April 1849-December 1849

The Collected Letters, Volume 24


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE; 21 August 1849; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18490821-TC-JAC-01; CL 24: 203-205


Kirkcaldy, Tuesday Forenoon [21 August 1849].

My dear Brother,

If I had taken the Newspaper yesterday, I could have sent it, for there was ample time allowed me in Edinburgh: and now if this Note, as I partly fear, take two days to get to Scotsbrig, I shall be vexed to think of my good Mother's disappointment.

Our journey to Edinburgh yesterday was altogether prosperous: at Moffat, Rt Calvert and his friend appeared at our carriage-door, to hand in the Miss Calvert and little Niece who were at Scotsbrig that evening;1 the other two places an old gentleman and his daughter took; after which there was nothing to be done or attempted, except to hope there would be fresh air, to keep one's own window quite open at least, and sit meditating as the green solitudes whirled past one. It seemed to be rather after time when we reached Edinburgh; I got into the due omnibus, without delay; into the due railway train (a detestable, squealing, tumultuous, ill-smelling and every way ill-ordered apparatus), which after infinite haggling and skaiching [scrounging] brought me out—to see the Kirkcaldy Steamer “gone about 20 minutes”! The next was due, they told me, at a quarter past five,—three hours of waiting.— I discovered afterwards (when close upon this place) that if I had sailed to Burntisland,2 as most of the others in my train seemed to be doing, there was a railway that would have taken one on at once to Kirkcaldy; into which one could have got booked in Edinr itself, as the “Kirkcaldy Railway” (with 7 good miles of sea): this was the railway and the trains &c of which Fergus spoke; unhappily communicating to my deep ignorance no instruction at all! However, I did well enough the other way; and indeed I should much prefer the other as a mode of conveyance, especially with luggage to handle, if one once knew the times, and could make them suit.

Being left at the Chain-pier with 3 vacant hours before me, I slowly sauntered up the shore of the sea; bathed in excellent water, well known to me of old, near “Caroline Park” (a locality much jumbled just now, by stone-waggons and other tumult of the Granton pier);3 after which, as I had done before, I smoked, lying on the green, and looking out upon the blue Ocean-stream & the history of long-passed years,—by no means an uncomfortable or a useless afternoon;—and so at five o'clock I was sitting in the right steamer; and so, without farther adventure, safe in this house about half past six, still in good time for dinner. Jane, poor little creature, ran out to meet me; Fergus had gone “to the railway” for me, but of course did not find me there.

Jane looks vastly better than when we parted at Chelsea: she is off to Dunfermline today (14 miles) driving with the women of our party,—for there are 3 stranger women here, and one man; a dreadfully dull set all of them, I fear! Very kind and harmless, but wearisome (I much doubt) to a degree. Besides my room is exposed to the noise of street-carts, in some measure: so that my second sleep today was attended with difficulties.— I have written to Erskine today to say that our stay in these special latitudes is not likely to be above some 8 days or so; and that for any two of these, or almost any, we are his at Linlathen. I should like to get away from these alarming “Lady Belcher” people,—a kind of washed-out Roman dilettante sisterhood, of ineffable courtesy, and of a weakness su[r]passing4 brook-water; with whom it will not do to attempt talking much. Fergus's three Sisters5 (for on counting the Party, I now find we are six women and 3 men) would be very greatly better if by themselves:—but, in fact, what business has a lodger and guest to complain, ungrateful that I am! I will have a bathe daily in the sea; and I can sit here aloft, looking out into nothing but sky and trees, whenever I like to be alone. The day is very bright; tho' yesterday morning, it seems, had still its remnant of rain. Harvest, they say, is begun here, close by here which is early; crops all good, potatoes beginning to look very sick. Near Milk-brig6 yesterday I saw people mowing a little patch of barley; but nothing farther of the kind has occurred, or even seemed (so far as my sight went) very near occurring.

I hope my Mother is in her usual pitch today again: to say I send her my affection, is saying very little. Oh be careful of her, the good old Mother still left us amid so many losses! I wish Isabella also to understand how sensible I am of her constant kindness; and many delicate politenesses to me. Blessings with you all.— Jane I perceive will in all probability come by Scotsbrig; but no time or particulars could be fixed today. Adieu dear Brother. Ever yours

T. Carlyle