The Collected Letters, Volume 25


TC TO JANE WELSH CARLYLE ; 6 September 1850; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18500906-TC-JWC-01; CL 25: 195-197


Scotsbrig, Friday, 6 Septr, 1850—

Tho' there is nothing new, or in the least like new, I will write a word to you, dear Goody mine; it is at once a kind of duty and an undeniable pleasure to me, in this sabbath stillness of my days, to open my closed pack to you and talk a little. Nothing so like a “sabbath” has been vouchsafed to me for many heavy months as these last ten days at poor Scotsbrig are. Let me be thankful for them! They were very necessary to me; they will open my heart to sad and affectionate thoughts which the intolerable burden of my own mean sufferings have stifled for a long time. I do nothing here, and pretend to do nothing, but sit silent in the middle of old unutterable reminiscences, and poor simple scenes more interesting to me on this side Hades: one shd be content to admit here that one is Nothing; a poor vainly struggling soul,—yet seen with pity by the Eternal Powers I do believe;—and whose struggles, at worst, are bending towards their close. This puts me to peace, when nothing else can: and the beggarly miseries of the mere body abating a little (as with me they sensibly do), it is strange what dark curtains drop of their own accord, how the promise of clearer skies again visits one.

These last three days have been of surpassing beauty; calm, clear September days; the sky bright and blue, with fluctuating masses of light clouds: the hills are all spotted with pure light and pure shade, everything of the liveliest yellow or liveliest green in this lower region; on riding up from the Kirtlebridge1 side hitherward, I could not but admit that the bright scene, with Burnswark2 and the infinite azure behind it, was one of the loveliest (Wednesdy afternoon and yesterday) that I had anywhere seen. Poor old Annandale, after all!3— For you must know I have got a little lame in one of my feet; nothing to speak of, indeed nothing at all that one can see with the naked eye, or medically make anything of: but it furnishes an excuse for saddling the Gig-poney to me; a most rough inexpert trotter, but a walker nearly unparallelled: and so I am to go daily and ride, rather than walk too much, while this petty ailment continues. The ailment (not to frighten your poor little imagination with it) is a most insignificant kind of pain, not sensible except when I walk, directly under the second toe (or between that and first do) of my left foot: to the eye there is nothing wrong, as I said; to the feel there is a slight hardness, no bigger than a pea, and sorish when pressed: the only evil is, that in walking, by the unconscious effort to save this speck of disorder, I at length rather twist my leg; and so am advised to ride rather when I do not sit or saunter. It has been there above a week; I think, almost since my third day here: the origin of it unaccountable,—unless perhaps that, the second night, my bed was wrong-made, and I had to get up, and grope about a little, without slippers, whereby probably I have got some little prick on the place. A terrible matter that, is it not! Shall we summon the Royal College4 about it, think you? Oh Goody, Goody!—

This afternoon it is decided that I must take the gig rather, and carry my Mother up to Burnswark. Graham “has lost his memory,” is said to be much “stupider than ever”: think what a bureau d'esprit [group of wits] we shall make of it! Poor fellow, I saw him at the funeral on Saty last, and am bound to come. James Stewart is also said to be sensibly worse; quite broken down, in fact: perhaps I am entitled not to go there?— — Jamie's harvest is begun here; a capital crop, I understand, all but potatoes,—potatoes are all half-ruined everywhere, half not wholly, which I for my own share shd have preferred. I have not tried a single potato here; nor indeed eaten one dinner strictly so called; my “mimmit” (ham-meat) is two eggs with bread and fresh butter,—baddish bread, in small quantity, for whh I oftenest substitute a modicum of excellent flour-scon (hot milk, flour, with particles of soda and of sugar, baked by Isabella,—the nearest counterfoil of my old Mount-Annan scons,—and not baked for me at all, but for herself): on this I live till nine o' clock when porridge arrives. The want of all dinner I find to be a real alleviation, for the time; perhaps in the long run it might not quite answer? I sleep wonderfully hitherto; last night worst yet (for reasons), and still well. I wish I could hear as much of you! Tell me at any rate. Also whether your “baking” succeeded; whether &c &c: in short I greatly want news; and surely I set you the example of a most minute narrative!

Jack came here yesterday for half an hour: I walked with him to Wood-Land (too far for my toe), and then he went cantering along on a little fat bullet of a pony he rides. The poor young woman is understood to be past the crisis; but I find is yet very far from well, nor (as I guess for my own behoof) by any means quite out of danger. Poor Jack looks old and grey: there is something touching to me in his nestling into this small field (a “wee bush” indeed)5 after all his rovings. He is of a much happier humour than I!

I have finished Chalmers: much more readable than I expected; clearly interesting where one begins to be oneself a little connected with it. I looked far for that Highland Tour when you were present;6 didn't find it tho' many simpler and sillier are given. Duffy's letter rather pleased me: I did write to the other Irishn, and have yet written nothing. A Note to Lady Ashburton after I arrived here brot this answer yesterday: great gaudiamus [merrymaking] at The Grange, it wd seem! Between life there and life here as I now have it, it must be admitted there is a contrast: we are about the two extremes of decent human lodging; and I know which answers me the best, for one!— — No other letter at all; no sound at all from the big busy Hurlyburly of mankind: thank God!

Have you ever gone to see Leigh Hunt yet? Not you; and yet you ought to go, and I wish you could, some day. With Mazzini if possible,—but that is not possible, I believe. Recommend me to Miss Wyn if you ever see her, and generally to all friend: good souls, I like them all better than perhaps they wd suspect from my grim ways.— — Doubtless I must go to Dumfries too; but am loath to stir anywhither Sometimes it has struck could not I continue this sabbatic period in a room at Craigenputtoch perhaps? Alas, alas!— — But enough now my dear little woman: I believe there is more than even your patience can stand. I hope the Post will do his duty this time! Last time, I find there was no fault here. God bless thee always T. Carlyle