October 1856-July 1857

The Collected Letters, Volume 32


TC TO ALEXANDER CARLYLE ; 3 October 1856; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18561003-TC-AC-01; CL 32: 3-5


Scotsbrig, 3 Octr, 1856—

My dear Brother,

Being here again, for a few hours, before returning to London, I think I ought to write you a word (with this bad pen, and in hurried circumstances); perhaps the date itself will make amends for the meagre Letter.

In the end of July, being very feckless in point of health (mere biliousness still, rather than anything worse), with a great spell of work just ahead, I set off with Jane into these Northern parts, to have a little country air by way of outfit. All August I staid, perfectly silent and solitary, with Mary at The Gill; riding about, bathing when the Priestside Water1 served; walking a great deal in the fine twilights, on roads and lanes that were solitary, or where nobody troubled me with speech. Jane in the meanwhile was in Fife, with her Liverpool Cousins:—one of them is a minister there, and the two girls stay with him,2 the Father (Jane's worthy “Uncle John” whom you remember) being dead, and Helen the eldest Cousin being also gone. I came over to Scotsbrig for a ride once or twice, rode twice into Dumfries too, and once into Annan, speaking to no soul,—and for the rest was quite stationary, till September came. In the beginning of September I had unwillingly to take a long journey into the Highlands to visit “the Ashburtons” (kind English friends of mine) who were “deer-hunting” there.3 Far away beyond Aberdeen and Inverness, amid surly black mountains, solitary crags and bogs,—a country thrice as wild as Craigenputtoch, and otherwise of the same kind of character. To me not “beautiful” at all. But such things have a charm for idle English people with more money than enough! Nothing can be madder than the doings of English grandees at present, in those Highland parts, in pursuit of deer.4— In fine I had a very laborious journey to and from; and was not disappointed in the want either of pleasure or profit in that part of my Tour: however, I had to go; and now it is done, and no mischief sticking by it,—perhaps a little health gained by the endless locomotion, and confusion of weather and other things. I got hither the night before last; found Jane waiting me, all well with the rest here and hereabouts; and Tomorrow morning we set off for London again, to arrive that same night, and end these wanderings. You did not get your Courier5 thro’ September; the reason was it never came to me, Jean having lost my Address: I send you a No off today again, and hope there will be no more blanks.

All our kindred in these regions are in their usual health; and I think all rather prospering. The Austins have got more ground (“Hen's Nest,”6 as I think you know, some years ago), and appear to be standing considerably better: poor Mary looks very old even for her years, but is still busy, industrious, and was kind hearted to me beyond measure: the lasses are all fine menseful industrious creatures;—Margaret waited on me like a beneficent Fairy, and is indeed very clever at all kinds of work and management. I did myself a great deal of good during the month I spent there. Jean has again a young child7 (eldest Boy is gone to Glasgow to be a Clerk); Jamie is still gradually on the growing hand with his business,—much given up to chemistry &c, and takes as much tobacco as ever. Poor Shaw is married a second time;8 has been mad for a little while, but is now sane again, & pluistering along (I understand) in the old fashion.— At Scotsbrig as you may conceive I found a great sad want and change, of which I could say nothing: Jamie & I went one Sunday to the Ecclefechan Churchyard (which is now all walled in, and locked till you get the key);—there, yes there they all lay; Father, Mother, and Margaret's9 grave between them: silent, now that were wont to be so speechful when one came among them after an absence. I stood silent, with bared head, as in the sacredest place of all the world, for a few moments; and I daresay tears again wetted these hard eyes which are now unused to weeping. All silent, sheltered forever from all the storms and hardships;—your little Bairns lie near on the right;10—and the big sky is high overhead, and the Maker of all reigns there and here. One need not much mourn the lot of the Dead: it will, in all events, be our own so very soon.— — I did not return to that sacred spot; but if I come again to this country to this country,11 I will visit it. No shrine can be so holy to a man.

Everything is now changed and changing with furious rapidity in this country,—principally owing to the railways I think. A great increase of luxury is coming over all ranks; prices of everything very nearly doubled (13d per lb for Butter, 1d each for eggs, and all in proportion), so that farmers, with a lease, prosper amazingly. Much draining goes on too; nobody but Irishmen to do it. Jamie says, porridge will be out of use altogether in 20 years.— I cannot say I love these aspects of things; but they are not to be altered.12

John is at present in London, getting one of his wards (a very bad Boy) put apprentice to sea.13 He expects to be here shortly. Poor soul, he has got no other home, nor does he look as if he would get any. For the rest he is well and always cheerful,—and busy about something or other at all times.

Dear Brother, here is an alarm that the Post is passing! I must abruptly close.— I hope to write again soon from Chelsea, about London matters, and with a better pen and leisure.

I am to go and see Grahame14 this evg; he is quite sunk into stupidity and want of memory, they say: otherwise in fresh health: poor old man!—

Good be with you all, dear Brother: from our dear old native Country, poor and harsh but dear, I send you and yours a Brother's blessing.

Ever your affectionate /

T. Carlyle

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