January 1829-September 1831

The Collected Letters, Volume 5


JWC TO THOMAS CARLYLE; 1 September 1831; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18310901-JWC-TC-01; CL 5:389-394.


Thursday—Craigenputtoch [1 September 1831]

Beloved Good—‘Balm best and holiest’

Blessings on thee for thy precious letters! truly they are my life in death! O had you seen me last night—seen the almost insupportable impatience of thy Goody; and then her transports—you would hardly have known whether to laugh or weep. Betty returned with a long story about Mac[k]night having been late. “For god[']s sake give me the letters!” “He left the town too at the usual hour Mam but—” “For the love of God will you produce the letters!” So seeing that I would positively not hear her out first, she at last handed me the little bag I had sent, in case of one being lost by the way—for the various imaginations I fall on to torment myself with are altogether wonderful—

And now I was happy, happy—indeed too happy for the intensity of the feeling was sickening— My fire burned clear—my candle was lit—all in readiness—and I seated myself at my little table (for one) and spread out both the letters before me, and tried to read them both at once—and finding that impossible even to love—finally began with the beginning and read on to the end—at which point I felt a strong disposition to rush out into infinite space, and tell the dead craigs and running brooks, that my Husband was well and took up with no other women! God help me I am a great fool— “Now you will put yourself off your sleep Mam” said Betty when she came in with porridge and found me walking at quick time about the room—and she never said a truer thing—for not one wink of sleep have I got this night— About one I rose, put on my dressing gown, lit my candle, looked vacantly on the Dumfries Courier for two hours, and—smoked half an inch of a cigar— Not I declare to thee for the love of the cigar, but because I had a pleasure in mimic[k]ing thee. Then I returned to bed again but sleep was out of the question— My heart now beat audibly—the wind too was making strange noises—for the first time I felt a little nervous about our unprotected state, and regretted that I had not yet learned, as I was meaning, to fire the Gun! And so between vague apprehensions and anxious listening, on the one hand, and thoughts, of thy love and goodness on the other—of my probable journey to London—my meeting with my own—John[']s good fortune—Mrs Montagu's desertion to the Dragons—Badams's misfortunes and all the interesting things you tell me—I tumbled on till seven, when I had tea in bed, and after one other unavailing attempt at sleep I put on my clothes—and here am I—not a bit weary—without headach[e] or other ailment only very much detached. But tomorrow will come when I shall be “more stilly laid,” as the song says, so it is best to write while I may: besides it will help to compose my mind.

I should have liked better certainly if John had get an appointment of a more permanent sort, al[t]ho' less showy—but let us be thankful and hope the best—it is infinitely better than none nay it is a fair and even splendid carreer [sic] laid open to him in which he has only to avoid kicking over apple-baskets and he will get along bravely— Offer him my sincere congratulations— I will send on the note for Alick by the earliest opportunity,1 I had a note from Him this morn[in]g (by Macadam!) written before he got my letter—Which letter was one long shriek of apprehension and entreaty—but no matter—it came from the heart and therefore it would go to the heart. He will mind my words for he loves me, I rather take it, far better than I thought—and thus will good come out of evil. I discovered much that night in Dumfries which I will tell you of hereafter. At present let me turn to what is naturally up[p]ermost in my thoughts— My coming to you[.] Say but this—that you do not for the purpose of procuring me a pleasure make any sacrifice of your own wishes or convictions; and without an instants hesitation I am decided to come— so soon too as I can get things arranged for leaving— ‘The town is empty’ O Mercy—it will be full enough any day of the year for one who has been so long used to a desert— Every way of it were pleasant for me[—] I should like to go to Cornwall—like to go to Enfield like to stay with you, so that on that ground there need be no delay, and neither on any other ground that I can see were it judicious. I should not add to your expenses living with you in London (so far as I see into it) more than if I were keeping a separate establishment here— And there seems every chance of your being detained in London some time yet— At all rates (if it be decided that we winter in London, which indeed appears to me almost as a necessity) the saving (if any) of returning hither for a few weeks were not worth the fatigue and disconvenience; and while the expense of my journey up is the same whether incurred now or a month or two later—

Now consider what a time elapses before one can get an answer to a letter here— And also how very slowly one gets on even with the most trivial arrangements if these depend not wholly on oneself—and so tell me in the very next letter (if I be really to come) all that you would have me to do— First as to Betty—shall I dismiss her or let her stay on and take care of the house till the term— I have been thinking the last way were perhaps the best for the house, and the cheapest. She would have potatoes butter bacon without cost—a little tea and sugar would complete her outfitting— I shall be sorry to lose her but the keeping of pets is too expensive a taste for people in our way— The same remark applies to Harry; but some means may perhaps be fallen upon of keeping him on without expense— Here he canna be for obvious reasons connected with his own personal comfort poor little beast. They keep beehsts in beehsts place—and would break the heart of a beesht [sic] that has had the life of an entire gentleman— Perhaps my Mother will take him in the mean time and send her shelty here— This is the only outlook that I have for him as yet— However if you would wish him sold and out of the road—tell me— The cow is sure of a welcome go where she will— You would like her sent to Scotsbrig I suppose? And the Turkeys with your compliments— The chickens I am resolved to eat as many of as I can—

