August 1857-June 1858

The Collected Letters, Volume 33


JWC TO TC ; 3 August 1857; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18570803-JWC-TC-01; CL 33: 3-6


Auchtertool—Monday [3 August 1857]

Oh Heavens! or rather, oh the other Place! “I am degenerating from a woman into a dog, and feel an inclination to bark; bow! wow! wow!1 Ever since I came here I have been passing out of one silent rage into another, at the Things in general of this House! viewed from the Invalid-point of view, they are enough really to make one not only bark but bite; were it not that in other people's houses, one has to assume the muzzle of politeness. The “best intentions always unfortunate”!2 the finest possibities3 yielding zero, or worse! The maximum of bother to arrive at the minimum of comfort (so far as I am concerned)

Is it possible that the change of a Cook can make the difference betwixt now and last summer?4 Or is it the increased irritability of my nerves that makes it? Or are my cousins getting stupified for want of any thing to stir their souls on this hilltop?

The Devil knows best how it comes, but “I, as one solitary individual,”5 find no satisfaction in the arrangements here; tho' “there need be no reflections for want of roses, and, “beautiful views,” and “pure air”! And it is not only my soul that protests but my body; I sleep shockingly, and the sickness has come back. How little Mary has escaped dying under these late and irregular hours, and bad bread, and all the rest of the ‘much-ado-about-nothing,6 and ‘don't-you-wish-you-may-get it,’ here, is a wonder to me! And I dont think much of her Doctor.7 When I looked at him and his ways intently the other day, with a half thought to consult him myself about certain things; he “left me cold”8—very cold indeed, and “with a decided preference” for Nature! Hadn't I better be going then? Decidedly; “being an only child” I have “no WISH9 to stay. But then “that damned thing called the milk of human kindness”10 not being yet all gone to sour curd in me; I would not show any unfeeling impatience to be gone; where I am treated—tho' god knows how injudiciously!—most kindly according to their light and ability. Jeanie is coming over with her Baby11 and two nurses (!!) a wet and a dry, tomorrow week. Neither she nor the rest would forgive me if I took myself off before this Royal Progress12— But I have intimated my intention to go, so soon as I have seen her and the “insipid offspring,”13—the next day, I mean TO

I have written to Lady Airlie declining the honour proposed to me,14 which looked, on consideration something of the Irishman's bottomless Sedan sort.15 Also I have declined a pressing invitation to Thornhill16— My flesh quivered at the thought of going thro that, again, in my present weakness of body and mind! But I mean to stop some days—a week perhaps—with my aunts, who are really good intelligent companions when they keep off their hobby,17 and where I am well cared for materially. They have a good, plain house, and keep early hours and to a moment, and seem really pleased to have me. I never saw women more improved by keeping! I had been thinking to try a week's seabathing before you suggested it, and perhaps shall go for a week to portobello or North Berwick.18 At all events I go back, if I am spared, to Sunny Bank to start from there for London— I could not get away without promising that, and shall be very glad of another breath of my “native air.”19 I shouldnt wonder if it were the last, till it blows over my grave; for when one of these dear old women dies, the other will follow fast, and they too gone, I dont think, if I even lived long, I should ever have the courage or wish to go back more.

The Post office arrangements are like all the other arrangements here, enough to make one stamp and foam at the mouth! The postbag arrives here from Kircaldy at 10 in the morning, and the Post from the South arrives at Kircaldy at midday!!20 By waiting two or three hours, all the letters of the day might be brought—but no—the London and other South letters must be left lying at Kircaldy till the following morning! One day I persuaded Mary to go as far as the post-office when she was out on her poney—and the result was a Punch! I could have thrown it at your head—Neither was I inordinately grateful for the Photographs.21 The letter came yesterday (Sunday) at midday with the Precentor22—I wrote to Lady Sandwich and was going to write to you, when I was told the Precentor took back the letters on Sunday as well as brought them and was ready to start—

A thousand thanks for your attentions to these blessed animals. I had thought how “disagreeable” Tait must be making himself to the Canaries, and was very pleased it had struck you also— My compliments to Anne and thanks for her care of the “children”—

I have not announced myself to Fergusdom23—dont intend TO—until I am on the eve of departure—

I had a kind letter from Isabella24 yesterday—expressing her regret that they could never have you and me there a summer now—“We think it a great hardship, she says that we cannot ask you here—but the Doctor25 continues to do as he likes.”—And will as long as he is let I reckon.

I have an invitation to a strawberry-play this evening at Mr James Prentices26—but I wont risk catching cold, in the open dogcart—

By all means send me the German book27— I was obliged to fall back on a stray volume of Shakespear during the night—and found it very—what shall I say? dull upon my honour! Loves Labour lost it was.

A kiss to Nero—

Yours affectionately

Jane W Carlyle

What would Varnhagen say to this penmanship— Heavens a man who writes like that at his age doesn't deserve to live!28