The Collected Letters, Volume 26


TC TO JANE WELSH CARLYLE; 4 September 1851; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18510904-TC-JWC-01; CL 26: 149-151


Scotsbrig, 4 Septr, 1851—

My dear little woman,—It is possible you may take a salutary relenting thought, and write to me tomorrow; possible that you may get a Note from John before that, informing you that I have lost your address, and that you must write! But it is also quite possible that neither of these favourable contingencies may take place:—and therefore, not to keep the matter hanging longer, I must try if I can devise some probability of hitting you with a word of mine, since certainty there is unfortunately none just at this perplexed moment.

On Monday morning, as you might notice, I was sadly flurried, and scarce knew what I was doing in the fatal uproar of outer and inner affairs:—that of the cigar, at which you look and shewed so much offence (not much to my consolation on the way homewards), was an attempt on my part to whisper to you that I had given the maid half-a-crown,—nothing more or other, as I am a living sinner. What you in your kind assiduity were aiming at I, in the frightful hateful whirl of such a scene, had not in the least noticed or surmised. You unkind woman,—unfortunate with the best intentions,1—to send me off in that humour, with such a viaticum thro the manufacturing districts! I thought of it all day, yet with sorrow not with anger, if you will believe me—and so we will let it altogether pass, as a thing well forgotten by this time and for all time coming. My ride in the railway did not need that addition to make it abundantly sombre, as all my ridings and goings are too apt to be.

However, I got along well enough to Preston, and should rather have reckoned myself lucky, for I had all the carriage to myself; and nothing but my own inner man was far out of sorts. At Preston I had to wait 30 minutes (or rather 45 by fact, tho' the theory was only 20), and there I ought to have appointed my breakfast, had I well foreknown: as it was, I took one of those bad little cigars (thanks to poor Jeannie that I had even a bad cigar) therewith to pass the time, and in my flurry, stepping up a palpably too steep place to get into the rear of the Station the permitted smoking-place, I stumbled, and peeled one of the knuckles of my left hand (main knuckle of the mid finger there),—sorrow on it!—and have still a wrappage round the same, tho' it is very nearly over now. This was my first small misfortune; not my last, as you will hear. After seeing my Portmanteau hoisted to its place, and being twice assured that it was “all right to Carlisle,” I got into the farther side of a carriage where there were only three, and soon only two, and from Kendal Junction2 none at all but my valuable self; and then, in the strictest silence, refusing to speak any word, but hearing not a few (all the scandal of “Bury,”3 I think, a Methodist Parson presumable, and ancient Bury widow, bound to the Lakes, being interlocutors) I sat, looking out into Nature, all the way to Carlisle and 3 p.m.— when, stepping out to get a new place for Kirtlebridge and the Caledonian, I discover that my Portmanteau was not there! Fancy the flurry, and what a sedative this was to nerves already agitated enough. Bad luck to all such locomotion, say I; and to locomotion altogether if it is not indispensable!— However, I had to leave my complaint with “the Superintendant,” and make no delay about it, for the Caledonian was just rolling off, and in half a minute more I must have lost my passage too, and been left at a Carlisle Hotel to cool my splenetic humour. No help for it;—and your address, too, as I calculated was in that lost package, and not in my memory at all. No help of any kind.— At Kirtlebridge Jamie was duly waiting; but before going farther I had to write (with a pen little better than a stocking-wire) a formal demand on the Carlisle Superintendent:—a singular document which, as it has now come back to me, I will inclose for your consideration. The loss was not my fault, but the railway's: however, I will draw this practical inference, Always write both name and destination on your Box before starting. Eheu, eheu!

My poor Mother was here: Isabella and the rest of them were kind as kind could be,—washed me shirt and flannel-shirt overnight &c;—next morning I wrote to John to write to you if he knew; then farther another long and much clearer account to my Superintendant friend; rode over with it to Kirtlebridge Station in the afternoon; and—had hardly got home again, when the Portmanteau itself, all safe, was trundled up to the door in a barrow, with all the Letters and Papers that is, at the easy rate of one shilling as per bargain. Which decidedly was good news. The poor people had flung it off at Kendal, I suppose; they are hurried to death in these glass-palace times. Always write your destination before setting out!— — This is really all my news, my Dear and I have not properly another word to say till I have heard from you.

Jack is still endeavouring to pity me, I hope, for the loss of my luggage; but by the time has4 Note arrives, you will be aware how that is. I must send half a line today to relieve him from his notions on that subject. Yesterday he sent a Newspaper, a 3d vol of Chalmers's Life (heavy, as 1/6); and a big Letter,—which on opening it I discovered to contain an ordinary big Income Tax Paper (“What is your Income, Sir, for the ensuing year, you deceitful rascal?”) such as you burn, I suppose, at home; and another smaller Income-Tax Paper, which appears to indicate that you have not paid one Wm Ludlow a £3.8.6½ of income tax due some time lately; upon which (dating 28 Augt, 1851) he and the servants of her Majesty appear to be just about falling on with fire and sword if we don't pay!— This was all my Correspondence hitherto at Scotsbrig; and I must say no man of distinction can well have enjoyed a less interesting communication on visiting his native place for rustication. If Ludlow is in the right, as I suppose, do you immediately bid John go and pay him and get a receipt. The sight of his nasty Paper I will willingly spare you: but it is here, if you need it for clearing up your recollections.— — Adieu, my poor dear Jeannie. I have not slept well yet since I came hither, only bathed at 6 a.m. and walked for an hour; and am full of headache and irritability.

Yours ever /

T. Carlyle

I fancied your address was in the Portu;5 but it is not and I am still at sea about it, as you see