The Collected Letters, Volume 10


TC TO JANE WELSH CARLYLE ; 6 September 1838; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18380906-TC-JWC-01; CL 10: 162-166


Minto Manse, Hawick, 4th [6] Septr, 1838—

Dear Goody,

Your two Newspapers were handed in to me this morning while shaving; they had been forwarded from Bank Street, where your dear little Letter (nay it was a long full Letter) lay waiting for me duly on Saturday.1 That is a good lassie! There is nothing like punctuality. I should have been disappointed beyond expression had you failed on that occasion; but you did not fail.— Today there is nothing but rain past, present and future: wherefore I have fled from a dull company, while it is not yet noon, into the Minister's study; and will here with all copiousness splash down what is needful to bring forward the record, and answer as I have been answered. The invaluable Mintos moreover, it would seem, have the will and power to frank: the only thing against me is the damp cold, which makes my hand and my very jaws go shivering as in ague (for we have no fires anywhere); this and a bad unmendable pen—must even be put up with.

I have been here since Tuesday evening (it is now Thursday); I left Kirkcaldy that morning between seven and eight, in dim rainy weather, and did not arrive here till about the same hour in the evening; rain, dull company, fatigue and want of dinner being the main features of the day. The Kirkcaldy visit may be said to have gone off with complete effect. Nothing could be kinder, politer, more attentive than the good Ferguses were, one and all of them. They seemed to like me, and I really felt grateful for what they did and forebore to do. Not even Miss Jane2 “with the eyes all about” but made herself agreeable at last: she had joined us, some three days before it ended, returning from Aberdeen with an inane-pacific Mr Royd3 (brother of the one we saw); tho' full of mincings and affected ways, and even of coquetries, and very questionable in my eyes at first, she too recommended herself, and the inane Mr Royd her squire ex officio recommended himself, and all was well. John Fergus is really a good fellow, tho' with a dash of the Kirkcaldy gigman in him; a right healthy hearty merry fellow; “Miss Jessie” too has real jocosity, nay she rose that morning I came off, and sque[e]zed my hand with a real air of friendliness and regret that touched me with the like sentiment. In short it is all settled, Goodykin, that we are both to go back next year if we prosper, and make a right thing of it. To me it has been truly beneficial I think, and I am certain it was often truly pleasant; I rode every day but two, some times a matter of twenty miles; I bathed every day but two: the very sight of the green hilly country, of the everlasting rocks and divine sea-water, with Scotch faces ancient and new (for the very infants had a broad miniature Scotchhood interesting to me): all this, as one galloped about in it in the bright autumn, made up a kind of inarticulate Poem, most sad, most beautiful: “a good joy.”4 You must thank Elizabeth yourself by a speedy threepenny; you are she that beats us all for a deep threepenny. Besides Elizabeth herself was about writing to you when I came off; mal arrangements not my own prevented me from leaving a line to go with it: there was a Letter from Ellen's sister, whom also I called and saw as I passed on to the Harbour: the whole package I fancy must be already in your hands before this can arrive. But let us quit the lyrical; let us take the historical.

On the day my Letter specified, John Fergus and I went over to Edinr: the bright day saddened down very soon into gloom and rain; my history there that day was absurd enough: all mortals out of town! I called first at your Uncle Robert's:5 gone to the West Country for a month. John Jeffrey:6 gone to the East Country for &c. In one word, I went splashing about till all my Cards were exhausted, and not a soul was to be found at home. Not even Miss Ferrier7 could I see; tho' Elizabeth had straitly charged me to call, Miss F. being an ardent admirer of the &c: but she too was from home at the moment, she wrote over next day a melancholy Note to say that she could not even see me as I returned being herself called out of town in the interim. Sam Aitken alone of men did I speak to, brisk, rapid as ever, tho' a little wrinkly about the eyes, and with head grown very decidedly grey. In a kind of despair I went into Ambrose's8 for a pipe and spoonful of grog: but, alas, Ambrose himself is dead, and all has gone among them too. At half past four o'clock John Fergus came with his shandrydan [old-fashioned chaise], and carried me back to Newhaven and Fife again. On the Saturday appointed for your Letter, I was luckier: your Letter would have come to me (by arrangement with Sam) next day; but I could not wait; besides the little Duke had written to me in the interim, a card of mine with my address having been left for him at Moray Place;9 I also wanted to see the Lecture man,10—tho' as it proved, I failed in that, he too was “in the country, Sir.”— Well, but at two o'clock I was hastening towards Sam's along Princes Street, when what female figure should start towards me but Mrs Hickson! “Mr” 'Ickson on a commission of inquiry about handloom weavers; so glad to see you; beautifullest town in the world; lovely town; could live here forever” &c &c.11 I was almost glad to see the poor scrae [skinny person], so far from home. But at Sam's—there lay the Letter! It is all right my Goody, all very right. I read it there, and again on the Calton Hill, whither I had retired with it and a cigar, and all Edinr and the Firth in clear sunshine at my feet: to spend some twenty minutes I had in the perfectest felicity attainable at the time. Thanks for that letter!

