The Collected Letters, Volume 28


TC TO JEAN CARLYLE AITKEN ; 6 June 1853; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18530606-TC-JCA-01; CL 28: 160-161


Chelsea, 6 june, 1853—

My dear Jean,

I was very glad of your little Note; there is always more in your bit of paper than in any other that comes to me out of that or indeed out of most other regions. I will not leave you till Scotsbrig for news; but send you a word which you may carry thither. Our good old Mother is very frail indeed; alas, alas, it is no wonder at her years: she is little out of my thoughts, during all this untowardly season. But we may hope she will now do a little better when the warm weather is come: she has her trust set in a good quarter, which does not fail anyone: that is a great comfort, and the one sure comfort in the matter for us all. Ah me, ah me! the flesh is very weak;1 and the world around us here is full of mysteries and awful certainties! Almighty Justice reigns, “God reigns”:2 and that is all that we can say; we have to be silent, having said that.

I am very much relieved that you are out of your bad adventure: I was in real alarm about it, in my feckless humour of mind;—and you may depend on it, it is no good job for anybody! I beg very much you would take care of yourself, and indeed I hope you will.

We are fagging along here, with the summer round us at last, and with the roaring tumult which that always brings in London. I think we, here at Chelsea, are rather more out of that latter element than usual, however. Neither of us, for example, has been troubled with Mrs Beecher Stowe at all; we have kept out of her foolish way without effort, and let the Uncle tommery run its own muddy course at a safe distance from us. The rapping “spirits” (that does pass in scandal and contemptibility [anything]3 I have ever heard), the “turning tables”4 &c &c: one is at times ashamed of the poor posterity of Adam, and very willing to stand aside till they have got done with certain things!——Our sewer-men (to come close home) have never yet got out of sight; it is near a quarter of a year now since they broke ground, and the tail of their rubbish is not fairly away yet! I never saw such working: “it is men appointed by the late Derby Government,”—a very melancholy set of men indeed; and they get their pay from London in general, which being an anarchy of wheel within wheel, no man in particular has any power over them, only they have power to take money from every man, and fling dirt at the door of every man. “Emancipation!” My soul is filled with disgust and despair at the sight of so many chosen servants of the Devil who are already “emancipated”; and I long often that I had a horsewhip big enough to reach the back of such! But I have not, most clearly not; so have but one duty in regard to them,—to hold my peace, and steer as clear of them as I can. A certain man called Chadwick,5 here, has wanted, and struggled sore, for some 20 years, to bring clean water into London, and take away foul dirt from it: I saw him the other day; and he professes himself beaten, has lost his health even; and London will have no clean water for a long time yet.

I am working these 3 or 4 days at absolute index-making; surrounded with paper-clippings and bits of wafer: one of the dreariest jobs; but needful to be done, for I must get something out of this wretched Fritz, and that was an indispensable preliminary. I am far weaker than I used to be, all this year; and it does not proceed from age, I think, either, but from the dreadful smashing I got last year in my travelling &c. I trace yet very little decay of strength (when my health is good), but a great decay of heart: “What's ta use on't?” It becomes more and more difficult to get the steam up.— — I will send Fraser to Scotsbrig tomorrow; I hope you will find it there. My love to every one there and with you. Good b'ye dear Sister.— T. Carlyle