Next as to what I am to bring with me or send— Am I to bring anything except my wearing apparel[?] Is there any need of sheets or tablecloths &c[?] Do you want any books or clothes? would it be worth while to carry meal—butter bacon so far? The eatables might be packed together in one barrel—the other things (if wanted) in your large trunk and shipped in the steam-boat with me— My Uncle2 would be able to point out the safest and cheapest way of getting them transported afterwards— But, you must explain to me at least give me some idea of the sort of things that you feel in want of—

I can take an inventory of all the articles in the house, and where they are—and leave it with the keys in charge to my Mother so that at any future time should anything be required it may be come at and sent—

And now having written myself almost out of breath I shall rest a little—and recommence if possible with a better pen—

Next Saturday the devil and his angel, the Monnihive Carrier shall not prevail against me— I have been out examining Harrys sides— I think they may bear the saddle—will try him at least for a mile or two this very night—and if so I will ride for the letter myself, and save three days of impatience indignation and despair—

I feel strong enough when I see any enterprise before me—but indeed my health is improved— I was persuaded to take portwine at Templand and since my return, I have drunk one of our two bottles—a glass every forenoon and have been distinctly very much the better for it. The disease on my face too is fading into invisibility— When I was at Templand my Mother said “I will tell you Jean[n]ie what you should do for that spot on your face—bathe it every morn[in]g and evening with springwater &c &c” “But I was flattering myself that the spot on my face was nearly gone”— “By the by I think it is” (with a look of disappointment)— Robert Barker3 seemed to think it no blemish; he is as much or more in love with me I verily believe than ever he was—I observed one night to the ladies that he was surely getting into strange conditions—“He is madly in love with another man's Wife” says my Mother “that's all”— “And a good deal too much I think, could you not either of you advise him to bestow his valuable affections more to the purpose?”

And Jeffrey admired the sleeping city—4 Thank him for nothing— He would have been the dullest of mortals if he had not— My beloved Dreck! my jewel of great price! The builders despise thee; but thou wilt yet be brought out with shouting5 and I shall live to see thee in thy place— All these discouragements do but increase my confidence—as a candle burns brighter for being snuffed—for Dreck is imperishable, indestructible as the substance of the four elements—and all Booksellerdom all Devildom cannot prevail against him! But I must leave the next half sheet to be filled up at Dumfries— God b[l]ess thee Darling

Friday night [2 September].

Little sleep last night either—and today one of my worst heads— Had any traveller landed here this forenoon and explored his way thro' the deserted toon [town] to my apartment, he might have fancied himself in a scene of enchantment. There, on my bed, lay collected all the life remaining in the place, and that apparently extinct or spell-bound: I had been fainting, and Betty leaning over me, holding salts to my nose, in which position we both finally fell asleep! Now I am up and better, and still resolutely bent on the post office to-morrow— Indeed Mr. C[ar]l[y]le a's maist ashamed to say it, but a's far too impetuous—my speculative ardor I feel will shorten my life— But I must not fill up my paper till tomorrow— Goodnight my Beloved—

Dumfries, Saturday [3 September].

Well dearest here am I! have ridden down in safety after a gentle night[']s sleep of fifteen minutes, and without having broken my fast! Gleg [sharp] as a hawk—more fluent more ready for adventure than ever I was in my life—only feeling ‘a strong inclination to bark’6 or rather to rush out as a sign, and tell the ‘machine of society’7 ‘for gods sake to get on’ God help me! I wish I were safe in your arms; for this sort of life is too agitating—would soon kill me outright— I am the veriest fool— I never knew I was such a fool before— I try all I can to be quiet patient reasonable—but the struggle only makes the fever of my mind the greater[.] Well it will not last long— I will direct this almost frightful activity to accomplish all that is to be accomplished with the speed of light—and then! then shall I fly away and be at rest! I have your precious letter—burst it open in the street— read it in the Apothecary's hall where I am now writing— Fear not but I shall get all managed and soon. Already are my arrangements put on a train and next letter perhaps I shall be able to say when[.]

Here is a letter from Goethe which alas I cannot read!— But you will read it to me ere long— I have written a note to the noble Lady. Oh how sadly you have defaced her fair image in my soul; but I must still try to love her—there are so few women in the world to be loved—! This Mrs Austin indeed! Take care! God bless you— I have no quiet or calmness to think of anything practical here— Fail not to write for next Saturday— I will make sure of the let[ter.]

Thy own