The Collected Letters, Volume 28


TC TO JEAN CARLYLE AITKEN ; 15 March 1853; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18530315-TC-JCA-01; CL 28: 79-80


Chelsea, 15 March, 1853

Dear Jean,

Here is another Canada Letter, of which there was perhaps notice in the one you got already: a Letter from Sandy's poor little Jane, who is grown a big Jane now, and Mother of a Son, and writes in an ornamental manner, almost like a printed book: very strange to see! Such are the common products of TIME, which we, old people, have to witness, always in greater emphasis, the older we grow.— There are also some Scotsbrig and Moffat Note, the latest came to me last night; which are of a comfortable kind, and give us good accounts of our brave old Mother, and her strugglings in the uncertain elements and circumstances. Good old woman!—

We have got Spring weather here; and are rubbing along in the old fashion,—“work” still a very unsuccessful thing with me, in spite of my attempts that way. As usual I feel that I have got into radically bad ground; that I am like to be laired, and sunk deeper than the chin;—that in fact I am “laired,” and, unless I sprattle dreadfully, shall never be more heard of! Fritz (Frederick) with his “crook-stick” (a thing he sometimes struck with),1 with his hawk-eyes, military cocked-hat, and crowd of dumb stiff and dark people round him, continues very unmanageable indeed. Some way or other I must by and by get him off my hands; that is all I can say.— — Jane is pretty well; has been out this bright mild day; and is now come in. She is somewhat concerned with Talbot-type Portraits,2 for which Anthony Sterling has an apparatus at present; I think she will by and by send you a specimen of the strange work he does in that way: portraits ugly to a degree, but recognisably like.

I have never yet seen Brown again: indeed about a fortnight ago, I met an Edinburgh-English “Mrs Crowe,” a great friend of his, who told me not to go at present, or till she warned me, Brown being very weak and unable to talk; and of her or her warnings I have heard no more. Aird's message, the demand for a letter to Aird, I expressly sent by this Dame Crowe, who knows Aird too: Brown's Address is “5. St James's Square, Notting Hill, London”; no doubt a Letter from Aird would be right welcome there in the meanwhile. Poor Brown, it appears, is radically dyspeptic (like some others of us), and feels very weak and oppressed; doubtless too his imagination is lamed and overclouded,—and from Mrs C.'s description, I figured to myself that perhaps his own medical notions were confusing him, and that he was in worse spirits than the reality warranted. Poor soul, I doubt he has come to a bad harbour here: but on the whole, what good one is there for the like of him? He too must dree his wierd, with that sad accompaniment of bad liver, it would appear; and neither in England or Scotland, in Town or in Country is there any way of flogging a man with that whip so as to please him. “Strike high? Strike low? The Devil burn it, there's no plasing of you, strike where one will!”— —

I rejoice still every muddy day over my whaings: it is really a pleasure to find any fraction of human work,—even the cutting of a whaing,—rightly done! Blessed are all good and faithful workmen; accursed are all bad: that really is the practical outcome of all the Law and the Prophets. I grow more and more reverent of whoever can rightly do what he is appointed to in God's creation, and am less & less reverent of anybody else. Alas, alas!— But I must out while the hours permit. Write to me what is going on in your premises in view of Nith River and the bright Galloway mountains. My regards to James, my blessings to all the good household.— Yours ever, dear Jean. T. Carlyle3