January-September 1856

The Collected Letters, Volume 31


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE ; 30 July 1856; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18560730-TC-JAC-01; CL 31: 142-144


Gill, 30 july, 1856—

My dear Brother,

I have seen three Notes from you, one of them to myself, since we parted; the main new purport of which was that you were actually off on Saturday morning, and that I was to write as “on Wednesday”:—Wednesday from Annandale, I judged it to be; and am now, with a good enough apparatus and arrangt at the good Sister's front window, but with rather an unsteady hand, writing you a word accordingly, tho' except routine matter and (thank Heaven) still “All well” there is as good as nothing to be said.

We had a very tumultuous and unpleasant journey to Edinr in spite of all our means and appliances. The sublime vehicle we went in was her Sacred Majesty's own apparatus for such uses; but unfortunately, at the end of the first stage, it was discovered that the axle was about taking fire; which fatal tendency it continued to manifest all the way, in spite of endless mopping, pouring of watering pots, and smearing of grease,—the guard at last, we could observe, got a line attached to the Stoker's place, and spent his hours waiting till we should blaze out: finally at Doncaster,1 on the sudden, he gave it up, condemned the vehicle as crazy beyond cure; and pitched us and our luggage, in vast haste, to the right and the left, wherever a hole could be found for one and the other of us. Never was a sumptuous contract worse fulfilled; “regardless of expense,” and utterly “futile in fulfilment”! Add to which the day was intolerably hot; the carriage, all carriages, in spite of all windows down, continued foul to breathe; and for dust—I never laid off such a shirt collar as that night (a collar that seemed to have been wiping shoes, tho' the rest of the shirt was clean), and my hair was like a door-mat, hardly cleaned yet after a week. However, we did all survive, all of us, especially the women, and most especially the Hostess of the party, behaving in a heroically calm manner; and about 9 p.m. we were all safe in Edinburgh, and clean water, and other refections (including fair sleep by and by) awaiting us at Barry's Hôtel.— We saw no Edinr person, except by accident Robert Chambers2 on the street; we tried for Erskine, but without basis, and did not succeed: about 2 p.m. we were at Burntisland,3 and “Mary”4 and a vehicle (Walter being off on some parish duty) came up half a moment after, and drove us home thro' the clean quiet green of the fields, very welcome to London eyes after such a bout. Mary seems decidedly unwell of liver, is ordered to drive about &c; I think she had a declared inflammation of the liver. The rest are well there; Walter a decidedly improved, worthy and amiable man; what their place is, and their manner of welcome to friendly pilgrims, you yourself know. I left Jane under good auspices on Friday afternoon (have not yet heard since); and, under the usual conditions, found Jamie waiting for me at Swaugh;5 and all thenceforth plain sailing. At Nethercleugh,6 a bent old man in deep mournings got out; I observed it was Chas Stewart, but he clearly did not recognise my bow: you perhaps heard that James Stewart was just dead,7 a day or two before we left London.

Scotsbrig was all in its usual state; very full of mournful thoughts to me; but otherwise of more matters for thankfulness. I hardly ever in my life was (in all essential points) as well lodged as during the two nights I continued there. Jane, I suppose, will come down by and by, and then we may have another longer trial.— Jamie brot me over hither on Sunday: went home after tea, and here I have been in my fixed quarters,—getting on, I must say, very fairly hitherto. Mary is tolerably well, tho' sadly wasted and grown old: she has everything in good order, and never was creature more bent to make a fellow creature comfortable. I have bathed twice, and excellently, tho' the tides are yet early (today at 11 a.m.); I get supreme coffee every morning; Jamie (of Scotsbrig) has lent me his riding-horse, James Aitken has provided a gig; the Priestside8 sea-sahara is really almost sublime to wander about upon; the weather fluctuates but is oftenest brisk and bright: I even get sleep in fair measure,—at least always till last night, owing to reasons which we will be aware of in future. I have even brought work, and did scribble a little yesterday: on the whole I hope to be well let alone, and to do a little good perhaps. Last night (a windy Scotch mist) Austin took me out to drive; drove on to Caerlaverock old Castle9 (whh you recollect); there proposed Dumfries “to get a feed for the horse”! Which was done, and ought to have been omitted on those terms. I got an evident damage out of such a poking-up. However, we found Jean, James10 and all the house in brisk order;—we even saw Aird11 by luck, who runs much better than formerly. The stamps on this Letter were got there, and some other needful furnishings. Oh my dear Brother, among all our losses and sorrows, we have (as our good old Mother used to say) much to be thankful for!—

Heath of Oxford Street12 has sent his 5/ of stamps, with a Catalogue and gallant Letter: a hero of an Antiquar. On the other hand, Leighton has discovered two other volumes wrong (“Bind away nevertheless!” I answer), and Chorley expresses himself this morning, like a Saint Bartholomew patient under flaying.13 No other news, or Letter worth naming. Finis therefore.— We expect to hear whether you are for Munich, and many other things, Vevay School14 &c &c. God bless you, dear Brother,

T. Carlyle