The Collected Letters, Volume 25


TC TO JANE WELSH CARLYLE ; 9 September 1850; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18500909-TC-JWC-01; CL 25: 203-206


Scotsbrig, 9 Septr, 1850—

Dear Goodykin,—I think we are for Dumfries this afternoon, tho' it depends a little on my Mother who is not very strong: I must be brief therefore, all manner of arrangements in regard to that contingency being yet to make. I sent yesterday to the old place for your Letter, but did not get it there; a new Postboy goes on Sunday, and had left the packet at Middlebie, where late in the afternoon, as I returned from my ride, a friendly shoemaker's-apprentice brought it out to me. A welcome windfall! Many thanks for taking such pains with me; I had but little hope of a Letter even at the regular noon-time, and after that, of course, hope had altogether quitted the Post-Office regions. For two days before I, for my own poor part, had been seized with the uttermost excess of inaction, heavy indolence weighing me down all day, and sleep itself rather scorning me at night: writing, even to Goody, was a thing I rather shirked; indeed I did nothing at all, good or bad: today however, being stirred up to motion again, I will leave you a word before I go. By Tuesday night your appetite I dare say will be sharp enough again. Considerable masses of obligation to write accumulate upon a man even at Scotsbrig, if he altogether lay by the pen! I have turned over Bamford upon C. Knight; advised him to put the whole case into Knight's hand; this is one small instalment towards settling the latter account: when I get back from Dumfries (Ach Gott, why must I go thither or anywhither!), it is to be hoped I shall feel a little livelier on that side.— — I have been much struck with a poor old man the Farmer of Middlebie-Rig (close by here, as you go up towards Burnswark): he is very old, and may naturally be supposed to be sinking towards his final lethargy, and be excused for being sick and ill; this member of Old Annandale, tho' greatly ailing, will not admit that anything is the matter with him but “Laziness”; when a neighbour asks him, “How are you, John?”—“Oh, as lazy as ever; vera ill wi' laziness; sair hadden doon wi' that!”— It is really a terrible disease in that sense.

We went to Burnswark, a beautiful drive (tho' my poor Mother was very cold), and I had an interesting climb and walk and solitary lie on the Hill itself; but Mr Grahame was not there at all,—“gone to Eskdale moor to a funeral,”—and only Miss Grahame welcomed my Mother, whom I left with her till the time of tea came, speedily followed by departure, and rapid course down the Brae again. The bureau d'esprit, therefore, is still to hold! Ah me, I am very ungrateful; this good man, one of the dullest of men, is and has long been a right kind friend of mine. Woe's me, one does get very lonely on this Earth; and has to seek repose by and by on a hard pillow indeed!

Miss Grahame had seen at Moffat, the other day, Miss Anderson of [“]Stroquhan”:1 poor Miss Anderson has now “a very fine lodging-house there”; still a managing woman, and much liked: she has been there some year or more, as I gathered. Upper Stroquhan too is again for sale (the Courier says):2 all things alter fast, there and elsewhere!— I heard again yesterday of Miss Anderson by another channel.

