The Collected Letters, Volume 25


TC TO JEAN CARLYLE AITKEN ; 6 November 1850; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18501106-TC-JCA-01; CL 25: 275-276


Chelsea, 6 Novr, 1850—

Dear Jean,

Beyond doubt I might have written sooner to you; but I have been much hurried about too, and oftenest in very low water; and in fact have avoided writing altogether, wherever I could. Two Notes of yours have come to me thro' John; and of me also, as I have of you, you have kept up some sketchy history: so let bygones be bygones;—and attend to the little bit of business I have for you today; one of the smallest bits of “business”!

Jane, who has been terribly hubbled this long while with “servants” &c, and unable to attend to anything extraneous, has at length written for the Scotsbrig meal; which, with your Honey and other appendages, will probably be [re]ady, and take the road, in a few days hence. A couple of additional items along with it, is what I now want of you. First, the best 3 red nightcaps you can get: my old stock is a good deal worn out, and I want new,—of the old make and fashion in every particular! Second (but this is of considerably less moment, and indeed may be either done or omitted according to the chances you have), if in the old sponge-shop, you see any nice round-made compact sponge for about 3/ or so, you may send it,—the old flat scon of a one, of last year, is all gone to wreck; and indeed I have got another (but it cost me 5/, too dear that!)—and as the former Dumfries one still sticks together, tho' weak, I fancy another like it might be a possession for me. But don't mind it, unless you find one answerable,—round-made and good stuff. And now that is all; except that you are to send me the account, pointedly, that I may pay it in stamps1 or otherwise. And to be sharp; for I suppose there will be no delay at Scotsbrig!—

I was gratified to learn that Jim has actually gone to Closeburn; I have little doubt, that is the best school in Dumfriesshire just now; and the poor little fellow will have a fair chance to find his road again there. I can still remember how I myself was situated under W. Gullen,2 a man teaching me without having knowledge himself!— In the end, if the Boy don't want to learn, don't force him; consult honestly what of tendency you can discover in his own inner mannikin,—that is the real impulse that will have to make itself good by and by, with or against foreign “help,” if the poor fellow live and have luck in the world!

The failure of the Dentist was sad news to me for our poor Mother's sake. John writes always good accounts of her; and indeed so long as he is there, I feel a kind of composure; but my impression otherwise is clearly that she ought to have somebody to look after her household work (especially in the winter season), and to wait upon her when she is left alone. I wish I could contrive or assist in providing something! One wd think, the situation of the Doctor, or Jenny and our Mother did hold in it the materials for a solution? But it depends on the Doctor's deciding to take a house for himself (or chiefly for himself); and probably any speech about that would rather tend to hinder it; so let us say nothing!

A good many “reviews” seem still to be going on about me: one in the North British (the writer guessable to me) I read yesterday;3 friendly, but reporting hostilities without end or measure, which I never knew of, much less cared for! One in the Dublin Review (by a zealous Catholic, seemingly some English Newmanite, or “convert,”4 a very serious pious-hearted man) was much more interesting to me: “all true,” he says, “or almost all; but don't you see, the Pope is our one remedy, you—!”— — Commend me to the Goodman and all the rest. Yours ever

T. Carlyle