January-October 1859

The Collected Letters, Volume 35


JWC TO WILLIAM DODS ; 3 September 1859; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18590903-JWC-WDO-01; CL 35: 189-191


Auchtertool House / Kircaldy Saturday [3 September 1859]

My dear William Dodds

I want you to tell me something.— You divine what it is?—that it relates to the matter I spoke to you of, a minute before we parted;1 only then; tho’ I had had it in my heart and throat to say, during the whole time we were together alone!

That grave! is there quiet about it again? and grass beginning to grow?—Tell me truly the state of things in the old ruin;2 I need to know, for my practical guidance; whether to go there now would do away with the impression made last time, or only deepen it?

As it is I am haunted by what I saw—that horror of trenching, and scaffolding, and bare, trampled, heaped up earth3 which burst on me so unexpectedly, where I had imagined to find the old sacred stillness!— Nobody had told me—nor had I noticed till inside it, that anything was doing to the old Church, and when a scene so revolting to any interested person presented itself, it was like a stunning blow on the face, taking away for some moments all power of distinguishing whether his grave was still there—undisturbed!—That, and the sorrowful state of things at Sunny Bank made my last visit to the dear old place so painful to me4—that I left it, privately determined to return no more! A cowardly determination you will say—but the cowardice must go to the account of my bodily weakness at the time, complicated by the excitement of overfatigue. Now that I am a little stronger, and as calm as I ever am—or expect to be in this aggravating world. I ask myself; would it not be more sensible as well as more courageous, to go back after all, and try to get my last dismal impressions effaced by more cheerful ones, instead of running away (as it were) by another road, and glooming over the recollection of poor dear Haddington for the rest of my Life!?—

A letter from Miss Jess this morning contains better news of her Sister than I have received for many months—“better nights”—“a little more strength”—and then Eliza,5 tho’ “requiring much attention” does seem to be shaking them out of their sombre “all-by-themselves life”—so quite possibly the recollections I brought away of Miss Donaldson's agonies of restlessness—so unlike her old self!—and of Miss Jess's lonely overwrought weakness—might be better superseded by the present phase of Sunny-Bank, than effaced by Time, at a distance.

But there is also the other question to be answered before I can make up my mind; and that I can only ask of you. If I went to see his grave now, would it be for my comfort—or for worse distress? I can bear the unfavourable answer at a distance better than I could bear it on the spot,—received from my own eyes.

Please to write soon—for Mr C goes into Annandale the middle or end of next week, and I must have my own programme of travel schemed out, that it may be ready for acting upon the week after—

I need to be home at Chelsea some days before him.

Nothing can be slower than the life I have led in Fyfe—indeed it has been more the Life of a picketted Sheep, than of a human woman! My only means of locomotion a miserable Cuddy—going at the rate of two miles an hour! And even that it became unable for last week—I was poottering along on him, within sight of my own gate,—meditating on—Dr Smethurst,6—when flop went the Cuddy, over on his left side, as if his legs had been shot away! and there we lay, he and I plashed down on the road, struggling which to be uppermost!— It was no hight to fall from, nor was the Cuddy of overwhelming weight—but the horn of the saddle was near being crushed into my side—only that I pushed it with desperate force in the very act of falling—and so came out of my “accident” with no worse consequences than a broken saddle, a torn riding habit, three black and blue toes and “loss of confidence” in the Cuddy, which I shall mount no more in this world—whatever, for my sins, I may be obliged to do in the next!

Kind regards to your Wife7

Ever affectionately yours

Jane Welsh Carlyle