1854-June 1855

The Collected Letters, Volume 29


TC TO JEAN CARLYLE AITKEN; 24 November 1854; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18541124-TC-JCA-01; CL 29: 205-207


Chelsea, 24 Novr 1854—

Dear Jean,

Many thanks for those two little Notes; which were of great value to me, and much relieved my mind about you. In fact I find it has been one of the ugliest situations;—and I shall be right glad to hear you have got safe home to Assembly Street1 again with poor Jim: you will there nourish him up at your leisure; and he will bloom out into new vigour again, poor young soul, for a fresh onslaught upon the world,—we hope under better than the old Jew Captains he has had! Meanwhile, to get him strong again, that is the point; and to get your poor self strong again, that also seems to me a great point, and well worth attending to so far as possible!

Jack is again gone wandering, somewhere into Lancashire; and for the present I have lost his address; but probably shall hear of him again tomorrow. Poor soul, I perceive he has no fixed scheme hitherto; fundamentally nothing to do (that is not more or less imaginary), and knows [not]2 where to lay down his head,—nor, alas, can any of us shew him where. He looked very unhappy even before Phoebe's death: I doubt his life is shaken much into disarray, poor soul; and there is nothing I would more gladly do than help him towards some haven, if I could by any method. But it is not easy: often he is in my disconsolate thoughts; and one has to think mournfully, in general, of the “changes which fleeting Time procureth,” as the poor old Ballad says.3

Jane is going down to The Grange on the 8th of next month; I do not go then, nor for certain at all: I have contrived to refuse, as inoffensively as I could, being flatly determined that I could not and would not go at that particular time. Ah me!— Till the 2d of jany therefore I am alone here; doing whatever I can (which is sorrowfully little) towards getting work forward: what other thing have I left for me? On the 2d jany,—we shall see! I know not what Jack's plans are, or whether he is coming in this direction at all: we heard from some other quarter, he thought of wintering at Clifton (suburb of Bristol): he writes continual notes to me, but contrives (as usual) to tell me almost nothing, or altogether nothing. I mean to inquire more specially the first time I write

A paltry little cold, coming and going, has hung about me for some time; it is pretty well off me at present; and as times go, I ought to report myself rather well than otherwise. Meanwhile I have carpenters again upon me; grate-smiths &c,—to rage for two days yet, like the sack of Babylon4 (or the taking of Sebastopol, if it were taken)! On deciding for a carpet (when the cold weather came, and “drugget” wd no longer do) I perceived, more glaringly than ever that my new floor had been all made of green wood (an incredible fact, but not an uncommon one here); that a pennypiece could be introduced anywhere between the planks, and that torrents of cold were pouring in there,—as the one fruit I had got from my “ventilating trunks” &c &c. Closing my lips (for what good is there in talk) I had to decide on mending this misery;—and so for a week I am banished again, and sit inconveniently down stairs, my Books &c inaccessible and the house not pleasanter than common!— I bore away, however, with a respectable Obstinacy: it sometimes seems to me the heavy wheels are groaning round at last, and the big waggon making some way thro' its sea of quagmires: this, when you have stood many months tugging desperately at the chains without the least results (except breaking them now and then) is a consolation, a certain glimmer of consolation, under everything! But I must not brag yet; nor will I.

Soon after Monday then, if no earlier, I shall look for another word from you; may it be that you have got to Dumfries, and are wholesomely at home again.— All the world is in disconsolation here about Sebastopol: indeed it seems to me one of the wretchedest things I ever looked at, taken altogether; but only what was to be looked for, being wholly the work of the fools among us, not of the wise. I suppose they must take Sebastopol, if they should all die for it;—and it will avail them nothing (I fear) when taken. Adieu dear Sister; good & swift return-home to you!

Your affectionate /

T. Carlyle