TC TO JEAN CARLYLE AITKEN ; 11 December 1838; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18381211-TC-JCA-01; CL 10: 240-244
TC TO JEAN CARLYLE AITKEN
Chelsea, 11th December, 1838—
My dear Jean,
Your letter with its welcome batch of news came last week; for which many thanks. We had heard from Alick some time before, but were otherwise without tidings from the home-land. It is you always that send a clear detail of all things more surely than another; and truly when I think how you have [to] write, with “the imp”1 dipping continually in your ink, and then by way of finish spilling the bottle over your writing, I ought to be doubly thankful. I was not aware that I had been silent to you so long; I fancied at least that you had duly seen our other Annandale epistles: fasten you upon the “faithless Dillick” for that oversight, and scold him sharply into order2 Or perhaps it was only John Jardine;3 and poor Alick did as well as he could, but was unlucky?— I had written at great length to our Mother just before your Letter came; I learned too by a short note from Jack that he had written to you all from Dover where he lay storm-staid: I waited therefore till word came from Paris; a happy event which took place last night; and now I write without delay. The letter is sent round by you according to your request, tho' I have my doubts about the safety of it. Pray make strict inquiry, and if there be any hesitation, send on my Mother's Letter by itself,—for I have no doubt she is in great anxiety to see it before now. We had a Newspaper from Boulogne, charged some 14 pence; which we refused; having learned from it all we cared one penny for, that Jack was safe across: this until yesternight was the only intelligence we got. All goes well, it would seem, in that quarter; and our good Doctor is like to get on altogether handsomely. His Duke and Duchess appear to be very good people; the situation is every way a far more promising one than that Clare concern could ever have become. My Mother ought to understand that the weather will soon grow warmer upon them after quitting Paris. If I get Newspapers, I will try to send them; but there seems to be some new crotchet in the Post Office so that money is charged for them: in that case, I will refuse, and have none to send, at which she must not get uneasy.
Poor Wull Brown!4 I hardly expected to see him again, yet his departure proved swifter than I had looked for. A toilsome, stinted, slavish life his was; and the fruit of it is all gone to the wind, will do good to no one, probably will do mischief. The “chinchilla tippet” is verily of evil omen; in strange contrast with the famishing dog stealing a raw potatoe; and almost as mad in its own way as that was. Many a time has some little legacy of money been the wreck of a human life in this world of work and effort. We will leave the poor legatee alone, we will leave the whole business alone,—with better wishes for it than hopes.5
The cheerfullest tidings you sent was that from Scotsbrig and Ecclefechan[.] I hope poor Isabella will get fast stronger now, and soon be able to follow her affairs again. My new Namesake is welcome to this world.6 He has got a tough job of it, I can tell him, he is bound for the credit of the house to grow a stout fellow, and clear things to the right and left of him by and by.— Alick's continued welfare is very gratifying. He is very patient and diligent in his calling; there seems to be a fair outlook of his prospering very fairly in it. I have not for many years seen him in so wholesome a way as he looked to be in then. Tell him he has always my love and best wishes I can form; and that I mean to write him soon:—if it is not he that ought to write hither? What becomes of Linbrigford Farm? Has Austin7 no chance there now? They must be patient; some suitable place will turn up by and by.— Our Scotsbrig meal barrel will be altogether welcome arrive when it may. The oatmeal is done; I am reduced to a thin supper of hot milk, with or without a bit of toast. The tobacco is done; I have been obliged to send to my wholesale merchant for 3 pounds more of his coarse stuff,—the retail price in these shops is 5/4! By the bye I believe now that the Kimmiter [Weasel] Mundell told me false about this London Tobacconist, and that his tobacco is not manufactured here, but at Glasgow. Putting faith in the human word, I have been kept continually in a puzzle about my tobacco these four years, and I begin to see it now! Many thanks to Peter8 for his guidance. But it is pity when the Speech of Man becomes like the Chattering of Sparrows,9 and worse; a man ought to be ashamed of wearing a tongue in these circumstances.
Some weeks ago I sent off a considerable bundle of books, thro' Edinburgh for James. You probably have them before now. One was for Glencorse the Annan Weaver that saved me (before you were born) from drowning:10 pray do not fail to wrap it up, and send it safe and soon. If James have received the Parcel, let him put one stroke on the next Courier; that will be sign both for them and this.— William Corson11 wrote to me about six weeks ago: he wanted to take Craigenputtoch House. I referred him to James and M'Diarmid; said that he should have it, the game, and all &c's for £10, the sum M'Diarmid hoped to get from some Sportsman about Mabie. As you say nothing of Corson, I infer he has not shewn himself. Probably he expected to get the house for nothing; that is not a rent that will pay one. Let him stand there, unhoused for me, if not on those terms.— Mrs Welsh still continues at Liverpool, and probably will till the season improve. We expect to see her here before she return northward.
With regard to Chelsea, all goes on moderately well. Jane, in spite of the inclement tempestuous weather, and worse than all, the detestable frost-fogs, is still on her feet, making no complaint, and goes out whenever there is a glimpse of sun. I am in my old bilious way, now better, now not so well; I carry on as I best can. Sometimes I have serious thoughts of buying myself a horse with my American money, and riding for health's sake. A horse is so dreadfully ill to keep here. But then health, even as a commercial commodity, is also so valuable. We shall see when the Spring weather comes: I really have a thought of trying it, the only medicine ever yet discovered for me. In regard to all outward things, I get on what ought to be called “very well indeed.” The best is, I mind little how that go; my chief joy and desire of my heart being still to keep myself quiet. Take what you will from me, good people, but leave me my natural rest! The F. Revolution will require a new edition before long; I shall take better care of that, and go more cunningly to work with it. The poor book has fought its way very handsomely hitherto; with England and America together. I do think I shall even make some money of it yet. There is a dud of an Article by me in the last London & Westminster Review; signed “S.P.” as one I did not care to own: it is a quite innocent thing too;—and the Editor gentleman ought to pay me my cash for it soon! They have offered me, these Editor people of that same Review, the amplest scope and room to write whatsoever I will for them: the fools, they should have closed with me this time twelvemonth, when I was anxious for, and they declined the very terms they are treating upon me now!12 The tables do turn in that way sometimes. I cannot bring myself to any decision about this offer of theirs; indeed I am altogether indisposed for writing (and yet at bottom desirous of it too); I must conclude about it one of these days, and set to work in some more decisive sort of industry than that of mere reading, and scribbling for my own behoof merely. But one sits (or rather two sit) so quiet in the evenings, with a book, lamp and clear-going fire: just about enough of worthy friendly people come to interrupt us; and for invitations out there are two to be refused for one to be accepted: the weary soul says to itself, Why should I work or struggle? Behold, is there not a book, is there not tobacco and quiet?— However, that will not do long; I believe I must alter my figure one of these days.
Dear Jean, I have had such a pen as no Christian could rejoice in (“Wha could spell wi' sic a pen?”),13 and now my sheet is entirely done, and I must out to look for a frank. Innumerable things were to be added: indeed what end were there, did not time and paper end? Give our love from this Chelsea fireside to all the loved hearths; clear be they all, and cheerful and peaceable. Good be with you always.
Your affectionate Brother /
dear Jane I find no trace of remembrances from me in this epistle, which shows that he needs looking after— I beg therefore to supply the defficiency [sic] “with my own hand”14— Also, I am dying with curiosity to see the cap you are making me which I hope will not break down, before it reaches my head. Kind regards to your Him—and a kiss to the Imp— ever affectionately yours