August 1846-June 1847

The Collected Letters, Volume 21


JWC TO JEAN CARLYLE AITKEN; 23 December 1846; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18461223-JWC-JCA-01; CL 21:117-118.


[ca. 23 December 1846]

My dear Jane

I am not up to much writing yet—my three weeks confinement to bed and the violent medecine that was given me to put down my Cough have reduced me to the consistency of a jelly. But I will not wait till I can write a long letter, but tell you now in a short one how glad I was of the little token of your kind remembrance which reached me the other night just when I was trying to sit up for the first time. Your letter made me cry—which is always a good sign of a letter dont you think? But my Dear what do you mean by “forgiving” you?—what unkind thing did you ever do to me? I have not the faintest recollection of your ever doing unkindly by me in your Life! At Craigenputtoch we used to have little squabbles about the servants and “all that sort of thing”—but in these it strikes me I was always quite as much an aggressor as a sufferer—and on the whole—considering the amount of human imperfection going, and the complexities we had to work in at Craigenputtoch; I think we got thro that business “as well as could be expected” and certainly you did not get thro' it worst— Believe me my dear Sister I have none but kind feelings towards you and kind recollections OF you—altho we are widely parted now and altho much has changed incredibly since those days at The Hill which you remind me of, the regard I conceived for you then has gone on the same1—tho' so seldom giving any sign of itself—

We are still in a fearful puddle here— Helen's loss has been a serious affair— The temporary servant we have drives Carlyle and my Cousin to despair and I am pretty near despair from seeing them so put about while myself cannot go to the rescue, as I could so well have done but for this dreadful cold— I have no decided prospect yet of anything better—I put an advertisement in the Times Newspaper but the only applicant as yet resulting from it was not to be thought of I will enclose you Dr Christie['s]2 brief account of her— There was a Highland woman offered the other day—whom I mean to inquire further into tho she rather shocked me by having forgotten what part of the Highlands she came from!! I will write when I am stronger and tell you what comes of us— It is a great worry my Cousin being here when every thing is so wretchedly uncomfortable—altho I suppose there was absolute need of her while I was confined to bed

Ever your affectionate


Kind regards to James

[TC's Note]3

Helen had usefully and affectionately stayed with us eight years or more. Latterly, a silly snob of a younger brother, setting up, or getting forward, in some small business at Dublin, came once or twice, after total neglect before, opened a ‘career of ambition’ to the poor creature, and persuaded her over to Dublin to keep house for him. It was well foreseen what this was likely to end in; but there could be no gainsaying. Poor Helen went (and took the consequence, as will be seen); bright breakfast-table report of her strange sayings and ways (gentle genial lambency of grave humour and intelligence—wittiest of wit that I ever heard was poor in comparison!) ceased altogether then; and to us, also, the consequences for the time were variously sad.