August 1843-March 1844

The Collected Letters, Volume 17


TC TO JANE WELSH CARLYLE ; 12 September 1843; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18430912-TC-JWC-01; CL 17: 126-130


Linlathen Dundee 12 Septr (Tuesday) 1843—

My Dearest,

It is eight in the morning; I am all shaved, have smoked, and stand in complete readiness for breakfast here,—which alas, I am told, is still an hour off: the flunkies woke me at seven or earlier,—with a murrain to them. On mature consideration I decide that a line to Goody (for my writing materials are all here, thank Heaven) will be the plan for turning this melancholy hour into a partially joyful one. Alas, it seems too the Post is already gone: from Edinr I partly promised to write yesterday, but it was not possible: poor Goody will be for a day disappointed, nay for two days, this Sheet not arriving till the evening of the second as I count. We cannot help it. We hope it may be the last either appointment or disappointment; the Ship that is to carry me rides in Dundee harbour, and tomorrow afternoon is the time!

Out of Gordon's at Edinr, so soon as I had sealed your letter on Saturday, I sallied forth to various quarters, the kind but awkward Gordon sticking to me everywhere like my shadow. We called first for the Aunts, whom G. also a little knew. Grace was there; the other two were out at Currie.1 Grace is grown somewhat older, thinner of figure, rougher of skin; but is otherwise in spite of her sainthood entirely the old woman. Indeed her Sainthood shews itself to an unusual degree recognisable as a mere gauze or form of evening and morning dress for the soul of woman, the soul remaining precisely as it was before the fashion came in. It was somewhat distressing to me; but in the way of pity not of anger. Poor Mrs George Welsh has had another sad economic loss, which indeed has now put her out of the reach of more, for now, it would appear, she has as good as nothing left.2 A Scoundrel of a neighbour farmer, whom George had appointed executor of his will, and who had become trustee of the money by consent of the other executors, turns out some time ago to have been drawing the money in large handfuls for his own uses; turns out to have nearly drawn it wholly; and now sits bankrupt, insolvent in his place, with the liberty to the poor Widow to hang or banish him, but no capacity to yield any money more! Did you ever hear of such a thing among Heathen or even Christian men? Such a Scoundrel ought to be hanged; the world should see his carcase swinging, have assurance that such a hound is no longer ranked among its population! Poor Mrs George is for the present out at Currie with her Sisters-in-law; eager as you may fancy to turn her talents for work, which are now all she has of resource, to some account. Talking the matter over there, it came into Gordon's head that at Campbelltown there was a richly endowed female School just likely to become vacant:3 £45 salary a year with school-fees, with good house &c; and the suggestion was instantly closed with; Gordon is one of the trustees, and can get her the place if it do fall vacant. I shall entirely rejoice if Gordon's being with me on that occasion prove the source of such a refuge for this poor Widow, which Grace seemed to think would be in the very highest degree acceptable to her. (There is a bell ringing; half an hour before its appointed time! I must go down and see what it means, whether breakfast or only prayers. Shall I? Better stay where I am till sent for!)— From Grace's we walked to Adam Street East, on the opposite corner of Edinr, down in the Richmond street and Drummond Place region. Betty and her man4 have a rough little provision-shop, with flourbags &c all filling it, at the very bottom of the Street, and looking with one window into the Pleasance: you now know where it is? She received me with astonishment, with emotion; made the kindest inquiring &c in her little back-shop, the tear hanging in her eye all the while; was “terribly obleeged t'ye Sir”;—poor Betty there could no heart be filled with truer pietas [goodness] than was hers towards her old Haddington home. Her regret was great and repented that I could not see her young boy, now grown a young man and watchmaker's apprentice, that I might report to you what a monster of robustness he was now grown to. I shook hands with the husband who was busy weighing meal &c, a heavy substantial man; and so took my leave of Betty—poor good Betty!

