The Collected Letters, Volume 28


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE ; 20 May 1853; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18530520-TC-JAC-01; CL 28: 151-153


Chelsea, 20 May 1853—

My dear Brother,

Your two Notes have come; thank you for all the care you take of me in that respect. I am very anxious about poor Jean;—not specifically apprehensive, but very desirous to have more news. I shall perhaps get something farther tonight; having written off immediately to James Aitken after your Note came. Yesterday morning, of somewhat later date than yours, I did get a short word from him, “Jean still continuing to do well” and the “Doctor Scott1 only afraid she wd get well too fast” (which I did not quite understand): but I hope there will good news come for me tonight! This is certainly not a right state to be in, this of poor Jean's; and I have always vaguely understood it to be a dangerous phenomenon, this which has now twice occurred with her. We will hope the best!—

My poor Mother, I can expect, will be profiting a little; for we have now excellent summer weather, which, I suppose, extends to your parts too: winds south-easterly, and very light, with plenty of sun, and already almost too much heat for those that have to walk, in the middle hours of the day. Very pleasant weather here indeed;—and our street still choked with Chaos (tho' now getting filled up actually, in spite of Whit-Monday2 and its gin); likely not to be clear and quiet for a ten days to come. The cutting now extends into Cook's grounds as well: it seems, there are to be streets &c there;3 the old (French-Huguenot, Chelsea-China &c) Chapel is to vanish, the Bishop & Kingsley won't have it rebuilt on their premises.4 For the rest, our sublime drain, it now appears, is not ours at all; intended for Kensington, or we know not what; and only the boring and building of it is to be ours. Alas, for the mortar-tub; not Chelsea only but this whole generation, in all its interests, is got fairly flung into the mortar-tub; and will have to puddle there till long after we are out of it! Never mind.

Jane has gone out to Headley to the Sterling Girls, day before yesterday, and does not return till tomorrow; in which interval I am perfectly solitary,—but do not get on with much work either. I am quite dreadfully incompetent and indisposed for real work,—woe's me,—and cannot get on with it at all, this sad year! My strength is not quite equal to my burden, I often fear; nevertheless we will try,—still try if we cannot (like my Father) “gar ourselves do it.”— My difficulties with Fredk are two: first, the vague shoreless nature of the subject, which has been treated hitherto by hardly any man of superior understanding, and lies “like water spilt upon the ground”5 (hardly to be gathered up here at Chelsea, I doubt): second, what is still worse, the want of sufficient love for lean Frederic & his heroisms, on my part,—which is a sad objection indeed! Only pain can now drive me thro' the subject; led and induced thro' it I shall never be. I tremble at the thought of such “drivings” as I have known before now.

Bosworth (215 Regent Street) applied for leave to reprint in Railway form some of my Essays; answer from Chapman, “No,”—but determination by Chapman now to do it himself at last. “Biographical Essays”; about 10 of them in all; begin with Johnson, which I have now got, and am correcting for the shilling-pamphlet artists. 3000 copies, and to me £20 for each shilling-pamphlet: fair enough on the money side. Bosworth, at present, wants to print the “Occasional Discourse on the Nigger Question” (to astonish the Uncle-Tommery a little); but that I find questionable hitherto,—the Piece itself (as I see today) is very imperfect, in parts bad; and the “cry of stuck pigs” which is sure to follow from it (and is not a musical thing) will be great. I doubt, I doubt.— Jeffs the Foreign Bookseller “applies for an interview”; some Frh Publisher intends a Translation of Fr Revoln a History: very well,—if he can find a Frh Translator! I have appointed Jeffs tomorrow at 3. These are bits of events; these, in this the day of small things.6

It is certain I did with my own hand post that Clough-and-Emerson Letter on friday night; and it must have been at Moffat, abt Saturday midnight. The Sabbatarians and Moffat Postman are chargeable with the rest.— — Have you come upon any notion about a new residence yet? It is pity you cannot get staid where you are! None of us can, in any sense; we are “made like unto a wheel!”7— Commend me to my good Sister Phoebe; and good be with you both, dear Brother.— Yours ever T. Carlyle