1854-June 1855

The Collected Letters, Volume 29


TC TO JEAN CARLYLE AITKEN; 10 November 1854; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18541110-TC-JCA-01; CL 29: 196-198


Chelsea, 10 Novr, 1854—

My dear Sister,

I was very glad of your little Note from Glasgow the other morning; which I suppose you had to write with the wrong finger,—the more is the pity! That is really a bad job, and all the worse as it still bothers you, with pain in addition to inability. The pain, no doubt, will go off; and I always try to flatter myself somehow the power will come back,—tho' John tells me he fears, not, the sinew being gone. It appears there has been a great deal of whitlow this year, more of such diseases in the hand than were ever known before: so said a London Doctor, attending one of Jane's ladyfriends who was suffering in that way; “he had never known nearly so many cases as this year.” A young working man, in the next street here, has lost part of his hand (half of the thumb, I think); still goes with a sling; and was quite astonished by some strange malady he got of that kind.— I beg you keep a good lookout, and don't use the hand ill, lest it again grow worse upon you.

Perhaps John did come to you in Glasgow? He spoke of doing so, last letter; but I have heard nothing of later date than yours. I happened (by rare accident) to be writing to D. Hope, and mentioned that perhaps you would call. But probably you did not;—probably he could have done little at any rate, tho' very willing he would have been, good man. On the whole, if I could hear that you had got Jim fairly shifted into a better shop, it would give me real pleasure: I do not like to think of the poor lad puddling about in that barren Jew establishment. Tell me how the matter now stands: if you did fairly try for a new place, and how you sped?1

I am trying desperately to get some progress made in my work here; but with lamentable want of success hitherto. Nothing but despair urges me on; I am like a poor old garron yoked in a big waggon; I do straighten the chains; but as to any turning of the wheels—alas, alas! I have got a dirty cold too; am sad as death, for most part, and hold away from company of my fellow creatures: one good is possible for me, to get a little work still done, with or without wages. As our brave Father used to say, “I'll gar myself do it,”—I must!

The day before yesterday I went to Windsor; for the sake of innumerable Portraits, Engravings, Miniatures &c which I had got access to there. It is some 20 and odd miles off: one of the beautifullest Palaces,—for situation &c much the beautifullest I ever saw. Built on a sheer steep Hill (high for these parts, and beautifully clothed); commanding an immense plain, the richest in the Island; with Oak forests, with the River, with &c &c to all lengths. I regarded little or nothing of that; but proceeded straight to my Print rooms, where a Mr Glover the “Librarian” of the place, was extremely kind to me, and I saw really a great many things that may be useful in my operations; and had four diligent and goodish hours out of a day. I mean to go back when the weather is brighter (for Pictures and old eyes), and when “the Court” is not there. Towards 4 o'clock, while I was busy with a [h]undred Prints of Frederick, there came a soft step to the door; I did not look up till Glover said; “Prince Albert!”—and there in truth was the handsome young gentleman, very jolly and handsome in his loose greyish clothes, standing in the door, not advancing till I bowed. His figure and general face were well known to me, well-built figure of near my own height, florid blond face (with fair hair); but the eyes were much better than I had fancied; a pair of strong steady eyes, with a good healthy briskness in them. He was civility itself, and in a fine simple fashion: a sensible man withal. We talked first of Fredk's Portraits; then went, by a step or two, into the Saxon genealogy line, into the Wartburg, Coburg, Luther, Frederick the Wise (that is the Prince who caught up Luther, put him safe into the Wartburg; he is Ancestor of Albert); we had there abundant scope of talk, and went on very well, the Prince shewing me a Portrait he had copied of “Fredk the Wise” (not ill done), telling of a Luther Autograph he had (from Coburg, and a joke appended to the getting of it there),—when a domestic glided in upon us, murmured something, of which I heard, “gone out to the Terrace!” (Qu[ee]n out, wants you,—he had been in Town all morning)—whereupon, in a minute or two, our Dialogue winding itself up in some tolerable way, Pce Albert (prince of Courtesy) bowed himself out, back foremost and with some indistinct mention of “Your works,” which did not much affect me; and so ended our interview. I had had an indistinct questionable anticipation of some such thing all day; but thot too I was safe, having met his Carriage on the railway as I came. However, it was managed as you hear; and I was not ill pleased with it, nor had any reason—well pleased to have it over as you may fancy. Not a word more, dear Jean.

Your affectionate Brother

T. Carlyle