January-September 1856

The Collected Letters, Volume 31


TC TO JEAN CARLYLE AITKEN ; 20 June 1856; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18560620-TC-JCA-01; CL 31: 109-111


Chelsea, 20 june, 1856—

My dear Sister,

It appears almost fabulous and unworthy of belief, in respect of one who has the pen always in his hand as his implement of trade; but it is nevertheless a literal fact, that I have constantly had in purpose for the last ten days to write you a Letter, and every day have failed to be able! This argues a sad state of affairs with me; and such alas it really is. My head is dark, my life overloaded (worst of all loads, the state of my liver),—I have no heart left in me: and stand by my task with an obstinacy, whh is very great, and which avails me or it very little. Not that I am worse than usual, or that my task is more ungainly, on the contrary it is less rather: but I am quite gone to confusion in the “inner man” (meaning liver and stomach, first of all),—and cannot even write you a Letter, as you perceive!— However, we will say no more of all that; understand only what the reason of my silence is and was; and don't let your imagination be playing tricks with you on the subject.

I have got a small bit of my Book actually done, and laid into the drawer, waiting for more which lies in heaps ahead of me, in the unrid state. I am seriously purposing to go to Press with it in winter, and let the Printer chace me thro' it. Were I in average health of body, this would do:—I must try to get into the old poor average! The day before yesterday I settled the Bargain with Chapman the Bookseller about the “Carlyle's Works,” which is coming out:1 this will actually make its appearance sometime about October, and go on month by month for 16 months;—I have got a kind volunteer (young Barrister man, called Gilchrist,2 much an admirer &c) who will take the trouble of all that off my hands: so that, were it once fairly started, I hope to have little farther to do with it; but to be at leisure to go on with the Frederick (the Printer chacing me) as if I had nothing else to mind.— A busy winter coming for me, if all go as I could wish and intend.

Jack is here, two Boys with him and a third coming;3 he takes an endless trouble with these creatures, and I know not that they are of the best stuff, or ever likely to repay the pains he is at. Latterly he was off doing a visit to a certain Mrs Fletcher, a daughter of the Churches once of Hitchill,4 who has a rich (stupidish) husband and fine place in these southern parts: Jack and I contrive to meet (chiefly my work, I think) as often as possible, but do not yet quite make out once a day. He is “in the City” &c during the light hours; and at night when I sally out for my last walk, his House is apt to be bolted too early for me. He has a kind of cold; otherwise is well, and always very kind company.— — Jane too has a cold, of far more obstinate and worse kind; and indeed is very weakly in spite of the beautiful weather we now have. Your Glasgow Boys are with you, I suppose,—Tom at least?5 I understand you also to be in fair health, and going on as one could expect. My thoughts often wander to the shores of the Nith, out of these crowded hot streets with their dust and their uproar.

What do you practically think of my running off (very soon) for a month or more of absolute seclusion, with sea-bathing and country diet, with Mary6 at Gill? That is an idea I still cherish on my hot pavements here. I wish you would go down and examine, or when you are down at any rate, examine, what the practicalities there seem actually to be. The good Mary, I will suppose, is willing to any length: but have they a handmaid to be spared for the occasion; have they &c &c? In short look quietly into it all, with a severe eye, and report when you are ready. As to diet, if there is anybody that can “make a pudding,” and will be goodnatured, correct and attentive, I should have no difficulty in managing. The capabilities for sleep, also for reading, writing, I know not exactly what they are. I know only I want much a small spell of silence, country, and sea-bathing.— Perhaps there might even somewhere be a horse attainable; nimble shelty if nothing better. I have truly great need of a horse; being much disable7 for walking in more ways than one. I have fairly slit my walking shoes into stripes (on the outside, little-toe region), and so escape the torment of corns: but that is by no means my worst obstruction in walking.—Bid your James ask himself if there is no feasible outlook for a riding quadruped in your parts;—we must not steal one; nor do we quite wish, tho' not absolutely forbidden, to beg or borrow: if one could buy with the prospect of reasonably selling again,—but that, for so short a time &c, wd perhaps not be a wise course, tho' it is the open one? Bid James think it over; and do what he can for me.— If I do not get to the Gill, I feel as if I must actually some way or other get into the Country for a couple of months. I am really quite below par; and incapable of working till I be a little set up again.

Here is heavyish rain, come in the rear of distant thunder which was going on when I began. We have had for a month the “perfection of weather,” according to my taste; a beautiful warm temperature without blazing sun; rain pretty frequent, which dries again instantly, and such a rich luxuriance in the woods and fields as is blessed to behold.— Three days last week we were at Addiscombe with not too much (the Lady not very well just now); I went up and down, with profit, in the green world; but always got myself spoiled again with hot rooms &c in the “forenights,” and so made little of it.— — I will write no more today; only send my love to all the House; and remain ever

Your affectionate Brother /

T. Carlyle