The Collected Letters, Volume 27


TC TO JANE WELSH CARLYLE ; 19 August 1852; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18520819-TC-JWC-01; CL 27: 236-238


Scotsbrig, 19 Augt, 1852—

My own dear Goody,—Tho' there is no Letter from you today (as indeed was not likely), yet I will not let you front the repose of Sunday without a word from me,—a word, tho' there be nothing in it. This is again one of the beautifullest still autumn days; I have slept too a little better; and am, for the rest, totally idle, not permitted even to read;—so that, had I a right pen and paper (which I have n't), there could be no fitter use to turn me to than seasoning poor Goody's tea on a Saturday evening.

Jack is not come, nor do we hear anything of him; but may confidently expect the appearance of him in person, and the exchange of Jean for him, in the course of tomorrow. He appears to me to have some confused pluister of a marriage or settlement project on foot at Moffat, in which his Mrs Watt is to play a principal part; but I much fear it will come to nothing, as the others have done, poor Jack. In the meanwhile I say or signify absolutely nothing on the matter; and will, with a silent sincere prayer, leave things to ripen towards what issue they can. But really it is a sad kind of thing to see a man of so many faculties and capabilities leading such a life as his here is: and as to my poor Mother and the other parties interested, I perceive well that some change in the Scotsbrig position of affairs is becoming very desirable.

For these 2 or 3 days Jean has been my principal companion; and certainly she is far preferable to Jack; indeed by much the most ingenious, productive and intelligent human soul I have fallen in with in these parts. A stout heart too she has; and, I doubt not, work for it too, as we all have; but on the whole I account her existence eminently human, and a happy one among mortals as mortals go. For the present she attends me in my longest walks; gives me Dumfries Biographies, and rugged life-like images of practical facts, in the intervals of her extensive miscellaneous questioning about things in general, concerning which too she has unlimited curiosity, and a fine fresh rustic sense. One of her latest anecdotes relates to Macalpine-Leny-dom, and is really very miserable: namely, the eldest daughter of Macalpine,1 a fine frank beautiful lass, perhaps about 2 years ago, fell into bad health, health unintelligible to any Doctor about Dalswinton; whereupon the Mother removed with her to Musselburgh,2 to a Sister's, for better advice in that neighbourhood. The Sister, at first sight of her sick Niece, intimated the firm belief that a Doctor could do nothing, that quite other than a Doctor's was the cure wanted here! Alas, alas, the poor young woman had to own all; was straightway, not without eagerness and need for it, got married to her father's coachman (hitherto a blackguard as well as coachn), and bundled off with him, under what emotions may be conceived, to New York and everlasting exile. Poor Leny, of whom I have heard you speak as of a conceited gawk, but who is now grown a hoary care-worn old man, “was like to go out of his wits.” Let me add the postscript, however, which is consolatory. The young ruined wife does not give way at New York, but makes valiant fight, it would appear; has “set up a school”; has taught her coachman various accomplishments, which have got him some kind of clerkship or better trade than mere grooming; and writes lately to his Mother, You may think John has got an idle thriftless wife, but he says sometimes there is not a thriftier or better in New York. Esperons [Let's hope]! This is my bit of human Dramaturgy; for the big Comi-tragedy, with bits of the broadest farce, goes on everywhere and at all times.

My own private perception as to Germany at present is, that I shall have to go; that I shall actually be shovelled out, tomorrow week, into a Leith Steamer for Rotterdam; a result which I shudder at, but see not how to avoid, with the least remnant of honour! Pity me, pity me—I wait, however, for your next Letter, and the candid description of your own capabilities to join me, especially the probable when of that;—and, on the whole, am “one coal of burning sulphur,” one heap, that is to say, of chaotic miseries, horrors, sorrows and imbecillities, actually a rather contemptible man. But the ass does swim, I sometimes say, if you fling him fairly into the river; tho' he brays lamentably at being flung. Oh my Goody, my own (or not my own!) dear Goody, is there no help at all then?—

My Mother comes in, finds me writing; says send my kind regairds; tell her I hope she'll get brawly out of her masonries before long.—Jean often speaks about you; has evidently still a deep attachment to you, and gratitude (witht other feeling) in regard to old times.

You now know (if you will read that Note) what A. Sterling's Address is; and may consider whether he is worth a Letter. I think he ought to be tamed out of the despairing-shepherd vein, and induced to quit that altogether if he could! A man to whom I really from my heart wish well; and who has rendered it unhandy to me to have the least thing to do with him. At the years of discretion we are now all quite close upon, it were surely good this ended.— — Wm Stirling may stand a chance for John: me he might readily have had from Linlathen, but he did not apply then; and at present such superfluous railwaying and prospects of dreary “ornament and grandther” are not in the game.— Did you go to Brookfield and see the ever-teeming Mrs Sartoris?3 What of Chorley's Evil Spirit? Still more what of Nero & the new lean cat? Tell me about everything. And about your wicked little self beyond everything: how you sleep, what you do, see, think, and how the campaign proceeds with you. Oh my poor Jeannie, my best and now one of my oldest Loved Ones, God forever bless thee: That is my constant prayer, spoken & silent.

T. C.