JWC TO JEAN CARLYLE AITKEN; 13 August 1835; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18350800-JWC-JCA-01; CL 8:192-197.
JWC TO JEAN CARLYLE AITKEN
My dear Jane
Even the doubt, expressed in your last letter,1 about the durability of my affection was more agreeable to me than the brief notice which you usually put me off with, “remember us to Mrs Carlyle—,”or still worse—“remember us to your Lady.” I have told you often, that it afflicts me to be always, in the matter of correspondence with you, obliged like the Annandale man to thank God “for the blessings made to pass over my head.”2 It ought not perhaps to make any particular difference whether your letters be addressed to him or me but it does—You never in your life answered a letter of mine (and I have written you several) except little business notes from Dumfries, which could not be considered any voluntary expression of kind remembrance.— Had you even expressed a wish to hear from me since I came here; I would nevertheless have written, being of a disposition to receive thankfully the smallest mercies, when greater are denied—but as I said you have always put me off with a bare recognition of my existence which was small “encooragement.”3 The fact is we are both of us I believe too proud: we go upon the notion of “keeping up our dignity Mr Arnot.”4 You have it by inheritance from your Mother who (as I have often told herself) with a great profession of humility is swallowed up in this sin; and I have possibly been seduced into it, by her example which I was simple enough to consider a safe one to imitate in all respects.
For my part however, I am quite willing to enter into a compact with you henceforth to resist the Devil—in so far as he interferes with our mutual good understanding; for few things were more pleasant for me than to “tell you sundry news of every kind no rather every thought which enters in within this shallow mind:[”]5 had I but the least scrap of assurance of your contentment therewith.
Now that my Mother is actually coming, I am more reconciled to my disappointment about Scotland. Next year God willing I shall see you all again[.]
Meanwhile I am wonderfully well hefted here—the People are extravagantly kind to me—and in most respects my situation is out of sight more suitable than it was at Craigenputtoch. Of late weeks Carlyle has also been getting on better with his writing which has been uphill work since the burning of the first manuscript.
I do not think that the second version is on the whole inferior to the first—it is a little less vivacious perhaps but better thought and put together— One chapter more brings him to the end of his second first volume and then we shall sing a te deum and get drunk— For which by the way we have unusual facilities at present; a Friend (Mr Wilson) having yesterday sent us a present of a hamper (some six or seven pounds worth) of the finest old Madiera [sic] wine.
These Wilsons are about the best people we know here—the Lady verging on old maidism is distinctly the cleverest woman I know— Then there are Sterlings—who from the Master of the house down to the footman are devoted to me body and soul—it is between us as between “Beauty and the Beast.”
I have only to say ‘I should like to see such a thing,’ or ‘to be at such a place’ and next day a carriage is at the door or a boat is on the River to take me if I please to the ends of the Earth—thro them we have plumped into as pretty an Irish connexion as one would wish. Among the rest is a Mr Dun an Irish Clergyman7—who would be the delight of your Mothers heart—a perfect personification of the spirit of Christianity— You may take this fact to judge him by that he has refused two Bishopricks in the course of his life for conscience sake. We have also some Italian acquaintances—an Italian Countess Clementina Degli Antoni8 is the woman to make my Husband faithless if such a one exist—so beautiful so graceful so melodious so witty so every thing that is fascinating for the heart of man— I am learning from her to speak Italian—and she finds she says that I have a divine talent (“divino talento”)[.] She is coming to tea this evening and another Italian Exile Count de Pepoli9 and a Danish young Lady “Singeress to the King of Denmark”10 and Mr Sterling and my old lover George Rennie. “The victualling”11 of so many people is here a trifle or rather a mere affair of the imagination—tea is put down and tiny biscuits—they sip a few drops of the tea and one or two sugar biscuits victuals a dozen ordinary eaters—so that the thing goes off with small damage to even a long necked purse— The expenditure is not of one's money, but of one's wits and spirits—and that is sometimes so considerable as to leave one too exhausted for sleeping after.
I have been fidgeted with another change of servants— The woman recommended to me by Mrs Austin—turned out the best servant I had ever had, tho a rather unamiable person in temper.12 We got on however quite harmoniously and the affairs of the house were conducted to my entire satisfaction.—When suddenly she was sent for home to attend a sick Mother, and after three weeks absence during which time I had to find a chair-woman to supply her place she sent me word the other day that in the state of uncertainty she was kept in she could not expect her place to remain longer vacant for her. The next day I lighted on an active tidy looking Irish Roman catholic—in a way so singular that I could not help considering her as intended for me by Providence—and boding well of our connexion— She is not come yet but will be here on Wednesday—and in the mean while my chair-woman, who has her family in the work house, does quite tolerably.
The comfort is, that I have not to puddle about myself here as I used to have with the “soot Drops” at Craigenputtoch—the people actually do their own work better or worse— We have no bugs yet to the best of my knowledge, and I do not know of one other house among all acquaintance that so much can be said for. For all which and much more we have reason to be thankful.
I must not finish without begging your sympathy in a disaster befallen me since I commenced this letter—the Cat has eaten one of my Canaries! not chicco [sic] poor dear but a young one which I hatched myself13— I have sent the abominable monster out of my sight for ever—transfered her to Mrs Hunt.14 With kindest regards to every one of you prattlers included yours
affectionately Jane Carlyle15
Mrs Welsh was to come abt the end of Augt. I was now getting tolerably on with my “Burnt Ms,” and cd see the blessed end of it lying ahead,—had, probably, myself resolved on a run to Annandale, by way of bonfire on that victorious event! At least, I did go, for a week or two, it appears; and brot up an Annan maid-servt with me, one “Anne Cook” who proved a peaceable, obedt, but very homespun piece, for a year or more aftds. The continl trouble my brave little Woman,—all of it kept quiet from me, result quasi-perfect, of its own accord, when it came to me,—is now, to look back upon, tragically beautiful! That ‘miraculous Irish Roman Catholic’ proved utterly a failure before long—
‘The Wilsons’ of the ‘Madeira hamper,’ and of many other kind procedures and feelings towards [us], were an opulent Brother & Sister, of considerable cultivated and most orthodox type (especially the Sister); whom we had met with at Henry Taylor's; and who held much to us for many years,—indeed the Sister did (tho' now fallen deaf &c &c) till my Dear One was snatched away. I think they both yet live, where they did (2 Uppr Ecclestn Strt); but I shudder to call, and shall likely see them no more. Many dinners,—Jas Spedding,16 Revd Maurice,17 John Sterling (once or twice), Jas Stephen (aftds Sir Jas18), Terrot of Edinr19 (who was the Brr “Tom Wilson's” Cambridge old friend) &c &c,—many dinners brilltly complete, and with welcome glad & hearty; of whh howr I wd often rather not have been.20
The COTERIE SPEECH abounds in this Letter; more witty and amusing, much, very much to the first reader than it can now ever be to another. A dictionary explanatn I must add at any rate: [see the numbered notes to this letter].