1854-June 1855

The Collected Letters, Volume 29


TC TO JEAN CARLYLE AITKEN; 16 May 1854; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18540516-TC-JCA-01; CL 29: 100-102


Chelsea, 16 May, 1854—

My dear Jean,—I am certainly shamefully in your debt in the matter of writing; and I know not how it has been, for nothing particular has turned up to prevent me,—nothing but the old never-ending brabble of confusions, attended perhaps with a little worse spirits occasionally, and for one or two days last week, with a rather lower pitch of biliousness than usual. However, I will now pay off; and promise, if I can, to be more punctual for some time coming.

This is the first day of my getting up into my celebrated New Room; I write to you at present under a magnificent sky-light, and shut out by double doors from all concern (so far as possible) with the external world! My very first work in this new place was a Note to John about a certain poor Inscription, the nature of which you will guess. He says you have never yet found out the exact date of our departed mother's birth:1 pray try all your industry to do it now, for I would fain have the thing done; the last sad pious duty we can have to do for one who will be precious and dear to us while life continues. I could not give the thing up today; and felt that somehow I ought to do that first, in this new and somewhat foreign position I have got into. Really a kind of flitting went on yesterday; new bookcase, and all manner of plenishing to rearrange and haul hither and thither: today I feel drearyish, as a person that had got from home, not yet used to his new quarters: a very little matter will suffice to push some of us out of joint!

The room considered as a soundless apartment may be safely pronounced an evident failure: I do hear all manner of sharp noises,—much reduced in intensity, but still perfectly audible; it is only the dull noises that are quite annihilated: for the rest, it can be defined as an eminently quiet room, far less noise in it than in any other; it is roomy too, all my own (to stick maps on the wall &c &c), and perfectly isolated from the rest of the house: the light too, as I have said, is beyond praise. No doubt had I once got the steam up, and succeeded in falling to work with any complete heartiness, I shall find the place a real improvement: & Jane meanwhile is very proud of the fine new drawingroom she has realized for herself. I am to be out of that till the time of fires come again; and she has it, or will soon have it, in a very bright state indeed, now that I am out of it.

What is this that you speak of now and then, about going to America? Has James such a notion practically in his mind at all? Of course I can understand he might find a far larger scope for his faculty of work, and might (if he were lucky) gain far more money than in poor half-ruinous Dumfries: but into a superior community of man, community less given to quackery and all active and passive service of the Evil Principle, I am by no means sure that he is likely to go; and that, I suppose, is what his heart tacitly strives after, and not finding that, he will [be]2 disappointed as it were of all. No, no; I hope that will not become a practical project! At least let things be growing evidently worse and worse, towards the unendurable pitch, before you think of it. I hope, not; I hope, not: to me indeed, such years have I arrived at, all change has an unwelcome sound in it; and I would have, so far as possible, all stay where it is,—lest it “go father and fare no better!”—

Of Dr Brown3 I cannot give you the least tidings of a direct nature: the last thing I had from himself was that Note you got,—and that, I grieve to remember, is still unanswered! I saw lately in an Edinr Newspaper (the Guardian, which somebody sends me) a Review, evidently by Brown, of a new Poem called Balder,4 no great shakes of a Poem; but the Review was friendly to it, and very well done, indicating a considerable stock of birr in [MS torn] directly know. A Mrs Stoddart5 since [MS torn] Lady now here whom I was asking about him, describes him as keeping very private, inaccessible in his lodgings to all but an intimate few; for the rest, supposed not to be in a dangerous state, but in a very lame and tedious one.— I wish Mr Aird (to whom give my respects) would write to him, get some news, and send the same to me.

Yesterday Jane and I made a visit to Lockhart (Sir Wr Scott's son-in-law) who is just returned, said to be “recovered in health,” from Rome.6 Alas, he is not “recovered”; he is only a little better; and seems greatly wasted away in body, tho spirited, courageous and talkative, indeed active in mind as much as ever. The sight of him was very affecting, and has not yet ceased hanging about my thoughts. He thinks of removing farther out into the mere [words missing: sub]urbs, and I suppose giving up [MS torn] not of travelling more in search of amusement.

Dear Sister, I must now draw bridle; having indeed written more than enough, I do believe.— If you can remember, send me, next time you write, a pennyworth of small brass wire,—my stock (due to you also, I think, in old days) is at length quite done; and no pipe is to be depended on without it!

We have wild N.E. wind here again for the last 30 hours: I suppose it will bring a farther weight of rain, which latter will be very welcome besides all we have got.

Good be with you always, dear Jean; may blessings be on your house and on all precious to you. I am always Your affecte Brother

T. Carlyle