The Collected Letters, Volume 28


TC TO JEAN CARLYLE AITKEN ; 12 October 1853; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18531012-TC-JCA-01; CL 28: 285-286


Chelsea, 12 Octr, 1853—

My dear Jean,

On monday I had a note from the Doctor, which brought me the bad news that my poor Mother had grown worse after that state of sleepiness which you described; that he had been sent for, and that in fact she had been in an ill state, weak and suffering for two days or more. Alas, alas, the dear old Mother! She was better again, and essentially in her usual way, he said, at the time of his writing; he was to return to Edinburgh, and promised further prompt tidings, especially if he heard anything bad. I have yet heard nothing; but I sit in fear of every post,—in the pusillanimous weak humour I am in. The weather too is so bad, the very dark—the sky (in these [word missing] [d]ays) upon my weak spirits. Never mind me;—yet write me a word of authentic intelligence as soon as convenient.

I got home from Addiscom[be on] Friday afternoon, as proposed. Jane has got a new and apparently much better Servant, a London English one, in place of the fairspoken Irish skilt, who was nothing but a cloud of Lies and “Hugger-mugger slightly varnished”; whom I was not sorry to find fled,—off, with one of the Irish labourers who had been at this job of ours; more power to their elbow! Poor Jane had got all things swept and cleaned: the Carpenters were already off our staircase; locked into their own room, which they reach by a ladder from without: they have now nearly finished everything there, and in fact give us no disturbance at all; but “the painting and papering,”—that still remains; and even cannot be done (at least the papering cannot) till spring come. So I shall not get into my room this wi[nte]r; and in fact, I do not much mind; for the noises at any rate have now much faded away, and my old h[abitatio]n is improved into new security in that respect: so that, at any rate, the Drawingroom (a really excellt apartt, due to Jane and the toils of last year), where all my Books are, is a much better lodging till the cold weather go. If I could but get along with my “work”! Alas, alas, I try at it on all sides, and it will not stir from the spot; and I shall have a bra' business with it yet, before it get fairly in motion! Wish me diligence; wish me piety, patience,—at any rate, the faculty of holding my tongue!

Last night we got a sad shock, by the evening Postman; which fell heaviest by far on my poor Jane, and might as readily on me: the Death of her Uncle1 at Auchtertoul! He seems to have grown ill on Sabbath last,2 being very weak and lame before; he grew rapidly worse; gave them all his blessing and farewell about 3 in the afternoon; and sank, after th[at int]o [a] kin[d] of sleep, which at 10 had deepened into death. Of course they are all in great distress, some of them in Liverpool, some on vis[its e]lsewhere: poor Helen writes without dating. As to Jane here, she has spoken little since; and is very sad and low indeed, poor soul; sitting down stairs, making up mournings I can see; refusing to go out anywhither. He was a good, brave, and honest and kindhearted man, this Uncle that is gone; the last of all her kindred too, in some measure: so that it is as if all old things had come up upon her again. What can we do? What can we do? Nothing,—except, as it is said, “kiss the rod”;3 and confess that One is sovereign over us, and that His will is our law. Oh dear, Oh dear!

I will add no more today: it is towards 4 o'clock, and my fire is out this long while; so that walking is doubly necessary.—I do fancy, after all, I got some good of that depth of solitude in Surrey: I am in general clearer; let us hope much sediment has fallen. Adieu, dear Sister: I send my love to every one of you; my heart's blessing, as ever, to my dear old Mother in her frail state— Your affectionate

T. Carlyle