TC TO JEAN CARLYLE AITKEN; 5 February 1836; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18360205-TC-JCA-01; CL 8:292-296.
TC TO JEAN CARLYLE AITKEN
Cheyne Row, Chelsea / 5th Feby, 1836—
My dear Sister Jean,
It is a long time since you got any direct word of me; indeed I rather think, I am still your debtor every way for that Letter: however, you have frequently enough learnt how I was going on, and doubtless imputed my silence to nothing wrong.— I have this morning got done with another Chapter (much to my poor heart's content); and will write you a line before beginning again. I had determined so, last night; and behold, about tea-time, there came-in this Letter from Munich, which of course confirms me.1 I am going to dine tonight (with a good Friend named Taylor2), where probably there may be Honourable Members; one of whom will give me a frank: it is the main good one gets of Parliament.
Mrs Welsh writes to us that she saw you in passing; that all was well, and the little cracket [cricket] of an Alick chirping quite brisk. I learn too from Jenny that you have finally given up that House-bargain and House; and are to go (or perhaps you are already gone? No; that cannot be it.) to English street again.3 Perhaps it was far the best plan. Lawsuits and quarrels are to be avoided as the unprofitablest of all things: if you have not your House, you have your money, and can get another when you like. I hope James has work in these bad times, and gets on courageously. A light heart and a clear eye: these will help a man thro' many things.
What became of Spence and the Lasts? I have longed considerably for them, all the time I was wearing these villainous new shoes, which, however, happily proved of the worst leather (as well as shape) and are now done. Tell the worthy man to at least not destroy the cast of the foot: I will have a mould made from it yet, by the blessing of Heaven.4— I think sometimes of sending you up a lot of Mazagines &c when I can find a right conveyance: we shall see about it.
Jane has been ailing often thro' Winter, and yet never very ill. “Sniftering” of Colds, &c &c; with an occasional sharp headache, but that not very frequently. With the Spring one may expect amendment, and briskness again. She sits here by me, reading my two last finished Chapters (not without criticism and also praise), and sends you her kind wishes and remembrances. As for myself, I go on in a headlong kind of manner; perhaps, on the whole, considerably nearer health than I have been for a long time. I feel no fear or indeed care for any terrestrial enemy or chance, while working at this Book of mine. I am independent of the world in regard to it: the world will do to it exactly what it likes, were that nothing at all; I shall be well content, having done it. This seems very strange, but it is true, and a blessed truth.— With regard to the question, when? I can still predict nothing; but may say that I am now getting on far better; and hope to be fairly in the Third Volume (at least) by the time Jack has appointed for coming. Would he were come, the good Doilter! Our Spring months from March to June (when it gets too hot) are the finest of the year. We have had generally a very good winter, as to weather; I have worked and lived in it with infinitely less of suffering than thro' the Oven-heat of last summer. Such another Oven-heat I think I will never endure again,—should I take a job of driving Highland Stots [oxen] for the sake of country air.— According to M'Diarmid you have had but windy work of it;5 but I hope you are thro' it unhurt all of you, and the worst past. I have often thought of the Scotsbrig house, and the gurling [howling] of that Chimney-head of our Mother's in windy nights. I fear Alick has never taken the Chimney-Cann [pot] for the back-smoke? I wish I could hear that he had.
I know not what I have to tell you of my seeings or doings lately that could interest you. My main history, as you see, is over my Desk; one day of it like another.— We meet plenty of people; could easily meet more than plenty: English and Foreign, Italian, German, French; “each comely in its kind.” It is one or rather it is the only, great blessing connected with this monster of a Place. You are allowed to live in some sort of peaceable brotherhood with your fellow creatures, and feel yourself a man among men: not a Hermit set on a Hill, with Black-Cattle and staring Bogtrotters round you. O that weary Hill of Puttoch! Never thro' the longest human existence shall I forget that: never, I think, till I have sailed round all the Seas and Lands of this Terraqueous Planet, will I pitch again there.— In other respects, London, as I say, is a monster; eminently unfit for the poor and honest. For example, we are eating fresh butter, of very pale complexion, at the easy rate of 18 pence a pound! Salt can be had at 1 shilling: but we tried it out of five or six different shops; found it all in a state—of putridity, detestable to gods and men. So it is with most other things, in the way of outward accommodation, dirty air, dirty water, dirty houses—dirt and death. The people puddle on. One must take (as usual) the Evil along with the good.
There has been rather a Cessation of Newspapers lately, which might perhaps surprise you. Truth is, the Globe has been given up by Mill;6 and I seized that opportunity to protest against his troubling himself with me any farther in the matter. I could not read those dull leaden Globes; and there was fash [fuss] on all hands, sending them, and getting them. The only thing I regret is the advantage they gave me of telling you all, very frequently, by such simple means, that I was well and thinking of you. This I do regret: but will try now and then to snatch an old Newspaper when I can, and do it still. Only if none come, know the reason of it.— Speaking of Newspaper[s], is not your Times7 given up? I heard of Douglas8 here lately; seeking work, most probably: I did not see him, nor do I care much to do it. He also is an “Able Editor,” and can do excellently well without me.
I do not take the smallest interest in what is called “Public Business,” Politics, &c &c—which in fact is rather “Public Idleness with Noise.” Let them jar away there; they “can di' tha naither ill na' guid.” O'Connell makes a great talking everywhere;9 and is truly become the King of the Country for the time being: more shame to it, that it can get no better! Big Beggarman, or what else you call him, there is really none other bu[t] that Irish Savage, who seems to have any notion what to do, or any courage in him to do it. “May the Lord put an end unto all cruel wars / Send peace and contentment to all British Tars!” I see abundance of Political Men; radicals and all that: but contrive to get a little talk out of them apart from that “general overturn,” which to myself is making itself plain enough
I wrote to Jack, shortly after Jenny's Letter; he will have got me by this time: so be at ease on that head. He is to write to me again directly on receiving mine, and so our Correspondence to proceed regularly after.— On my Mother's Examiner today I mark that she will see this from you on Wednesday. Let her read here our loving wishes and inquiries. Jenny's Letter10 came very opportunely, just about the time mine would come. Thank her, and all of them; and say they must write soon again.— I will add a little scrape of a pen for Alick whom you will probably see on Wednesday. Good be with you my dear Jean, and with those that love you! Best remembrances to James and the cricket.— Your affectionate