August 1846-June 1847

The Collected Letters, Volume 21


TC TO JEAN CARLYLE AITKEN; 25 March 1847; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18470325-TC-JCA-01; CL 21:188-191.


Chelsea, 25 March, 1847—

My dear Sister,

I designed to write you a word this morning at any rate; and lo, on coming down to breakfast, there lay your new Letter; which doubly binds me to fulfil my little purpose. In fact I should have written long since: I might have found “time” too; but I have been getting very much “detached,” as Wm Corson said;1 keep very much alone, with a great quantity of dumb things within me; and feel more and more disposed to silence, as the handiest course by far,—if I could get it carried on! Besides, you have heard my news pretty regularly, much the same as if I had been writing to yourself.— But truly I am much obliged for your Letters, and ought to say so on occasion: a rugged substantial conclusive despatch, giving one a real face-to-face view of affairs; this is what I get from Sister Jean when she writes; and well worth getting it is!—

I know not what I wrote to John, or how it came to be shewn where it could give offence: but on the whole, never mind it. Poor Jenny is excusable for losing temper, even with her well-wishers, tho' certainly it is a fault and weakness, and requires to be excused. Wipe away all memory of it from your mind; do what is in you to make it not have been there. The Devil alone is concerned in such things; and we are all solemnly bound to do what we can against them in ourselves and in others. See above all things that you do the service I required of you for Jenny and me, do it in such way as you find possible: provided it be done, the rest is all moonshine, and we know to whom it belongs! “A dibbel of a temper,”2 that is a terrible outfit,—with which some others of us are not unprovided!

Clouden Bank3 is very tempting: nevertheless I believe we must not think of it at present. Many things are to be decided here; great practical riddles, such as arise in our life-pilgrimage, and are in fact our life: I must not fly away from the solution of them; but wait it out here,—and try, above all, to get it rightly out; that is the point. Scotland looks now like a kind of “Chelsea Hospital”4 to me; whither I cannot well return except with my discharge in my pocket, and some wooden leg to shew for myself! Poor old Scotland.— And yet perhaps if the railway were in action, why should one not come and live there (without being invalided), and make London still one's headquarter? We shall see by and by. London, with many drawbacks, has one advantage: it is the home of Freedom, for the like of me. In good truth, no king in all the earth is so royal, as any poor thinking man can here be, with an independent heart in his body, and barely money in his pocket to pay his way. All manner of princes, dukes and drakes go by him like as many Phantasms; he, in his rusty coat, alone has meaning,—and is even alone felt to have. A King he, as I often say, and the only King: a King with one subject! Upon the whole it is much more difficult to manage that, I believe, in any other place than it is in huge reeky London here: one must struggle to be content with reek &c in virtue of that.

Poor old Mary Grier,5 I am heartily sorry for her new mischance! She certainly had little need of an addition to her complicated difficulties, of poverty, old age, and all the rest. Can anything be done for her? I suppose there could, and must; and yet by me, I know not what. I wish you would consider the whole matter, you and James, and suggest what possibility there is. In the meanwhile, if, as is likely you see any possibility of helping her by a trifle of money, I bid you borrow a sovereign from James for me, and give it out to her as you find suitablest:—I will faithfully pay; and thank you, for being my almoner in this case, over and above. Do not neglect this. Alas, old age is itself a sufficient claim: and there are many other ills accumulated on that poor old body. Do not let her want for any help that I could justly undertake to give her; but warn me of it, call on me for it, you who are within sight.

Your accounts of our good Mother are still favourable, tho' not quite unclouded: I shall want to hear instantly again; the sooner some of you can write, the better. I need not bid you be kind and gentle to her, good old Mother. In my solitude here (for I like far best, for most part, to be alone), she is often present to me: her life and my own, as it lies buried for us in the “Halls of the Past,” often comes up before me, all transfigured into spirit; and simple voices speaking strange things to me out of the old dead years. “Every man's Life,” says one of the Germans,6 “is a Bible, if he will read it.” Which is most true. For the great God made us; and in marvellous ways goes with us, guiding us to the end. Amen, Amen!— Of all the blessings I have had in this world, surely the first, as I feel well, were the Father and Mother I was born of. No Dukedom or Princedom is worth rating beside that Corner-stone of all one's destinies in this world, and all one's works there,—the Parentage one had! Let us thank God, in this evil time; and along with our afflictions joyfully accept what truly makes them all into blessings, if we are wise!—

Here is a clipping from an American Newspaper, which Jane cuts out for you; not worth much, she things;7 but the carrying of it will cost nothing. It is a Yankee woman's doing (one Miss Fuller, a friend of Emerson's whom we saw here, rather a good woman): I remember I was somewhat loud upon her and upon certain crochets of hers.8— Emerson, I rather guess, is coming over next “Fall,” on a Lecturing expedition; chiefly to Lancashire &c, but to include London too: we had a Manchester Philosopher last night here,9 who is arranging the matter for him I like the man Emerson right well, and have reason to do so.

Tonight Thomas Erskine is coming to us to dine; Jack is to be too, and no other. Jack is wonderfully well; cheerful, brisk, whenever one sees him; and busy, tho' without much work. I think he will come to Dumfriesshire in the end; that, gradually, tho' at a distance still, begins to seem the likeliest.— Poor old Sterling is getting utterly feeble, broken in body and in mind: he drives about, all day, in his carriage, not knowing whitherward except for moments;—under the care of a most patient coachman He seems weaker every new time he calls here.

James seems very busy: let him not regret that! Tell Jenny, with thanks, her Note came duly;—my Mother will tell her. And write soon some of you. Adieu

T. Carlyle