The Collected Letters, Volume 4


JWC TO ELIZA STODART; 21 November 1828; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18281121-JWC-EA-01; CL 4:416-419.


Craigenputtoch 21st November [1828]

My dear Eliza

Could you but see how it stands with me just at present; you would not be too much elated by this favour. For I am sitting here companionless ‘like owl in desert’;1 with nothing pressing to do, having learnt my daily task of Spanish, and also finished a shirt—let me speak truth—a nightshirt I was making for my Husband; and it is come into my head as a resource from ennui that I should write somebody a letter: and thus, Dear, all you have to be proud of is, that my choice of an object is fallen on you. I tell you this out of my natural love of plaindealing.

You would know what I am doing in these moors? Well! I am feeding poultry [at long intervals and merely for form's sake],2 and I am galloping over the country on a bay horse, and baking bread, and improving my mind, and eating, and sleeping, and making, and mending and in short, wringing whatever good I can, from the ungrateful soil of the world[.] On the whole, I was never more contented in my life: one enjoys such freedom and quietude here; nor have we purchased this at the expence of other accommodations; for we have a good house to live in, with all the necessaries of life, and even some touch of the superfluities. “Do you attempt to raise any corn?” the people ask us. Bless their hearts! we are planning strawberry-banks, and shrubberies, and beds of roses, with the most perfect assurance that they will grow: as to the corn, it grows to all lengths, without ever consulting the public about the matter. Another question that is asked me, so often as I am abroad, is, how many cows I keep, which question, to my eternal shame as a housewife, I have never yet been enabled to answer; having never ascertained, up to this moment whether there are seven cows or eleven. The fact is I take no delight in cows, and have happily no concern with them. Carlyle and I are not playing farmers here; which were a rash and unnatural attempt. My Brother in law is the Farmer, and fights his own battle, in his own new house, which one of his sisters manages for him.

In the Autumn I had enough to mind without counting cows; the house being often full of visitors. There was Robert (my uncle) and Ann3—A Mr Graham of Burnswark—Jeffrey with wife and child and maid and lapdog—George4 and his wife—our dear Henry Inglis, and several others whom you do not know. And how on earth did Mr Jeffrey get himself amused at Craigenputtoch? Why, in the simplest manner: he talked—talked from morning till night, nay till morning again— I never assisted at such a talking since I came into the world; either in respect of quantity or quality.

Mrs Richardson5 is getting out a new edition of that weary book, and fitting out her daughter Willie for India: neither ware, I am afraid, will find a ready market. John Carlyle is still in Germany. We looked for him home; but he has found, that he could neither have peace in his lifetime, nor sleep quiet in his grave, had he missed studying six months at Vienna. Little Jane [is] gone back to Scotsbrig, where she could not be well spared, another Sister being here with Alick. So that Carlyle and I are quite by ourselves at present, moralizing together, and learning spanish together, and in short living in the most confidential manner imaginable. You never saw so still a house: we have just one servant [Grace Macdonald] and not even a cat in addition [for we find mousetraps answer much better]6 By the way, this Grace is just the cleverest servant I ever had occasion to know; and would be a perfect paragon in her line were it not for certain ‘second table’ airs about her,7 which without doubt she must have picked up at the Manner's—8

My Mother dined here ten days ago, and stayed a night,—her second and longest visit since we came. But she is of necessity much confined at home now, and also imagines the necessity to be greater than it is. You inquire if I will be in Edinr this winter. I think the chances are about two to one that I shall. We are pressingly invited to spend some time with the Jeffreys; and Carlyle has agreed to go, provided he gets three papers, promised to the Foreign Review, finished by then. Should he be belated with these he would have me to go without him, but that I shall not dream of doing— It would be poor entertainment for one in Edinr or anywhere else to think one's Husband was here in the desert alone—his stockings get all into holes, and perhaps even his tea ru[nn]ing down.

Remember me in the kindest manner to your Uncle, and say to him, that if he will come and see us in summer the fatted calf shall be slain to make him welcome—to say nothing of lambs and poultry.

Remember me also to Sam;9 and to David Aitken when you see him. You talk of Mr Simpson as an invalid; I hope he is recovered? Will you write to me soon? A letter from Edinr is such a treat to one here.

Carlyle is away in Annandale at present. His eldest Sister has been ill for some time and, he is gone to see what can be done for her. I am afraid she is in a very bad way— Do write[.] ever affectionately yours

J W Carlyle