Dodds and Dr Brown and an evening of incessant semi-interesting or uninteresting talk succeeded till midnight delivered me. Ach Gott! It is the horriblest insupportability to be tumbled about and set down first here and then there with the expectation, almost expressed to you, that you are to talk, talk! I could have started up and exclaimed, “In the name of God, let me be silent!” Nay I did sit silent often; and listen to the small flow of the subsidiary streams. Dodds is a right healthy, merry little fellow, with a broad blonde head, massive Roxburgh nose, and pair of most laughing healthy intelligent eyes: his talk was as good as weariness; but I was right glad to form a favourable horoscope of Dodds: a thrifty, sober, sturdy little fellow, with a fond gaillard [vigorous foundation], which will carry him thro' much. He will likely become a rich advocate yet, if he live. Brown's chance of the Chemistry chair seemed to himself good: he is the very contrast of Dodds, lean height versus cheery breadth with a fond gaillard.——— On the morrow morning at Craigcrook I found the old phenomena somewhat in a deteriorated state. The little Duke has lamed his shin; sits lean, disconsolate, irritable, talkative and argumentative as ever, with his foot laid on a stool: poor old fellow, I talked with him, him chiefly, till two o'clock, and then they drove me off homewards in their carriage; and I finally got myself delivered from Gordondom too, and with a sigh of most sad but deep satisfaction found myself left alone, entirely silent, on the deck of the Kinghorn Boat.5— —

Well, yesterday at noon Thomas Erskine did take me up, and the good Ferguses dismissed me with many blessings. The day was damp, almost wet; we got here about five: my Goody's Letter did lie on the table; thousand thanks to her! This House is a huge place fit to lodge a regiment of men; intricate staircases, wings new and old,—I shall not learn the way of it at present! Ha! there is the GONG: breakfast! Adieu—

After breakfast. I have been in the Garden and outer premises, sauntering with the good Saint Thomas; at length a “person in business” called him away, and I have liberty to resume. We are here a numerous somewhat sombre household; Patersons, the Captain and Mrs, and then various Miss and Master P.s, and an ancient honest-looking taciturn Miss or Mrs P.:6 somewhat a monastic aspect! The day itself is hot sunless, still as Trophonius,7 hardly the murmur of a pigeon audible. Many Carpenters nevertheless are working in the farther wing of the house, which has been detected to be all in a state of dry rot; so that an instantaneous huddlement, and flight into the other parts of the house, had to take place; and all is rather topsiturvied at present. It would amuse you to see the good Saint Thomas officiate as Chief Commander of a Squire Mansion! I think he likes it dreadfully ill; but does it since it has to be done. “Miller!” he cries to the flunky, striving to throw a tone of menace into it. The good Thomas. Only Mrs Paterson with her round healthy face is a little secular-looking, and what we call world-like in these solemn spaces; where if all did not seem so heartily to love “Tom” (that is Saint Tom) and one another, it would almost threaten to look a little sombre. We stand on a beautiful green knoll amid profusion of respectable green umbrage, shrubbery, and woodery; our lawn unfortunately is under a crop of magnificent turnips just now: but all is very beautiful, could one have leave to walk about unseen in it.

A rational apprehension exists that I shall not get the Stirlings visited today,8 that I shall have to put myself off with a slight passing call before sailing tomorrow. We have today for some reason or other no available carriage; the distance is above 4 miles; and that ancle of mine which the horse hurt is still swoln, and not in a case to be trifled with: besides I find that Thomas will walk with me; if I go, it will have to be in company! For the present I have as good as declined. I have a Letter to write to my Mother too. The less work I do, the less laborious idleness I do, it will be the better for me. I have never even in London of late felt such an appetite for being well let alone, as here in the Scotch circles of so-called repose. O Goody, I wish I were with thee again. Yes, we will go into a room together, and have a little talk about time and space.9 Thou wilt hardly know me again; I am brown as berry, face and hands; terribly bilious, sick even; yet with a feeling that there is a good stock of new health in me, had I once leave to sub-side. Courage! In few hours more it will be done.

To write tomorrow unless I have freest leisure will be superfluous. We sail at 4 in the afternoon. I am booked for one of the best places; and there are not many passengers at this Season: on friday afternoon, to dinner probably, I shall, if all go well—see Goody again! Dear Goody!

Saint Thomas was charmed with your message to him. He had totally mistaken his appointment at Edinr about the clergy; it was for this week, not for last: likewise he lost his Bag at Kinghorn, and it went travelling to St Andrews and all over Fife in his absence, and only met him on the road yesterday near home! Adieu, Adieu my Dearest; while you read this, I am tumbling incessantly towards you on the crest of waves; impatient enough to arrive, if it please Heaven! God foreverer10 bless thee.

T. Carlyle

You can tell John that I am bringing his penknife and sponge along with me an important fact!— I will try for oatmeal; alas, the Ferguses promised it and failed: I had better have trusted to Annandale, and taken it in at once.—