1854-June 1855

The Collected Letters, Volume 29


TC TO JEAN CARLYLE AITKEN; 10 April 1854; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18540410-TC-JCA-01; CL 29: 61-63


Chelsea, 10 April, 1854—

Dear Sister,

I owe you, by all laws, some kind of Note, before this; and wish only I had anything very comfortable, or very significant in any way to tell. But I am sore held down,—“sair hadden down wi' the bubbly”;1—in fact a very overloaded and confused being in these current weeks and months, and find it most natural to take refuge altogether in silence whenever possible, and not to speak at all when it can be helped! That is my sad case really, or my abstruse humour;—which however should not be indulged in. I shove aside my dreary Books, Maps and other chaotic apparatus today in time; and will insist on writing you a word, if only to tell you that it so stands with me.

My health, as usual, has a great deal to do with all that: I have indeed nothing in particular to complain of,—only the perpetual misery which has kept me company for 35 years or so, all days and all nights, give a considerable bias naturally to rolling of the bowls with me, and is calculated to surprise people that are otherwise situated now and then. I need not, at this late stage of the journey, begin kicking at my burden; no, let me rather get along in a silent sliding pace, if I can; in that way, the back is least apt to be hurt by what you have to carry!— I must say, too, there is not the least waygate hitherto with my unfortunate task of work: I have had some rough confused tasks; but I do not think there ever in my life fell any task to me which was so obstinately inexecutable as this same. Little worth executing, too, I often say to myself;—alas, I am getting old, and not so ready with my enthusiasms as I once was, nor so ready to get fairly on fire about a task! That, I perceive, will be the condition of getting thro' this present task, if it is ever to be got thro';—but I often say, it never will; and then add sometimes, “Why should it? Be humble, be quiet; and admit then, I cannot do it, I am myself done!”— But I hope better things, tho' I thus speak!2

We have never been out of Town; talk, however, of going on Tuesday week, for 10 days percisely3 (18th-28th) to Addiscombe;4—what they call the “Easter Holidays” is the affair: I know of nobody that I care a doit to meet there,—tho' there is a Cambridge Professor of old standing one Sedgewick, who may be met without damage, if he require it.5 I shall get a few rides, at any rate, among the bright blossoms and young leaves; and perhaps silently get some measures of arrangement decided on for this mass of Frederic rubbish, which is like to crush the life out of me if I don't take measures with it.— I am writing with a dirty contradictory iron pen; I fly sometimes to that in the present chaotic ever-changing, “cheap-and-nasty” condition of writing materials, which has long been an intolerable grief to me, did I know how to mend it. Alas, alas!—

I long to hear how Jack settles about Deanbie; I did write; but am again in his debt, and have no right to expect news till I make a fresh demand. My idea always rather is, they will not fix on anything in your region: I hope they will fix somewhere; roving about the world is surely the worst way of settling such uncertainty

We have beautiful weather here; at times almost uncomfortably hot, and always very dry, too dry; today the wind has risen, and changed also to eastward, with some supply of clouds, which we hope may end in rain. When the weather fairly warms too much, I fly aloft into my new watchtower, which is now quite habitable, and even getting books &c into it.— All manner of Scotch people have been up here, about their “Education Bill”;6 we saw some, avoided many.— Bad luck to it, here is a fellow knocking; will come up (I have no doubt) for it is half past 3! Adieu, dear Sister;—I hope to write again soon, and be in better trim somewhat. Tell me about Aird;—poor Wilson, I see, is gone: a great, but also greatly wasted man!7— I am on the whole glad your James at Glasgow has got quit of that connexion, since it did not suit.8 Be not angry farther; never mind henceforth— Good be with you all. Your affectionate

T. Carlyle