August 1843-March 1844

The Collected Letters, Volume 17


TC TO JANE WELSH CARLYLE ; 4 September 1843; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18430904-TC-JWC-01; CL 17: 109-111


Haddington (Sun[n]ybank)1 4 Septr, 1843—

My Dearest,

Tho' I have little time or composure for writing you a Letter this morning, I must nevertheless put pen to paper while there is any opportunity at all: a line with the date this has will have meaning enough for you.2 These two days the image of my dear little Jeannie has hovered incessantly about me, waking and sleeping; in a sad, yet almost celestial manner; like the spirit, I might say, of a beautiful Dream. These were the streets and places where she ran about, a merry eager little fairy of a child;—and it is all gone away from her now, and she from it; and of all her possessions poor I am, as it were, all that remain to her! My Dearest, while I live, one soul to trust in shall not be wanting. My poor little Jeannie, how solemn is is3 this Hall of the Past; beautiful and mournful; the miraculous River of Existence rolling its grand course here, as elsewhere in the most prophecit places; now ever as of old: godlike tho' dark with death.— I will speak no more of all that.

On Saturday afternoon, tho' not till late, I did get out hither; at 7 o'clock the three good women sat waiting me at tea; Kate ran out to the lawn to welcome me; Miss Donaldson and Jessy (is that the name?) were at their post within. I have really done very well with them; and got all my bits of enterprises finished in a satisfactory manner. The weather has been and still is rainless; I slept tolerably well, in the stillest of all apartments; and feel readier now, not less ready, for the remainder of my expedition. No Coaches going to Dunbar on Sunday, I had to resolve on doing the thing by walking. Before quitting Edinburgh I had gone to David Laing and refreshed all my recollections by looking at his Books,—one of which he even lent me out hither. Fortified with all studies and other furtherances I took a stick from the lobby here, and set forth about half past nine, the morning grey and windy, wind straight in my back. To Linton the walk was delightful; the rich autumn country and sabbath solitude altogether solacing to me: at Linton a shoal or rather endless shoals of ragged Irish reapers made the highway thenceforth far too populous for me.4 Indeed between Mussellburgh and Dunbar, with the above exception, they have made all thoroughfares a continued Donnybrook;5 every variety of ragged savagery and squalor,—the finest peasantry in the world. There is not work for the fourth part of them; wages one shilling aday. They seemed to subsist on the plunder of turnips and bean-fields, they did not beg; only asked me now and then for the “taime plaise Sur?” seeing I had a watch. It was curious to see at Linton the poor remnant of Highland Shearers all lying decently at rest in rows on the green, while the Irish were hovering they knew not wither, without plan, without repose. Other bodies of them in the evening met me all the way as I returned, and still others are visible today. The[y]6 begin to distrust “repale” [repeal] doing much for them this year;—they had not come into England to haymaking at all; but are now favouring us with their company with a vengeance.——— At Dunbar I found the battleground much more recognisable than any I had yet seen; indeed altogether what one would call clear: it is at the foot, and farther eastward along the slope, of the Hill they call the Doun that the Scots stood, Cromwell at Broxmouth (Duke of Roxburgh's place) and “saw the Sun rise over the sea,” and quoted a certain Psalm.7 I had the conviction that I stood on the very ground.— Having time to spare (for dinner was at six) I surveyed the old castle,8 washed my feet in the sea (smoking the while), took an image of Dunbar with me as I could; and then set my face to the wind and the stour [storm], which had by this time risen to a quite tempestuous pitch. No rougher walk have I had for a long time; boring thro' it with my broadbrim set perpendicular to it, face parallel to the highway; that was the only possible method, except sometimes that I set the broadbrim on my breast and walked bare-headed, the only ill effect of which is that it has filled my hair with sand; till the sea-water wash it out again. I got home in good time; drank half a bottle of Prestonpans9 beer, stript to the skin, putting on flannels &c; and on the whole am well rested and right today again. A Coach is to take me off soon after noon; I shall be in Kirkcaldy about seven at night as they are warned to expect, if all go well with me.

I shall find thy Letter at the Post-Office; shall I not? Write again with all velosity to Kirkcaldy. I look to Saturday as the day of my Steamer; I understand it is the Dundee Steamer's day also: I have written to Erskine; if he be at Linlathen,10 it will be easy to get up thither and start thence.

Besides David Laing I saw the little Duke11 on Saturday. He was just setting off for Craigcrook when I called; the Empsons there and “three grandchildren”; a certain Miss Brown then with him claimed acquaintance with you and with me.12 Invitations &c: but I left it all open. I believe I shall one day have to go again to Edinburgh if I can; but Craigcrook is not a good locality for me.— To Kirkcaldy then, my Dearest. And so Adieu. The tenth part of the kind things my Hostesses13 say to you would fill many sheets. I am in the little study here, to the right of the dining-room:—ah me! My affections to the Doctor. Ever and Ever,

T. Carlyle