August 1843-March 1844

The Collected Letters, Volume 17


TC TO JANE WELSH CARLYLE ; 7 August 1843; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18430807-TC-JWC-01; CL 17: 20-23


Scotsbrig, 7 Augt (Monday) 1843


No man in all Britain can have less material to write a Letter on than I this day! I have slept largely in the literal sense, and in the metaphorical sense almost entirely, ever since I arrived here: the weather is wet, the roads generally muddy; I have travelled nowhither but to the top of Scotsbrig Moor; seen or suffered nothing that is worth any record other than silence. Goody's Letter, forwarded from Liverpool on Saturday, and the Newspaper of yesterday by the same route: these are literally the main arrivals since I landed here. Donothingism is the thing I have all along been passionately seeking in these Travels; and here or nowhere seems to be the place for carrying it on! Seriously I think it will do me good; and all these confused tumblings hither and thither will do me good,—if I had once got them fairly summed up and set in order. We shall see.

My Icelandic Grammar does not promise well; one of the dullest even of Grammars hitherto;—but perhaps it will mend. A deep, unutterably deep sadness takes hold of me often: but this too I have no wish to avoid; this too will do me good. I feel it like the voice of innumerable dumb things within me and about me struggling to speak if they could. These things I believe speak to no man in a dialect of the “joyous” kind; they are dumb wholly and forever if spoken to in that. I want to be alone here for a little while.

Jack sends no word of himself; I suppose him to be waiting for a response from his Darlington Roman friend,1 that he may set out from Liverpool thitherward, and then return perhaps to Scotsbrig before long. They speak of him with praise here, tho' not without criticism too. He is thought by Jamie to have not a little contributed to the getting of poor Alick off this summer; Jamie thinks had he not been here, Alick might very possibly have lingered till the season was past. One thing this Doctor said, which I learned last night, which I will now report in the quarter best deserving it,—this namely: “That Jane, he believed, was the best Wife within the four corners of London!” This is a fact, he thinks. Did anybody ever hear the like?

On thursday, if the weather by chance prove good, I must try to get to Dumfries: I should get my business done there, I might then sleep here perhaps still better. The Gig is all repaired, and new harness on it, and a good horse to draw it: one might go to Dumfries if the clouds would shut themselves a little!— It is very disastrous the aspect of all things here; soaking rains drowning the poor people's hay and crops; ugly ruin, in so many other ways, having already done its work on many! Ben Nelson is out of his Bank-business; suddenly; owing to some mistake about a Bank-parcel, say some; owing to habitual tippling of whisky, say others. Poor Ben!— Did I tell you that we saw Father Mathew giving the pledge at Liverpool? Ah yes I did; and I still think often of him. Had Ben and others taken his pledge ten years ago, it had been better for them. But ruin, at any rate, goes his way. John M'Turk is out of Pennersaughs and Scotland; ruined out; “keeps a Spirit-Vault” now at Preston,—poor M'Turk!2 The ugly Brownmoor is greener by crops of his sowing; but an “officer of the Duke's,”3 he and not M'Turk is there to reap them. Another Duke's farmer whom Jamie was with today, lives in perpetual expectation of Sheriff's Officers, Jamie tells me. “Does not the Duke spare poor people a little, and shew some mercy to them in their arrears?” “Aye, for a while; but then he comes on, and roots them out o' the grun'.” It is an emphatic way of doing. Did you read in the Newspapers of a poor Wiltshire Labourer who, at last, in indignant despair, had burnt his three children amid the wrecks of his fortunes and household goods?4 The man was not mad; nor could the jury find him hangable. These are times the like of which none of us had yet seen. Still stranger and terribler times, I often think, are pretty close on the rear of them.

Well, I am glad at any rate you have got that Library in a condition for tea again; the worst of the earthquake over. I shall be right glad to try the writing of another Book there,—if the pianoforte will let me. But the expense will be—ruinous I suppose? Thou wilt lead me into ruin by improvements, thou foolish little coadjutor!

Tell me some more London news. When does the Ryde expedition take place? Dost thou still think of venturings—a “skyrocket boxed along with a redhot poker”? Poor old Stimabile, one is heartily sorry for him! We could have better spared a better man;5—and there are far worse in this world.

Does Mrs Buller send you any news of herself? Is there any speculation as to Suffolk hitherto?6 I might catch you there, or somewhere, on my return homeward. All manner of heat will soon be gone out of the weather (if indeed much heat ever come); and then I shall long to be among my papers again.

Dear Goody, my inner man is far out of order; I have dined today on boiled rice and milk,—declining chicken-broth till the morrow; deciding to send for coffee from the Grocer's tonight! Thou seest how it is with me.— Tonight there can be no Letter from Chelsea; tomorrow night, please the pigs, there will be one. It is my chief Christian comfort.— I have two Letters to write to Dumfries tonight. I find in searching into my memory that there will be various Letters to be written in these vacant days: to Mrs Strachey, to Fitzgerald, to Thirlwall,—alas I never wrote to the Wilsons yet,7 sinner that I am! I wish I had simply no thing to do at all; sleep, perpetual sleep seems all the blessing I now long for, I am now fit for. “Immortal smash,”8 as the Yankees call it, that is the substance I am now reduced to.

Isabella, poor thing, keeps her bed; I have never seen her since the night when I came. Jamie sometimes drives her a little in the Gig; but only up the Scotsbrig hill at a walk; “she dislikes to be seen on the roads,” she cannot stand much driving. Poor Isabella is much to be pitied; Jamie seems wonderfully kindly and cheery with her, in spite of all he has to bear. I look at poor Jenny too with interest, with sympathy. But enough now, I really ought to end, I really ought never to have begun. I send blessings a hundredfold to my own poor Goody, the best Wife in London Town; and am ever—Her affectionate / T. Carlyle

Take no more asses-milk; have nothing to do with asses!—