January-October 1859

The Collected Letters, Volume 35


TC TO JEAN CARLYLE AITKEN ; 20 March 1859; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18590320-TC-JCA-01; CL 35: 56-57


Chelsea, 20 March, 1859

Dear Sister,

I might sometimes seize a five minutes (as now), and write you a small word, merely to keep your imagination quiet: but the truth is, the opportunity does but seldom occur; and when it does, I am not so prompt with it as I could once have been.

There is nothing new to tell you, nothing that you do not know, thro’ Jack or otherwise: I hang desperately at this bad job; and make most unsatisfactory progress; grudging the time spent in comparison with the paper covered (paper covered and not burnt);—whh in fact I sometimes admit to be a grudge merely that I am grown old, and have not the strength or speed that I once had. By no means a singular case among mankind!— My health is below the average rather; but nothing very bad: I expect as the weather mends, and the Horse1 is thoroughly himself again with his new coat on his back (he has been clipped, occasionally coughing, and never fairly right, all winter), I shall get a small accession of liveliness, and progress better. On the whole “ye maun excuse us the day”2 (as a poor Mail Guard once said in wet weather); be patient till I do get done;—I design to go idle all the remainder of my life; and attend to what friends I have left.— Jane still holds up: sleeps every night,—thanks to a spoonful of whisky she makes into punch just before going to bed: she misses, when the whisky is omitted for any cause.

Your James Junr does not come much about us, for whh I give him credit, knowing the modest reason; but we do sometimes see him; a welldoing douce intelligt young man: he is to be over, with his flute this time, we expect, before long. It was truly a bit a great luck, that feat of the Dr's in placing him there.3

I suppose the Dr often writes to you, tells you any vestige of tidings he gets. Ballantyne's Newspaper having sunk,4 I always thot of getting some other;5 and will surely do it, tho’ all of them are considerably disgusting to me. And I hear about the “news,” generally more than I want, from my fellow creatures.— Ballantyne will probably not come up again, tho’ he promised to do it: he is a foolish little being, tho’ a thoroughly goodnatured,—and has a vanity that will save him from pain on the most trying occasions.

There is here a letter from the Scotch-German Lady6 to whose House I went last autumn.7 I know not if it is worth reading (some of it is German and unreadable): but you may try; and then forward it to John for return hither some time.—“Horse!” as usual— God bless you dear Sister. T. Carlyle8