January 1829-September 1831

The Collected Letters, Volume 5


JWC TO THOMAS CARLYLE; 11 August 1831; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18310811-JWC-TC-01; CL 5:320-325.


Craigenputtoch Thursday night [11–14 August 1831]


It was only yesterday that I sent off a letter to you; but it will do me good to write a word before I lie down. Yesterday the colony dwindled into an unintelligible whinner.1 there was just Jennie, old Mary, and I left but there was one gun amongst us besides gig whips—and I am quite delivered now from the foolish tremors I used to have about thieves. Alick was to remain all night in Dumfries to be ready for the Sheriff court to day. I was sorry to part with Jemmie, he is the best of my Brothers in law—in other words he likes me best. It was a sort of Flaetz2 parting. I locked the door after him, brought out quantities of needlework, and—fell asleep—when I awoke it was four in the afternoon! I had been sleeping at the easy rate of two hours per night since your departure and was quite worn out. The rest of the day I was busied in Cinderella-work—making butter &c &c Today I have been sorting some clothes of price and making divers preparations for tomorrow, when Mother and Isabella Macturk3 are coming to breakfast, and to take me away— O if they would but leave me alone; if they would but suffer me to remain in silence!—Alick is come from Dumfries where the sheriff court business has had a droll enough issue— A Mason (Gracie from Dunscore) had examined the tables and left a written testimony that they were fixtures—which made us not without anxiety—but so far from this introducing any burble—neither the man Macadam nor any one for him or connected with him appeared!—tho' Alick saw both Joseph and Samuel in the town (nay drank two bottles of porter with them over the signing of a bill; without word spoken either of court or tables) only a few minutes after he had got the Sheriff's decree in his pocket sentencing the non-appearing Macadam to pay the whole charge (£7)[.] Alick was quite at a loss what theory to form of the matter (for the summons had been given into Joseph's own hand) or whether it was likely to end here—even my prophetic faculty4 is at a nonplus— There were no letters except a long-winded note from Mrs Richardson5 telling me she could not come, having made an engagement elsewhere for some weeks—tant mieux [so much the better]!— And now God bless thee darling and dream of me!

Templand—Saturday morning—[13 August]

O what a day was yesterday! what a breaking in upon my still existence! what a foolish tasteless racket! All the earth seemed to have broken loose. At half after five, lying awake (as is my wont)—the morning misty and dark—I heard the most inexplicable sound—a jingling of wheels, not cart wheels evidently, and it seemed too slow for a chaise or gig. I could compare it to nothing but the sound of a hearse—I rung and inquired what in all the world was that at this hour in the morning— “It is Mr Fyffe Mam—the Brewer from Dumfries—he is going to fish in the Ore [sic] and wants to leave his horse and gig here—for he was sure you would not object upon the account of his Brother”6— “Does he want any breakfast too upon the same account? tell him he may stay or come back[.]” And Betty went off to ask, grieving that I should have been disturbed—“but I could not help it Mam I took him for—not just a walking drover—but some tops man7 and sent out old Mary to tell that lad to drive slow past the house end for fear of waking Mrs Carlyle”— She brought back for answer that he was in pressing haste but would be back for the horse and gig at one o'clock— “And it is such a morning with midges mam as you never felt— She (the cow) is quite beside herself with them—and Mr Fyffe says he could not live here a month, that he is like to be eaten up”— “Nobody wants him to live here an hour—and if he is eaten up so much the better”— And I rose forthwith in a sort of flurry—baked some scones &c &c—and was proceeding to dress myself when a change came oer the Spirit of my dream8 and I was put to bed in a faint— It was now between eight and nine. I was just come to myself—when a loud rap with the knocker made me give a loud scream. “Mr Fyffe again Mam, the water is drumly [muddy]”—“O if he had but drowned in it! bid him wait say I am not up”— And I rose once more and dressed myself with all deliberation— When I entered the drawing room I got a sort of shock. Such a creature! shaped like one of his own beer barrels—and not altogether sane it struck me—but he had breakfasted at a farm house and I was soon to be rid of him. He proceeded to yoke his gig and I walked out to Alick in the Garden—to whom Mary Mills9 had allowed no rest that morning—making noises before his door and imploring him by all the saints to “come and give the borders a wee rake before Mrs Welsh saw the wark.” Presently the chaise was heard coming and the gig was just ready to depart— “Now Heaven help me cried I[,]I am a lost woman—my reputation is gone there will they meet that man in the avenue and take him for some lover I am dispatching out of the way”— “Never fash [vex] yeerself Mem” says Mary “I can testify that I saw him wi my ain een come here after five oclock—” And now out stepped Isabella with smiling comely face—and out stepped my Mother apparently highly excited—and lastly to my no small surprise was revealed the long figure of Robert Barker.10 We kissed (the women that is) and gig[g]led and looked prodigiously glad, and at length got seated at Breakfast. Everything of course was ‘delightful’ ‘beautiful’— But would I go round by Dumfries—it would be so pleasant—I must go and there was no time to put off— Accordingly we were all jam[m]ed (the four of us) inside the chaise—not a breath of wind stirring—and driven away to Templand via Dumfries! It was vain to say I was sick—I had no business there—for once I must be happy— By the time we reached the Commercial11 however the ploy was become rather flat to all parties as well as me— Robert Barker could not get his legs stretched—and his exclusive attention to me was evidently spreading a cloud over the female mind[s.] We had the nastiest of dinners—sauntered a while about the streets & called for my Aunts—met Captain Thorburn12 and Jemmy Grieve13 who asked for you and hoped all my young folks were well—to which I answered out of politeness but to the no small amusement of the rest “all quite well I thank you” and then were stuffed into our oven again and with unspeakable fatigue but without loss of lives landed here about eleven at night. The expences of the day I suppose would have half paid my seat to London—with which reflection, and the comfort that I had settled with Alick to come with the gig on Wednesday and take me home if I could not get away myself before that—I fell asleep, and dreamt that a young man (Gustavus I think it must have been) was proposing to marry me— I asked him— “do you subscribe to every opinion that Carlyle has put down in Teufelsdreck?” He answered ‘Yes’ and I gave him my hand and said “that is so far good—”

