The Collected Letters, Volume 4


TC TO ALEXANDER CARLYLE; 19 February 1828; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18280219-TC-AC-01; CL 4:323-326.


21. Comley Bank, 19th Feby, 1828—

My Dear Alick,

We had some expectation of hearing from you; but were informed yesterday by a Letter from Scotsbrig that you were not to write till after the Fair. When the Fair is I know not; but I hope it may be tomorrow, in which case you are like to get this without waiting, and to answer it in like manner. Not that there is anything of importance in the wind; but simply that we would fain hear of you, and of your welfare, and the prosperity of the Craig and Craig-people.

I think when I have mentioned that we are well, and—in want of butter, at present, I shall have exhausted the whole pith of my commission. Such, I assure you, are the facts; a pleasant one, and a sad one, as joy and sorrow will often go together in this world: we are in fair health, and have no butter! The question now is, Can you send us any? If these tubs we heard of are still in existence, you have only to buy a Maryport pot; and little Missus will fill it, and the first trusty Dumfries Carrier will bring it hither, where all due honour will be done it. Fear not for the smoky qualities of the ware: the hard weather of winter takes away smoke; and at any rate I have a notion it would be found highly tolerable even as it was. By all means, let us try. At the same time, I need hardly add that if you have none, you are to give yourself no particle of disturbance about it. There is butter to be had here, of all sorts; and in a month or two, the fresh will be better than any other. Comfort your dear little Housewife, then, if her stock is done, and think no more of it.

I have a whole legion of questions to ask you about Craigenputta had I room here, or any hope of getting answers. Meanwhile it is satisfactory to believe that all things are made to get along as diligently as they could be were I questioning about them every hour. Have you got that villain of a vent put into “any kind of moderation” yet? Or is there any hope of it? And how fares it with our Road? And how with your Cattle and the prices of them? I could like much to hear about all this; and have a picture to myself of your way of life in that wilderness thro' the storms of winter, now happily we may hope doing their last. But I am to get insight and tidings on all these things face to face ere long: and I believe the best way will be for you to consider when it will be fittest for me to come down, and tell me in your next letter; for in three weeks I shall be ready to come when I like and find it suit you. I set to work stoutly a few days ago to a thing I had to write;1 and can now calculate with confidence on being done then, and for a time at complete liberty. So consider and tell me. I long to see you all and ascertain how you look. I hope you will not be so lonely another winter; for either you will have us with you, or a Wife, which last I take to be an excellent preservative against weariness. Perhaps you may have both. Mag indeed tells of a dryness which she suspects may have sprung up in a certain quarter:2 but I hope it may not be irremediable, or at worst, if it cannot be cured, it may be made good some other way. Our Father spoke about coming up to see you, if he could ride so far: I pray you, encourage him by all means in your power. Alas! I meant to plant trees this very spring at the Craig O' putta myself; and you see how it is: I am still here, and when I do arrive there will be nothing but plastering and pargetting,3 and all in a haste to be ready for whitsunday.

For to the Craig at whitsunday we will come; and for aught I can see may abide there. The St Andrews Professorship, like Attila Schmelzle's, seems a thing not to be counted on.4 It is true, I have sent off my Certificates; and such Certificates as might do one's heart good to look upon: but what then? The probability is that they have other meal to grind than choose by certificates; and so all the proofs you can give them of your deservings will be but as music to the deaf adder which refuses to hear the voice of the charmer, charm he never so wisely. We this morning got a letter from a Friend of Mrs Welsh's a person professedly intimate with the business and people of St Andrews: he gives it as his clear opinion that the project is up, the man being pitched upon long before I made any application.5 This to Jane seems decisive; not in the least so to me; tho' I must still think, as I before thought, that my chance is doubtful enough. The best part of it is that I am not conscious of caring three farthings which way it go. I think and believe that they ought to choose me, from the circumstances before them, if they do fairly; and if they do unfairly, why in Heaven's name let it be so, and each party will bear his own loss. Here therefore it rests, and may do for many months[.] If I had Goethe's Certificate6 I would send it also, and then leave them to make a kirk and a mill of the whole matter.7 The old Laureate did write me since I wrote; but not in answer to my letter which he had not then got: he merely warned me that another packet of Books &c was on the way for me: owing to the bad weather, I do not look for it for several weeks. There are two medals in it which I am to present in his name to Sir Walter Scott!

Jack, whom I heard from some three weeks ago, tells me that he had written to you. He seems to be doing well every way. I wrote back a while ago, and am to send a Letter shortly by some Books for the Baron.— Jane, the lesser, still abides with us in good health and heart: she with her namesake sends her best regards to you and Mary. We heard that Mary was at Scotsbrig, but going back to you in a day. Tell her that I owe her somewhat, and will try to pay her when I come down. I am sure she will make me tea of the very best. By the bye, do you or does she know of any sort of person who would be likely to suit us for a servant[?] The present house-maid is a sort of thickheaded handless and rather wasteful person, and not likely to do. I fear we shall have our own difficulties in arranging everything. But stout heart to staye brae [stout heart for a steep hill] is the word: what is Life itself that one should either sorrow over it or rejoice for it?— Write to us very soon, My dear Alick. I am ever [your] true Brother— T.C.

I know not whether you have heard that Jenny Graham (of Myre) has got a prize of £5 from the Highland Society for her straw bonnet. I am to send her the money tomorrow, in a frank, and will write at the same time to Mother. At St Andrews I have Certificates from Jeffrey, Wilson, Brewster, Leslie, Irving &c &c all praising me, as is the style in these things, for one of the best men now extant.