The Collected Letters, Volume 28


TC TO JEAN CARLYLE AITKEN ; 29 April 1853; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18530429-TC-JCA-01; CL 28: 123-124


Chelsea, 29 April, 1853—

My dear Sister,

It is a very long time indeed since I heard of you,—never, I think, since the eve of your visit to Moffat, and Sister Phoebe, of which I expected some account. Was it I that was in debt? I did not understand so, in my imagination all this while; but there has nothing come. And indeed I can conceive reasons why you should be very languid, and indisposed to writing, just now.— In fine, however it may be, I have snatched this bit of paper (a fortunate kind, which I have got lately, such as can be written upon!), and I will bring you to mind of me once more—

I have not a good life of it here for writing; or indeed for anything else, this somewhile: I am below par in health, rather than above, ever since my travels of last year; am getting sadly ill on with my work,—fancy my work itself ill-chosen, inappropriate, and little profitable; get into no right enthusiasm about it, except the reverse-enthusiasm of hearty rage and contempt against myself for not getting on with it (which really will have to be my motive-power, I find): in short, I am driven upon my own resources a good deal; and pass my days not in a joyful manner at all. This ought to be my excuse with all friends and baulked correspondents; this really, if I compute it right, is adequate to cover in some measure a multitude of sins on my part. I have not yet got one line of Friedrich put to paper, in a way that can escape the fire; nor do I see any likelihood of managing that soon, or otherwise at all than in a tempest of “steam-up,” which makes me shudder to think of it.— Let us quit these topics; there is nothing pleasant in them at all!

You got the Book I sent the other day, no doubt? My only uncertainty is about the use of it to you! It is by a young man, son of a Father who translated far and wide in a very blurring manner (till the Whigs sent him to Hong Kong for a living to him); and cannot avail much, except in the absence of a better on that subject.1

I hear often from John: little bulletins about our Mother, which are a great favour to me, and come almost weekly. She is still weak, the dear old Mother,—alas, how can we look for it otherwise? The bad weather acts unkindly on her, too; and all this week, while it is storming from the North (and today bitterly raining and draggling from that airt, I am asking myself with apprehension, How is my poor old Mother standing this? I have got no Letter yet; but shall perhaps tomorrow.

Aird's Dr Browne has never turned up again, which I am really sorry for. Mrs Crowe of “the Night-side of Nature” (as she calls it), a great friend of Browne's,2 told me not to go to him, he was so languid and indisposed for talk, till she warned me; and she—has never warned me; nor have I heard elsewhere a word. I mean to go nevertheless, by and by. I fear, poor Browne is really hurt in the nervous-system, and has not been well advised to come to such a rough whirlpool of a place as this. However, it does afford a man means to hide his sorrows quietly as no other place does; and that too may sometimes be the greatest solace left for a man! Surrounded by impertinent blockheads nobody here need be: he can say to all mortals, “Worshipful mortals, we do not take to one another, keep your own side of the way!”— —

I must now out, dear Jean; the rain is blowing about, and I see far off (being up in my bedroom, on the back of the house this week) silent omnibuses and other vehicles scudding along with the reek of rain visible about them: I put on Gutta-Perchas (with your Dumfries whangs in them), an oldish “Kossuth wide-awake” (not an ugly hat at all), and defy the weather.— Write me a word when you can. I pray Heaven you were well thro' your heavy task, as I trust soon to hear you are;—and bid God bless you always, you and yours. Adieu

T. Carlyle