August 1843-March 1844

The Collected Letters, Volume 17


TC TO JANE WELSH CARLYLE ; 12 August 1843; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18430812-TC-JWC-01; CL 17: 38-40


Dumfries, Saturday 12 Augt / 1843—


The Post was missed yesterday; and if I do not take heed it will be omitted till too late today again. I had not heard a word from you for three days when I left Scotsbrig: I hope there is something lying there for me! This is the worst of conven[ien]cies1 for writing; but to save poor Goody from anxiety I must endeavour to jot down a word.

We got hither thro' beautiful weather which still holds up tho' not without misgivings, on Thursday afternoon. Yesterday I managed all my affairs, saw Adamson &c; today we go home again by Gill. I had some thoughts of going up to Craigenputtoch, poor old Puttoch, today, and not going home till tommorow; but my Mother thinks it would do her mischief to attend me, and my own heart scunners [feels disgust] at the idea: I will not go today; but I will try it yet some other day before quitting this region; for it seems to be a kind of duty I have got to do, and one ought in that case to do it.2

Jean has the beautifullest little secluded cottage here shut out by a wall and briar-hedges from the street and all contiguous houses, looking out altogether pleasantly upon the river, town-mill wheels, observatory and green knolls and trees,—but, as Jack says, “she has involved herself in a terrible mess with children”;—she has all things prettily furnished, but confusion as before cannot be kept from encroaching! I have had a quiet bed, but could not sleep well these two nights. All is bustle here, getting things ready for departure &c: I have not a particle of composure to tell you what I am about. I shall have more time by and by.

I saw the M'Diarmids yesterday; the dame of the house not with any pleasure! She is grown fat and old, and more drawly and conceited, and distasteful to me, or I less tolerant of the like, than ever.3 A tragedy was transacting itself in this town: a tailor some ten years ago married a pretty servant-girl from Dorsetshire whom he found here; they took to drinking, successively or simultaneously, or had from of old been drinkers; wreck, ruin, rage and total desperation in the usual forms ensued; Last week the woman walked out with two of her children, tied them to her by a shawl, and jumped into the water: yesterday was the funeral; “many women weeping at the doors,” the town in much emotion, but no “riot,” as Mac was clear there would be, against the surviving unfortunate. Whisky is really worth celebrating at present!

With an effort, in memory of those not now here, I decided on calling for Mrs Mundell.4 She received me in her new smart house in Buccleuch Street, in her widow weeds, with the old snappish alacrity, and I sat a few civil minutes, till certain frightful M'Murdo old redfaced woman came waddling in,5 whereupon I took my leave. All is adjusted in that establishment again; so soon grass fills up all furrows, and they that survive must still live! I looked at this poor Mrs Mundell with an interest better people would not have awakened.

Did anybody tell you poor Roger Kirkpatrick was dead? It happened last spring, he had “made money” anew: his widow lives in one of the houses that overlook this one.6— Mrs Adamson was not at home:7 so I was saved one small task, willingly I.

My chief company has been Gilfillan the Hades Minister, and friendly critic, escorted by Aird.8 They have walked me about both evenings, had tea here,—in short got far more talk out of me than was good. Gilfillan looks somewhat like a “saft tatie” [simpleton]; but is, one ultimately finds, a really good youth, with what I should call a frightful future before him. He cannot swallow me, and continue a burgher minister! Yesternight I noticed him sighing deeply. I rather think he is married too.9 A tall man, with high broad head and red or yellow hair on it, very prominent brow, large brown dim-glistening eyes, and a chin—“one of those faces who wish to swallow their chin!”10 Enthusiasm, simplicity, keenness of heart and softness of fibre, with a most receding chin—poor good Gilfillan! He came hither I believe chiefly to see me; I have seen no man that appeared more honestly to love me,—in perfect silence generally. An ingenuous really interesting man.

Jack came over hither by the following Steamer from Liverpool, and is now at Kirkchrist11 till Monday. I have tailors at Scotsbrig on Monday. Jack will be down directly after: there will be little peace more. Adieu, Dearest: I shall be really uneasy if there is no Letter at Scotsbrig;—but there surely will! The Ecclefechan Post-mark will shew you that we have arrived there,— —Dumfries is now too late. God bless thee / T. C.