January-September 1845

The Collected Letters, Volume 19


TC TO JANE WELSH CARLYLE ; 17 September 1845; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18450917-TC-JWC-01; CL 19: 198-200


Scotsbrig, 17 Augt [September], 1845—

My Goody what in the world is the meaning of this? I am lost in surprise and conjecture: first one Letter with stamps and fusees in it, and not one word, good, bad or indifferent; then this morning no Letters at all— — Whew! just as I was writing this last line (literally so), enters Jamie with a Letter! I had already had a messenger at the Post Office, and got merely two Newspapers,—that was early in the morning. It is now near one o'clock, of a very wet day. Ecclefechan Postie had been half asleep, probably drink in his head too: I suppose the third Newspaper (the Examiner) will come also, by and by. But the truth is, we have been unlucky hitherto in our Post arrangements. I myself went out to give the Waterbeck Post (once already spoken of) his precise instructions; a most punctual man, they told me: this was the day after my arrival. After walking two miles in earnest survey, I did meet something with a Postbag; but he was no man, a mere boy, “My father at his hairst [harvest]!” I gave this Boy your Letter (which it seems he has faithfully taken); gave him also in the most distinct terms, twice over, his instructions;—and—and the result was, no Letters of any kind came. It turns out the Boy was deaf, and had never heard me! I got a whole mass of Printers things, and a Letter from John,1 by an Express messenger yesterday.— Getting Newspapers and no Letter today, you may guess what scope my poor fancy was going to have had! Thank Heaven here it is all right now. The Boy has brought this brave Letter of Goody's, and a benevolent child has come over with it in the rain: I have little doubt we shall go on quite smoothly henceforth. Such are the difficulties of human correspondence. My ink too is on the point of being done; and Jamie's Desk has given way to the infirmities of age, and diseases produced by damp, to a really shocking extent! Let that and general confusion of mind be my excuse.

I have passed my time since I arrived here in the utmost possible seclusion; have been nowhere except about the moors and highways here; have spoken to [no]2 man, and done no thing, that I could any way avoid. No right sleep has yet fallen to my lot: but we have had some fine days, and I have sat in the silent sunshine with my back to a crag; I have also gone strictly on the starving system, and do feel very considerably better. It is borne in upon my mind that if I were in a quiet place for a length of time, I should certainly get better in health,—perhaps almost well. Alas, Crosby is like other places! But we must think of it seriously; some good may lie there; and if one's own mind were once completely made up, a place there or elsewhere might be found!—

Grahame3 sent a message that he would abide all day at Burnswark waiting for me; but the happy rain has proved my deliverance: nobody knows the distress I have in all that; my desire to avoid it is naturally great.

Jamie Aitken came here yesterday; all well at Dumfries, Mary decidedly better at the Gill: I shall have to resolve on going round that way, one of these days. Yesterday Jamie bought (the Jamie of Scotsbrig) bought a pony that will run very well in the gig; the old horse was lame, habitually spavined, and I declined him except as a matter of necessity. I took my Mother out last night, a long drive, by Springkell4 &c, with this new animal, and it does extremely well.— I have a Life of Friedrich der Grosse [Frederick the Great] to read;5 am thro' one volume of it, and do not want for reflexions on that and other subjects.

Poor Isabella managed her interview with me very well; brought me in mind of your ways in such things. She sprang up from her sofa; took my hand in both of hers, with a blithe look as if all had been well. The colloquy was managed by speech on my side with intelligent and intelligible signs on hers. My Mother was there, and received most of my talk. Isabella, when not answering or spoken to, lay with her eyes cast down, looking pale and extremely sad. She is not much thinner than heretofore; does not look otherwise much more unwell. Jamie wrestles along in a rugged, decisive, really manful way.

O Goody, Goody, what clatter is all this! I write here like a man writing on the slack rope. My thoughts are not yet come to me in this bewildering environment; a place always good to me, yet sorrowful as Death!—

When Jack grows too troublesome to you, advise him off hither. There is room here, a vacant bed, whenever he likes to come: his presence here will make my departure easier to them; and at any rate I do not mean to stay long. I should almost regret if I did again get acquainted with the ways of things here, and have to part from them again with such regret. No mortal was ever fonder of Permanency than I, more averse to Change in any form than I; and it seems as if much of it had lain and might still lie in my path thro' this world. Courage!

One of my good shoes gave way on Sunday! The road was all of mud, the weather wet; but I insisted on two long walks. The consequence was—the destruction of my cockney shoe. But I had a nice walk too, the second time, when the rain had ceased. There was a melancholy Moon wading confusedly; poor lone huts had their tallow-light kindled among the hollows of the hills, and except the tinkling of little burns there was no sound in the whole world. I walked to Waterbeck, looked down over the bridge, and came back, with many reflexions. Two hoydens of girls, who had heard my footsteps as I came, were out to see who or what it was as I returned up the hamlet,—a sight worth taking note of, my pretty ones!

Helen's hieroglyph I will study, and shew Jamie, this evening. I dine upon the quarter of a cock again: it will be a cock and a half since I arrived, that is currently the sum of my butcher's meat.— — Had I not two dirty shirts already at Seaforth? Yesterday in washing there were only two in all. Adieu poor little Life-partner; very dear and true to me after all! Ever yours

T. Carlyle

Tell John what you find good of this. I have to write to him about Books:6 what other news he may get, if any, will also be yours.