JWC TO THOMAS CARLYLE ; 18 September 1856; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18560918-JWC-TC-01; CL 31: 229-231
JWC TO THOMAS CARLYLE
Scotsbrig / Thursday [18 September 1856]
Well, I am safe here. tho' not without a struggle for it. In spite of Miss Jessie's continual celebration of the “wholesomeness” of their life I was up to the last “ashamed to say I'se no better.”1 On the Saturday I went to Auchtertool to see Alick, and bid them all farewell, and fetch away the blessed Birds;2 and I staid there, lying on a sofa, mostly, till the Sunday afternoon; when the Fergus carriage came for me.—On Monday morning I started to “cross,”3 accompanied by Mr Lyon (Sir Adam Ferguson's stepson who married Phoebe Johnston of Cowhill)4 and first we were kept waiting for the train an hour and ten minutes! (“run aground in Loch Tay”;5 the telegraph informed us for our consolation) and then!—Oh then!—I was to solve that question, was I still liable to sea sickness? so as to leave no shadow of doubt! The boat went like a swing—and I became sick at once—in the old inward, inexplosive fashion! The birdcage was caught out of my arms by a stranger Lady and Mr Lyon half carried me out of the Saloon and deposited me on a coil of dripping wet rope—the only vacant spot outside—and a horrible hour I spent there! but all hours come to an end—and I was able to walk to the train—tho' the sickness continued for twenty four hours, and I was all trembling from head to foot—as indeed “there was nothing to hinder the day mair than any other day”—All the visits and shopping, I “did intend” to do, had to be thrown over and I went straight to my Aunts who received me most kindly—really looked waeer for me than could have been expected of them—gave me whisky—then tea and hurried “Prayers,” that I might be put to bed at eight oclock— As I had written to Jamie, I insisted on going on next day, tho' pressed most earnestly to stay—till I had recovered myself! and I think the railway journey did me good rather than harm— I missed the forenoon train however, having mistaken the hour of starting and did not reach Ecclefechan till thirteen minutes after nine. not at all sure that anybody would be there to meet me!—and the night quite dark— But it was all right— Jamie had seen my mistake in the letter I wrote, and calculated that I would come by that train— Isabella had a bright fire and tea things ready—but I “took a notion”6 of porridge. Yesterday I breakfasted in bed but I got up at eleven and am much better than could have been expected—
Your letter this morning is a degree more legible than the first one!—but dear me! what galloping and spluttering over the paper, as if you were writing in a house on fire! and bent on making a little look as much as possible! I have measured the distance between your lines in the letter just come, and it is precisely one inch! In the first letter it must have been an inch and half! I call that a foolish waste of writing-paper!— If you have an excellent bedroom could you not retire into it, for, say one hour, in the course of a whole week, and write composedly and leisurly—why write in the midst of four people?
For the rest—in spite of all objections “for the occasion got up”; I dare say you are pretty comfortable. Why not?— When you go to any house, one knows it is because you choose to go, and when you stay it is because you choose to stay— You dont, as weakly amiable people do, sacrifice yourself for the pleasure of “others”— So pray do not think it necessary to be wishing yourself at home and “all that sort of thing” on paper.—“I dont believe thee”!7 If I were inclined to; I should only have to call to mind the beautiful letters you wrote to me during former visit to the Ashburtons in the Highlands, and which you afterwards disavowed and trampled into the fire!!
As to Tom Gillespie; if you could have got into his hands I am sure he would have been useful to you, and been delighted to be so—But the poor man is quite laid up; has been for long in a dangerous state—His sister Mrs Binnie8 lives near the Caledonian Railway, and I spent the hours I had to wait for the train on Tuesday at her house, and she was speaking quite despondingly about him. So that is no go!
Five pounds is as easily sent as two one pound notes—more easily indeed—for I have no one pound notes—So I send a five pound note—to put you out of all danger of running short— It is a very unnecessary grievance that to incur!—so long as one has money.
I write to Mrs Russell today that I shall be at Thornhill on Monday D V [deo volente: God willing]— Isabella says I had best go from here to Anann—it will make the Gig journey shorter— I havn't the least objection to the Gig journey “quite the contrary” But I dare say Jamies time is very precious just now—so I accepted that route at once— Whether I return to Scotsbrig or not will depend on your arrangements— Lady Ashburton is very kind to offer to take me back pray make her my thanks for the offer— But tho' a very little Herring I have a born liking to “hang by my own head.”9 and when it is a question simply of paying my own way or having it paid for me— I prefer “lashing down” my four or five sovereigns on the table all at once!10— If there were any companionship in the matter it would be different—and if you go back with the Ashburtons it would be different, as then I should be going merely as part of your luggage—without self responsibility— Settle it as you like; it will be all one to me—meeting you at Scotsbrig, or in Edinr—or going home by myself from Thornhill
This is the 19th of September—the day of my Fathers death— Jamie is going to take me a little drive at one oclock— He is such a dear good Jamie for me always!—Walter wrote me a long letter to meet me at Scotsbrig which I received in bed yesterday and it gave me “a good comforting cry” it is so kind oh so kind and brotherly!
Yours faithfully /