July 1847-March 1848

The Collected Letters, Volume 22


TC TO JANE WELSH CARLYLE ; 29 September 1847; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18470929-TC-JWC-01; CL 22: 97-99


Scotsbrig, Wednesday Evg, 29 Septr, 1847—

Alas, my poor little Dear! I fear you have made but a poor job of it, after all: Sleeplessness and “Spartan treatment” are not much to realize by going from home! I wish I heard of you in your own snug bed again; sleeping there, sound, and waited on by those that know how to take care of you. I did not know for certain, till I met the Post this afternoon on the Middlebie Road, that you had actually gone; there were so many variations in the scheme: I hope this Letter will find you on Thursday Evening; tho' of that I have no direct evidence either; your Letter had evidently been written before mine came yesterday—on Friday morning, before setting off for home, you will at any rate get it; may it be worth something to you when it does come.

I could have written yesterday, but that an obstinate unspeakable feeling of stupidity and stagnancy, and what they call “bad spirits,” which means laziness mixed with weakness of mind, had overtaken me; and I lay all day among the bushes by the side of the Burn; and listening to the Devil's Cauldron,1 which seemed to speak the only dialect fit for me at the moment. My sight of Grange, my ride, and wretched cold-ambitious dinner, and the whole ghastly phantasm of the Past Time, acted very unkindly on me. I was absolutely ill by all the boring and botheration, poor weak wretch that I am! Poor Mrs Johnstone has lost all her teeth, except a melancholy remnant or two, and those she employs her lips, in a painful forcible manner, visibly to cover up,—à la Countess Pepoli;2— bad policy for any woman! Miss Newbigging, her Sister, sings her speech in the tone of Glasgow fine-ladyisms; a Miss Marshall, old too, and with teeth too, and an ancient roasted face over and above, is ditto ditto, in regard to ease of manners:3 ach Gott! And the dreary abyss of Old-Jewhood and Old-Genevahood4 they lived in, and looked over the Heavens and the Earth in;—and so kind to me, too, all of them; and their hospitable house full of mere kind memories for me;—and Grahame's stupid tongue going, and his black nose running! It is positively very wicked and base to write all this, even to thee; and I charge thee speak of it to no mortal whatsoever.— “Thomas Carlyle,” the same who once escorted you to Liverpool in the Steamer (do you remember, as he well does?)—a really goodhumoured modest healthy young fellow, he accompanied me to Waterbeck on the way home (and helped to get me away too, pleading pressure of time himself);5 the only pleasant part of the day's work for me. His old Mother, Mrs Carlyle the Widow, I also saw for a moment, and yesterday again I met her on my solitary walk at “Blaw-weary” (the desart house, on the hilltop towards Lockerby);—whom I mention for the encouragement and also monition of all good women: she is above seventy, and still beautiful; actually so: this is the encouragement; and now for the monition: this beautiful old Lady, I hear it privately whispered, is grown (especially ever since her apoplectic fit or paralytic fit, of which John told us enough)6 such a Niggard that none of the young ones dare ask a friend to the house, which was once the hospitablest in all this district: what a termination! Ah me, is not Life, then, if a “Poem,” a most dreadfully ill-rhymed one? I will speak of these things no more.— I shall have to go to Gillenbie one day still; but I will make it only a call; and the ride, a solitary one, in this bright “St Martin's Summer” weather, will perhaps do me good rather. To Cumberland too I think I shall owe a day or two? My Mother and I did not get to Gill yesterday: Jamie rode off on the Pony, with some half dozen other horses to the Rood Fair,7 and is not to be home till tonight late.

Spedding's Letter8 is still unanswered: I rather fancy I shall have to go. To hear a word of sense, belonging to this Year of Grace,—for all the sense here is of a past century (ah me!)—is becoming attractive to my fancy again; and Tom Spedding is one of few to me, in that respect. In a day or two I must decide and do. I begin to wish I were home again, at some kind of work again. Ironsides,9 foolish mortal, I have answered; other blockheads, writing about German Translations &c, may the Devil fly away with! Postie forwards two of them this day; of whom take one for your sins!* My Tobacco is nigh done too:—but I do hope for a sleep tonight, and oblivion of much of this rubbish.— — Lady Ashburton is very good; receive the Game and write to her: I will try to get you a little “Honey” myself, I actually will. Thanks to the beneficent Lady Hostess for her Advertisement of the short cut to “fame.” When I awaken out of this lethargic condition, and feel any appetite for “fame” again, I ought to think of this. O “what a piece of work is man,”10 after all!

Now pack your bits of things together, my Goody, and get as quietly home as possible; and take care of yourself there,—for my sake. Adieu, for this night; God be good to us all! Ever yours T. Carlyle

*No, I do not send it, or Ironsides either (which is about Emerson merely, and has compts for you): Why should I?