The Collected Letters, Volume 4


TC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE; 20 April 1828; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18280420-TC-MAC-01; CL 4:368-371.


Edinburgh, 20th April, 1828—

My Dear Mother,

You must long ere this be returned (I hope, safely) to your home, as we are to ours; and well do you deserve a Letter from your Children; which also I, the spokesman of the party, now mean in full measure to pay you. On Monday morning, after a long bout of Letterwritings to almost all quarters of the Earth, I have to begin an equally assiduous and still longer bout of Review-writing; so that tonight, if at all, in season, I must despatch your sheet. I am tired and dull: but that you will not mind much.

Jane and I had a pleasant enough drive into Edinburgh, the day after I parted with you: we arrived some time between eight and nine in the evening; and found all well at Comley Bank; only the fire a little low, and Ellen gone out “seeking places” (or rather a place—for the next half-year, which the poor slut has not yet found); so that it was some considerable space before Tea could be raised, tho' I was happy in firing a pipe almost instantaneously. The “wise young Stewardess,” had sunk considerably into pecuniary embarrassments; but in all other points was well to live and happy; and had managed herself throughout with a degree of prudence and gumption far beyond her years. Indeed, both Jane and I were surprised at the acuteness the little crow had displayed in all emergencies; and perhaps still more at the strange growth she had made in manner and bearing during our absence; for she seemed almost to have enlarged into a sort of woman during that period of self-direction; and could not surely have improved so much at any boarding or other school or College during twice the time. She had employed her spare hours in knitting you a sort of strange thrum-combination, which I think she calls bobbin-net or thread-net: this she is even now finishing at my hand, and will send you, I suppose, by the first opportunity; tho' in all human likelihood, whent it is sent it will “d' ye neither ill no' good.”1 She really manages well; and seems to steer her way here with no ordinary sagacity.

The best of our news, at least the most important, since I parted with you, is that we are coming down to the Craig this Whitsunday, to take up our abode there! This house was found to have been let during our absence; and such a circumstance was sufficient to end our hesitation. Since we had to flit any way, whither should we flit but to our own House in the Moor? We are coming down, then, against the term, to neighbour you. Will you be good neighbours or bad? I cannot say, Mrs Carlyle; but I jealouse2 you, I jealous you!— However we are to try; for Jane and I were out this very day buying Paper for these two Rooms, which is already on its way to Dumfries; and the Painters, we trust, are busy; and Alick and Uncle John doing great things, that the “Mansion-house” may be swept and smooth by the 26th of May, when we visit it with bag and baggage, we hope as a permanent home.

Another great uncertainty has been happily got over: I mean the hiring of a servant. We have got a Maid3 engaged; a staid, discreet, active, decided looking personage from East Lothian originally, now serving in a family here; highly recommended to us, and who I think promises to do moderately good service in the household. This I always reckoned a great point; and naturally I feel some relief in seeing it so hopefully settled. The woman is above thirty, has known hardship, and is without ties to any particular spot, her parents and relations being all dead or dispersed: if we can manage her rightly, it seems to me that there is some talent in her.

And farther I must tell you of the arrival of Goethe's Box, with such a Catalogue of rarities as would perfectly astonish you. There was a bracelet and gold breast-pin (with the Poets bust on a ground of steel), besides two gilt books for Jane; and for the Husband I know not how many verses and cards and beautiful volumes, the whole wrapped in about half a quire of German Newspapers. Sir Walter Scott's Medals are not yet delivered, the Baronet being at present in London: but I have written to him announcing what lies here for his acceptance; and in some week or two I cannot but expect that I shall speak with the great man, and having delivered him my commission—wish him good morning! To Goethe I have already written, to thank him for such kindness. He resembles Calendar Jardine surely in one particular: he is “a queer man, yes, a very queer man.”

The Doctor also, if he had the gift of prophecy, might this very hour be looking for a letter from me; for one is already (since yesterday) steering across the German ocean to salute him. I told the man all and sundry about Scotsbrig and the Craig, and how you would one and all have written, had the flesh been as strong as the spirit was willing. I expect a Letter from himself one of these weeks: so soon as it arrives you shall have notice.

I am sorry to find that for the present there is no faith to be put in the Examiners. They do not come regularly, indeed not at all; for we have only had three yet in whole; of which the two last came together, at quite an unexpected time. One of these I sent off to you, old tho' it was. When Fraser comes hither from London, we shall try to settle it on a better footing. Meanwhile you can now and then (Jenny can) keep asking; for as the Papers chance to reach me, I will send them, that the “ganz wohl” may content you from time to time. If none come, why then I will write; and after Whitsunday you will not only hear of me but see me “many a time and oft,” if Larry's feet do not fail him. Were the Doctor once settled in Dumfries, we should all be together, and as snug as people need be, at least if we had any wisdom.

I hope your husbandmen have fairly done sowing, and planting: all is under clod here, and the weather indifferently good, tho' rather sharp when dry. Today has been very rainy.— Andrew Thomson and Henry Grey4 are still fighting, and the public is still laughing at them. Unhappily they do not need “four candles,” or anything but the devil's grace which is plentiful enough, to “strike,” in this case.— But I ame done, tho' only as it were beginning. Forget not to give my truest affection to all the household from My Father downwards thro' Jamie & Mag to your nimble Semstress.5 All good be with you, both now and forever! I am always, My Dear Mother's Son— Thomas Carlyle—

[In margins:] Mary has some plan for going to Dumfries to learn sewing this Summer, directly after Whitsunday, and I have promised to bear her charges there. Do see if you can get it arranged for little Missus, for she well deserves it, and will profit by it.

We had a call from Jeffrey today, to whom I have given one of Goethe's odd medals: he was looking cheery as ever; and promises to visit us at the Craig, tho' he strongly disapproves of our going thither[.]