The Collected Letters, Volume 27


TC TO JEAN CARLYLE AITKEN ; 8 November 1852; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18521108-TC-JCA-01; CL 27: 349-351


Chelsea, 8 Novr, 1852—

Dear Sister Jean,

In very great haste, and amid manifold disturbance outward and inward, as is too much usual of late, I write you a line, to say at least that I am here again; that there is nothing very special the matter with me or with any here; and that I am still mindful of you, and whether in low spirits or in high (if that were ever the description of my style of “spirits”) I do not forget old friends and affectionate kindred. Ah no; if “remembrance” could do any good to them or myself, certainly I “remember” well enough!1

It was not till Tuesday evening last that I got fairly up hither, and back, for good, to my old establishment again. Jane had set off on the friday before, to get things a little ready; but insisted on my staying two days longer.— The workmen, painters included, are all out of the house, for this season,—paperhanging &c and a final coat of paint, for this chief room, stands over till summer; and the rest of the house is all complete, varnished and shining:—a greatly improved house; but to me hitherto almost irksome by its total newness. My old closets, nooks and arrangements are all abolished from existence; my whole possessions in this world are turned topsyturvy; I have to find new places (improved if you like, but new) for hanging up my coat, for setting down my shoes, for doing so many things! To a still character, of my years and temper, the sorrow of all this is really considerable;—the one remedy, however, is silent exertion at the business; daily to bring it a little nearer to the mark, and have it all settled again in course of time. In this way I have gloomily been labouring ever since my return, and am yet far enough from thro'.— In fact, and that is the great secret, I am dreadfully brashed in soul and body by all these tumults and travels for so many months; and things have, as it were, come to a head with me,—the German Voyage, transacted on half-rations of sleep, and this enormous dusty house-repairing, being only like a dish of turpentine flung into what was already a fire. It is sore; but it will be useful, if I can stand faithfully to it! Perhaps a little work, by and by, will even come out of it; and that, which is my one consolation properly in this life, will be an abundant one. Wish me well; and do not mind me farther.

Jack gave me a 10 minutes visit on friday last; then drove with me for half an hour to the Southwestern Railway station, where we found his new wife waiting. They had come from Tamworth (in the Birmingham region) whither they had gone the first day; and were now proceeding towards Winchester, and Ryde in the Isle of Wight. Jack laughed much, in happy embarrassment, while with me; both looked “happy” enough, as natural in such a case. I liked our new Sister too: a fine healthy-looking being; stately in figure; with a rustic comeliness of face, and enough of2 the air of a lady withal. Altogether a promising woman. I think it may prove a very considerable amelioration for the poor Doctor; and in the midst of my own confusions, could not but give him my sympathies poor soul. They rolled off towards Winchester, the region where I lately was; they were to stay there a day or two days; then to Ryde, whh is also a place known to me, 30 or 40 miles farther in the same region: the time of their return northward was not fixed then. I send a Newspaper today, addressed “Post-Office, Ryde, Isle of Wight,” whh was the appointed Address; but have yet heard nothing. You, if you write, now know it.

This morning I had the inclosed from Isabella, bringing good news of Alick and our poor Mother. You may forward Alick's letter with two stamps to Ryde if you like; Jack will be glad of it and of whatever news you can afford to send him.— Poor Jenny's letter did come to The Grange; and made me rather thoughtful about her agues and confused troubles. Alick's news are a little reassuring on both those heads: but I have a feeling that they ought to try for some healthier situation at any rate.

You got the Critic &c the day after I returned home. Ten or twelve newspapers, all accumulated in my absence, went off from me that day. I now send Fraser, and some Methodist Magazines, which latter were also waiting me here,—forwarded by an ill-natured critic as you will see. Ill-natured to me, but well-meaning to the world and himself, poor devil; I did not spend above 10 minutes in glancing at his stuff here and there, but it has given me various grave reflexions since. A tremendous Nightmare descending on this poor man, and the universe, to squelch the Methodism wholly out of him and it,—unless I be (as he has a trembling hope) a more tremendous humbug and fool:—such is the figure I present to him and to the general well-disposed Blockheadism of England, after all my talking! A really serious thot to me.— — Enough, dear Jean. Yours ever / T. Carlyle