July 1847-March 1848

The Collected Letters, Volume 22


TC TO JANE WELSH CARLYLE ; 17 September 1847; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18470917-TC-JWC-01; CL 22: 76-78


Scotsbrig, 17 Septr 1847—

Dear Jeannie,

Many thanks for your good long Note, flung off to me tho' I did not deserve it. “She can make a Letter out of anything, and is always pleasant to read!” By the evening post, that day, you would find I had not been quite so faithless: even John's Letter, which he was charged to shew you instead of the one due to yourself, does not seem to have been known to you at the time of your writing. Poor fellow! Let him be as “august” as he can, and take all the blessedness out of his poor Dante that it will yield him! A small bit of work, that same; and the fruit of terrible circuitous efforts,—about as bewilderingly “circuitous” as any we have seen in our sphere: let it stand there, and let us “take the road again”!

I have written to Thomas Erskine1 today (did you ever write?)—half a Note, the first portion of which I was absolutely too lazy to do more than fling down unfinished yesterday. My inertia, my grey hazy dispiritment, fit for nothing but tobacco and silence, is great this day; in fact I am not well, and did not sleep: so take this line, with no meaning in it, and say, “The poor soul would have sent me more if he had had it.” That is the fact.

Nothing can be emptier of any event, or writeable thing whatever, than my existence here: an absolute stagnation, and magnetic sleep,—which I esteem wholesome, and rather like for the present. We have few or no topics here which in the least interest me; for my Mother is terribly sensitive on the Semitic2 side of things, which mostly excludes speculation; and of history, except it be small snatches of poor biography, waxing yearly scantier, what can there be? I find hardly half-a-dozen persons living whom I have ever known, in this region: in my own country I am solitary as in a foreign land; and have more than ever, in looking over it, the feelings of a ghost! My Books too are very dull; Turner's Anglosaxons is unfortunately the Book of a Blockhead:3 alas, the Earth is full of Blockheadisms and Blockheads! One has only one's “tobacco,” and one's own private thought.— — Did I mention, last Letter, that Jenny had a neighbour in Maxwelltown, some poor but reputable old woman, from Keir Parish, who remembered being at school in childhood with your Father,4—sixty years back and more! Janet (?) Dargavel is her maiden name; her Father, then a substantial Farmer, was an elder of the Parish, but died early, and they all sank gradually lower, down low enough: your Grandfather of Penfillan5 used to meet the two children coming from school, and “joke his eldest son with her!” I fancy this story may be a truth;—an epic glimpse for you, my poor little lassie, into the preternatural Past Time. Ay de mi!6

On Monday night there is to be a kirn [harvest home festivity] held here, from which it will be necessary that I get into some shelter. Dumfries that day is my likeliest outlook. I recoil at the long drive, or long ride, on that light airy pony of Jamie's (which I have ridden once, and am to ride for a pisaller [last resort]); I hope to get some “railway omnibus,” which I understand there is from Lockerby: wish me well! Great store of flannels, of clothes &c &c are to be purchased; such is my stern destiny. By a stout heart set to the steep brae [hill],7 I shall get thro' it, shall I not? Aird, they tell me, is grown terribly fat. Lazy enough he has been; lazy in mind to the verge of absolute stupor. What a lonely mortal am I grown, among the sons of Adam that walk the Earth along with me! Cannot help it; am likely to grow ever lonelier, if I don't mind.

In the last Nation Newspaper, which you wisely did not open, there stood, under the head of “Advice to Young Men,” that everlasting Letter of mine, which Chambers published: it was copied here from a Yankee Paper, which gave it as “now printed for the first time”:—shall we never get done with that story, think you?8 Hoitytoity!— — I think the Nation people are ripening fast towards rebellion; and are not unlikely, some of them, to get hanged before all end. O that illustrious O'Connel, how fast his Lies, like Dragon's-teeth are sprouting up into armed and mad men!9 The wonderfullest “benefactor” he that even this foolish age has crowned with vivats [cries of “long live”], and welcomed as one sent of Heaven.

Well, how is the painting going on? Has the faithless estimator ever come? My poor Goody! I expect however, thou wilt get thro' it, one way or other, “with the same relish,”10 and I shall find a clean House when I come.— What a coil, that meeting of the Guests at Barnsley! But it will do the worthy Mrs Newton good; and perhaps be well worth its trouble to all of them yet.— — Heavens! I begin to reflect that probably this Letter will not get to London, till “11 o'clock on Saturday night,” and so have to lie till Monday morning. Sorrow on these abstruse, ever fluctuating Posthours in this poor country! Jamie also enters to say he will take me to Dumfries in the Gig tomorrow. Tomorrow, if fair, then!— O my own dear Jeannie, fare thee well; I wish I were near thee, and those good to me again! Adieu. T. Carlyle

P.S. Fitzgerald's Letter is loose and vacant; literally not worth a penny: let the fire have it? I have written a small answer to him, one day.— Enough of writing now!