August 1843-March 1844

The Collected Letters, Volume 17


TC TO JANE WELSH CARLYLE ; 16 August 1843; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18430816-TC-JWC-01; CL 17: 52-55


Scotsbrig, 16 Augt 1843 (Wednesday)—


The Tailor called at the Post-Office this morning, but got nothing: as he did not even get an Examiner which ought to have come last night, and confesses that he saw only a little boy, I am in hopes it may be a miss, and that when we try again tonight there may be a line from Goody after all. At night indeed there will have come another post, nay properly two others. I have never yet got authentic news or sign of your return to Chelsea, and am now anxious to hear. No use making a toil of a pleasure; no use writing to me when it is a hurry and a burden to write: but yet—but yet there is an insatiable appetite for Goody Letters in me at this time! Think also what it is to be “vaixed”; and on the whole do thy best.

Fitzgerald's Letter inviting me to Naseby has never been answered till this morning; I have no appetite for writing, for speaking, or in short doing anything but sitting still as a stone while that is conceded me!— Confound it, here are two beggarly people from Ecclefechan come driving in a Gig in probable search for me! May the Devil give them luck of it. I hope Jenny will gulp a lie (door lie) for my sake. I will wait perdu [concealed] and fling down the pen till I see!— — No: Jenny had not the sense to make a white lie for me; she honestly thought I was out, and went to seek me in the Lynn1 and elsewhere; returned with redhot countenance, opened this my eastern door, almost in sight of the people, and I had to enter after all! Was thuts [What does it matter]? A poor West-Indian bilious youth, home for his health, “extremely desirous to see me” (many thanks to him!), “just called with his Father” &c &c. I have given them whisky and water, and sent them on their way. There is no rest for the wicked.2

What kind of weather you have in London I know not; but here it is hot as Demerara,3 windless with a burning sun: I do not count on getting out at all till night. Even then a drive will be better than a walk. I am lazy, in addition to all; lazy as I almost never was. Work past or future, not to speak of present, is a weariness to me. I sometimes think of Cromwell:—O Heaven I shall need to be in another mood than now! The truth is, dear Goody, my castor proved an entire humbug, and I am a wreck ever since! I must take new measures; this will never do. I am as languid almost as Isabella: poor Isabella, she cannot speak but in a whisper, all self-motion is nearly impossible for her; only for some half hour or less can she stand being driven slowly in the gig, or led about on the back of an Ass. She complains of cold too, if not wrapt in threefold wool, in this burning weather. Jamie is very kind to her.

Jack has not yet given sign of himself from Dumfries; I fear all peace will go with his arrival, which is to be expected daily. He needs a new project every three days, having nothing of his own to do,—not even this poor thing of mine, To do nothing. He also is much to be pitied, if one did not incline to censure him rather. News from Alick are anxiously expected, “before long now.”

The Tailor has turned me off two pairs of good trowsers, has two winter waistcoasts, and much else in progress: I find nothing wrong but the Dumfries buttons yet, which I have duly execrated, and flung aside, —poor hunger-ridden quack-ridden Dumfries! Wages yesterday at Lockerby Fair were “lower than any man ever saw them.” A harvest man for five weeks coming hither is to have one sovereign: a weaker individual works thro' the same period for 15 shillings or 12/6 according as he proves. The latter is a shoemaker's apprentice, who has harvest granted him to earn his year's apparel: fifteen shillings will not do it handsomely! Ruin, by sliding-scales and other conveyances, slides rapidly on all men.4

Last afternoon I had a beautiful walk on the Dairlaw Hills moor.5 A little walking shakes away my sluggishness; the bare expanse of silent green upland is round me, far off the world of mountains, and the sea all changed to silver; out of the dusky sunset (for vapours had fallen) the windows of Carlisle City gleamed visibly upon me; twenty thousand human bipeds “whom I could cover with my hat”! On these occasions unfortunately I think almost nothing; vague dreams, delusions, idle reminiscences and confusions are all that occupy me. I am an unprofitable servant!

My Missionary Robinson Crusoe is now done;6 and I have taken up with a biography of Ralph Erskine the first of the Seceders!7 It is absolutely very strange. A long soft poke-cheeked face, with busy anxious black eyes, “looking as if he could not help it”;—and then such a character, and form of human existence: conscience living to the finger-ends of him, in a strange, venerable tho' highly questionable manner! There have been strange men in this world;—and indeed every man is strange enough. This Ralph makes me reflect—Whitherward are we now bound? What has become of all that? Is man grown into a kind of brute that can merely spin, and make railways? Mir wäre lieber dass ich plötzlich stürbe [I should be happy to die suddenly].

O Jeannie dear what is the use of scribbling away in this manner Were it not better that I lit my pipe, and suddenly sat silent? A small utterance of clatter to somebody is essential now and then for man; and Goody falls to receive it this time,—the unfortunate Goody!

By the bye, will you bid Helen look in the cellar, bring you up my Tobacco store; and do you lift the papers, and examine what is becoming of the thing. You may look also in the desk-drawer (top-drawer, right hand); and see what is passing there. Nay there is still, I think, some accumulation in the big black canister, which used to sit in the press now torn away; let the eye of the mistress alight there too.— And tell me generally in what state the House is; whether Pearson and Co are fairly out of it; what the neighbouring Piano says &c &c. Were the weather once cool enough, I must bend back thither, and take to some kind of work. Unhappy wanderer that I am; not in the least calculated for wandering! It is the idlest trade a Son of Adam can follow. A trade entailed upon me while I continue Cockney! Let us be patient.———

I awoke this morning at half past five: it is the first time I have yet failed here of a long good sleep; perhaps it was useful to fail? I will out and walk at any rate. I send my blessings to poor Goody; I wish I had her in my pocket here! I do not think I shall write tomorrow, but will promise nothing Adieu, dearest. The sun begins to get around even into this window, for the hours are bending westward: I had better fly out of this,—and put on a pair of jane8 trowsers!

I am thine always, thou good Goody mine.

T. Carlyle

I have plenty of short paper; but there is no right elbow-room for clattering on that Henry Duncan of Ruthwell is building a new non-intrusion kirk between Gill and Dumfries, which he calls “Kedar's Vale”:9 is not that affecting to one's heart? Duncan they say preaches “with tears,” but the mass of the people do not seem to mind it in this quarter. The dissenters, I suspect, are all rather glad. Pugna est de paupere regno [The battle is about a poor kingdom].10