January-September 1856

The Collected Letters, Volume 31


JWC TO THOMAS CARLYLE ; 8 August 1856; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18560808-JWC-TC-01; CL 31: 160-163


Sunny Bank / Haddington / Friday [8 August 1856]

I got here last night about seven. The carriage was waiting for me at the Station; but this time empty—no kind Miss Kate1 in it—we came in at the

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Jane Welsh Carlyle and Nero, by Robert Scott Tait, 1 July 1854.

Courtesy of Edinburgh University Library.


back gate, and when we turned round the house I saw Miss Jess—or rather I saw a face—or rather eyes straining at the dining room window with a look I shall remember while I live. The next moment I was in her arms, and then my “god mother” tottered blindly forward and took me in hers and the two dear old women clasped and kissed and wept over me, both together—and called out “Jeanie Jeanie” “Oh my own bairn”!—“my Angel”!! and ever so many beautiful names.— Mrs Donaldson and Miss Eliza,2 had kindly retired to their own room, that the meeting might transact itself in peace. A beautiful tea was waiting on the table—all so pretty, and calm, and good!—it looked like one of those entertainments sp[r]ead for the good boys that “went out to poos their fortune”3 in my Godmothers fairy Tales. and my Godmother herself like the Good Fairy—so little—Oh so little she has grown! and her face so little and so round and so sweet!— And Miss Jess has been transformed by Kate's death into an active self forgetting Providence for the older and blinder sister—she waits upon her, cuts her bread into mouthfuls, is gentle and thoughtful for her, reads aloud to her (Miss Donaldson tells me), she herself being about eighty. and instead of complaints about her own ailments—it is all now “poor Jean” and “the loss she had in Kate”— The hearts of these two old women are as fresh as gowans. It is like being pretty well up towards Heaven, being here. And what a house! so quiet and clean, and so perfectly the same as I knew it thirty years ago!—the same papers the same carpets the same everything that I made acquaintance with when I was a child, in perfect condition still.

I expect to sleep in my great comfortable fourposted bed—now that the first exciting night is over—and shall stay till the middle of next week I think. My Aunts were extremely kind, and expect me to make them a long visit on my return—but that is not possible, on account of the gass in my bedroom at Morningside, and the public road passing the window, where carts grind from three in the morning—Besides that I like being at Auchtertool, and they want me there for all the time I can stay— Everybody is so kind to me—oh so kind! that I often burst out crying with pure thankfulness to them all—

Betty said yesterday, speaking of the Photograph I had sent her, the one with the bonnet and the dog4—and which together with yours she has got handsomely framed and keeps in a pocket-handkerchief in a drawer!—“It has a look o'ye—but I dinna ken what that white thing is aboot the face,”—“That is the white roses of my bonnet Betty.” “A weel! a weel! May be sae'—but as ye wur kindly sending me yer pictur, Dear, I wud hae liket better ye had goten't dune wi yer bare pow!— I promised her one with the bare pow5—but said “you know it is a shame for me to be without a cap or a bonnet at this age”—“Ay, Ay, I dar say—its no very richt—but ye ken Bairn ye was nae brocht up to dou just like ither folk—at aa rates I'll hae the bare pow if ye please: tho' I wudna be thocht ower greedy!! Dear Darling old Betty—she gets no rest night or day for that poor specter of a son—and it looks to me he may live for years in this suffering hopeless state— And the husband tho' a good enough man in his way—sober and laborious and all that—has not the refinement or the spirituality of Betty and can be but a sorry comforter to her in her sore trouble. She called me back as I was coming away yesterday—to say “Dear—wull ye tell Miss Donaldson—for Im sure it ill please her to hear it—that the Bishp6 is rale gude to us—puir auld manny”!

I had two bathes in the sea—neither did me any good but harm—the first a great deal of harm, by ill luck—

Just the day after I wrote I had had no bathing; Walter took me to Aberdower and I was to partly undress and get a bathing gown at Aberdower House7 wher Mrs Major Liddle8 lives— She gave me the key of the park that Maggie and I might walk thro it to the shore—but the key proved a wrong one. and as there was no time to return for the right key I proposed to Maggie to leap from the top of the wall which was only high on the off side—She positively declined—and we were at a fix—when a working man passing I called to him and asked him to catch us in leaping— He took me between his big thumbs—one on my left side and the other, alas, on my right breast—that unlucky breast I am always hurting!— There! I thought to myself as I found my feet—“there is something to serve me for six weeks again!” I suffered a good deal for the first two or three days and lost my just recovered sleep—It (the pain[)]9 is going off however, tho still a nuisance especially when I use my right arm—remember that in estimating the virtue of this very long letter—

I inclose a note from Lady A which was forwarded to me here this morning—

I am not sure where to address but as one letter was sent to Scotsbrig I had best send this one to the Gill

Yours faithfully /