July-December 1858

The Collected Letters, Volume 34


TC TO JWC ; 6 August 1858; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18580806-TC-JWC-01; CL 34: 99-102


The Gill, 6 Augt, 1858—

You need not ask whether I am delighted with the second despatch, received this morning! I hoped always a taste of the country might at once do you good; and see, has it not? You look to be a new woman; and have even had a “good joy,” larking on a Man of War. Pray Heaven only that it continue! I hope you are deciding this day that the country is beneficial,—& practically that you will and can undertake the Landhall adventure.1 Pity only that I cannot hear of that till Monday morning; so remiss is Rowland Hill in some points notwithstanding his impetuous velocity concentrated upon others. The Letter which you cannot get at breakfast is lying safe in London from 4 a.m; and he cannot get it 90 miles farther for 13 hours! He is, by all symptoms, an ostentatious person, and quack proper, working only for applause of the Newspapers, which I can define to him as a “bad joy” in the long run.

Yesterday the Craigenputtoch expedition was achieved.2 Battering showers attended us (from Irongray Kirk neighbourhood to Sunday Well,3 and during the same space of road back,) but no other misventure at all,—for as to famine, neither Jamie nor I could have eaten, had the chance been offered us, as indeed it was by our loyal Tenant and his Wife,4 tho' declined;—and, on the whole, the business was not at all so uncomfortable as I had anticipated, or indeed to be called miserable at all, except for the memories it cd not fail to awaken. From Stroquhan5 upwards there are slight improvements noticeable in one or two places, but essentially no marked change: the bleak moor-road lay in plashes of recent rain, from Carstammon6 onward; Stumpy7 was in crop (very poor promise, tho' actual oatmeal coming there); and, after 2 other gates, by the side of the ragged woods, grown sensibly bigger, and thro' our once pleasance which is grown a perfect thicket of struggling trees, we got to the front door,—where the poor old knocker (tolerably scoured still) gave me a pungent salutation. The House, trim & tight in all essential particulars, is now quite buried in woods, and even from the upper back windows you can see no moor, only distant mountain tops and nearby leafy heads of trees.—Common, the Tenant, who was in waiting by appointt, is a fine tall strapping fellow, six feet 2 or so, with cheerful sense, honesty, prompt mastery of his business, looking out of every feature of him. Wife too a good busy young mother: our old dining room is now the state apartt, bearing her likeness (as it once did quite another dame's) and grand truly for those parts: new papered in a flaming pattern, carpetted do, with tiny sideboard &c: I recognised only the old grate, and quasi-marble mantel-piece (little changed, and surely an achievement dear to me now): your old paper is on the other two rooms, dim like the fading memories; I looked with emotion upon my old Library closet, and wished I cd get thither again to finish my Friedh under fair chances! Except some small injuries about the window-sashes &c whh are now on the road to repair, everything was tight and right there:—a considerable young elm (natural son of the old high Tree at the n.e. corner of the House, under whh I have read Waverley novels,8 in summer holidays) has planted itself near the bare wall (our screen from the old peat house,9 you recollect); and has got to be 10 or 12 feet high under flourishing auspices: this I ordered to be respected, & cherished towards a long future. Another ligneous creature, also very flourishing, an ash of 3 years, had planted itself close by, almost at the cheek of the drawing room window: tho' still under a yard high, and capable of oversetting the House one day, I ordered with a sigh to be slain quàm primùm [as soon as possible]. Craigenputtoch looks all very respectably; much wood to cut and clear away; the Tenant evidently doing rather well in it, and like to do; cutting drains for himself in some degree &c. I cheerfully consented to a small matter of tile-draining (near the house, an evidently good investment); and privately authorized Jamie to agree to lime &c, shd Common (at “Lambfair,” next week)10 propose it to him on conditions that wd prove Common's conviction of its being duly beneficial. The poor woods have struggled up in spite of heather, tempest and misfortune; even Macadams burnt Plantatn11 begins to come away, and the old trees left of it are tall and venerable beings. “Nothing like the Craigenph larch for toughness in all this country!” For most part there are again far too many trees: “£300-worth o' wud to cut away and mair; and there is a market!” said a man skilled in such matters, whom I found mowing there, and consulted.— In short, we went away, 6 p.m. in bleared weather, under good impressions;—saw poor old Peter Austin for one moment (also Rob, our once postman,12 who is now farmer; Peter fallen lame, being 85,13 and “quite dune, as he cheerfully says, tho' a fresh wise old fellow yet);—and so rattled into Dumfries at 8; tea &c there, and home to our respective places, parting at Cummertrees 11 p.m.— Porridge awaited me; and no great shakes of a sleep afterwards. Jamie wd not get home by annan till well after midnight.— We had hoped, on certain indications, to bargain with a woodman,14 at Dumfries as we came thro'; but that proved futile;—that will require still to be done elsewhere, and I have pointed out on search. Is not this enough of Craigenph (Crag of the Gleds, as its name means)?15 Enough and to spare!— — At Dumfries, morning transit, I found your Aunt Anne16 had been to Jean's, and “Wd wait all the morning at home to shake hands with me.” Off to Bank Vennel, and found poor Anne accordingly, poor good Anne! Very glad of the 5 minutes talk. Elizth's knee,17 knee of the once lame leg is “badly sprained” (nothing more), and will require rest for some time. John Welsh had reported himself (from “perhaps Oban”)18 to be worse than while in London, tho' better than while in Edinr. He must be furthered to Madeira, or some such place poor fellow: we will help all we can.19

Lord Ashburton proposes to meet me at Dumfries, if I will point out the trains for Monday and Thursday; whh (having despatched a runner to the Station for a certain Halfpenny Book of Tables) I am just about to do! Monday 8 p.m. till Tues—4 p.m., that is the limit of possibilities; and I really do consider it likely that we shall be driving about, to the Burns's Monument,20 to the &c on Tuesday morning,—evening of whh day he is to be at Glasgow to meet Miss Baring & Rous.21 I do thank Miss Baring from my heart, & will write to say so. No more, dearest. Did any fool ever write so long a letter? Yours T. C.

Your Mrs Mildmay must be the “esteemable” aquaintance I once had of that name, a sister in German &c:22 pray offer my kind remembrances to her.

No hurry in leaving Bay House now; & take care, take care!