The Collected Letters, Volume 12


TC TO JEAN CARLYLE AITKEN ; 6 May 1840; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18400506-TC-JCA-01; CL 12: 134-137


Chelsea, Wednesday, 6 May—/ 1840—

Dear Jean,

I will send you the “scrape of a pen” today; Heaven knows I am not able to do much more; but I have owed it you long. Jane wrote to my Mother a word last night; perhaps you had as well forward this also to Scotsbrig, if it seem worth while; for I know not what Jane wrote; I had run out to have a gallop at the time.— We have got our new Postage Covers, you see; but I hardly think they will answer in that shape. They cost 15 pence a dozen; ¼d each, too high a rate, and are inconvenient into the bargain. Tomorrow I mean to try a dozen of the little black patch ones, which you merely wet, and stick upon the outside of any cover you like.1 They are also to have stamped sheets, it would seem, paper of your own that you can get stamped on the back. One way or other they will get it to answer.

Yesterday I got my first Lecture off my hands;—as well as could be expected! I thought I should get something like the tenth part of my meaning unfolded to the good people; and I could not feel that I had got much more. However, they seemed content as need be; sat silent, listening as if it had been gospel: I strive not to heed my own notions of the thing,—to keep down the conceit and ambition of me, for that is it! I was not in good trim; I had awoke at half past 4 o'clock &c. My room was considerably fuller than ever before; the bonniest and brawest [well dressed] of people:2 what more could the human mind require of such a business? I fancy, being once fairly into the subject, I shall do a thought better perhaps on friday; tho' Mahomet is not a very intimate friend either to any of us!3— The Lecture of yesterday, it seems, was not got reported. I trusted to two people; and between two stools, we know what becomes of a man sitting down. It is probably just as well. I have a notion of writing the thing, and printing it in free developement, as it should be, at my leisure; I could not have consented to publish such a Lecture as yesterday's at any rate; but I would have given “a guinea” (that was the proposed charge; one offering to report for “five guineas each lecture” I at once rejected) to have any kind of copy that even pretended to be done verbatim. Whether I shall have any of the rest reported is a thing uncertain; which I am going up to consult with Fraser about, today. Likeliest not; but I have heart and strength left, I will make a Book of it perhaps,—and Be hanged to them! What the Newspapers say for or against, or whether they say anything appears to be of no consequence at all. Probably the Examiner will not report this year, I think; I will tell my Mother to send it, and then you can forward it to Jack, if it do.

Jack has written me a Letter; on Saturday4 last it got here. He seems to contemplate the likelihood of quitting his place on the 20th after all. He has “much troublesome correspondence” with his Patient's relatives; but writes in good heart, seems too to think he is doing his Patient good. We shall see what comes of it.

You answered duly about our bathing in the Arbigland5 region! Alas, I wish I were there, safe and quiet; but I doubt it will be hard to get thither. Jane, I think, does not like the country or the notion of it very much; I shall have to take it mostly on my own shoulders if we go. I too disagree hugely with travelling; I long decidedly for a house where I could continue to live all the year round,—not be driven out by stress of weather to rake [roam] over the world in that unprofitable manner! It costs a lump of money too; and there is no work done. If it were not that I want to see my dear Mother and the rest of you, I believe I should endeavour to stick still here, and write my Book: we are getting Venetian Shutters made against the heat for this room, and will see how they do!

One point about the Colvend Coast6 is not clear to me, and yet an important one: Is the water real green sea-water there, so that you can bathe at all hours; or only tide-water, of a drab coloured untransparent quality? Something will depend on that.

We have had a Letter from Miss Martineau, about joining her in her sea-residence, where lodgings enough are to be had; a place called Tynemouth, some miles farther off you than Newcastle: the sea is good, very accessible from London; and Annandale again by the Carlisle railway would be very accessible from it. Miss Martineau is loud in praises of the spot, in invitations to come thither: but, alas, I find it at bottom a fashionable bathing-village full of Northumbrian quality and half and quarter quality,—to me a place to be fled from! Tynemouth, I conjecture, will not do.7

As to the Colvend region much would depend on what kind of house were procurable. A habitable house to ourselves, and some way of keeping a horse: that would be the nicest; that would be worth paying something for, and bundling ourselves up to inhabit for a while! But I fear there is no chance of such. Then failing that, you might tell us what kind of thing the Lodgings are, what their price is &c,—with or without horse-keep: perhaps it might do our Mother and me good to go and dabble in the water there for a while,—leaving the rest of them here, since they do not want to go elsewhither. Indeed why should they? Jane is always stronger the hotter it is,—and dies away in solitude and coolness where alone I like best to be.——— In short, you see, dear Jean, it is all as vague as need be; and we are not to be counted on at all: if James or you chance to learn anything about the sea-bathing establishments, it will help towards a decision; but if you even gave us up for a bad job, and did not inquire farther about the thing at all, small were your blame.— I shall be through these dog-lectures (Lectures of “Salt-hound,” I do think!)—and then we shall see better how it is.

My Edinr Pipes have come; decidedly inferior to the Glasgow ones, but nearly all whole. Alick's tobacco, what is singular, arrived the same day. I am now drying that,—it is all spread out on the tables today; it was too wet and threatening to mould in its close canisters;—otherwise excellent stuff.

Our good Mother had a rather sore turn, as you will have heard, directly after getting home from you. She is happily got round again now.— Mrs Welsh speaks of having seen you the other day; and celebrates your kindness to her, your good looks &c.

What is our poor old Uncle doing?8 I make a lonely forlorn image of him to myself.— James will be right glad that he has got to work again. The £70 for the Bank of course came all right, tho' I think you do not expressly mention it. Have the Miscellany Books arrived? They were all addressed to James, and should be getting to port now. James will forward the other copies, by his best speedy opportunities. If they have not come yet, let me know; for they must be lying at Edinr.

Wish me well thro' this pluister [bother];—I shall get well enough thro' it: good be with you; and nothing but luck among us all!

Your affectionate Brother /

T. Carlyle

(Jane is out driving with some Carriage-lady)