The Collected Letters, Volume 4


JWC TO JEAN CARLYLE; 23 August 1828; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18280800-JWC-JCA-01; CL 4:394-395.


[? August 1828]

My dearest Jane

I was meaning to write you a long letter by Alick: but I have been in bed all day with headach[e]; and am risen so confused and dull, that for your sake as well as my own I shall keep my speculations (news I have none) till another opportunity—Merely dispatching in few words a small piece of business I have to trouble you with which will not wait.

My Mother is wanting a woman at next term to take charge of her few cattle, work out, and assist at the washings. Not wishing to hire one out of Thornhill she has requested me to look about for her. and would have liked Betty Smail whom I formerly recommend[ed], provided she had been leaving the Andersons— But I was happy to find (having been the means of placing her there) that she is not leaving them, and continues to give great satisfaction by her honest careful obliging character—

Miss Anderson happened to mention to Betty that I had been inquiring about her for my Mother—when she suggested that her Sister Jean who is out of place might possibly answer— You know this Jean— Is she still disengaged? would she be willing to come? and do you think she would be fit for the place— That you may be better able to form a judgement in the matter I must tell you my Mother has already one Jean who is a favorite of some standing—and you know there is not house-room at Templand for two favorites at once. The present Jean maintains her ground partly by good service—partly by wheedling. To get the good will of her Mistress, and so have a comfortable life; the newcomer besides the usual requisites in a Byrewoman1 should possess the art of wheedling in a still higher degree:2 or she should be an obtuse imperturbable character that would take “the good the Gods provided”3 and for the rest, “jouk until the jaw gaid by” [“duck until the wave goes by”]—would go on honestly milking her cows and “clatting” [raking out] her byre “in maiden meditation fancy free”4—till under a change of Ministry which always comes at last, she might find herself suddenly promot[ed] in her turn— Now all this is very il[l]-natured—and you will mind it only as far as you see sense in it— It means simply that if Jean Smail be a very sensitive, or a quarellsome character—and at the same time without tact—she would not be likely to prosper— Send me word by Alick what you think—and if it is favourable you shall immediately hear farther— I need hardly add that a Servant who pleases could not possibly find a better place. Tell your Mother with my love that the hen she sent to be eaten has laid the first egg of our whole stock—

God bless you— More next time as the Doctor says— Ever affectionly

from Jane W. Carlyle5


Letter 12°. ‘Betty Smail,’ Mother of the Two Servant-Girls treated of here, was a dependt and cottag[er at] Scotsbrig, come of very honest farmer-people, tho' now reduced; she was herself a hardy, stirring, noteworthy little body; stoo[d a] great deal of sorrow and world-contradictn well; and died, still at Scotsbrig, very deaf, and latterly gone quite blind, [age?] abt go, only last year (1868) or the year before. Her Girl ‘Jean’ did not go, I think. those poor Girls died in their Mother's lifetime: one (probably Jean) soon after this, of sudden fever; the [other] still more tragically, of some neuralgic accidt, suicide thot not to be voluntary, hardly two we[eks] before my own great Love. Ah me, ah me!——