August 1857-June 1858

The Collected Letters, Volume 33


TC TO JEAN CARLYLE AITKEN ; 20 December 1857; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18571220-TC-JCA-01; CL 33: 132-133


Chelsea, Sunday [20] (Decr) 1857—

My dear Sister,

Nothing is wrong with us; don't be under apprehension Jane goes about; seems rather fresher if anything lately: indeed I suspect the critical time has not yet come,—till the jany or feby cold days arrive. We have never yet had the least touch of frost; once or twice, as this morning, perhaps a half-visible touch of rime; but it soon goes away again in rain or something soft: occasionally the days are almost beautiful in the middle part of them,—almost too good for December weather.

Jane's chief suffering at present is the burden of two innocent young Auchtertool Damsels, “Maggy” and “Mary”;1 who are here on their road to the Isle of Wight; Mary, sickly for a long while past, having been ordered thither for a better climate in the cold season. They do not stay above 10 days, “to see London by the road,”—only till Thursday next;—and do me very little mischief; only Jane, who takes a heavy handful of them, and is not fit for any burden at all but her own, wishes it were well done. The Miss Mary has been always of languid turn; took decided disease of the liver some years ago; very dangerously ill at one time but now much better;—is likely to continue dragging about; and cannot well expect to be, what she never was, in lively health. I remember her a little child always too late at breakfast, in Liverpool;2 and I used to call her “the Morning Star,” poor little creature. There is some Fife neighbour3 in the Isle of Wight; and they are likely to be better off for a couple of months there than in the solitude of Auchtertool.

You shd bid your Jim write to John with great frankness, explaining so far as is possible what he is in wish for, if not in hope of:4 I always think there is some clear feasibility of getting him a settlement in Liverpool, had one time to try fairly;—and the Dr at present is the only one of us that has his hands quite free for making application in such a matter. I believe I owe him a Letter, ever since his last Glasgow excursion: I have always a kind of expectation he is coming up hither abt this season; but he does not come, or positively hold out probability in any direction.

That of the Rob-Haining American Snob ‘with the red beard, is very Hanningish:5 but it is no great matter either; we will manage with the red beard, “I guess,” if it ever appear in these parts.

My Book goes lumbering on; there seems fair likelihood of my being out of this First Part of it, ready for a rest, in May coming. And surely few things have occurred in my life that cd be welcomer! In fact I feel sometimes utterly broken down; as if there were not the strength of a sparrow left in me;—but I wiggle and waggle still along, and will not be beaten if I can help it. The Book seems worth nothing to me, or less than nothing: that is the heaviest item of the problem,—fruit of the years I have now arrived at; whh give one a tragic contempt for many things, for “Literature” among the number.— We are much amused here, occasionally at the “launch of the Leviathan Steamship.” Leviathan is about as big as your Highstreet, never was seen such a ship,—all built of borrowed money,—and into the water she will not go;6 and no more money can be had till she do go! Principal undertaker, one Scott Russel, was a poor scrub of a “Lecturer” in Edinr some few years ago,—bankrupt lately for I know not how many 100,000's; and may become bankrupt again, with his braggart nonsenses if the Devil please!7 Never was seen such a time.— Adieu, dear Sister, & never mind the Time!

Your affecte T. Carlyle

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“Mr. Scott Russell, Builder of the ‘Leviathan’”

Illustrated London News, 3 April 1858