October 1856-July 1857

The Collected Letters, Volume 32


JWC TO THOMAS CARLYLE ; 26 July 1857; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18570726-JWC-TC-01; CL 32: 199-202


Sunny Bank / Sunday [26 July 1857]

I hope and trust, Dear, you wont execute your threat to send a letter for Wednesday to “Craigenvilla Mornington”! 1—as in that case I shan't receive it, if at all, till three weeks after date when returned from the dead Letter

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Sir David Baird, by Henry Raeburn, 1815

Reproduced from James Greig, Sir Henry Raeburn, R.A. His Life and Works (1911)


Office!— The only Mornington I know of being in Berwickshire, and rejoicing in no Craigenvilla! Surely you would recollect in time, that my aunts live at Morningside.

Thanks for your note, meant to be very soothing I can see; but it rather sooths me the wrong way of the hair somehow! Makes me feel I had been making a Baby of myself and a fractious Baby— Well never mind— As Miss Madeline Smith2 said to old Dr Simpson,3 who attended her during a short illness in Prison, and begged to use “the privilege of an old man, and speak to her seriously at parting”—“My dear Doctor! it is so good of you! But I wont let you trouble yourself to give me advice; for I assure you I have quite made up my mind to turn over a new leaf!!! That is a fact! Simpson told it to Terrot4 who told me. and so, I have made up my mind to turn over a new leaf; and no more give words to the impatient, or desponding thoughts that rise in my mind about myself. It is not a natural vice of mine that sort of egoistical babblement; but has been fostered in me by the patience and sympathy shown me in my late long illness. I can very easily leave it off—as I did smoking5—when I see it to be getting a bad habit.

But about Miss Smith—I have one thing to tell you, which I think you will be rather glad of, as giving the death-stroke to Testimonials! The Glasgow Merchants are actually raising a subscription—(it has reached nine thousand pounds) “to testify their sympathy for her”!6 One man, a Mr Campbell,7 has given a thousand himself!—he had better marry her and get poisoned. Not that I believe the girl guilty of the poisoning—but she is such a little incarnate devil that the murder don't go for much in my opinion of her. Haddington has half the honour of having produced this cockatrix!— I knew her great grandmother—a decent ancient woman, called “Mealy Janet” never to be seen but with a bag of flour under each arm— She was Mother to the “Mr Hamilton—architect of Edinr8 and to one of the most curious figures in my childhood—Mysie Hamilton—or “Meal-Mysie” (she continuing her mother's flour trade.)9 She spoke with a loud man's voice, that used to make us children take to our heels in terror when we heard it. I remember the Boys said Mysie was “a hermophrodite” (?) but what that was I hadn't a notion, nor have yet! My Mother thought her a good woman and once by way of lark invited her to tea

I bought a pamphlet, the other day, containing the whole “Trial10 on the very spot where Mysie Hamilton sold her flour! Now a bookshop

I was in our own house yesterday. They have new papered the drawing room and dining room. But the paint we left on it is still the same!—and perfectly new looking after some forty years!! My Father always had every thing done effectually. There are no such doors as those painted wainscot ones that I ever saw, with their eight coats of paint and as many of varnish! The old Drawing-room still looks to me a beautiful room—independent of associations. But a full-length portrait of Mr Howden,11 leaning like Sir David Baird on his horse's neck,12 was over the mantle-piece! vulgarizing everything by its groom-like presence— I gave young Dr Howden who lives there still, the Large photograph of Woolners Medallion13—in the secret expectation it would be hung up in that dear old room, which still feels mine! “And “my youth was left behind / For some one else to find!”14 The young girl-wife15 who lives there is very lonely—and writes poetry—God help her— I adhere to my programme of leaving tomorrow &c— But have promised to stop here again on my way home!! I could not help it when I saw those dear old women crying about my going so soon