The Collected Letters, Volume 25


TC TO JEAN CARLYLE AITKEN ; 16 November 1850; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18501116-TC-JCA-01; CL 25: 285-287


Chelsea, 16 Novr, 1850

My dear Sister,

Tho' I know nothing of Hogg's Instructor; and, for my own share, can have no wish, but rather the reverse, to see any smear of my poor physiognomy bodily or spiritual come forth on such an occasion;—yet surely, for the love of you and of Aird and of Gilfillan, or for the tenth part of the least of you, it were very ill-natured if I refused “to step into Beard's for three minutes as I passed,” to do you a little pleasure!1 But unluckily that is not the case in hand at all. I have been at Beard's twice already; got two excellent Likenesses on the one occasion, could not get a tolerable one at all in the next; and both times, the Establishment being three miles off me, and the delays considerable and the fidgettings very great, not to speak of the horrible poisonous vapours in that glass dove-cot of his,—I lost my whole forenoon, and came away with an inflammation in my eyelids which lasted for two weeks after. That is the real net-total of the affair. And, on calling yesterday (for I did call yesterday at another shop of Beard's and staid above three minutes, making more preliminary inquiries), I found that the process was not abbreviated in any way; that they could not act at all after three o'clock (about which hour I am commonly just leaving home), and that on dim days too (as yesterday) they were unable to act. In the spring or more luminous times of the year, I suppose, it is different; but such is the rule of their resources at present.

On the whole therefore I believe it will be better to decline, or indefinitely postpone this honour; the rather as there are already plenty of scarecrow Likenesses of me, in chalk, in oil, in lithograph, photograph and copperplate,—hideously unlike, for most part,—and there can be no use in taking trouble to increase such a class of entities.

Let this serve for your answer to my friend Aird, this with many affectionate regards. About other things I will write to you on another bit of paper.

Yours ever truly /

T. Carlyle

Mrs Aitken

Dear Jean, 3—There is the Answer as to Hogg; if Aird want it, or any other authorized person want it, the piece you perceive can be shewn anywhere.— — I am quite sick of sitting for Portraits; and am in the habit now of referring all people to a certain “Mr Lawrence” (of the Scotsbrig Picture)4 who is as it were in possession of my face, and can do it without a sitting,—as he well may now after twelve or thirteen years' poking at it!—and is besides the only Painter I ever saw that seemed to me to have a chance of painting it well. So much for that.

The Honey is come without mistake: I suppose I shall have to take a “redhot poker” to it in these very hours,—it will not be a very critical operation I hope?—next time you shall hear farther news of the business. Jane herself, I think, wrote to you yesterday some word of thanks; for this magnificent gift of a sweet article, the word deserved to be sweet.

Thank you for getting me the shop articles, and also for telling me what they cost:5 having paid this, which I will carefully do (I hope), I can freely apply on any other occasion.— — Jane is busy remodelling into something like the shape of my body (not the Irish Giant's body, or the Dunsmore Ox's, or the Grist of the Satter's6) my entire stock of flannel shirts: a right charitable operation! Our new maid seems to promise quite admirably.7— Your Letter was thrice welcome to us. Good be with you all, dear Sister. Ever your affectionate

T. Carlyle