The Collected Letters, Volume 10


TC TO JEAN CARLYLE AITKEN ; 6 July 1838; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18380706-TC-JCA-01; CL 10: 112-115


Chelsea, 6th July, 1838

My dear Sister,

Your long close-written and very punctual and desirable Letter came the day before yesterday. I am unable to answer it as it should be answered: my right-hand is lame or lamish, and I write at all only with difficulty and doing myself hurt. You must be content with this scrap, which I stuff into a frank of Mrs Welsh's, till I get means of writing more fully. It is all, at any rate, that the frank will carry with safety. But indeed I have written often and fully of late weeks, and sent nearly all my news: there was another Letter, to our Mother, subsequent to the one you mention; of which last you say nothing tho' there was time enough for you to have heard of it: however I will hope and believe that it too has got safe to hand; there was a trifle of cash in it, and a Letter from Jack at Como, of about the same date & the same tenor as the one you yourself had. Owing to the state of my right-hand, I have never got it answered yet; but indeed having written, before that, to Rome, I fancy that it would very soon be answered otherwise, and so endeavour to sit waiting patiently for more.

The reason of lameness of hand is a very insignificant one. A certain Gover[n]ment Official of my friends here, one Mr Elliot, “Agent General for Emigration,”1 persuaded me about ten days ago2 to jaunt with him as far as Gravesend, down the River some twenty miles, to see a Ship of Kentish Emigrants he was just sending off to New South Wales. Being in great haste to get on board our Steamboat at London Bridge, I missed my footing at the corner of a Street, stumbled ever worse till I reached the curb-stone, and there (the ground being steep and I in a running condition)—fell flat into the pavement, one of the heaviest falls; laming my wrists, which indeed saved my head and face from breakage. The left wrist which was the worst is now well; the right, having had all the work to do, now demands holiday, and with that will be well soon too. I write none that I can avoid. Could not James send me a tin wrist in case of extremity? That tin thumb of his has filled me with laughter and admiration again and again.3

I am much obliged to him and you for your care of that accursed Craigenputtoch.4 The thing to be done is to secure the house and the woods at least from other injury than those of weather and nature. Adamson can and must keep M'Adam from meddling with them.5 It is, I have no doubt whatever, entirely a falsehood that Mrs Welsh gave any such permission as Joseph talks of: I wrote to the hash that very day your Letter came, a letter of brimstone and cayenne, requiring him to keep out of my premises and within the limits of his own, under penalty of law-beagles and Botany Bay; his cattle were to go out instantly and to stay out, another tree felled was felony by law: I imagine he will hold his hand for a while. If the Speddoch man6 will regulate the woods, and rain is kept out of the house, we must be content. I again request James to take charge of it. And for the rest the less I hear about that detestable place, the thankfuller I shall be. It never turns up here with any other result than with vexation to us. I could get into right rage at it; but study not to do that. You were right not to mind M'Queen; to let Peter Austin talk.7 Enough of it.

Teufelsdröckh will be printed out I expect in about a week; copies of it may be in Dumfries about the beginning of next month: I have other Books to send by some early opportunity. That printing once done, I am free to run whither I will; and a few right July days might soon drive me out of this. But whitherward? All our plans are driven aback by the planlessness of Lady Clare. We need not think about Italy for winter if she is uncertain about returning thither. But then if there is no Italy there should be a Scotland? Jane is altogether discouraged as to Templand by the hint of “Liverpool children” being there. She speculates sometimes about Annandale, Kirkcaldy &c. Next time I write, I hope to say something more definite. Meanwhile the poor Dame is clearly a very great deal better since the summer weather came; indeed she has not been so well that I have seen these three years. All is well enough with us here: the great secret now as formerly to keep in the utmost quietude we can. I feel as if growing fast old, especially in mind and heart. It often seems to me strange that I have but been 4 years here; I feel as if I had lived at least 20 since we left Scotland. True enough, I have had a bit of fighting, seen and unseen; but I have tript up the enemy a little, and ought to be content for the present. Content is not the word, indifferent is nearer it; I never more authentically considered the whole world as smoke and triviality than I do even now. But I am resting, I am resting; let us lie and rest, and say nothing!

A Miss Fergus from Kirkcaldy was here staying. I had to accompany her to see the Coronation Procession;8 we had been invited to the Montagues' window,9 but shd not otherwise have gone. I had even a “ticket to the Abbey” (a thing infinitely precious), but gave that decidedly away. Crowds and mummery are not agreeable to me. The Procession was all gilding, velvet and grandeur; the poor little Queen seemed to have been greeting [weeping] [;] one could not but wish the poor little lassie well: she is small, sonsy and modest,—and has the ugliest task, I should say, of all girls in these Isles. Our Hyde Park Fair was literally about a hundred Lamb-fairs all in one;10 perfectly goodnatured, but such a gathering as eye never saw. I have heard of nothing that pleases me like the dining of Ecclefechan on the top of Burnswark that day!11 Well done!

I have exhausted the utmost scrap of paper I dare venture on; also my hand is quite worn out. If that Letter to my Mother have come (as I doubt not) let James signify it by one stroke on the Courier. Jack requires an Examiner now, and I send that to him. You will send my Mother word of us; her and all the rest. Blessings to all and every one, now and always!—Your affectionate, T. Carlyle

[JWC's postscript]

My dear Jane—Thank you for your postscript and for your readiness to take the responsibility of my “making myself unhappy”— He seems to have told you all except that on Monday we are to dine at Allan Cunninghams to meet MacDiarmid! brimful of coronation he will be very awful—but there was no refusing—

If I had a wishing cap or a wishing ca[rpet to] perform journeys with instead of mere terrestrial steamboat and [ma]il coaches I should come and “take a look into the inside” of you all for certain—as it is I know not what to think about it—. The idea of being “dadded all a-breed” [shaken all to pieces] just when I am got a little better frightens me. The Sterlings offered to take me a six weeks jaunt again this year which I have “declined from it altogether”—the fuss of it being ruinous to my nerves and “happiness.”

—only think Carlyle is to have his picture taken again this time by an artist of genius12—if it succeeds I mean to buy it of the man[.] It was I formerly that used to be asked to sit for pictures but every dog has its day— God bless you all— yours affectionately J.C.