August 1843-March 1844

The Collected Letters, Volume 17


TC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE ; 7 September 1843; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18430907-TC-MAC-01; CL 17: 117-119


Kirkcaldy, Thursday (7 Septr), 1843—

My dear Mother,

You must have another word from me, for I doubt not you have sent, in your solitude, many an inquiring thought after me.

I got happily out to Haddington, was received in all kindness by the good people, and passed two nights there. I walked out to Dunbar, eleven miles off, and back again; saw the very field of Battle, and understood far better than is usual in such cases how the thing had been. It was a most interesting walk; and would have been delightful, except that a high wind blew dust about me,—and still more that the road, and indeed the face of the country, was covered with Irish Shearers, by the hundred and the thousand; such a ragged host as it was truly painful to look at. The corn (wheat mostly) was not all ripe; and if it had they seemed able to shear and even to eat it, they alone, in few days; I was told not the fourth part of them could get any work, and they were living on bean fields and turnip fields, at the back of stooks;—the frightfullest squadron of duddy [ragged] scoundrels I ever in my life beheld. The crops seemed all beautiful there; but all the people were complaining. Wages of Shearers one shilling a day with victuals. I was right glad to get out of sight of them again.

At Edinburgh, in coming or in going I found various people whom I knew besides Gordon: Jeffrey is at Craigcrook (his Country-house there) and expects me out if I will go. But here at Kirkcaldy I am quieter while I can stop; I decide that I will make one day serve Edinburgh. I have not heard a word yet from Jane; that is the worst of my cares: but I persuade myself it is but the delay of posts; incidentally the Ferguses here heard from their Sister that—“Jane and Dr Carlyle” had been calling for her. So I will fancy still it is all right.

Today on counting my shirts I find but five instead of six: I brought seven away from home, and voluntarily left one old one: I think there must be a new one lying dirty somewhere about Scotsbrig? If so, my name is on it; and you will send it with the meal:—of course I should like to hear whether it is there or not, whenever you write. If it be lost altogether we cannot help it.

Dear Mother, I have hardly a moment of time: but I must tell you still what my future motions are to be, and how I am to get home. Thomas Erskine from Dundee, who is passing this way, will take me up on Monday and carry me to his place near that town. On Wednesday he puts me into the Dundee Steamer, and I get home in five and forty hours,—to dinner on Friday, if all go well. The Dundee Steamers are reported to be the best of all; and I usually agree well with Steamers. I wish I were at home! But it will soon be, now. And then if I could do some work there; to justify my Mother for bringing me into the world, and for loving me so! Let us try, let us see.

I will write again before I leave Scotland. Did you send the news of me to Jean. It is strange how one is tossed about, and cannot find an hour for writing. This house is full of sumptuosities, of flunkies, and all sorts of superfluities: I excuse all for the people's real kindness and worth. I shall be quieter at “Linlathen, Dundee,” with Thomas Erskine.

Give my affection to Jamie, to Isabella; write a word to Chelsea next week, you or some of you. God's blessing be with you my dear good old Mother; I pray earnestly for good to be with you forever-more. If it please the Great God that made us—Yes, He will do all things well. My heart's love with one and all of you.

T. Carlyle