October 1831-September 1833

The Collected Letters, Volume 6


TC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE; 21 August 1832; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18320821-TC-MAC-01; CL 6:204-207.


Craigenputtoch, Tuesday 21st August 1832—

My Dear Mother,

Alick would tell you, and the last Newspaper would tell you to expect a word from me tonight. I will tell you that I am well, that we are both well; and this is nearly my whole message. I have sat these two days; in the solitary moors, reading here (at a French Book, which is my task) from nine in the morning till ten at night, with hardly intermission for my meals and my pipes:1 so that my head is quite filled with foreign matters, and I could almost forget that beyond these Heaths there is a wide Earth, and I myself am not out of the world, but still in it. You will be thankful, I know, for any sort of stuff I can write you.

There is the last Edinburgh Review with my Paper on the Corn-Law Rhymes in it; which you are to read but not detain; for the first sight of it properly belongs to Alick, and the Parcel was forgotten by accident when the Boy went down with the Horse. Let Alick have it, I pray you, by the first opportunity (along with that little Note); if you want to see more of it, he will send it back, and you can take pennyworths. The last Number of Fraser's Magazine is come to hand; you can return it along with the Review by Notman, when you are satisfied: other little things I might send in the Book way; but this, as I judge, is no reading time with you, but a time for plying sickles, and weary limbs.

My dear Mother, every time I hear that you are well, I hear it as an unexpected blessing; and live in a continual kind of apprehension. Let the good Jean take pen again, and tell me all how the matter stands; what you are doing, how you are, and every one is. These foolish fears one should strive to banish; they are unprofitable, perhaps sinful: but a natural cowardice and faintheartedness is in one. I daresay, the truth is you are all reaping corn; and busy and moderately well: had one only a glass to see you all at work by, now and then! But it is needless wishing; one would be for a trumpet next to hear you by, and speak with you by.

I set off as Alick may have informed you on Monday morning gone a week, to be out of the road of Gunners and such like: the Gunners, as I found, actually came, and would have staid had I been there. However, I have now set about letting the Game of the place, and so shall be troubled with it no more. For the rest, I had a pleasant sort of tour (among the Churches of Kirkchrist, Jeffrey of Girthon,2 &c); and returned on thursday evening no worse for my excursion. People were all very kind; the country was all beautiful to behold; I saw various persons familiar to me very long ago (at College and elsewhere), whose whiskers were now getting grey, whom I could not look upon without interest. I will tell you about it all when we meet: I passed Lochinbreck Well3 too, and drank a tumbler of their arsenic water: finally I was very glad to see the Wife running out to meet me, in her green veil (for midges), and welcome me to my own solitude again.

Nothing has happened here but one thing which will surprise you: the total and peremptory dismissal for ever and a day of our servant Betty, on Saturday last! Her tricks were found out before that, and her scandalous situation: so nothing was said; but on Friday, the day after my return, we took Clatch to Thornhill, engaged a new servant (by Mrs Glendinning's help), returned that night; and next morning, without noise of any kind, or more words than some half dozen quite deliberate ones, sent the wretched Adulteress (for that is the way now) about her business bag and baggage. The new woman (a glasseyed, leish-looking haveril [active-looking, half-witted] sort of character) does not come till tomorrow: so Jane and the Boy have been busy enough.— O Mother! Mother! what trouble the Devil does give us; how busy he is wheresoever men are! I could not have fancied this unhappy shameless heartless creature would have proved herself so: but she was long known for a person that did not speak the truth, and of such (as I have often remarked) there never comes good. God pity her! It would not surprise me much if this were not the worst she would do yet, if she live. May I never hear of her more: that is my best prayer for her.4

Except two little trifles for Fraser, not printed yet, I have done as good as nothing since I saw you! I have not been idle either; but some how it has kithed ill [come to little]. I have now begun a long thing (on a Frenchman called Diderot), and must not stir, if I can help it, till it be done. Alas! I have still upwards of 20 large volumes (1 per day) to read, before I can put pen to paper! However, it must be done; and so shall be done, if I keep my health[.] You will hear from me again before that: nay if it threaten to detain me too long, I will run and leave it for three days after all. If I go to Edinburgh in winter, both this and another long piece ought to be done first: I must struggle what I can. Jeffrey is not paid yet; but can now be paid any day, and leave me a handsome enough sum over.5 Napier I believe owes me more. I am in debt to no Being,—but to you, and the GREAT Lender and Giver; to the rest I pay as well as borrow: what more would I have?

The Paper on Goethe, I see, is published in London last week; it will be here before very long; after which I will send Scotsbrig a reading of it. I reckon it but little worth, either at Scotsbrig or elsewhere.

Jane has been very considerably better during these two last weeks; but the journey on Friday and back again among the rain did not suit her so well, and her throat seems to be a little sorish. She imputes much of her improvement to drinking Bitters; and among these, she gives the praise beyond all others to one called Trefoil (“Threefold”), which accordingly she has been diligent in consuming, and recommends to all people. I sometimes take a glass of it in the morning; the taste is bad, the effect rather good. This invaluable “Threefold” grows in our bogs here, and the Boy has been gathering a harvest of it, but has not yet got enough. Shall we send you a little parcel of it to try?— But, alas, both paper and time are done; for I have much to write yet, and here is tea! I will write again before long: did I write everything I have to say, whole reams of paper would not suffice.— Take care of yourself, my dear Mother: your continuance here is among our chosen blessings; to know you in some degree of health and comfort is the news that of all others gratifies me. Take care of yourself for the sake of us all.

I still read in the Bible. Did you ever hear of John Welsh's Sermon's? It is the brave old John Welsh of Colliston, son in law to Knox. I saw the Book at Jeffreys of Girthon, who said they were among the best sermons he had ever read. I think, for the sake of relationship and ancestry, we should seek them out: in Edinburgh I will make a trial; and perhaps find some far earlier and better copy than Jeffrey's.6

But, at length, dear Mother, good night! Bid Jean write, write with minuteness and despatch. I asked about her getting hither: but, alas, I suppose it is over now till after Harvest; we will see to it then. My Brotherly love to Jamie and Jenny and all the rest of them. Tell them all to be good and true; there is no other benefit a man with all his cunning can extract from Life. Life is short, Eternity is long! Wise and good was he who commanded saying “Little children love one another.”— Good night my dear Mother; may God ever be with you!

Your affectionate Son /

T. Carlyle