The Collected Letters, Volume 4


JWC TO ELIZA STODART; 22 December 1828; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18281222-JWC-EA-01; CL 4:435-437.


Craigenputtoch [22 December 1828]

My dear Eliza

Misfortunes seldom come single”; so here is another letter for you, and of the most vexations sort too, being all in the commission way. For alas, Dear, I can no longer hide the sad truth from myself, and as little would I conceal it from you my early friend that my tea and sugar are drawing fast to a close. And should a fall of snow take place in this state of things, blocking up the passes and cutting off our imports!—the idea is too horrible. But you will “do the impossible” to help me; for are you not ‘obliging’ and ‘goodnatured’ to a proverb? and yet if you had to begin the world again, I doubt whether [with your country cousins at least]1 you would cultivate so praiseworthy a reputation— Just see what it involves you in! here must you tramp away to Pollands—to the Waterloo tea warehouse—the Register paperwarehouse—the St Andrew's Square china-warehouse—and buy and arrange and despatch—and all thro' no fault of yours; but because you have the merit of being the most obliging person of my acquaintance. Such a reward for Virtue! but the Moralists say virtue is its own reward; and the Transcendentalists go a step farther, and maintain that virtue must have no view to reward whatever, else it is no virtue but merely a cunning calculation of profit and loss. This last, I take it, is the opinion which would stand you in most stead on the present occasion.

Having preluded so long it is time I were coming to the tune which runs thus— Six pounds of tea [from the Waterloo company]2 at 5/4d and two pounds of coffee— From Pollands three stones of sugar at 8d—and two stones at 6½d—also 8 pounds of rice (whole): and here there is a sort of ‘Da Capo’ to be performed; for in addition to what is already set down, you will have the goodness to get other two pounds of tea (of the same quality) and one other stone of 8d pence sugar—packed up by themselves—being for a seperate purpose. Then we are woefully off here as to pens and paper, which for people who live by writing are as essential as sugar and tea. So that it is earnestly desired and (your “goodnature” being so notorious) even pretty confidently expected, that you will proceed to a certain paperwarehouse in Register Street and procure us a supply as follows. eight slips of post paper—wove—blueish—without any bath stamp—the same, in short, as this I am writing on, only a degree smaller (for me, or rather my Husband is “a great connoisseur in paper”) he used to buy such at the above mentioned place about a half-penny a sheet— I mention this to help you to the right sort—not to tie you down in the matter of a halfpenny. Secondly three quires of long paper—24 sheets each—this also to be blue—and a ragged edge no objection. The sort he used to buy was called ‘scrolling paper’—or broken paper and cost between a farthing and a halfpenny a sheet. Now the Lord help you thro' this transaction, for as you perceive it is of the most delicate nature. A quarter hundred made pens of the best sort, and two sticks of red sealingwax in addition to the above will put us in a situation for holding correspondence with the home worl[d a]ll winter. And now comes my last wan[t] which I am sure you will “welcom[e in] your choicest mood, as his gracious Maje[sty d]id the youngest of the Misses Titler3—a brown earthenware coffee pot—such as they sell in china shops for three and sixpence or four shillings—they are all made one shape but of different sizes, and I would prefer the largest. For you must know that some mornings ago there came a letter to Grace Macdonald from some absent Lover with ‘hast’ on the outside and heaven knows what within—but things of moment, evidently, from the consequences—as she all at once bolted up from her peaceful occupation of toasting bread for breakfast—and dashed the poor old coffee pot with its precious contents on the kitchen floor—one more proof if any such were wanting that “accidents will happen in the best regulated families.”

Now as to the packing of these things—I am really without any blarney, seriously vexed to put you to so much trouble—but I see no other way for it except that you should pack them at your own house in some box of my Mother's (if you have such a thing) or of your own (and it will be returned by the first opportunity) and sending it from thence to the Dumfries Carrier (charging the porterage &c to my account if you would ever have me to employ you again) addressed as formerly to Mr Aitken Academy Street. For the last supply was sent off by Pollands in the thin[n]est of sacks, so that had it rained, as it does almost continually at present, it must have been entirely spoiled by the way— And should I find my sugar all melted, and the paper all blot[t]ed, and the coffeepot broken— I might be tempted to do some desperate thing, that would haunt your conscience to the end of your life! You will do this then, for the love you bear me or at all events for the love of doing a good action—and you will believe that if our situations were exchanged I would do as much for you in return? We have resolved on deferring our visit to Edinr until the Spring—when it will be in all respects more convenient— Why do you not write?

My kindest regards to your Uncle— I shall remain som[e] shillings in your debt but always affectionately yours

Jane Welsh Carlyle