The Collected Letters, Volume 10


TC TO JEAN CARLYLE AITKEN ; 29 January 1838; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18380129-TC-JCA-01; CL 10: 11-14


Chelsea, 29th January, 1838—

My dear Sister Jean,

You are a very cunning old Craw to save yourself the trouble of writing me a Letter, and make one do for both Jack and me!1 However, it is all right: after a moment or two of hesitation, I opened the sheet, and read it, very glad to hear all the news: I filled up the margins, and sent it duly off to Jack; promising that I would write to him on my own footing in a few days. A Newspaper that came from him shortly after that, I despatched to you with one stroke, as you requested; so I hope you understood on your side too that all was right.— You give us, as usual, a very faithful-looking picture of all that is going on among the clan; let us be thankful that there is nothing worse to report. And so, as there is a frank for Mrs Welsh in the wind, I will add a line for you today, and bring matters up to the level between us.

About the time your Letter came there had been news from Manchester;2 to the same purport as those you yourself had: That all was well, our Mother in good heart, and calculating on Scotsbrig along with Jenny when the spring weather came. She had heard from Jack at Rome, and wrote me mainly on that account.3 Jack was well: but indeed very shortly after that Manchester Letter came, there arrived one here from Jack himself to the same effect:4 I despatched it to our Mother just about the time yours was sent off towards Rome. Our Doctor, as I say, was well; settled in his No 189, Corso, Rome; his Lady well, and languid-polite as usual: he had got no practice, and expected none, the English being all frightened off by the cholera in Autumn; he was reading, writing; and expecting patiently his time of return in the beginning of summer. His main article of tidings, a very small one, was about a Parcel containing the French Revolution and some other book-trash, which had been sent off almost a year ago by me according to his order, and had never yet arrived; much to his disappointment there. He seemed to have lost temper at last; and talked of a desire to give some poor little Frenchman “a beating” if he could get hold of him.5 However, he said there was now a near prospect of the Parcel coming, and he would send me a Newspaper with three strokes when it did come:—accordingly the Paper you got had three strokes on it, and had given me the appointed signal before you got it as a signal with one stroke. You can fancy the Doctor therefore sitting reading the Book in these days, with mixed indignation and admiration like the rest of the world; and on the whole going on very tolerably in the fashion we have understood of old.

Your news of Alick was very welcome.6 I had heard from him some time before, and had written him in answer. I pray Heaven he may prosper in that new enterprise. If he could quiet his indignant temper (too strong in all of us), and stand to the business in simplicity, in cheerfulness and perseverance, I should think there would be no fear. He has had much to endure; like some others of us too, he is too proud, and has a dibble of a temper.7 Ah me! It is hard to get along in that case. The pride has to be tamed out of one; were it with many stripes and scourges.— Has Austin made anything of that Farm at Drumpark?8 I would give something to hear that he had got it, or another he could live in. I will beg James and you to do all in your power towards forwarding them. If a little money would accomplish it for them, we could contrive to make that up somehow among us.9 Annan and the life they have there is very disheartening. Another thing I had to speak about was your little James. It is clear to me the little creature is of a bilious constitution; as to which there are two princip[les] you should never leave out of view: To keep the poor little body warm, warm with light flannel clothing, and by every fair method; secondly, to attend at all times strictly to the nature of the food eaten. Sugary things, indeed most of the things children are fondest of are decidedly unwholesome. You must watch, and see and ascertain. Above all things I must insist on heat. My astonishment is how children ever live at all considering how they are clad.

As to London, we are well; Jane is better than she has been this twelvemonth, in spite of the rigorous frost; she keeps herself close within doors. For my share I cannot complain either;—except it be of the want of work; of the inability to work. All writing has grown a disgusting matter to me. I must even wait till I rally again! Fraser the Bookseller, I am afraid, is in a very bad way as to health; not a word can be said at present about our enterprise: they are going to print the things, however, it seems, in America.10 Very curious! Also the clear likelihood is that I shall be lecturing within three months hence; tho' on what subject neither I nor any man yet knows. I am canvassing it in my head; I am reading for it; but nothing is yet shaped. I live very quiet; sometimes happy, at other times in bad spirits and unhappy; it all depends on what is within myself: I ought to “work mostly in a place by mysel'.”11

A copy of the Article Scott will be sent off for James by M'Kie's12 parcel: I think you ought to get it about the Wednesday after this comes. There is only one for you and one for Mrs Welsh: the people have mismanaged it all, as they often do: however, you will get it to read, and can then lend it to Alick, or to any of the rest that want to see it. My Mother gets a copy; and Jack specially requested one, tho' perhaps it is doubtful whether it ever reach him. The people praise the Article; but it deserves no praise; it deserves only to be paid for and forgotten.— Well, I must end here, and set to my daily task of reading. I expect a Letter from some of you before long. I have never got into right trim for writing yet to anybody. Jane sends her kind love to you all. Remember me to everybody by name.— Your affectionate Brother— T. Carlyle.

Tell James there are few days on which I do not think of him, expressly or implicitly, with thankfulness; his pipes are a great temporal blessing indeed.13 The best of pipes, and hardly any of them broken!— The Midshipman14 was not worth a farthing; but it came hither, and I sent it thither with New year's wishes.— You will get this, I think, on Saturday; one of the most perfect duds ever composed by any pen. And so now to reading; and good be with you all, bairns!