January-September 1856

The Collected Letters, Volume 31


JWC TO THOMAS CARLYLE ; 19 August 1856; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18560819-JWC-TC-01; CL 31: 178-179


Craigen villa / Morningside / Tuesday [19 August 1856]

Oh dear me! I am back from Haddington; and a sad day yesterday was! The people at Haddington seem all to grow so good and kind as they grow old! That isn't the way with us in the South. It wasn't the Miss Donaldsons only that made much of me, and cried over me at parting as if I were “their own bairn.” Mr Howden Mrs Howden,1 and all of them, still alive, that knew my Father and Mother were in tears—and poor old Mr Lea,2 who has otherwise lost his wits, said “Oh Jeanie Jeanie! when you come again you wont find me here”—And then he said angrily to Miss Brown3 “Are you going to let that Lassie go away by hersell? Send the man with her”! (the man meaning his keeper!) It would have touched you to the heart to see poor Jess Donaldson daundering about opening drawers and presses to find something to give me! It was her chief employment all the time I was there—one day it was an Indian shawl—the next a real lace veil—the next a diamond ring—and so on—till the last hour when after my boxes were all packed she suddenly bethought her that I used to like old china—and took me privately to the press that contained her long prized Indian China and bade take as much of it as I cared to carry—and then when I told her my boxes were full she said “take my work basket, Dear, to pack it in—I shall never need it any more”!— But inanimate objects were not all that I brought from home with me— —I brought two live plants in flower pots—one out of our own garden—and two live— — Oh gracious I picture your dismay!—“Whatever” will you say or sing?—two live— — cacanaries!! They were born in our own house—the darlings! And poor Mrs Howden made with her own hands a black silk bag to draw over the cage and trimmed it with braid!!—You may still hope that they shall get eaten by my Aunt's cat—or my cousins Terrier—or at least by the cat or Nero at home—“But I hope better things tho I thus speak”4— At all events they shant plague you the least in the world—and it was a luck for me yesterday in coming away that I had these live things to look after—

Aren't you a spoilt child—without the CHILDNESS and the SPOILING! to go and write in that plaintive solemn way about “help of some connexions of Jane's in Glasgow”—as if you were a desolate orphan “thrown out sangg froa to charity”5 If you weren't satisfied with the duffle you had got, why couldnt you have said so straightforwardly? and told me you wished me to choose another!— But I was to do it only “if I wanted a lark”—or “if it didn't satisfy me” &c &c—you know very well that if you told me to go fifty miles to buy your dressing-gown—and that you were depending on me for doing it I shouldn't have hesitated a minute—and it could have been done now when I am on the spot without the least trouble had you so chosen— But if it was merely to “please my own taste” that I was to go in to Edinr from Haddington and back again or to give myself “a lark” I was right to decline— You have no notion what a disagreeable train that is! both in going and coming you have to wait at Longniddry6 from half an hour to an hour in consequence of the irregularity of the London trains which stop there!—the Express dont stop—Yesterday I had to wait an hour all but three minutes!! You will be glad to hear as a symptom—that an enterprising man is starting anew the old Haddington stage!! to go thrice a week—at the same price as the railway—for the comfort of passengers who have not temper to stand this irregular waiting. My aunts received me back with the heartiest welcome and I dont think it will be possible for me to get back to Auchtertool this week—without offending them—But I have changed my room for one to the back—left vacant by Ann who is in Dumfriesshire and it is as quiet as Cheyne Row—except for a very singular water-cistern that runs without a minutes interruption day and night! “Men shall come and men shall go / But thou goest on for ever!”7 It is only a gentle sound however like the flow of a brook and it rather helped me to sleep last night as otherwise!!

By the way the “trash of things” that bit you so, must have been the new insect called ‘harvest bugs’ or gooseberry lice—imported they say in some American plants about 20 years ago—they last for six weeks—and are most tormenting Mrs Donaldson was covered as with chickenpocks from them, and I finally was dreadfully bitten—but got off easier as I resolutely refused to scratch the places—they took me chiefly on the legs—of all places—

Yours faithfully

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