JWC TO ELIZA STODART; 20 April 1831; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18310420-JWC-EA-01; CL 5:264-267.
JWC TO ELIZA STODART
Craigenputtoch some time in April [20 April 1831]
My dearest Eliza
My first determination after reading your letter and tasting your barleysugar was to write the very next week along with a Manuscript for Cochran[e]1— But the manuscript for Cochran[e] did not go the next week; nor the next again. nor is it gone at this hour: but rather doubts are rising in mens minds whether it is ever to go at all. In which circumstances, ‘necessity Mother of invention’2 has put me on the discovery, that there is no indissoluble connection between the said manuscript and the said letter: and this fact being once clearly demonstrated to my understanding I lose not another moment in courteously saluting you—as in duty and affection bound. “Get ye good morning Audrey”!3— And a fine sunshiny spring morning it is Our woods have put on their green again—and black birds are sweetly singing; and hens profitably cackling; and the Bubbly4 goggeling neither sweetly nor profitably; and in short even here one feels oneself still in the land of the living in the place of hope.5
My Cousin! did you ever watch a goose hatching—or a turkey—or any hatching thing? If not you can form no adequate conception of the hopes and fears which at present agitate my breast. I have a goose sitting on five eggs—a rather flighty sort of character—quite a goose of the world in fact who from time to time drives me to the brink of despair by following her pleasures whole hours with the other geese to the manifest danger of cooling her eggs. I hover about the nest during these long absences with a solicitude quite indescribable and it will end I believe in my sitting down on the eggs myself— My Turkey again sits like a very vegetable (indeed she could not well do otherwise being secured under an inverted crate) but she is a born idiot; and I dread that the offspring will be all creatures of weak intellect also—nay, more—that one by one they will be overlaid or otherwise “die from neglect” like Roberts little daughter6— “The troubles that afflict the just &c &c”! “Now this comes of having the world”! as Carlyle's Grandmother said, when by some miracle she found herself in possession of an entire gold guinea; and was at her wits end where on all the earth to secure it from thieves7— When I had no stock I was comparatively tranquil. “Angels and ministers of grace defend us”! “Art thou a Spirit of health or goblin damned”?8 O Eliza Eliza! We were sitting at breakfast yesterday morning suspecting nor evil nor good—sipping a highly nutritive beverage of tea and whipt egg—and talking pleasantly enough on some transcendental subject—when suddenly—an unusual sound of carriage wheels, louder and louder, nearer and nearer, interrupted the whole operation I thought it could be no one else but Miss Anderson of Straquhan [sic];9 and ran to receive her “in my choicest mood”: but Lord have mercy! what was I come out for to see? seated in an open gig—muffled curio[u]sly in Indian shawls, my astonished eyes rested on the large musculal [sic] figure of— Miss Scot! yes Mary Scot of Haddington—“Hee hee hee—Mrs CAArlile—hee hee hee” But it was no heeheeing to me! the intensity of my astonishment quite paralized me—and it was minutes before I could express the joy which I really always feel at recognising a Haddington face—belong to whom it may. She was obliged to be off the same evening— But we made the best use of our time. I took nothing in hand the whole day but milking news from her (a rather rural metaphor) which she with unabating copiousness supplied. and could I tell you but a tenth of the facts wherewith I in this way stored my mind you would wonder equally at the capacity of the Instructor and the Learner. Nothing I think in her whole budget amused me so much as a Tale of a nettle—a still more serious nettle-feud than the ‘Jenny Nettles’10 of Ancient times. Mary Davidson one day stuck a fine fresh little nettle in the back part of Dr Fyffe's hat—while he was paying a professional visit— The Dr clap[p]ed on the hat without noticing the emblem— Walked thro the whole town with it and finally mounted and rode off thro' the the [sic] County— But he detected it at last—the hateful ridiculous too appropriate nettle—and then what were his feelings—his boiling rage! “Indignation” (they say) “makes verses”11— Accordingly the Dr indi[c]ted “one of the most impertinent” and I will be bound to say unintelligible poems ever penned, against the fair offender whom he styled “a flirting fool,” and sent it to the house instead of his further medical attendance— Here is a Doctor for you of a right independent spirit!
Do you know any thing of our Mother?— She is gone out of sight for two weeks at least out of my sight and if I do not hear tell of her soon, I must be after advertising her.
Carlyle was for writing a letter to your Uncle on his own bottom—but I advised him to add a post[s]cript here by way of saving postage. And now “from thee Eliza I must go”—being constrained by what is called the iron law of necessity to take steps (as many as are between here and the next farm town) towards getting the above written sent off
To Mr Bradfute.12
My Dear Sir,
Your present of the Cigar Box was no less well-timed than kind; it came on me when my former stock were within a dozen of the end, like a gift of Providence, as well as friend's gift. Many thanks for it! I have tasted the Narcotic, and find it of the right sort: thus, not once but many times will I thank you; and if not drink, yet heartily smoke your health. You who are no smoker cannot understand the force of this.— But will you not come hither this summer and see the House of the Wilderness; and the strange wild-people (towards you very tame and loving) that dwell therein? I think, you might easily drive a worse road: I could promise you (and your Eliza) a quiet sheltered lodging in a country new at least; and the warmest welcome from friends that are not so new.
Believe me always, / My Dear Sir, / Faithfully Your's /
Aye! will you not come! and eat home grown strawberries on my Birth day? I know not when I shall see you unless you come hither— My kind regards and C's to Sam13— The Barleysugar was a precious goody—I had not tasted a morsel for three years—
God bless you—Ever affectionately yours
Jane Baillie Pen14