April 1849-December 1849

The Collected Letters, Volume 24


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE; 5 September 1849; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18490905-TC-JAC-01; CL 24: 222-224


Glen Truin House, 5 Septr 1849—

My dear Brother,

Thanks for your little Note,1 which arrived this morning at breakfast; the first communication I have yet had here. I am truly glad to hear of my Mother's being in her usual way again; and to catch a glimpse of Scotsbrig in general, from over the Hills and far away. Luck be with you all till I come back again!

The black Note, as you perceive, is a melancholy announcement, that of poor Mrs Dixon's departure from this world.2 I remember her a brilliant bonny lass, from almost my earliest years in Annan; she has had many ups and downs since that, and has now ended it all. Peace, we may believe, is there, if not to be found on the side of the dim river where we yet linger.

I am left quite alone today, and have the drawing room, and indeed the house, altogether to myself for some hours;—plenty of space too for writing, were it not that noises come rather rife from the flunkey region, and still worse that I am but in bad case myself for any epistolary or other exertion. A general party “to picnic with the Abercorn people” (a proud dull Marquis of the Shuttlerow kindred)3 “on loch Eroch”:4 that was the general order of the day; but one Lord, at breakfast time, broke off, preferring “to shoot”; and I, before breakfast time, had already broken off, being in no case for picnics; having, in fact, got a very nasty lumbago these two days past, which was made considerably worse yesterday by a sorry wearisome expedition to the same region (8 or 9 miles off), which I hoped might have cleared it away. My sleep, in short, has been carried on “under difficulties,”—the worst room I have permanently had these twenty years; and the change to a better did not take place “yesterday” as predicted; but is only taking place today on my renewed demand. The weather, however, is superb and certainly, among the hay and heather, left all to myself, I expect to gain great improvement today, and to be quite set up again tomorrow More than once, in the wakerife [sleepless] hours of night, it has been in my head to take Coach, and come south at once; but when I think of the “good intentions” of everybody to me, I find that I must finish my visit, and give it a less unhandsome close than that would be! The more I see of it, the more distracted does this Highland Gilha'ing5 for English people of rank appear to me. The present adventure, Lord Ashburton told me yesterday, costs him about £1200; and he admitted, as we drove along together that it was a very stupid business,—“except in respect of health.” I suggested that men really desirous of “hunting” ought to go to Africa with its lions, to America with its bears and boas, to some place where wild animals really are and stand in need of hunting; whereas here, except it be the catching of rats, there is really no legitimate field for the “hunter,” and his era is quite done! All this was mildly taken; indeed we had a great deal of serious talk, he and I, as he drove me to and from the scene of adventure (a “fishing” in Loch Eroch yesterday, futile highly, in which I took no share at all, but lay among the heather in solitude for 3 hours rather); and his Lp seems to be full of “good resolutions,” with which, alas we know what place is paved! He has awakened a good deal, however, since I came, and a strong word of sense now and then got to hearing again: the other two Lords are radically dull fellows, inclined to eating rather than to thinking; and, what is bad too, are evidently rather afraid of me, and look to their arms when I am in presence. Their Ladies, are unexceptionable, and do better with me,—especially the Paget one, a really clever-looking woman, had she been trained to anything! Alas, alas, it is not a joyful view one gets of human things thro' this aperture; not joyful,—neither will it last long.

The Germans you perceive have been holding a Festmahl [banquet] over Goethe's Centenniversary; but it seems to have succeeded well nowhere; not even Humboldt's heavy eloquence could carry it thro' at Berlin;6—and on the whole, to Goethe one may say as to others, “It can do thi' naither ill na guid!”—

Lady Grey is expected here on Saturday, who will be no “accession” to me;7 Milnes, as I said, comes on Friday, who rather will be welcome to me,—the rather as our present noble guests disappear directly after that, and no new ones are expected.

Dear Brother, I know not why I should scribble all this stuff about what hardly interests me, and can hardly interest anybody. It were much better that I went about my business; stript inner flannels, and set off on a two-hours walk, as my intention is. I have still a Note to write; apprising Stirling of my willingness to try for a meeting with him at Keir if the times will answer. The shifting of my things to a new room deprives me of my own proper pen, and this was the best I could find or manufacture here. Enough of it, enough! I expect to hear from Jane tomorrow if all have gone well with her; I have written twice. Take care of my Mother, and give my love to all. Your affectionate

T. Carlyle