The Collected Letters, Volume 26


TC TO JEAN CARLYLE AITKEN; 23 January 1851; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18510123-TC-JCA-01; CL 26: 22-24


Chelsea, 23 jany, 1851—

My dear Sister,

Thanks for your Letter, which like the rest you send me was very welcome; yours really are among the most intelligent Letters (not to speak of their other qualities to me) which I get in these times, and are always right welcome, whatever follow out of them. But you must be content with a very small response,—till the liver and the inner-man generally be pleased to mend in some degree! For in that state of matters, silence is a great duty, I assure you; duty pointed out by Nature herself; and perhaps a great kindness to you withal. I write regularly to nobody in these months, except some meagre bulletins to my Mother. You must be patient till the laired beast get to its legs again! I really do think sometimes, I am slowly recovering strength to a small extent, and composure for vanquishing these rude life-elements of mine; but the poor animal has really got its back sorely galled, and in the heavy quagmires (from without and from within) has its own adoes to sprawl forward, and keep from sinking—Heigh ho!—and (especially today, when the clocks are striking three[)],1 must restrict itself accurately to the needful.

Of Cullivait, then, what can I say but that the House seems altogether good and excellent at the money; eligible in every respect (except perhaps its distance from Town and shops): but that, for the rest, I dare not resolve to have anything to do with it at present. Jane will of course, go where I like to command; but I do not find her volunteer to help on this occasion; and, as was said already, I could hardly fly with my own weight, certainly not with that of another superadded. Pray answer Mrs Charteris2 accordingly; and pardon, yourself, all this trouble I have given you.

My wish, nay necessity, for a place of refuge in the Summer, is as strong as ever. But on your side of the world, I rather looked to some house, in which my Mother while she is spared to us, with Jenny and perhaps the Doctor might take part, than to dragging Jane and a servant from London with me, or trying to set up an economy on my own footing for a three months of the year in that quarter. In fact, I wanted the thing with a minimum of trouble, or nearly without trouble, as we all do in such cases;—and cannot get it on those terms, as is also natural! I did not speak to John about it, nor to Jenny, nor indeed to any one (except perhaps some hint to Jamie of Scotsbrig once): but it has often struck me my Mother is but ill-lodged where she is; that she ought to have some far roomier, cheerier place, with Jenny to look after her,—and yet to retain her own establisht at Scotsbrig, to avoid the fret of an express flitting at her time of life, and the sense of confinement, were she living in partnership;—that John also surely needs some kind of home for himself, &c &c: all these things, combined with my own want of a country lodging-place, I have often had in my head—and some place like Drangan's Lodge3 seems to be the kind of thing? In all which I would very willingly bear my part, by money or otherwise, if the other parties so inclined,— especially if John and Jenny inclined, who would have all the trouble to take. But who knows about that; who, in the peculiar conditions of the case, could profitably or judiciously inquire about that! These are people ticklish to question or converse with on such a subject;—to whom if you proposed such a thing, the very proposal would be a reason for distasting it!— — In short, I suppose, practically, we must just let it lie: and as for myself, I shall have to look out for some kind of resting quarters in some other direction. Germany, some people recommend; the German Baths in the Rhine country: cheap solitary and pleasant. Occasionally I think of a few months of Water-Cure; away to the West (120 miles off, near Worcester), where there is a good Doctor, whom I have seen, whom I really believe capable to do me some good.4 Were the “Chrystal Palace” once filled, and all the babbling Noodles of the world once gathered here, I fancy I shall actually have to fly for it. The thought of such a scene already makes me shudder!— — On the whole, do not bother yourself with all this, dear Jean: it will all unfold itself by its own laws gradually; and perhaps no great improvement is likely by the best meddling with it that is possible just now. And so enough of it.

Jack has got home; I suppose, brightened up by his month of touring: he reports favourably of our Mother's health, and of the other phenomena at Scotsbrig.— — I am truly sorry for poor Aird: let his Niece have boundless patience with him;5 her kind young heart does not guess at the amount of wretchedness he probably suffers! And let me commend him to your kindness if you have opportunity. And offer him my friendliest sympathies and best regards. Poor fellow! It is the arrival of old age; no friendly visitor in general; but one whom you cannot turn from the door. I hope confidently, as the Spring advances we shall hear better accounts of the good Aird.

Jane has been out walking in the bright sunny day; I hear her come in; and shutting the windows, down stairs. She lost her little dog Nero yesterday,—little vermin ran obstinately away from her, chacing sparrows, in the green enclosure of a Square, not far from this; she thought he wd follow home; but some thief, with a bit of meat or other bait, has doubtless picked him up. Which makes the poor Dame considerably sad today. Quietly, for my own part, I think it will be almost as well, if this little wretch (very dirty, and bothersome about the house, tho' a cheerful little object too) should never come back! But we must not say so;—and indeed I am sorry for my poor Dame, who had got used to have the little object Dancing about her at all times Probably it will come back after all. There is a large Fraternity of Dogstealers here, who live by stealing Dogs, chiefly women's, and selling them back at a ransom. I have heard some big sum, £10,000 I think, mentioned as their annual income from this fine act.

Enough, dear Jean: I am far too long in the house.6 Give my regards to James he shall have the next Fraser, if you will then forward it to my Mother. Blessings with you, one and all. Your affectionate / T. Carlyle