January 1829-September 1831

The Collected Letters, Volume 5


TC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE; 10 October 1830; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18301010-TC-MAC-01; CL 5:169-171.


Craigenputtoch, 10th October, 1830—

My Dear Mother,

Knowing your appetite for Letters, I will write you a Line or two tonight, tho' I have nothing to say: it will at least be a sign to you that we are still in life, and mindful of you.

That day Jane left us, I had a Letter from Jack;1 one of his hasty scratches of letters, wherein the pen is indeed hurried over the paper, and some form of writing effected, but the smallest possible quantity of knowledge imparted. He says he is ‘in pretty good health and busy in his way,’ tho' in what way, or to what purpose he says not. He ‘will write again,’ ‘more at large next time,’ and so forth. However he sends a Receipt for some Pills to Mary, which Pills we have actually procured from Dumfries, and she has now been taking for above a week. I would have sent you the Doctor's Letter; but it has been mislaid somewhere, and is not worth a long search. I mean to give him a touch of real lecturing next time I write, for sending us such meagre rags of Letters, hardly worth the paper they are scribbled on; more especially when we are all so anxious about his progress: however, I will remember too that he has many anxieties of his own at present, and may sometimes find his wits rather gone a-woolgathering when he takes up the pen. I still hope he will improve in Letter-writing, as in all things. A true affection he has for all of us, and takes many ways of showing it; tho' too remiss in that one way. He seems to have some scheme of writing a Volume on the History of Medicine for a great London Bookseller, but has not yet brought it to maturity. He is getting ready some other things for the Magazine. Of his Lodgings, his Practice, or want of Practice, he does not communicate even a whisper.

No doubt, one of your chief cares here at present is Mary. I said that she had begun taking her Pills; which, as yet, has produced no removal of the symptoms: otherwise she seems to be in good spirits; says her headaches do not disturb her now; and appears to complain of nothing. She works a good deal with Alick on the corn-rig [field-strip of oats]; she has been out this very day, I suppose at the Cattle-shed, building a Hay-stack; they were not home at dusk, but the doors all locked. Jack said the complaint was not dangerous; but if long-continued would derange the general health. He said farther that Medicine could do little or nothing for it; the best plan was general care; riding also he recommended, and occasional shearing [sheaving?] in ha[r]vest-time. I explained all this to her; Jane also enforced it; and she herself seems inclined to be punctual: so we shall hope there will nothing go amiss in this case; for the present, at least, there seems no cause of apprehension. You may depend on my letting you know instantly should such appear.

Thus we are all in what we call Health, and have no News; which is sometimes said to be the best kind of News. Alick has a Harvestman (John Ker2 that was once with Mrs Welsh) Samuel's ribs not having healed; our nondescript Servant assists him: they mow most of the stuff, and expect to have done this week. Some of his oats (in Bratney) he reckons about the best he ever saw. He has made a load of meal from them; which is not bad; only that the hungry Miller has stolen to too great a length: six stones, as Alick counts, out of twenty. The next melder [the quantity of oats ground at one time] he purposes taking to Dumfrie[s] which, we all think, will be the best plan.

I called our present servant a Nondescript: he is not Bretton, [who] has gone (poor slut!) to Edinr to seek a place, with all the helps and recommendations we could give him; and has got this yellow Boy, a strange rat-eyed, bandylegged, foursquare little figure, named ‘Jamie Lockie from Ecclefechan,’ to supply his place. It was some time before I recognised in him the unlawful progeny of Bogside Lockie, and the bearded woman Latimer, whose very picture he is, in breeches. How human things grow! The last time I saw this subject, you might have crushed him into a Boot; now, it were a considerable Box-churn that would hold him. He seems to be fit for little or no work: but Alick says any kind of hand is useful on the Rig at present; so I have sent him thither, and see little or nothing of him.

The Wife and I are very quiet here, and accustoming ourselves, as fast as we can, to the stillness of Winter, which is fast coming on. These are the grayest, most silent days I ever saw: My Besom, as I sweep up the withered leaves, might be heard at a furlong's distance. The woods are getting very party-coloured, the old trees quite bare; all witnesses that another year has travelled away. What good and evil has it brought us! May God sanctify them both to every one of us! I study not to get too wae [depressed]; but often I think of many solemn and sad things, which indeed I do not wish to forget. We are all in God's hand; otherwise this world, which is but wholly a valley of the Shadow of Death,3 were too frightful. Why should we fear? Let us hope; we are in ‘the Place of Hope,’ our Life is a Hope.4

But far better than all reasonings for cheerfulness is the diligence I use in following my daily Business. For the last three weeks I have been writing by taskwork again, and get along wonderfully well: what it is to be I cannot yet tell,5 whether a Book or a string of Magazine Articles; we hope, the former; but in either case, it may be worth something. I will send you Luther's Hymn which I have translated into verse;6 Luther made the Music too, but that I have not.— It is needless to ask you about your health or my Father's; for none will answer me. Let me repeat John's caution to him and you to take double care at this season. God bless you all! Ever your affectionate Son,

T. Carlyle—

Jane and I talk of coming down by and by. Jeffrey has yet written nothing about my German Book, but I expect to hear soon. Tell my Father that Alick will bring the Gig next him [sic: time] he goes to Scotsbrig, and we must have him up hither: he can wrap himself effectually, so as to take no harm, and we will keep him in hot enough quarters here. To Jamie, Jane, and Jenny our separate kindest love.—