July 1836-December 1837

The Collected Letters, Volume 9


TC TO JEAN CARLYLE AITKEN; 2 April 1837; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18370402-TC-JCA-01; CL 9:179-182.


Chelsea, 2nd April, 1837—

My dear Sister,

I must write you a word, tho' it be one of the briefest. You have heard often how little time I have, how I am whipt from post to pillar; yet you probably form no idea of it that is not beneath the reality.

Your long Letter came duly; was thankfully read: I wrote to the Bishop the night it came. Those two Letters of his to poor Corrie were of a very excellent nature, and affected me not a little. That Bishop, I think, must be an honest and good man.

Since that date, I have written a Letter to our Mother, which perhaps you have seen; explaining the sad increase of trouble to us by Jane's sickness. For a week, I was in great alarm about her. She is out of danger for the present; but still confined to bed, and likely to be weak for an indefinite time. I wrote to Mrs Welsh about the same time, perhaps on the very same day: Mrs Welsh made no dallying; but put herself into the mail next afternoon; and arrived here about six o'clock on Saturday morning.1 “Very cauld,” Anne Cook said, coming to awaken me and apprise me; but otherwise little worse for the expedition. She is much usefuller here than she could be elsewhere; and must stay till poor Jane get a great deal stronger. There has been nothing but one fit of illness after another, this long while; three attacks of Influenza, extending over some twelve weeks; headaches, coughing, and all wrong together. We must do the best we can; and wait, and hope.

My weary printing cannot last very long now. It is a wretched slavery. But the third volume is half printed; the first wholly; the second almost half: about the beginning of May, the Book must be fairly away from me. It was not with joy that I ended it, but with a kind of wae thankfulness, thankfulness that it had not first ended me. I am sore worn; but not in ill health, or otherwise hurt; nay rather I am considerably benefitted perhaps in many ways. I need only rest. I am still resolute for Scotland in summer; but there lies yet somewhat between me and that. On the first day of May I am to begin Lecturing! I cannot get a moment bestowed on preparing for it: I have a kind of feeling that I shall plunge thro it, one way or another. But after that, I will rest a while, or it shall go hard with me.

The special reason of my writing tonight is touching certain money of John's. Last Saturday I transmitted a Hundred and Twenty pounds to his name in the Commercial Bank, payable to my Mother; you must therefore get her warning as soon as possible; and let her come up and transact this piece of business as she did the former more than once. I suppose there will be news of the sum at Dumfries by the time you get this; but it will lie till called for; only not at interest. You of course will lose no time. Let James, when it is all right, send the Newspaper with one stroke; and I will take that as a token till you be able to write.

I was glad you had got all the bits of Pamphlets, and had found some pleasure in them. There is a Copy of that American Review announced long since as being on the road for myself; whenever it comes to hand, James shall have it as a present, and right welcome.2 I guess however that my Mother's will put you off very handsomely in the mean time. There is a considerable stir making and likely to be made about poor me in these days; but I declare truly it is a thing that rather sickens and grieves me than does me any good at all. “What's ta use on't?” as Sandy Corrie said.3 What is the use on't? It is a dozen years and more since in my misery I once said to myself, when somebody had been angering me by ill-natured speech about my sickness: “Suppose all London were to rise at six in the morning, and do nothing else but greet [weep] for thee the livelong day, would it take away this pain? Would it bring peace into this heart? Not a bit of it! Let London go its gates [its own way] then; let all the world go its gates; go thou thine!” I fancy a dike-back [back of a wall] in a su[nn]y day, in Annandale, and to be well let alone there, were worth [the su]m-total of it.

You do not say anything about Brother Alick nor America; who is often in my thoughts of late. Has he given up the enterprise for this year? Or how does it stand; or what is he doing? How getting on at all? I wish you would explain to me next time clearly how the matter stands: you give me often more light about such things than I can get otherwise. I wish much Alick would write himself; but I suppose he is loth to do it, being perhaps in an uncertain state as to his own plans, and little inclined to speak about what he has not yet done with thinking of, and struggling with to make it speakable.

It gives me great satisfaction indeed to hear of James's welfare and well-doing. What I can see of his studies, is that his handwriting improves immensely; and that he is a man of strict punctuality; both of which are decided qualifications, the latter above all. May he go on and prosper; may it be well with him and you!— The younger James it seems is a stirring fellow; which also is right at his time of life.—— I will write “no more of nought” this night, my dear Jean; being quite tired out; and fittest for bed of all things. Your affectionate Brother,

T. Carlyle.

3 April.— My dear Jean, I must send this off without farther ceremony now. I enclose a leaf for you of one of my Proofsheets. You will see what kind of Book it is to be: there are some 400 pages in each volume. In not many weeks, I hope, you will have a copy of the Book itself.— Jane did not sleep so well last night: however, she goes on gathering strength, and now the wind seems turning more into the West which is a great point for us. My Mother will be much relieved when she hears of Jane's improvement: so do not delay in communicating with her.4 I have never got Jack's Packet of Proofsheets sent off, but hope soon to do it.— Punctual as Time, here comes the Herald while I write; and two strokes on it. Good be with you bairns!