January-July 1842

The Collected Letters, Volume 14


TC TO JEAN CARLYLE AITKEN ; 10 May 1842; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18420510-TC-JCA-01; CL 14: 184-186


Chelsea, 10 May, 1842—

My dear Jean,

I arrived here on Saturday Night, late; tolerably well myself, and found all as well as I could reasonably hope. I am collecting myself during this week; having need of that withal. Not for a long while have my whole activities been so completely knocked on the head, and all things reduced to still-stand with me as by these late weeks and their history.

You would get a Newspaper that I sent from Liverpool? It was Wednesday morning at five o'clock when Jamie drove me off from Scotsbrig. We left our poor Mother, very sorrowful to quit me; a wae parting as usual: but Jenny was appointed to come over on the Friday; I hope before this time they are getting into their usual course again. My Mother seemed to me generally in better health than the average while I was there. It is ever among my chief blessings to see her face again when I come back to my birthland. My good old Mother!—

I waited two nights in Liverpool; during the one day I went out to Manchester to see some people, and returned. Manchester was dreadfully clear of smoke; no mills going, except on fractions of “short time”; many hearths made cold in consequence. There never was, I believe, such a stern universal period of distress in England as even now. On the Friday morning Mr Welsh, good man, attended me to the railway: I had got some cold, and missed getting sufficient sleep; however, I recovered during the day by simply sitting still and silent. I had, from Scotsbrig, appointed beforehand to pause about 70 miles on your side of London, and pay a visit to a certain Oxford dignitary of distinction, one Dr Arnold Master of Rugby Free-School: I would have willingly paid five pounds all day to be honourably off; but it clearly revealed itself to me, Thou shouldst veritably go; so at Birmingham I booked myself in the right way and went. Right well that I did so; for the contrary would have looked like the work of a fool; and the people all at Rugby were of especial kindness to me, and I was really glad to have made their acquaintance. Next day they drove me over, some fifteen miles off, to see the field of Naseby Fight, Oliver Cromwell's chief battle, or one of his chief. It was a grand scene for me. Naseby a venerable Hamlet, larger than Middlebie, all built of mud, but trim, with high peaked roofs and two feet thick of smooth thatch on them, and plenty of trees scattered round and among; it is built as on the brow of the Hagheads at Ecclefechan; Cromwell lay with his back to that, and King Charles was drawn up as at Wull Welsh's (only the Sinclair Burn must be mostly dried, and the hollow much wider and deeper): they flew at one another, and Cromwell ultimately “brashed [broke] him all to roons [pieces].” I plucked two gowans and a cowslip from the burial heaps of the slain, which still stand as heaps, but sunk away in the middle. Honour to Oliver! At seven o'clock they had me home again, dinnered and off in the last railway train. About eleven I got to London, and in another hour a Cabman (in spite of his proving to be drunk) set me down safe at this door.

Jane is much thinner and paler than I ever1 saw her before. But she is said to be better far than she once was, and I hope will go fast on recovering now. The summer has now got a copious wetting of rain, and will henceforth come out greener and greener; to the profit of us all. The Cousin Jeannie, a most cheery young figure, has been and is of great use here.— Jack came down to dine with us on Sunday, looking as brisk as ever. He was, as usual, in a mighty flaff [flutter]; put many questions about the whole of you, and hurried off sometimes with half an answer. He talked of going to Cambridge for two days this week: but they are stationary at London for the Summer, as I understand.

Let me take to business, however, before the sheet again go! I had to bid you buy me, with your choicest skill, cloth for six shirts, and send it on to Jenny. They are not to have collars; the breasts are to be of the best procurable linen: Jane was at first of opinion even that the whole bodies should be of linen of a coarser sort; for she alleges that not only does the calico wear wonderfully fast, but, our maid being an indifferent washer, it likewise grows mournfully yellow! However, this morning, as her ultimate vote, she seems to sway again towards eminently good calico;—or perhaps it will be best for you to judge on the spot by the capabilities of your shops, and by your own experimental knowledge of the relative values of linen and calico. Six shirts: do your best, and Jenny will do hers.

And so enough today, dear Sister. If you send this forward immediately to Scotsbrig, it will do no harm, tho' I mean to write thither before long.— James will send me tidings when he pays the Dunscore architect;2 you when you have got Jenny set to work. My special respects to the Pipe-buyer. Good be among you all!

Your affectionate Brother,

T. Carlyle