August 1843-March 1844

The Collected Letters, Volume 17


TC TO JANE WELSH CARLYLE ; 23 August 1843; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18430823-TC-JWC-01; CL 17: 78-80


Dumfries, 23 Augt (Wednes- / day night), 1843—

Dearest,—We are arrived thus far on the way to Puttoch; in a hurried moment, with a pen that will hardly mark, let me announce it to thee. The day in spite of watery clouds promised to clear into brightness, and bright gleams are to be snatched at in Dumfriesshire weather. This day has kept its word. Riding, for most part silent, beside my ever-clavering [-talking idly] companion, I have had the feeling of a kind of cleanly day; beautifully clear without, and dignified within by thoughts sad but not ignoble. We went by Annan; did not unyoke the Gig there; sat and talked three quarters of an hour with poor old Nelson, whose business does not take a good shape; whose agitation, as natural, was great. Poor Ben: I hope something good, of which there still seemed a possibility, will yet come out of all this for him. At Gill we found poor Mary sick of the thing they call a weed [puerperal fever]; poor creature she is brown as a berry, worn to tatters with incessant hard work: we left her still in bed but better than when we arrived.

Among my sad thoughts was one that I ought to call for poor old Duncan of Ruthwell. Five and twenty years ago I used to know his Manse well, and he was one of the earliest friends I had; he is now old, a Non-Intrusion “martyr,” about to quit said Manse: in spite of John I decided that we ought to call. Admire my firmness of purpose, I pray thee! We found the old Manse, much bushier than twenty years before; the old Dr somewhat barer;—just in the act of flitting towards “Kedar's vale”;1 a new Wife was there, a stern grey woman (a professed admirer of mine):2 we sat down among the wreck, and talked half an hour not unpleasantly: I was right glad that I had gone. I shall be in that room probably no more: how many that I knew there are already gone out of it; Mitchell, the kind first Mrs. D. &c &c!3 It was in that room that the dying Burns looked out upon the setting Sun, and said, “Let me see him yet a little while.”4— Drunken peasants, in considerable variety of figure and equipment, were the main phenomena after that,—returning from market “with the same relish.” Stupid-looking peasants;—and added to these the beautifullest sea of molten mountains far up as the Lothers far down as the Westmoreland Fells,5 for the Sun went down right ahead like a really glorious Light, and I sat looking in absolute silence at the death of one other Day, in this great Sum of Time,—not without reflexions. Jean welcomed us in her choicest mood. Jack now writes at one side of a table, I at the other; and a modicum of porridge will be ready before long.

Nobody dare promise much of weather here: but I do intend not Craigenputtoch only, but the other place too if I can manage it.6 Yes, Dearest, I see it will be a satisfaction to thee; and it can, with a certain effort, be done! It requires only to resolve on swallowing these “bitter herbs,”7 and they become endurable, nay they are often useful and blessed. At lowest, I have brought poor old Mary's money in my pocket. There shall nothing practical be left unadjusted.— On Saturday night; perhaps on Friday (tho' not so likely) we are to be at Scotsbrig again.

When this will reach you I know not; probably on Friday morning. May it find my Goody well, and cheerfuller than last night! Nay be sad, dear Bairn, if it must be so!— Jean desires me to send her kindest salutations. Good night. Thine Ever

T. Carlyle