The Collected Letters, Volume 11


TC TO JEAN CARLYLE AITKEN ; 27 March 1839; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18390327-TC-JCA-01; CL 11: 63-65


Chelsea, 27th March, 1839—

My dear Sister,

Mrs Welsh wants that Note forwarded to Mary her maid; whereupon I think of inclosing it to you; the frank will carry you a few words as it passes. Andrew Watson, on Saturday, if I remember right, is on your pavements; so that there will be no delay according to this method.

We have been in a pining way here, at least Jane and her Mother have, owing to the bitter March weather. We are all now a little better; our two dames are gone out today, up to town in an omnibus; a sign of improvement. I myself have not ailed much: yet in these last days I had a decided onslaught of cold, which however, meeting it with promptitude, I think I have driven back. Mrs Welsh goes off to Liverpool tomorrow. In spite of her sickliness, she has enjoyed London rather more than on former occasions; not altogether like a fish out of water this time, but taking a kind of hold of some things. She is to stay some little time in Liverpool, I fancy; her Brother there is not very well.

As for me my Lecture season approaches again, and all my care bent in that direction at present. I have fixed what is to be the subject: “The Revolutions of Modern Europe” (Protestantism two Lectures; English Revolution, two; French Revolution, two); six Lectures in all; for I mean to give only six this year, and charge one guinea. We are to be in the old room.1 I begin on Mayday: Wednesday the first of May at 3 o'clock; so onwards on the Wednesdays and Saturdays till three weeks are over and the thing done. How it will succeed I of course know not; neither indeed do I care much, for it is a business of endless fash and fike [fuss and fret], and shatters my nerves in a really frightful manner; and besides I am not driven by absolute poverty this year, but can manage for a while independently of all things. I have got no horse yet, but still make some effort that way; I am pretty sure it would do me good. But fancy what the charges are! A riding horse for one hour here is 5/, and half a crown for each after; one ride I find would cost me, with ostlers, messengers and other trash, 8 shillings of money! At that rate I will not ride—extensively. Last year, in Lecture time, John Sterling and I determined on a scamper on horse-back, for health's sake; we had two good horses, 10/6 each for the day; we cantered round by Hampstead and other high lying villages, had to pay tolls, grooms &c; and I think, if memory record correctly, our ride for those middle hours of the day cost us 15/ each. A man with money can do all things here; but without money—!—

On the whole, I believe myself to be growing healthier, in spite of much detached sickliness and depression; simply by dint of being quiet. Providence, I feel sometimes, has been very gracious to me; just as a farther battle had grown intolerable, I got to a kind of slack in the controversy, and was allowed to take my breath a little. I am still taking my breath;—God be thanked! For the rest all goes on well with me; many a thing is planted (so to speak) in this circle of mine; and grows whether I heed it or not.

Jeffrey is here; grown very grey and small. His daughter is married to a man of fifty, a literary man whom I know, a very worthy, rational, rather wearisome man; and has brought and will bring him great store of money. She is a strange silent awkward creature; and for all her youth and her husband's antiquity, could not that I see have done better.

Doubtless you saw the Letters from me that my Mother and Alick got, not long since; the Letter from Jack that was in the first of these. No farther tidings have yet come from him; somebody read in the Newspapers that his Duke was actually gone to Malta, on the sailing excursion we heard tell of; so that Jack is most likely alone at Naples superintendent of the children and house there. We hear that they like him very well; and he seems from his Letters to take more and more to them. Mill and Sterling are both in that quarter of the world at present; but are to return in two months or so.

Dear Jean, I have room for no more; and hitherto I have said nothing! You had a Letter from me (had you not?) since you wrote last. With two bairns I fear your writing hand will be still more hampered. Yet you must not give it up; I cannot do without your despatches from time to time. I must learn how all fares with you, and the rest of them; put the children to bed, and then put—pen to paper that night! My affectionate regards to James: I am very well pleased to think of your quiet honest course of life and industry together there. It requires talent to manage that in these times; but, managed, I think it is the luckiest existence of all. Ah me, what a scene is this, in comparison!

My dear Mother's Letter spoke of cold and toothache, but added that they were mostly gone. I do trust it continues so; I should be right glad to hear that they were entirely gone and not to come back. You will send them word of me. I had a Newspaper from Manchester, and sent one in return. Good be with you all bairns; my kindest love to all of you!

Your affectionate, /

T. Carlyle

James's Pipes still hold out, and Alick's Tobacco; a right good smoking equipment. I have daily cause to remember them both.

Today I am to dine with one Macready, the chief of theatrical persons here; who has sent me a free ticket to his Theatre these two years,—which, alas, I have only used once this year. Jane orders me to go; says I shall write a tragedy one day myself, and this Manager will act it!2