April 1848-March 1849

The Collected Letters, Volume 23


JWC TO JEAN CARLYLE AITKEN ; 21 April 1848; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18480421-JWC-JCA-01; CL 23: 21-22


5 Cheyne Row Good Fiday [21 April 1848]

My dear Jane

It is late to thank you for the pretty little mats—later than even an unusual amount of headachs could have excused, had not Mr C. in the meanwhile conveyed my “favourable sentiments.” He has probably told you also the fact of my absence for two weeks. I returned from Addiscombe last Saturday, very little set up either in mind or body by my fortnight of dignified idleness. The coldness of the weather prevented my going much into the open air, and within doors the atmosphere at Addiscombe is much more chilly than at Cheyne Row. But it is morally good for one, now and then, to fling oneself into circumstances in which one must exert oneself, and consume one's own smoke, even under the pressure of physical ailment. The more I see of wealthy establishments however, the less I wish to preside over one of my own—the superior splendour is overbalanced by the inferior comfort: and the only indisputable advantage of a large fortune—the power of helping other people with it—all these rich people, however good and generous their hearts may have been in the beginning, seem somehow enchanted into never availing themselves of.

I found Carlyle in a bad way, complaining of sore throat and universal misery, and in this state nothing I could say hindered him from walking out in the rain—and his throat became so much worse during the night that I was afraid he was going to be as ill as when poor Becker attended him at Comely Bank.1 He had asked a gentleman to dinner on Sunday and two more to tea—Dodds and John Hunter of Edinr—and two more came “on the voluntary principle”—and all these men I had to receive and entertain, on my own basis, and to show me, I suppose, that they were not too much mortified in finding only me, the unfortunate creatures all staid till eleven at night2—then I put a mustard blister to the mans throat, and put him to bed with apprehensions enough—but to my astonishment he went almost immediately to sleep, and slept quite peaceably all night and next morning the throat was miraculously mended. We kept him in bed to breakfast almost by main force however, and John ordered him to live on slops to complete his cure but he told John in very decided Annandale that “he had a great notion he would follow the direction of Nature in the matter of eating and getting up, and if Nature told him to dine on a chop it would be a clever fellow that should persuade him not to do it.”

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