January-September 1845

The Collected Letters, Volume 19


TC TO ALEXANDER CARLYLE ; 30 September 1845; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18450930-TC-AC-01; CL 19: 229-232


Scotsbrig, 30 Septr, 1845—

My dear Brother,—The time for the Packet drawing nigh, I, being here where your chief interests all lie, cannot but get a line ready for you. I got to Scotsbrig almost three weeks ago, and have been loitering about, doing very little; but I can at least tell you the news of this Household, which I am very sure will be a welcome service to you.

Our dear old Mother was in waiting for me that morning Jamie brought me up from the Steamer; she has run about unweariedly ever since, and nothing can prevent her from the most restless endeavour to make her guest better and better off,—far better than he has any need or wish of. She is in, what one must call very good health for her; not much weaker than when I saw her last: her hands shake a little more, I think, and that is almost all the change one notices in her. She varies considerably, however, from day to day; has slept indifferently last night, for instance,—we cannot expect her now to be strong. She does not mourn audibly for your absence; indeed she says expressly with thankfulness, You seem for all your sadness of mind to be doing really better than there was any clear chance of here. Good Mother! She is quite cheery yet, when moderately well in health; looks back with still resignation on many a sorrow, and forward with humble pious trust. It is beautiful to see how in the gradual decay of all other strength, the strength of her heart and affections still survives, as it were, fresher than ever;—the soul of Life refuses to grow old with the body of Life; one of the most affecting sights! We were talking last night of the death of Margaret,—that unforgettable night when you and I rode down from Craigenputtoch;1—and were all again, as it were, brought together, the dead of us and the absent of us; in a sad but to me very solemn and profitable manner.— I am far from happy here; indeed, in real fact, had I consulted but my own lazy feelings I had much rather not have come: nobody knows what inexpressible sorrow and confusion it is to me to look on this old Annandale in these sick humours of mine. However, I am very thankful I did come. Amid the muddy confusions outward and inward, there are things taught me here which I can learn nowhere else. Let us be thankful, for many blessings such as fall to the lot of few. Good Parents whom you can honour, it is the foundation of all good whatsoever for a man.

Jenny is here with her two children, doing the house-work. She seems to me stronger and much cheerfuller than two years ago. She is a very handy active lassie; and conducts herself with much wisdom and discretion. Very diligent; does all the sewing of the kindred, or nearly all; has her two bits of bairns clean as two pennies, in thrifty neatness; has them good readers, the eldest is even a good sewer. She never speaks of her misfortunes, nor does anybody else: indeed I am very glad to see the figure she cuts. Perhaps all that she has suffered may turn to her for good yet.— Jean and her Husband seem very prosperous, Jamie getting more and more employment (has twelve journeymen this year, I think): they were very kind to my Mother and me two days last week;—a terrible tumult of children always round them. Mary who has been unwell for a good while, with some rather dangerous tendency in the bowels, as I understand, is now very decidedly better; she was looking really well, the other day, with her children and house all clean and snug:—I believe she still complains a little, internally; but everybody admits she is very much better. Austin was in the middle of his harvest: four ricks in, some six more expected; a really tolerable crop, better than ever he has had, they say,—and now it is expected he will be able to go on without staggering henceforth.— — At Scotsbrig here, Jamie in so far as his farming affairs go has nothing bad to report of himself: prices rather high (owing to the railway, the expectation of which has already raised the price of all kinds of labour); prices very fair; a reasonable crop, stock all thriving; rent well reduced. His harvest is backward, as all the country is;—mowing hard today, in the interval of windy showers, and not half done yet. Indeed he is getting to diminish his crop, year after year; and depends now more and more upon sheep, which I think may prove good husbandry for such a climate. Will Easton and his squad are here just now, rebuilding the Stable;—exactly where it stood, only some feet higher,—and longer, close to the corner of old Betty's house. Poor old Pate Easton2 is dead, last winter. Wull has the premises all full of mortar-heaps and lumber ever since I came; and seems to me to get on very slowly. But the saddest feature for Jamie is poor Isabella, who is really a heavy load, to herself and others. She cannot speak, except with great effort a word or two in a scarcely audible whisper; is obliged to lie on a sofa, and do what she can for directing her house by signs thro' one of her nieces from Potstown:3 she is in terror whenever Jamie leaves her; she suffers much, in mind if not in body; and he has a very sad time of it, I think, so far as this goes. One does not hear him complain; but I notice him much graver than he used to be in former times. Nothing can be done to help his poor wife or him: Patience and quiet waiting is the only remedy.

This is nearly all the news I have to give of Scotsbrig. As to the rest, I have seen almost nobody, nobody at all that I could help seeing; and can only report in general that the people seem all busy harvesting; that the weather is very plashy and wet. Indeed our summer over all the Island was unusually dim and cold; people say the harvest is much better than was once expected. A very sad feature of it, however, is the Disease of the Potatoes: almost everywhere the Potatoes when nearly ripe are seized by a kind of murrain; wither in the stems; the Potatoe itself gets black-spotted, soft, and slowly or fast inevitably goes to mush. Jamie thinks he has lost about half of his: he has put up his swine to eat them as fast as possible out of the way. It is thought by some the Potatoe is about refusing to grow any more in these climates; which will be a very frightful business indeed! All over Holland, Germany &c as well as in Britain and Ireland this Potatoe-Epedemic4 is prevalent; to a great extent, I fear, tho' nobody as yet can tell how great.— Near Frank Graham the Tailor's house (a little on the Scalewood5 side) is seen a heap of dug earth among the corn: it marks the course of the railway in that quarter; which is just to be begun; and has raised wages, as I was saying: for two years there will likely be a greater briskness of demand for labour, and then the demand will end again; indeed it will mainly be the Irish that do the digging, I suppose; they are already crowding in great quantities into this quarter.— One Corry (Andrew Corry, I think they called him), a drunken Drover once well known hereabouts overturned his gig on the road from Dumfries lately, and killed himself on the spot: it was broad daylight, but the poor wretch was utterly drunk.

Dear Brother, you must write a Letter to us soon; you will have more leisure now that the winter is coming. A Letter of Tom's giving a minute account of all the domestic stock is still spoken of with much praise here! Tell him to try it again; and Jane too: you cannot be too minute. I must be off homewards again, in some week or ten days. The Book is coming out, I believe; you shall hear of me again. Farewell

T. C.

All here salute you; I design to make my Mother write her own salutations, tho' her hand shake. My blessings on you one and all. Be diligent, patient: “Work and hope!”

[Margaret A. Carlyle's Postscript]

My dear Alick I would like to write to you if I could as this will testify but send you my best wishes thank Tom for his good letter and teell Jane and him to write soon and tell me all their news.

May the God keep and guid you all in His ways and fear which is the prayer of your old Mother

give my kindest love to Jenny and all the dear little ones. May you all be in Gods keeping