January 1835-June 1836

The Collected Letters, Volume 8


TC TO JEAN CARLYLE AITKEN; 28 January 1835; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18350128-TC-JCA-01; CL 8:20-23.


5. Cheyne Row Chelsea, London / 28th January, 1835—

My Dear Sister,

I have been in your debt for a Letter, which came most acceptably,1 and which I did not at the time mean to owe you for so long: my delay, as I hope you have never doubted, arose from occupation, from want of news, from anything but want of care about you. I have an evening to myself just now, and, as I can hope also for a frank, you shall have the benefit of such opportunity.

It gave us great satisfaction to hear that you were safe, and had realised a little Boy, of whom we have learnt since from various quarters to entertain a hopeful opinion. Nourish up the little Alick with all diligence; that he grow to be a man profitable in his day and generation! Our work in it will be over by and by; and his be beginning. Mrs Welsh saw you and him and James, and sent us word about it; she subsequently also sent to you for news (she told us), but your own Letter was just coming off. Or perhaps I am confusing all manner of dates here? For the truth is, I have sat so chained to my writing-table these many weeks; that much of the outer world often seems to me almost like a dream.

James, I think has very likely done well to purchase himself a house.2 You will find yourself much more comfortable in a “bit haddin [dwelling] of your ain for a that”; indeed, I imagine the house is of itself far better than your present one; besides it tends to give the Goodman a Kind of consistency in his Trade; and so I hope every way will turn to good. He has a fair proportion of business, I understand “the hand of the diligent” had long ago the best word;3 and even in these times shall not be altogether foiled. I hope all that is favourable of you both; to hear that you live not as fools but as wise: that is the grand blessing for this world and for the next.

As to myself, having already told you of sitting over my papers, and struggling with my evil genius there, I have hardly anything more to say that is important. My health stands out very tolerably, tho' it is the most unwholesome craft: it is true, I am faithful in walking and so forth, and we have generally weather one can walk in. I do not think I ever saw a year with less than six times as much rain: this is a far drier climate than yours, and the present season, moreover, has been unusually dry. In other respects, all goes as it was wont, or nearly so. We have a few friends that come about us, and might very easily have more visitors if not friends; but find no profit in that: the good are thin-sawn [thin-sown] everywhere, and perhaps not thicker here than elsewhere, tho' there are more to choose among. The quantity of folly in all shapes that one finds here is really amazing. Gabble-gabble in every kind under the sun except the wise kind: the reasons are “like two wheat-grains in the bushel of chaff.”4 We must even let it go on, as it has done, and will do; it can, on the whole, “di' tha naither ill na guid.”5 At lowest it is my happiness, as it was of that joiner friend of James's (whose name I think was Thomson6), that if contradiction is like to drive one mad at any time, one can “take gay guid care; and ay mostly work in a place by himsel”! I, by the nature of the case, mostly ay work in just such a place.— What the fruit of my working is to be we shall not begin to know yet for seven or eight months; or perhaps for not as many years: that is the law of the trade, and we must just abide by it. I do the best I can, and shall pray to be thankful for such reward, or such punishment, as is appointed. One thing alone I am sure of, that if I live I shall have done with the weary job;—and then hope for another that may be easier and more profitable. Probably some of them have told you that the thing was growing on my hands, and threatened to become three volumes! I was to be done in February or March; and so, if I have it all fairly off my hands by the end of May I shall think it very tolerable. But then indeed, if the guiding Powers continue Kind, Jack will be coming homewards, and we shall have a gliff [glimpse] of Scotland again! It is by toil, and the vanquishing of trouble and obstruction, that man lives here below.

I need not tell you about our Elections and public matters: men have been parading all streets with Election Placards on long poles, or with two poleless Placards, one on breast and one on back, fastened with string; others have been busy singing Ballads, hawking Political squibs &c &c of the like purport; to all which, I have said: Behold I have no care for thee! You too, I find, have had the pleasure of an Election, and Sharpe7 has got once more returned, tho' with difficulty.8 It seems to me there are confused times coming; times that cannot be furthersome to peaceable men. For these also, however, one must be ready. Meanwhile, they that are called to mingle in such work are not the enviablest; but rather they that can say to it, Go thou thy way, I go mine.

Allan Cunningham has been unwell, and I have not seen him for a great while, tho' often purposing to do it. He lost a Brother here in Autumn, and seemed to suffer from it:9 his wife also has lost a Brother resident here.10 They are canny [good] people; of whom one gets, with some good, no chance of hurt. “There is a Dumfries Mason,” Jane said, the first time she saw him; “better such very considerably than many a Cockney Literary Gentleman.”

My Mother has written me a Letter since yours, with nothing but good news in it.11 I fear always she leans to the favourable side. Your account of her way of doing, the look of her rooms, &c are very interesting to me, and form the best of what picture I have made out respecting it. She says, last time, you had sent her a cake for Newyear's gift. That was right. O be good to her: I need not bid you, I do believe. She has been a blessing to us; and, I trust in God, will long continue so. When I look over the world, and see what Mothers and Fathers the average have, I feel thankful for mine.— She said they had been singing at Scotsbrig; “Johnnie O'Cox”12 was sung too: I am right glad to hear of a song there.

But now, Missus, I have a commission for you about that. Will you go over to any Stationers shop, and buy half a quire (12 sheets) of ruled Paper (they have it ruled with blue ink, or can soon rule it); or if one has it not, go to another, and on the whole get it; and send it out to my Mother for writing to me on. She wants nothing but straight lines to write a most sufficient slow hand; and unless you bestir yourself in that way, I see no chance of her securing it. Now will you look to that? See in packing it, that you wrap it well, and if possible lay it flat (in some Book if there be such a thing; or between two pasteboards); for otherwise it gets creased, and “becomes unpleasant.”

I must write some more letters than this; and will not seal till tomorrow: you shall then have “time of day” again,—unless I am too hurried. We are going to dine with the Bullers, who have all taken up their abode in Town, and are very kindly disposed towards us. It is there that I expect a frank; for there will likely be a Radical Member or two present. Charles is becoming a notable in that department; a liesh [active] fellow, were he not so loose in the hinges!—— Jane is sitting sewing here; she sends you both her Kind Newyears's wishes. Be happy in your quiet circle there; be faithful, diligent, undaunted. Love one another; bear one another's burdens:13 how much is there in that! Alas, we have all our faults, our infirmities, our blindnesses, and have much to forgive and be forgiven. God bless you, dear Craw!

Your affectionate Brother, /

T. Carlyle

[JWC's postscript:]

Carlyle has the impudence to say he forgot to send his compliments to Jenny14 as if it were possible for any one acquainted with that morsel of perfections to forget her! Tell her I will write her a letter with my own hand, and hope to see her an ornament to society in every direction.15 The bad Hunt16 who was here for food told us he had “a large theatrical connexion” mentioning among others Mrs Martin Miss Inverarity17 that was. So the slattery [slovenly] girl is married—which accounts for her sudden disappearance out of the public prints. Her Husband is a third rate singer.