August 1843-March 1844

The Collected Letters, Volume 17


TC TO JANE WELSH CARLYLE ; 26 August 1843; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18430826-TC-JWC-01; CL 17: 83-86


Dumfries, 26 August, 1843 Saturday Morning.


You must take a hurried word from [me]1 at this hour and place, or Monday too will be a blank with you. It was impossible to catch any post yesterday, and today, if I put off till Scotsbrig will also be a failure. I am far out of ease for writing; but do it as I may.

We got up to Craigenputtoch thro' the bright hot autumn weather; paused at Carstammon,2 appointing the people there to cook us a set of mutton-chops Jean had tied up for our dinner;—the drive had been far enough from joyful, yet full of meaning and emotion for me. The last time I had gone that road was in setting off for London in 1834. The place lay all there, the road covered with people faring towards some Non-Intrusion Preaching at “the Martyrs' Sacramental Stones,” by Candlish up among the Hills;3 the place was there not much changed, but the traveller thro' it was altered somewhat!— We got along to Puttoch with Glen,4 who is madder than ever, blethering about out and in,—singularly like, in his effects on me, to the usual style of speakers in this world, all or nearly all blethering as poor G. does without clear belief, sincerity or significance, from the teeth outwards! Macadam's farming was dirty as ever, nearly unexampled in dirt; I did not see the ass himself, nor want to see him. Corson's house was in much better order, some Gigman now inheriting the greater part of it with his guns: the roofs had been repaired according to order, the windows were hung again; a piece of the tin spout blown off, which I made arrangements for having instantly replaced.5 Poor Corson, he stands by the Intrusion side of the Kirk, and has lost certain of his audience: a man of bounded prospects! The woodman had done the trees all well, except the planting close by the house: all there was a luxuriant thicket; I hired a man to thin it under Corson's eye: the shrubs we planted are grown high branchy trees; all is an impervious wood in front of Macadam's house now. I left the place willingly. Carstammon willingly too; tho Peter was really civil, and all the people shewed a sort of kindness. I had for you many compliments and so forth from all and sundry: none more affecting to me than poor Glen's who seemed to feel that they were sent from the centre of the abysses and not worth receiving. He spoke repeatedly about your beauty; and inquired with interest, How you looked now? As for him being a poor degraded “out,” he did not deserve to look other than ugly. Poor Glen!

We went over the Hill by Shangan6 (a road you and I once came, and once only) into Glencairn, and across by the bonny glen of Shinnel & Penpont into Thornhill. My Dearest, I was there; but you must not send me back again: it was one of the painfullest expeditions I ever made in the world! We found the Russells at home in the quiet twilight; most prompt to receive us, and every way kind: we slept (or tried to sleep) and put the horse up at M'Kinnell's Inn,7 and spent almost all our other time with these good people. They are really good; Russell himself is a shrewd hardy man with more humanity than he wears on his sleeve; the old Dobbie and Mrs Russel pleased me better than ever. They seemed to have but one room, and so consented with only the right reluctance to let us lodge elsewhere. Tea supper and breakfast we had in their house.

Mary Mill's money was not done; your Uncle had sent some lately: Mrs Russell produced her “Mary's purse” with two unbroken pounds in it; and a book in which the whole of the fractions were duly jotted. I declined to let her sum the thing, taking her reiterated assurance that the “£2 and more” were still Mary's; and adding three sovereigns to extend it to this time twelve month. They assured me the poor old creature was as well as she could be made in that way; that more money per week would not do her more good. On the morrow morning I went and called for Margaret Hiddlestone; found her all neat, in a neat little room, of her father-in-law's house: cheerful, affectionate, the extreme of order of poverty and humble welldoing. Her two girls are at Wallace Hall School:8 “it had cost her many a sleepless night,” that of going to live with us at Chelsea; but she could not leave the youngest bairn.9 The eldest lassie herself (twelve years old now) wanted much to go to you. I left Margaret half a crown each “for a fairing [gift] to her two lasses,” and went away amid many expressions of a sufficiently “grateful” nature! Margaret is poor, but not indigent; a really well-doing estimable woman. I also saw Wull Fingland (Russell's lad),10 and gave him half a crown with a kind word. Lastly I went, and after one failure did the second time find old Mary. She is looking better than her wont, poor old creature; was overjoyed to see me; went off into endless clatter of the old innocent sort. Shall I tell my poor Jeannie one thing? Yes I will; for tho' sad it is affecting,—like the speech of the dumb. Poor old Mary made a journey to Crawford last autumn! She entered into endless details about this journey when I hinted at it; of her going with the carrier, of getting a bed &c &c: at last she said, “and we went to the place, and read the grave stone, and made it a' out but ae [one] word, the last word; it was very bonny,” she added in a lower tone, and then burst into tears,—as my poor little Bairn herself now does. As a hardhearted stranger might, at that moment. I left the poor creature with a new assurance that she should not be left to want while I lived; and putting a trifle of money into her old hard hand, hastily took my leave. There was now nothing more to do but get away out of so mournful a place, where the obligation to speak at all was growing insupportable to me. I will do whatsoever my poor little Wife desires as to all that; but do not bid me go there again, if it can be helped!

We got down to Dumfries before the rain, which had preceded us, and which soon followed us. Today as you know we go home by Gillenbie.11 I have had bad sleep, bad living; I am out of sorts a great way; in pressing desire to get into some haven, which I shall not find. There are Letters at Ecclefechan; arrangements were made to have them brought up here this morning, but by the stupidity of men that has all gone awry; we shall find them tonight as we pass. I have many things to do here, and to settle; finishing all off, as I hope: I wish we were fairly home! In fact I wish I were at Chelsea again: I do not feel lightly disposed for any more rambling at all; I cannot bear to be tumbled about in this way. No heat now to hurt me in London; I really must get off thither.

Macready's Letter is not forgotten, only postponed till tomorrow. A Newspaper from New York addressed in Alick's hand, with two strokes, arrived here yesterday! Thank Heaven. There will be a Letter probably to our Mother at Scotsbrig.— I have got a waistcoat here. Candlish is haranguing here,—not in my hearing.12 Gehab' Dich wohl, mein Liebstes [Farewell, my Dearest]. Forever & ever!

T. Carlyle