October 1845-July 1846

The Collected Letters, Volume 20


TC TO JANE WELSH CARLYLE ; 8 October 1845; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18451008-TC-JWC-01; CL 20: 17-19


Scotsbrig, 8 Octr 1845—

Dearest,—Perhaps you will be anxious if I do not write a word this night; you shall have a little bulletin, therefore,—tho' otherwise there is almost less than nothing to be said. For in truth I am not very well,—which means first of all, that I am dreadfully lazy, indisposed for any exertion but that of breathing: nay, at any time here, could I persuade you to go to on without needing a reply, I think I should have little temptation to write. Idleness; “bone-idle,” to the uttermost extent of the word, that is the definition of my life in these regions; which is in itself somewhat disgraceful, and naturally produces an indisposition to talk about it. I go strolling out every morning; wind round generally till I intercept the Post; if I find a Letter from you in his pocket, it is the event of the day: I return home with it glad; get into the easiest combination of chairs, with some silly Book in my hand, or without any Book, except my own foolish faculties of Memory and Anticipation; and so, with a few dawdlings out and in, to the hilltop or further, pensively pass the day. Tomorrow I hope to be brisker; tonight, not having yet had walking enough I propose to go to Ecclefechan with this: walkings under cloud of night being still much to my taste. Our weather yet continues dry; all the world has a certain mournful beauty, and sings strange unrhymed stanzas to me as I rove about in it.— I thank you for reminding me that I must write to Mrs Russel; I will certainly do it tomorrow, if all go right.

The Printers sent me my Index; another day had to be spent on that; it is now all fairly finished, and I hope never to hear of it more. Probably tomorrow the Title-page with the other adjuncts will arrive: then I shall bid good-b'ye to the whole business,—heartily sick of it, as I ever was of any. What next? We shall see by and by. My appetite for writing is considerably modified: but I have no other trade;—Why should I wish any other? I will stick by my trade; and say a thing or two yet, if I live!

What you tell me today of Tennyson's Pension is very welcome indeed. Poor Alfred, may it do him good;—“a Wife to keep him unaisy”1 will be attainable now if his thoughts tend that way. I admire his catholicity of humour too: “would prefer a lady, but” &c! I rather prophecy he will never even get a servant maid.— By the bye, was it not I that first spoke of that Pension, and set it afloat in the world! In that case, it may be defined as our ukase not less than Peel's. This world is a most singular place!— Thank you also for settling that Christie question so neatly. We are a spirited woman, of very democratic tendencies, and cannot much stand being patronised out of a mere wooden-spring gig! The Christie fraternity male or female—ach Gott if one did incline for Patronage, it would need to be by bonnier people, as Jamie says! Leave them to rest on their own basis.— For the rest, keep out of Helpdom, O Goody! One's constitution never changes in that particular; ah no! I went one night to Tea with poor Helps; and have the liveliest remembrance of the adventure yet.— —

Did you ever hear of Jane Johnston,— or of Mr Johnston her Father, the drunken Surgeon at Moffat who used to beat his Wife (a Carlyle of the Satter),2 and forced her at last to leave him, with this one child; who was at School with me forty years ago and more. I daresay you know whom I mean. She became the Beauty of Annan; really a clever girl I believe: she went to see an Aunt in France, who had married some Titular-Herr of that country, and gone over with him at the Peace: Jane married there too, and retired to the South of France with her Husband, as I think you already know too. Well; some time ago there came news hither of this tragic tenor: Husband and Jane went out to drive by some mountain path one evening; the horse took fright, or misbehaved; all was overset; Jane alighted on the road or caught by bushes; husband and gig went down into the chasm: Jane on clambering down found him laying stone-dead; had to watch there all night to guard his body from wolves!— She has two children; she is older a little than I. Sunt lachrymae rerum [There are tears for human affairs].3

My Friedrich der Grosse went done last night: I read it with many reflexions; mean to inquire yet farther about the man. Der Grosse Fritz [The Great Fritz]:4 if I had any turn for travelling I should hold it very interesting indeed to go to Berlin, and try to make more acquaintance with him and his people. They are both of them very strange. Alas, what is the meaning of this that they call Literature? “German Literature” should have contrived to give us some melodious image of this greatest German Man, living in very difficult circumstances, next door neighbour to it! German Literature too is but a smallish matter in comparison.—

Not a word tonight about my home-coming. This is not a night for taking resolutions: all I can say is, The time is now nigh. Total Idleness does not answer me long. Mud super-added would almost instantly send me off. For the rest I really am getting a little better in health,—really but very slowly. You would smile to see my diet: two light-boiled eggs with a cup of curds and cream, I have dined twice upon that.— — Jamie advances rapidly in shearing. Isabella seems to be a little better; comes up stairs almost every day. Our Butter was churned and put up two days ago. Is your meal done or how? Adieu dear Goody mine! I love thee very well after all, my lassie!

T. C.