Jack namely had been in Moffat too: on Saturday morning came an announcement that he was off thither “to see Dr Hunter3 and his Mother,” and not to be expected here. Yesterday evg on my return from the Springkell woods (with your Letter in my pocket), I found him here; smoking, and preparing for tea. He had “called on Miss Anderson,” brot compliments to you and me; he had also seen your Aunts Grace and Anne4 there, from whom likewise due remembrances,—to which Grace added (on the score of Saintship) express regards to my Mother. All these persons were well: but poor Mrs Hunter, it appears, has got some incurable ulcer, cancer of aggravated form it is turning to, upon her breast; and for the last year has been looking to a gloomy end! About six months ago she told her son of it. Poor creatures, I was and am heartily sorry for the poor simple pair, one of whom is known to me as a very innocent creature. Nestle as low as you will, afflictions, grief and death will by no means miss you! One pauses mournfully here over the great wounds inflicted by Universal Destiny in these poor Middlebie regions as in others. Minsca's5 eldest son, a fine young man of 28, rapidly dying; he and the rest steadily conscious of it these several months: this is but one case of so many. The old Farmer of Scalewood6 (a mile from this) was a healthy old man of 80; got a wart on his thumb; attempted to cure it with his knife, made it worse, consulted a Dr Edgar,7 who ordered caustic;—applied the caustic; “next morning his whole hand was red”; red, and ruined; now it is all rotted or rotting away, and the poor old man is getting the miserablest end. A third case, and I will add no more. A poor industrious couple lived at Craighouse, on the hilltop between this and Waterbeck;8 a man-and woman-servant out of the same house, who had married and were doing well, with two children “one an infant the other 5”: suddenly one morning the poor Wife, sitting by the fire at some kind of work, took a fit (never had the like before); fell into the fire,—her hand over some kind of outer bar they had for guarding off the children;—hung there with her head upon the bar of the grate, till the boy of 5 ran greeting to the next cottage: her right cheek, ear eye &c are “all burnt away”; and she is like to live still: they had a horse and cow, but have sold all now for expenses, and are fallen quite poor. Good Heavens, what a catalogue I am giving you; with trouble to myself, and witht benefit on your side, I shd think!— — And your poor Butcher, and poor old Eliza, and poor old Wynn: it is one story everywhere;—and whosoever wd live unastonished in this world must prepare himself for quantities of exception to “happiness” while here! I know not what has engaged me in such a catalogue: however, here you have it.

You have got rid of Miss Sprague, I hope, forever. I think I would have been a little less emphatic in regard to her good qualities, and have answered Yes simply, in a low tone? Perhaps however you are right: if she is a bad servant, which seems undeniable, perhaps the blame is not hers alone but chiefly that of the system of mutinous quasi-servitude we are now all used to;—and with the System you have nothing to do in relation to this Miss Pinkerton of the Ladies School.9 And so let it end. “Better than ever, my Love!”— — Elizur Wright of Yankeeland I take to be the hatchet-faced man that left the Lafontaine some years ago: a sharp-tongued, snappish, pretended-laughing creature; beautiful among men as the Newcastle Rag10 is among stones and jewels! By all means keep his lucubrations for the fire's or Postie's benefit. Nor am I in fidget for Alton Locke: Malte Brun, an authentic describer of the Planet Earth, is a still surer card!

Nor can I advise you any way certainly as to accepting the Grange invitation,—except in so far as this consideration will go, that you shd follow your own authentic wish in regard to it. As to me, I do not think there is any sure chance of my being at Chelsea before “the 23d” (I am much better here, so long as it will do otherwise); and if I were, my “wishes” wd not point to travelling thither. Of the visit to Paris I have yet said nothing in the way of acceptance or refusal; but certainly of the two that seems by much the more inviting if I feel up to such a thing when the time comes. At present I desire “milk-diet and utter silence!” So do thy own way, Goody—what more can I counsel? If the visit is not disagreeable, perhaps a ten days or week of it might stir you up and do you good. Consider it, thy own self; and do what is best— — On the whole, why not go?— — Here at this moment, little Jenny has brot me, by way of Letter for the day,—a mass of thistle-down directed in her Ladyship's hand, and no word whatever! I shall have to answer “No” for this of the 23d: the greater reason for you saying “Yea”?— — Oh dear, Oh dear; and we are to go to Dumfries; and all is getting into uproar about me, and I am really far from well, and in need of peace above all things.— — Goody, dearest Goody, do thou take pity on me; thou hast pity on me too, I know! My poor nerves are sadly out of order; but surely surely they will improve some day!— Take care of your own poor health any way, for my sake among others. I expect to be back on Wednesday.11 Adieu, adieu.

T. Carlyle