July-December 1855

The Collected Letters, Volume 30


TC TO JEAN CARLYLE AITKEN ; 4 December 1855; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18551204-TC-JCA-01; CL 30: 133-135


Chelsea, 5 [4?] decr, 1855—

Dear Jean,

Your Letter has filled me with remorse as well as with astonishment. I had been thinking, all this while, it was certainly you that had to write; and I accounted for your silence by the young Bairn; fancied you were making reasonable shift with what the Doctor wd communicate &c;—always, too, I was determining to write, and bid you not mind answering, as I could loyally send you a word now and then without answer while you were busy: all this has been going on, and once or twice a resolution made to write was broken again (which is so easily done, in this turbid never-resting, ever-hurried element of mine);—and it now at once appears I was in a complete mistake as to the debtor-and-creditor account! Well, you must pardon me. The facts are as I say;—I remember now you asked me for a name other than Alick to the child, and I could think of none: you must tell me what the name was, at any rate!1 For the rest, I write by return of post making what amends I can; and determining to remember better another time.

My cold is quite gone; I am in my usual dreary steadfast condition; working as heretofore, with mulish obstinacy, but on the worst terms; which is a state you are familiar with. There has been in fact, no news with us, none at all;—nor is yet, except that it is settled we are to go to The Grange for a month (17 decr–17 jany), the beginning of which term comes on Monday come a week: I hope the thing may answer! My four weeks at Croydon did me a visible good; but there it was absolute solitude with horse exercise, and private reflexion in the clear air; at The Grange it will be a very different set of conditions. But there will be horses there too, there will be free air: in short I am willing to have this frozen stagnancy broken by any change, and calculate we may both find benefit. At any rate there was no refusing.— As to my Frederick, I do believe, in some bright moments, that I shall get it done after all. Never was my heart so near being broken with anything; to get free of that unutterable welter, and leave it behind me to all eternity,—there will be a joy; and the one joy I make confident hope of, if I live two years longer. This day I am sixty; which is a thing to create very serious reflexions,—which indeed have not been wanting of late; especially since that unforgettable Event we witnessed together!2 But I am not troubled with slavish terror of any kind; I calculate on working (honestly if I can, and with or without wages) till I be summoned home, whenever that occur; and I cannot think there will be other than deep rest provided for one there,—a welcome blessing to the back that has been well toiled and galled as it went along. Oh my Mother, my Mother! Her face is here on the wall (very like); and I look at it almost daily with reflexions that are far beyond words. The saddest and the greatest that is in one's existence connects itself with that good face which these eyes can never again behold. Silence, Silence!— — Let us live worthy of her, and of her honest simple nobleness; that is the one good elegy we can make about our loss and her gain.— —

The Dr does not write to me often, and not at great length when he does. I suppose him to be rather idle; but living lazily along (with a hope of setting up some establisht of his own) at Scotsbrig as well as he could elsewhere. He has plenty of money to keep any kind of house: but other essential things may not be so plentiful (poor fellow, after all!)—and the difficulties of such an enterprise are indeed great. It must be owned that he takes his perverse situation with a praiseworthy quietness (little imitable by some of us!) and is one of the best-natured of mortals.— — Your Jim appears to be improving his mind and hand at any rate; which is right well for him. Any labour he can do, this, at his age, is not to be complained of: if he keep his eyes open, he will learn much, and be fit for much. His German hand and his English—give them my praises. Poor Tom's Letter is very curious: rugged naked truth! Adieu dear Jean; write to me soon.—

T. C.