April 1849-December 1849

The Collected Letters, Volume 24


JWC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE; 5 August 1849; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18490805-JWC-JAC-01; CL 24: 178-179


Auchertool Manse / Sunday [5 August 1849]

Thanks for your letter, dear John—come an hour ago—with one from Plattnauer—giving the news of Mr C which he has not time it seems to write himself— I send it at once, as your Mother will find any news better than none—

Certainly the letter-department here is arranged on an entirely wrong basis—the delay is monstrous— I cannot write at any length today, for fear of stirring up my head into a prononciamento— The late hours here dont suit me—in fact there is a good deal in life here that don't suit me—and which is the more trying, because it is wrong and because “one feels it ones duty” to be in revolt against it—breakfast at ten—dinner nearer seven than six—“dandering Individuals” constantly dropping in—dressings and undressings world without end!—all that is so wholly out of place in a Scotch manse!— and then the chitter-chatter! If my uncle could only speak intelligently I should get good talk out of him—but since he lost his teeth his articulation is so imperfect that it needs one to be used to it to catch one word out of ten—

By the way I must not forget to tell you his criticism on your Dante— We had been talking about you the other night—and then we had sunk silent, and I had betaken myself to walking to and fro in the room— Suddenly my Uncle turned his head to me, and said shaking it gravely; “he has made an awsome plooster [mess] of that place!”—“Who?—what place Uncle?”—“Whew!—the place ye'll maybe gang to if ye dinna tak care”!— I really believe he considers all those circles of your invention!

You are going to let Rosette slip thro your fingers—her Brother is going to take her home to Germany in two months!— Or will you go and propose to her there and take me with you?

Walter performed the marriage service over a couple of colliers the day after I came— I happened to be in his study when they came in, and asked leave to remain— The man was a good looking man enough—dreadfully agitated—partly with the business he was come on, partly with drink—he had evidently taken a glass too much to keep his heart up—the girl had one very large inflamed eye and one little one—which looked perfectly composed while the large eye stared wildly and had a tear in it— Walter married them very well indeed, and his affecting words, together with Bridegroom's pale excited face, and the Brides ugliness, and the “poverty, penury, needcessity,1 and want imprinted on the whole business—and above all, fellow-feeling with the poor wretches there rushing on their fate—all that so overcame me that I fell a-crying as desperately as if I had been getting married to the Collier myself—and when the ceremony was over, extended my hand to the unfortunates and actually (in such an enthusiasm of pity did I find myself!) presented the new Husband with a snuff-box (!) which I happened to have in my hand, being just about presenting it to Walter when the creatures came in— This unexpected himmel-sendung [gift from heaven] finished turning the mans head; he wrung my hand over and over, leaving his mark for some hours after— And ended his grateful speeches with—“Oh Miss!—Oh Leddy!—may ye hae mair comfort and pleasure in your life than ever you have had yet“! Which might easily be!—

Walter infected by my generosity presented the Bride with a new Bible— The coal pit would ring next day with the “gootlook” which had “followed them in the Orient”2

But there you see is a long letter—and my head aching—and that is stupid I must go and sit in the garden—all the house is at church— Your affectionate / J W C

Kind love to your Mother and all of them