January 1829-September 1831

The Collected Letters, Volume 5


TC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE; 29 January 1830; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18300129-TC-MAC-01; CL 5:66-68.


Craigenputtoch, Friday Night [29 January 1830]—

My Dear Mother,

Notwithstanding the snow and frost, Elliott determines on setting forth to seek himself some victual, and I send a few lines along with him to tell you, happily, that we are all well, when so many are otherwise.

Before proceeding farther, let me transact the business part of my Message. When Jamie left us, it was uncertain whether we could stow more than twenty stones of oatmeal here: it is now ascertained that we have room for forty; so that if your Husbandman can let us have that quantity, we shall decidedly prefer it. Forty stones of oatmeal, and ten of barley, ought to stay the Gallenyers [gluttons] a little, were their stomachs never so keen. If, however, there is nothing but twenty ready for us, we will take it, and be thankful. Say farther that I shall in all human probability, get, or rather forcibly take, my appointed London cash, next Wednesday, their payment, and that of my other Annandale debtors, will not be delayed.

I inclose you a Letter from Jack which came only on Tuesday,1 and confirms our melancholy surmises that the Doctor is still doing nothing, but only to do. My comfort is that he must set to work, ere long, there being no other resource for him; and that if he were at work, all would be well with him. We must ‘give him time, give him time, good people,’ as Grahame2 says; for the choice of a Life residence is no slight matter, and does take some deliberation. When he writes again, which may be some weeks hence, so that you need not weary, I will send you notice by the earliest opportunity.

You will have heard of the sad mortality among our Friends, of late: three graves in Kirkmichael Churchyard3 within three weeks. Alick and I attended Mary Stewart[']s4 last pilgrimage, on Tuesday, thro' the storm and snow: it was a wild and sad-looking scene. She died, we were told, in great bodily agony, to which however it was hoped she was not sensible. From Wednesday till Friday when all ended, she spoke little or nothing, except now and then, “O John!”—and fell out of one convulsion fit into another still more violent, at the end of every three hours. Poor Mary! after eight bleak years of misery and complaint, she too is in her long rest.— Jamie Aitken,5 we heard, was continuing slowly to recover: they had only told him of his Mother's death, on Friday, after he had twice got out of bed, tho' unable to walk, to go and see where she was! What arrangement they contemplate, the poor forsaken creatures, we have not heard; only that they mean to keep the house for the present, and live together. When I go to Dumfries next, I shall make a point of inquiring. These are fearful things; and it ought to be a thanksgiving to us that we are still spared in the Place of Hope; and a warning that one day our hour too will come. O Life, thou hollow shadow what art thou!

None of you will write to us; but for once we shall have tidings, and we hope good ones, thro' Elliott. How do you stand this fearful weather, my dear Mother? Let me intreat of you to take care of yourself. Let Mag also, and my Father keep near the fire: the rest are stout enough, and able for the cold. Jane is now nearly well; but has only been once over the threshold for many weeks. One day she was for a ride but we missed it; and the next day, Frost was there in new vigour; and for aught we see may make some stay with us.

Mary is bustling about in her usual way. Alick works in the smithy, leads peats and composts by day, and by night shoots hares, or rather shoots at hares, for as yet he has only got one, tho' seven are sometimes to be seen before the door at once.

I myself am now well and busy having set to work to write, three days ago, and done a kind of task daily ever since. Half of my task is still to do, tonight, if I had my tea: however I must and will be thro' it. There is no other thing that keeps me in any measure comfortable. All this time I have been waiting for Books, few of which are come yet: however, I shall be very loth to pause again till I am done—some eight or nine months hence!— Not that I mean to stay away from Scotsbrig so long; nay perhaps I may come cantering down some day very soon,—perhaps before the Frost is over.

Jane bids me say that the black jelly is for my Father, and that something better was set out for him; but it spoiled since Austin6 went off, in poor Mary's damp press [cupboard]. I am to add that the swine-cheek hangs gracefully on our kitchen ceiling, which is now almost covered with hog's flesh, Fixy's two hams and flitches having gone up thither yesterday.

These two Reviews have Papers of mine, and one by Jack, at the places I have marked.7 You will read them, and send them back the first opportunity: in due time I hope to send you this Book of mine for your approval.— But here is Tea, and my time is done. Give my kindest love to Mag, to Jamie, Jane, Jenny; and send me special word how my Father is. Cannot one of them write a line? Jane promised that she would.

We had once some talk about your coming up with Elliott. How you stand cold weather I do not know; all I can say is, if we had yo[u] here, we would keep you as warm as the brightest fire and the gladdest wel[come] could make you: so come if you dare! Also I engage that the ‘going guest shall be sped,’8 that you shall have all vehicles, men and horses of mine at your disposal to return any day you please. So, again, come if you dare!— Good night, my good, dear Mother!— I am ever your affectionate and grateful Son— Thomas Carlyle.