April 1848-March 1849

The Collected Letters, Volume 23


TC TO JEAN CARLYLE AITKEN; 13 December 1848; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18481213-TC-JCA-01; CL 23: 177-178


Chelsea, 13 decr, 1848—

Dear Jean,

We are very glad to hear of you as out of Dumfries at least, which for whatever reason seems to be a really dangerous place at present. Thank James for his little Note, which was well bestowed upon us, as well as your own of yesterday: we shall now fancy you remaining quiet on the top of the Knowe yonder, and letting the free Solway breezes blow round you till the danger seems to be over in Dumfries.1 A person that has no work to do there, is surely called upon to make his escape from it in circumstances like these.

It quite passes all my philosophy to guess what can have occasioned this sad preeminence of Dumfries, a second time, in the matter of Cholera. Jack here has no account to give of it, except that Dumfries is the dirtiest town &c; and with this he professes to be quite satisfied; tho', I confess, with me, it will not act at all. Dumfries, in its dark closes, is unfortunately too dirty,—an evil which we hope will be resolutely amended before long;—but who, in his wits, can suppose that it is a twentieth-part so dirty as many other places,—as Paris, for example, which contains a million of inhabitants, and, till 20 years ago, actually had no subterranean drains at all; or as Lisbon, a City of perhaps 200,000, where, in a hot climate too, all the entrails of animals, broken wreck, and dirt and horror of every description has been thrown upon the streets (the rats &c &c eating it diligently at noonday) for above a thousand years, and no besom ever acted there (except once while the French had possession) since the first formation of it! “Dirt” is evidently a Cock that will not fight.— — Jane's guess I take to be a little better: That natural terror, grounded on the black reminiscence of the past, has a good deal to do with it: a few severe cases, in the gloomy weather, and mouth of winter, creating panic in the mind of the public, I can believe that to be exceeding effectual;—but, on the whole, one would recommend Doctors to search farther, and to admit in the meanwhile that no man knows almost anything but mere superficialities about the matter. Thank Heaven, you at least are out of it; do not ever think of venturing back till the fearful visitation have passed, or the panic at least have subsided.

We have unnaturally bright and beautiful weather here; and are well in health, if not doing much good otherwise. Jack is just about getting out his Dante,—a tremendous job is going to end! The Book will really be a creditable useful one of its kind. And right glad are we to see it done. As for me I can yet get on with nothing; and must content myself with much preliminary plunging and puddling,—alas, alas!— How is Mary your Hostess? It is long since we heard a word from her. She is still rather weakly, the Doctor says; we hope she takes care of herself: warm clothes, and diet that is found suitable,—there is no other hope for one but in that direction. We have renounced Potatoes here altogether, and sorrowfully but heroically persist in Indian meal. Adieu dear Jean; blessings on you and them all.

T. Carlyle

You have a copy of Sartor Resartus, have you not?— This is a clipping from a Yankee Newspaper that came the other day.2