least till you retur[n] home.

We have very bad weather here; blustering winds with much intermittent heavy rain: the harvest is over in these parts, but much is yet dependent in other more backward quarters; and it is understood that the general harvest this year will not prove a good one. The flour has already risen, “the French,” it appears, are busy buying wheat from us, their own stock of bread threatening to be short. Perhaps a little poverty will do our foolish people no ill, for they have at present only too big wages considering what use they turn them to.

As we are changing roofs, the rain was far from welcome on this occasion! Parts of the old roof remain; nay the back is already covered with an excellent new one: but sometimes we had big gaps depending only on the shelter of tarpaulins; and a drop here and there was unpleasantly visible in the upper rooms. Three Irishmen moreover, headmen, unacquainted probably with the nature of lath and plaster, have been successively down upon my poor bedroom,—not quite thro', only their hoofs thro', and on one occasion half the person of a gentleman of that Nation, who hastily saved himself up again by the arms! So that the ceiling (which they instantly dit up again) looks very piebald, and there has been much hasty sweeping away of dry dust &c. But on the whole they are swift, gleg, excellent workers these that we have, and as many of them as can get elbow-room together; and they are really getting on fast and well; and we endure the tumult, in hope of being deaf there henceforth, and delivered from intolerable nuisance. Chelsea is all building & spreading (as London wholly is); by no means so quiet a place as when we knew it first, and people thought in2 “too relaxing, so near the river.” I hope to get a really good room upstairs, and to know no disturbances from noise for the future. As I sometimes say: since the world can do me no good at all, it is fair I should have a little less mischief from it, in certain manageable departments!— In spite of these carpenterings, I manage to sleep fully better than usual of late; poor Jane too holds out, tho' evidently rather weakly, under such annoyances.

You can tell my Mother I have got no word about poor Mrs Glen's Petition yet: the Duke of Argyll answered me handsomely so far as words went, but evidently could not predict the issue: I forwarded his Note to Mrs Glen; and both of us must just wait in silence till the head of Lord Aberdeen (none of the most potent engines, I think, tho' a very canny one) have brought forth its product.

For the rest, the Town is grown far quieter; really wonderfully vacant in the westerly streets,—about 100,000 people being on their travels, more speed to them! I try to work and study; but cannot boast yet that I succeed almost at all.— — I must out now, and walk; nay the very post will be gone if I linger. Give my dear Mother the assurance (which she does not need) that my best affection is ever with her: may God bless her and you all!

T. Carlyle

Mem. To write soon, at any rate.