TC TO JEAN CARLYLE AITKEN ; 19 August 1855; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18550819-TC-JCA-01; CL 30: 36-38
TC TO JEAN CARLYLE AITKEN
Chelsea 19 Augt, 1855—
I have been in the country for a ten days, as perhaps you know; I was just about setting off when your Note arrived, which had been due, at least to my imagination, for a long while. I calculated confidently on answering you out of Suffolk; but that was what may be called “reckoning without one's landlord,”—I found my conveniences for writing, and my allowance of my own time and faculties, so inconsiderable as I had never once anticipated: I decided therefore on waiting till my return; and this, accordly,1 is the first Letter I write after that event.
My place of rustication was Suffolk; some 8 or 9 miles nearer you than Ipswich, which County town is 70 or 80 miles off this; on a tide-river called the Orwell, perhaps ten miles from the real sea or German Ocean;2—much about my own distance from said Sea, for I lay northward of Ipswich, and within reach of another “tidal river,”3 in which, at high-water, there was a tolerable salt water bathe to be had. I went to one Fitzgerald, an excellent modest and affectionate character, one of my oldest acquaintances in this part of the Earth: he is younger son of a gentleman of very great wealth who came to bankruptcy nevertheless;4 with such results as you may fancy: this Fitzgd of mine, who is only just now, after 7 or 8 years after his father's death,5 getting his affairs winded out into clearness and effectuality (he will still have plenty of money for a man of his simple ways), has been living, for some time past, with an old farmer of his Father's, in a kind of old Villa, now used as farm house; the people greatly attached to him, and of honest rational character, they and their house likely to suit me, as F. asserted, inviting me thither. Which indeed proved to be true; for I liked the goodwife and goodman extremely well after their fashion, & found the country and the farmhouse much to my taste,—could I have but been “well let alone”6 (according to the bargain); but in that we did rather fail! Alas, that is a thing nowhere to be fallen in with,—I think, never more, for me especially; such is often the sad sigh of my soul in late times! That country is now all golden with excellent wheat, plenty of green lanes too, endless country roads and paths, with trees everywhere framing the gold picture in luxuriant green: a Country not unlike Scotland in its fruitfullest places, except that there are never mountains in the distance, and that the streams are few, and all sedgy, silent, and we must say rather ugly. I walked greatly, bathed every day, was driven to the sea-shore, to Aldborough, to Orford;7 staid 3 days with the Poet Crabbe's son (a very excellent old Parson of those parts, who took much to me): in short I had no rest to the sole of my foot,—none or too little;—and was willing enough to get away from it yesterday, exactly on the 11th day, for the chance of such quiet as home might afford. I preferred Steamer to rail, and had really a pretty sail, tho' too hot; but alas that meant 9 hours of sea instead of 3 by rail, and two hours more (by either method) of turmoil thro' the entire length of London: so that I was really heartily tired,—a fasting man from 6 a.m. till six p.m;—and felt greatly relieved to get myself entirely washed, and treated to a plate of quiet Scotch victual again. I calculate it will actually do me good, this jaunt; but on the other hand the quantity of tumble it has given me, and the dusty uproar of the entrance and the exit,—all this is horrible to think of, and has not belied my anticipations of it.— — I ought in fact to try to get on with my work again, if I by any means can or may; for really there is nothing else in this world that will turn out to be much of a prize for me, so far as my outlooks now go.
Among the rubbish of papers accumulated here in my absence, was the Falkirk Newspaper8 which I send by this post; containing a paper by some poor wersh well-disposed creature; which has almost made me cry and laugh both at once to read it. Alas, alas!— You will find it amuse you rather; therefore I send it, along with the Leader. Parson Crabbe (very unwittingly) detained the last Leader; but indeed there was little lost by that defect. The Nation was intended to signify that nothing had gone wrong with me.
Jack speaks of going to Germany: if that can amuse him, it may be worth while, being easy for the like of him. He wrote to me once; but did not send much other news. I suppose he has been at Dumfries since. I sent him a Letter which came to me from Alick,—which, I suppose, he has forwarded to you? It was short; and reported only that they were well and doing well, and that Tom, who had been to Hamilton under Hanning's patronage,9 had decided to return, and was actually home again, after some trial of that. I do not well see thro' this affair; hope only it will have created no grudge between Father and Son. It is perhaps very proper that Tom should wish to get away: but I do not know the particulars, and can only guess in the vague.
Your news from Glasgow, I hope, continues to be good: that exit of poor Tom from you was very affecting in his circumstances, poor fellow;—however, we will hope it may be the beginning of many good things for him.10 He is possessed of excellent faculty, I judge; if it were once well cultivated, or opened to cultivation, there is no doubt he may find something useful to do in the world. God's blessing be on all of them, on all of us! That truly is the one prayer needful, now as in older times.
But I must cease, dear Jean; for there is no end to this kind of talk: and many things lie here, demanding quite another kind of industry from me. I hope I shall be perfectly rested; and be a little reconciled to my harness again when you write next. Give my autumnal compliments by Mr Aird, if you see him roving about at a slow or swift pace. My affectionate regards to James and all the little ones. Take care of yourself, that is what I have to remind you of.
Yours ever /