Since five this morning I have been reading Meister the only Book besides Teufelsdreck and the Bible which I mean to keep always by me— At half after two the post comes in and then I shall have your letter for I directed it to be forwarded hither— Would it were come!

[14 August] Sunday

It is come the long kind letter—never was the sight of your handwriting more welcome. never was any mortal made happier with a letter. Little Jenny was to bring it with her from Thornhill—I watched and watched and at length she came in sight, and I ran breathless to meet her. “Have you a letter for me?” [“]No mem the post was not come”—I could hardly help striking the creature down where she stood. But I only came in and put on my bonnet— “Jeannie Welsh you are not to go any such road in the heat of the day—you will see what will be the consequence[.]” “The consequence will just be that I shall get my letter—” “Well wait till after dinner and I will send again or you can walk over in the cool of the evening”— “I cannot wait one moment” and off I went, Isabella and Robert Barker insisting on accompanying me a fatigue I could well have spared them. And the Eggs were all broken and your things would be so spoiled! and no one to put you to rights but a washerwoman. Well I will not think of that but only that you are safe and love me—and wishing yourself back to me.

Mrs Montagu writes entreating me to come to her and give you an agreeable surprise as a christian return for the disappointment you gave her—offering me funds—and pressing the offer on my acceptance with much—rhetoric14— She knows me little if she dreams I should entertain such an idea for an instant. I will never, God willing, buy myself pleasure with another's means—nor yet with my own till the necessary is first provided for—— I was to write to Scotsbrig on Wednesday at any rate—Jamie begged it of me with an earnestness quite unusual and also that I would send him my profil[e]! Fear not but I will attend to their anxieties about you— I wish Alick may not neglect the Dumfri[e]s paper to day but if it does not come you will understand my absence was the cause— I thought Alick going out of his wits the last night of Jamies visit— I was playing to them and he broke out in such a strain of lyrical recognition as set us all in astonishment. “It was heavenly” he said “it transported him out of this earth into a new world of celestial delight—these strings were like so many little winged spirits speaking to him out of the skies”! and much more of the same sort till Jenny asked with a deadening and killing look “What ails thee man?” But my paper is done— I hope I shall hear again on Wednesday— O Write Write often. Bless thee Darling and prosper thee in all that is for your good— You will read all this stuff with interest though you would hardly let me speak such— Remember me to John—

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