July 1836-December 1837

The Collected Letters, Volume 9


TC TO JAMES AITKEN; 19 October 1837; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18371019-TC-JA-01; CL 9:333-336.


5. Cheyne Row, Chelsea, London / 19th October, 1837—

My dear James,

The night before last, late after ten o'clock, there came a single-knock to the door, a slow-rolling-vehicle having first been heard to pause on the street; a little stump of a man thereupon, after due formalities and the charge of 3/5, introduced a considerable deal-box with an address in your hand; and it contained—the Pipes! All had come safe, not a tenth part of them, I think, injured; right good pipes, and the whole job very effectually managed. You have been very active and adroit; and I really am much obliged to you. The old Chelsea stock of pipes was within a dozen of being done, and most poor pipes they were in comparison: had the half of those Glasgow ones been broken, I calculate it would still have been a good bargain for me.1 As it is, the Box stands safe in an upper closet, and will furnish me for years, and always bring a kindly remembrance of you along with them. So note down the money they have cost you, that I may punctually defray it next time we meet; and for this and all your good management on my behalf accept my kind thanks. I have waited these two days in hopes of a Frank; but finding none, the Members being all out after partridges,2 I thank you by such means as there are.

My hope is that you may have succeeded as well about the Craigenputtoch house and the burble [confusion] it seemed getting into. But in any case I beg you to manage as well as you can, and keep it off me! I would gladly hear no farther tell of it. Indeed I can do nothing earthly in it that you cannot better do. For the rest as you are so accurate and skilful a man, there is another Craigenputtoch commission I will give you. It relates to the woods there. I believe they again stand in great need of cutting and sorting. Now there is a certain man, Laurie (John Laurie, I think, in Dunscore Parish)3 who was formerly employed in that way; and needs only to be spoken to again, and set agoing with full charge of the matter: Alick knows him, and Peter Austin; pray do you speak to him what is needful to be spoken, and see that the thing be done. It pays its own expense and more; the time too I believe is not till spring; nevertheless as Laurie is in request, it will be good to engage him as soon as possible, for they say the necessity of the poor woods is pressing. I say no more, but leave you to act; and make no doubt but you will do it with your usual success.

There have two Letters and a Newspaper come from the Doctor, the last about ten days ago. He is well, tho' in bad circumstances as to place; the cholera prevailing over all that region, and what is still worse the people and their governors acting like madmen in their management of it. The mortality does not seem at all so great as it was with you; but the panic even greater, the very villages all shut up against each other, guards mounted, &c &c. Our Doctor seemed to keep up his heart perfectly, but was evidently in a confused element of things. The good news however was that the cholera had decidedly abated, which the Newspapers say it still continues to do; so that I wait with some trust to hear next time that our good Doctor is out of peril, and matters come round to their old course again. I despatched both the Letters to our Mother at Manchester, and got back from her, on urgent request, a Newspaper (in Jenny's hand) with two strokes: this and your Couriers are all the tidings I have yet had out of Scotland. I wrote to Jamie of Scotsbrig about meal and proviant; I have written twice to my Mother: I ask always what Alick is doing, but hear nothing yet.

My Goodwife was coughing and weakly when I arrived. There is now a perceptible improvement and the cough gone. She purposes to take all the precaution possible and to front the winter with hope and courage. As for me, I have been hitherto [as] unprofitable as ever. I read and talk more, but do not yet write any more, or [not] much more. My health is in its old way; sound at bott[om] but with perpetual superficial disturbances, dispiritments and so forth. The grand improvement I trace is a determined internal composure; I say to myself in my worst moods, Well then, be it this way be it that and as bad as bad can be I will not fling myself into fury and struggle about it; let the Devil do his worst! “Dinna dad tysel' a abreed for them”:4 this, Lizzy Herd's advice, seems to me the best that could be given. I regard that resolutely quiet mood I am got into as my chief good-symptom. No words can express to you the torturing fret I was sometimes in while busy with these old tasks. For the rest, I have some two or more things in my head, but nothing is yet got on the anvil, nothing is yet in a state to be spoken of. The Book goes off famously, with praise far higher than need be, compliments from right and left. As one new instance, the Manager of Covent Garden Theatre has sent me a free-ticket to his boxes for this season. He is one Macready; I almost think he was in Dumfries once;5 a very clever and altogether respectable man; who is making a struggle this year to redeem the Theatre from that stupidity and degradation the system of puffery and baseness of all sorts had brought it into; and for this reason wishes to rally round him all manner of intelligent persons,—the present writer among others!6 I went last night, it was really very good (and soon done, if you leave the Farce);7 I think of going once a week till I see better.— Does my Mother send you the Examiner? It is worth your reading if it turn up.

You see, dear James, how my paper serves me! There will be franks were the Parliament met. I think I look [to] Jean's promise to be a good correspondent— Do you and she make me up a Letter at your earliest possibility. My compliments to the lesser James, who must exhibit “joy” when he hears this; let him be kept extremely warm and flannelly, poor Totum; he has wit enough to serve twice as much flesh. Finally be diligent in business, fervent in spirit.8 Be kind to one another, God knows there is enough of unkindness elsewhere: bear with one another, for all flesh is weak. And so Good be with you alway my dear Brother and Sister!—Your affectionate— T. Carlyle.

Jane sends her best regards and wishes; her thanks for the good-intention of the hair-machines;9 I brought up what fragments of them were attainable, for a sign! But indeed when I think of the jingling and jumping of these malisons, the wonder seems that anything whatever is got done,—except indeed it were the setting of the house on fire.— Would you like to see the London weekly Paper? Perhaps not, Examiner tho' it were. If yes, I can arrange with my Mother when she comes back that you should have it always on Wednesday, and then send it to Scotsbrig or to Alick. But perhaps it were more fash [trouble] than enough. I saw in the Courier poor old Pate Irvin's death.10 You did not know him, but Jean did. Poor old Pate! The last day I was in Ecclefechan his old white head met my eye; I gave him sixpence for a dram, thinking it might be the last time. He never had coin of mine before. He needs none now. Poor Pate!

The Glass has come out of my lame thumb! A piece as large as a pinhead, then a smaller invisible piece: it is all well now. It was decidedly sore when I left my Mother; I promised to tell her and forgot.

I have no room for particularizing compliments. I think of the whole Clan, one by one, and send them all a silent hearty prayer. Write soon, and fare well.— T. C.

The Newspaper has just arrived with its two strokes.