August 1843-March 1844

The Collected Letters, Volume 17


TC TO JEAN CARLYLE AITKEN ; 22 January 1844; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18440122-TC-JCA-01; CL 17: 244-245


Chelsea, 22 jany, 1844—

Dear Sister,

I have had your two Letters;1 the second of them, with Alick's in it, this moment. For your news of our Mother, for this and all your punctualities, many true thanks.

The Books are not lost;2 after lying about a fortnight at the Book-seller's where Jack had left them duly, the wretched Bookseller returned them, “not having room in his parcel,” and they are now here, safe under our Side-table, expecting a better opportunity! I should have written last week to say so; but I am dreadfully hurried about; blockheads, twice over, came in upon me, and knocked the eye out of the evening in which I meant to do it.— The Books themselves, moreover, ought to have been sent away to my Bookseller,3 who will not refuse to carry them: but this too is still undone;—it shall be done before I sleep again. Now, while my hand is in!— I cannot tell what to make of the “Picture Books” for James the Younger:4 did I not send a Tam O'Shanter and some other tatter of a thing, purchased about three years ago, and always turning up with its due label on it, having always been forgotten when there was a chance? And have I forgotten it again? I cannot find the article now at all; my esteemed young Philosopher must exercise the virtue of Patience! It shall be made good to him, now or henceforth.

I tremble for the fate of the Fowls you speak of,—in this fermenting weather! You shall hear what has befallen when they come to hand. Luggage Trains between this and Liverpool are often very dilatory; or rather, I suppose, it is between Chelsea and the Railway Station here (some five miles off)5 that the delay occurs. The union6 dresses will not spoil at any rate; not irremediably.

Alick's Letter is a great comfort to us; as doubtless it would be to our Mother most of all. Jenny has curtailed it sadly,—poor Jenny doubtless had news other than cheerful for her in her part of the sheet:7 however, the tone of this latter part is comfortable and good. No Letter has yet reached the Doctor; we are therefore much in the dark as to Alick's actual plans and proceedings. I somehow should like better that he went to Canada, than back among those American woods. But it is a rough flitting any way. Do you understand that he is really keeping a School during the winter months;—or is it only a quiz on his part? I rather think it is fact; and a very queer fact it is. When a certain old Lady Baird heard that her son, afterwards a famed General and “Sir David Baird,” was taken prisoner by Tippoo Saib in India, and confined with many others in a subterranean dungeon, all chained two and two,—the good old Lady, after a pause, made this reflexion: “The Lord pity the ane 'at's cheened to our Davie!” Such a fiery ettercap [bad tempered person] was Davie;8—so of poor Alick's pupils. However, he seems to be getting really cheerier and better; and we can hope better and better of him.

My dear good Mother, how are you (for she sits listening, I think while this is read)! Today there comes nothing for her but a newspaper: a letter had gone on to Gill last week; Jenny I suppose forwarded it. Dear Mother I will write to you yourself soon—thanks for your dear little Postscript;9 better than a draft of money on the Bank! I have long owed Scotsbrig Jamie a Letter too; I am getting in debt to all the world.

We are well in health; I am busy at my Book, sometimes above ground, oftenest under,—as I say in figurative language! Adieu dear Jean; adieu dear Mother: blessings on you all under the roof there

Your affectionate

T. Carlyle

The Books will probably not arrive till the beginning of Feby; but, as I said, they shall go off this day. They are not of much moment, I believe; but yet of some. Jack was here last night,—very brisk & well.