August 1843-March 1844

The Collected Letters, Volume 17


TC TO JEAN CARLYLE AITKEN ; 28 September 1843; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18430928-TC-JCA-01; CL 17: 142-144


Chelsea, Wednesday 28 Septr 1843—

Dear Jean,

Yesterday your welcome Letter was carried off, after a due interval, to Jack;1 with a due intimation that he was to send Alick's second Letter down to me; by which method I intended to let you see them both, not knowing exactly which of the two it was that you specially required. Jack was out when I called, so that I had to leave a short message in writing; and this has not yet been attended to, Jack has not seen that there was haste in it. I will send you off the Letter which I have, therefore; that probably is the one you did want to see (Alick's Letter to our Mother): so here it is, and there shall at least be no delay in the business. I consider it not unlikely that Jack may put off with the others till Sunday, unless I chance to see him in the interim.

You can return this Letter to my Mother when you have done with it, for it is hers. We were much satisfied with reading it and the other: they have a solid veracious kind of look, somewhat quiet too, and be-token a well-doing humour in poor Alick. One hopes good for him, poor fellow, in that new scene of industry. It seems likeliest he will go over to Canada; nor is that, perhaps, to be regretted: the Yankee people, “living red herrings” in look, are an untowardly set in more important respects than that. I like them ever less the more I know of them.— One other thing is to be added about this Letter: it arrived here just three hours[. …]2

as near as possible nothing. Indeed it already prospers with me; I feel better, clearer, and my conscience already begins to clamour, Work, work, thou sluggard! That will have to be the end of it:—alas, I am not even at the beginning yet! Yesterday I began to get out my papers, and had got my pen and ink put in order, when just at that moment the neighbouring young lady with her piano,3 who had been silent ever since my return till then, began thumping like ten pairs of fanners, and squalling and trilling like a cat-concert twenty strong:—it went thro' me like sharp shot, and drove all writing far way! This morning too, while we sat at breakfast, she started again as if to keep me in mind. I have determined to shift myself altogether up to my bedroom upstairs, and then defy her and the world. It is a back bedroom of good size, three stories from the ground; looks out over fields and gardens; has a closet &c: I think of shoving away my big bed, getting a very small folding-bed that can stand in a corner; and so starting in the name of Heaven. Jane has made this drawingroom a perfect beauty in my absence: but what's ta use on't for my writing purposes? We shall leave it for company, and fly up stairs.— Alas, a bad worker never had good tools! I shall have an awful battle with this next Book; I have, as it were, done nothing since the F. Revolution; and must really get up the steam again! At bottom I have no other ground for continuing to eat bread (which is so indigestible for me) in this world. God speed us:—if so, there is no man nor pianoforte woman, nor body of men or women, that can entirely retard us!—

Jack came here just as I was turning this leaf; and has sat a while. He is clear that it cannot be the Letter to him that you are wanting; which Letter, he says, you saw at leisure nearly a month ago: it is in his lodging; he will bring it on Sunday in case. Jack, as you understand, is already fixed in Lodgings about a mile and a half from us: an excellent lodging, in a really eligible place, and very cheap at the money (one guinea per week); he looks out from the rear where is the sitting-room over more gardens and shady fields, on front his bit of street is withdrawn certain yards back from the public road; has an iron railing, a bit of gravel, and a carriage gate at each end. The people too are very respectable; the widow of one Bohn, a notable painter in enamel, is landlady.4 Jack seems to have been lucky in lodgings. He does not as yet come much here, except regularly on Sundays to dine: he is much quieter than he was, and I daresay is profitably considering himself about many things.

He had a Letter from our Mother last week; she was in her usual health and heart, good old Mother; represented Jamie as on the eve of geting done with shearing: the poor M'Kinnow lass, she said, had got additional cold in the Dumfries quarter, and returned home very hoarse. Poor little thing; she seemed a clear innocent little lassie; it was very sad to see her in so bad a way.

Jane is well here, well for her; she sends you many regards. Poor Mary at Gill! We hope she is past the worst now, almost recovered now. She is a sore-working body. Little Tom ought to stay in that gang [course] for a time,—as long as possible otherwise.5 Adieu dear Sister. I have written at endless length to you, and know not when I shall write so much again. God bless you all.

Your affectionate /

T. Carlyle