1854-June 1855

The Collected Letters, Volume 29


TC TO JEAN CARLYLE AITKEN; 11 May 1855; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18550511-TC-JCA-01; CL 29: 306-307


Chelsea, 11 May, 1855—

Dear Jean,

Do not bother yourself with socks for me just now: I have not the least need of them;—alas, I often with emotion look upon the stock I have, from a Hand that was never weary of doing good to me, and will now never do me more kindness,—I could sit and greet at the thought of it; but do not! I have my Mother's Picture (one of those little Photographs) hung on the wall of my Garret here; and there is no end or bottom to the reflexions it gives me.— Stockings enough she has left me, I think, to serve all my life. When I do run short it is always to you that I intend to apply,—knit socks of abundant length in the feet, soft wool, thickspun, and Shetland-grey colour:—but I am supplied almost to superfluity at present.

Your Jamie's Letter is very good: ingenious, knacky, practical, an “Aitken Letter”; and done in a very fair hand too. Let him stand to his tackle, and there is no fear he will do well enough. If poor Anne1 be really wronged in regard to those “Milesia” trespasses in spelling, let her merely laugh at it;2 if not wronged altogether, let her improve into perfection! That is the way to get amends.

Jack has got his Boy shipped yesterday, in comfortable circumstances; he came hither in the evening; smoked and talked: I left him at his own door, Nero and I intending a farther walk, thro' the fine fresh Summer night— We are got out of the East winds now;—deluges of rain rattling on my window here (attended with thunder), the second hearty plunge we have had. In a little while it will be too hot for me; one is hardly ever right; no getting to that point, at least no keeping at it!— Jack speaks of getting up “to Scotsbrig” this summer, with the Boys for a time;—mentioned it last night for the first time. I made no answer: do not you speak of it at all; for perhaps it may be only a passing dream. He can, whenever he thinks proper, set up and support any kind of house he might like: but if he do not like, what has any of us to say? I conclude he will employ himself, poor good soul, with these Boys, with signing law-papers, correspondences, &c &c,—and go pretty much without farther work, and with a mind satisfied to call that “work,” for a good while to come. He looks decidedly better in health; has got a whiff of sore-throat, which seems to be abating, or almost gone, and describes himself as doing well in the other medical or surgical respect.

As for me, it is sure enough I should like right well to get into the green sunny Summer out of this sorry element: but as the impious Cockney says, ‘Don't you wish you may get it?’ I find no prospect hitherto of such a thing: I can at least avoid being brashed by railway travelling; and may stay where I am till something definite turn up,—or till I either end my work or it end me. Steady, steady! If I could get my wretched work done, I would not complain after all. Why should I? The poor blockheads that sit on quack “thrones,” and do and speak dishonesties under pain of being kicked to the Devil (a little sooner than their doom is), how can any reasonable mortal think these better off! When the spirit rebels agt this as unworthy work for one's final period of life, I often think of the last thing I saw my brave Father doing in this world; building, in a bitterly cold march day, against Andrew Caruthers,3 at the upper part of that Byer4 wall at Scotsbrig;—doing it faithfully, and making no complaint about what it was. “A man of better natural powers than thou!” I say to myself; and am reduced to peace on that score, and even to shame.

Adieu, dear Sister: I have got a great Dinner to go to (Duc d'Aumale,5 Louis Philippe's son, very worthy youth, the hero of it,—happily my last dinner within sight); and I ought to be out, now that it is 5 o'clock, and the rain slackening!

Adieu dear Sister.

Yours ever /

T. Carlyle