Jeffrey to whom I had written in answer to his Note, sat by appointment at half past two waiting for me at Moray Place. We talked long, in the style of literary and philosophic clitter-clatter; finally it was settled that I should go out with him to dinner at Craigcrook, and not return to Fife till the morrow; for which accident too the Ferguses were prepared. Sam Aitken and I had previously settled that I was to go with him on Tuesday to Minto. At the due hour I joined the Duke at his Town house, and we walked out together as in old times. The Empsons were still there, tho' about to move southward in some ten days; Mrs Jeffrey and they welcomed me, all alone. The evening was not on the whole equal to a good solitary one. The Duke talked immensely and made me talk; but it struck me he was grown weaker; or is it I that have been used to better talk? Empson was prosy as ever, somnolence itself; nay more than once before bedtime he actually did sleep and even snore. Charlotte looks well contented, mysterious, silent and spoony as ever; Empson altogether kedge [eager] on the subject, at times next to absurd. Their Life seemed to me to hold out an unbounded prospect of sleepy prose; ennui without limit, endured without reluctance. To crown the whole, Mrs Jeffrey's tea was too good; I made a most imperfect sleep with immense effort, and was glad to be set down at my steamboat again on the morrow morning. My bed was in our old room: ah me! The poor Duke and I seemed to have made up our minds not to contradict each other; but it was at the expence of saying nothing intimate: on the whole we managed it; and my esteem for Jeffrey could not hide from me that at bottom our speech was, as I said, clatter. In fact he is becoming an amicable old fribble; very cheerful, very heartless, very forgettable and tolerable! Compliments to you were many. I like the Lady best there.

But now, not to tire you with more of this, fancy me set down at Minto from the Minister's vehicle, which waited for us at “Ancrum Bridge”;12 fancy me be-rained ever since; and for the present not happy here! It is a strange plump I have made from the solemn iron-spring gigmanity of Fergusdom into the vapid element of notability, sumptuosity with wooden-spring gigmanity, that environs me here. Minto Manse is a Dilettantism, the whole existence of man and thing is that here. Poor Bess is not well. Sam Aitken with his rude fun and voracity of nature, to which I am getting used, is the main thing we have to depend on. There came with us a certain Mr Lindsay (I think) Wine Merchant Leith;13 the inanity of whom transcends all I have met for several years; he goes tomorrow: poor fellow, he is very goodnatured too; why do I complain of him? Nay, am not I a traitor to speak otherwise than handsomely and praisingly of persons so kind to me? They are all goodnatured and very good: But—but—these three mornings I have wakened hours too early; that is it! Today I had settled that I was to quit on Saturday morning, for Hawick, then to Langholm by Coach, and Jamie to meet me there from Scotsbrig; I had the pen up to write to that effect before writing to you. But David pleaded, and then modestly gave in; after which poor Bess herself came in to plead, “till next week at any rate”: so that I could not resist, but said we would “put it off then” till monday or so. My only guidance to you is, that you may address now, as soon as you like, to Scotsbrig; I shall in all likelihood be there before it. I learn moreover by a Letter which Sam shewed me that your Mother is probably still at Templand; I wrote to her from Kirkcaldy to have a letter for me at Scotsbrig, and I would if she were still at Templand make my way to her speedily.— O Goody, enough of this confused Narrative style! Thou seest how it is: “to Scotsbrig,” it all lies in that.

What a touching thing is that fifty pounds from America! One prays that the blessing of him that was rather ill off may be with them, these good friends of mine. Courage, my Goody! I begin to feel as if one might grow to be moderately content with a lot like mine. All will be well yet. What did you do with the bill? Laid it by?— The only deficiency on your despatch is the want of news from Jack, who I thought would have sent some token of himself before now. Of course you will now forward such welcome tidings without delay. From Manchester too there comes nothing? I had a Newspaper this day with Rob's hand on it and one stroke: does that indicate that the business is well over there? They were to write to you; I shall hear in two days after you hear, whenever that may be. Poor John Sterling! It is really “very absurd.” The “old ass” is as well away I think. Ramsgate is as good a plan as can be; go by all means if you can: nay if Jack have not come, I hope you are there even now. The very sound of the sea has health in it for me. By the bye Eliz. Fergus and her Sister14 are to live at Hastings this winter; they calculate on your coming down to see them there; it is but some sixty miles.

O Goody of me was there ever such a blockhead of a Letter! And now it is getting towards 3 o'clock, and the rain has become Scotch mist; and I must walk or do worse. Accept the will for the deed, poor little Bairn! Ah me, I wish I were—but no matter. I kiss thee a hundred times. Be well and cheerful. Send Jack hither to me; I think I will not stay very long. Adieu, Dearest

T. Carlyle

My compliments to Cavaignac; say his Pipe stands me always in stead. A kind salutation also is surely due to the Wilsons.— You can tell Mrs Marshall15 that I have given her Father's letter to a sure hand (Sam Aitken's—for I forgot it till yesterday!), and that I find he and all his are well.