October 1831-September 1833

The Collected Letters, Volume 6


JWC TO ELIZA STODART; 10 October 1832; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18321010-JWC-EA-01; CL 6:234-236.


Craigenputtoch some where / about the beginning / of October [10 October 1832]

My dearest Eliza

“It is surprising to see all how they ack i' the various places,” as Mrs Jeffrey's Maid, who now poor creature, acts no longer on this planet, used to preface her travel's history on the dicky of her Master's chaise—an Ominous beginning, which like our Mother's “O I must tell you about Aberdeen!” had always the effect of instantaneously scattering her fellowservants to the four winds as if a bombshell had been thrown into the midst of them. It is really surprising how they ack! not knowing but the next hour may be their last—certain that a last must come soon—yet leaving the most palpable duties undone as if there were all eternity to do them in. You may guess I am incited to this highly novel and striking reflection, by the consideration that my last letter to you has been left unanswered for one year and half—that from anything I hear you are not even remotely purposing to answer it—have not a single compunctious visiting1 about the matter. Yet how many years and half think you, even at the longest allowance shall we remain sojourners together on the same earth? and how will the surviver [sic] like to remember periods of silence like this when the possibility of friendly intercourse then for the first time, like all things past, not only rightly estimated, but overestimated, will exist no more for ever? Nor in censuring you do I pretend alltogether to clear myself—I should have written again and again[.] Not only Scripture which bids you turn the other cheek when one is smitten2—but my own experience of how naturally one may fall into a fault from which it is extremely difficult to get out, as well as kindness which is continually reminding me that you are my earliest friend[;] all counselled this—but pride and indolence carried the day. In prolonged bad hea[l]th and worse spirits I judged there could be small call upon [me] to be sending letters out as it were, into infinite space—no sound of them ever more heard—still vainer seemed it to apply for simpathy [sic] to one who was apparently nowise concerning herself whether I remained behind in a nice flower-potted London churchyard, or returned in a state of total wreck to my own country. A few days before I left London a certain Dr Allan said to Carlyle in a complimentary tone as I left the room—“Mrs Carlyle has the remains of a fine woman!” think of that now! at thirty to pass for a remains!3 judge if I must not have suffered somewhat! and if loss of health and loss of looks were not a decent sort of excuse at least, for not enacting the amiable part of turning the second cheek, or in other words writing the second letter— The short and the long of the matter is we are both in fault—let us mutually forgive—Kiss and be friends and draw this practical inference that indolence as the copy line says is truly the root of all evil—4

The special object of my breaking silence this day is to give you a commission which I think will gratify you—not, of the petty needle and staylace sort—but what think you? to look about in your walks between this and the beginning of winter for a little furnished house to contain my husband self and a maid for as many months as we see good to exchange our country life for your town one— The grim prospect of another winter in this solitude is too frightful for my husband, who finds, that it is absolutely essential for carrying on not only his craft, but his existence to hear from time to time a little human speech[;] accordingly we are to neighbour you this wint[er] and let us see to make better of it than on [the] former occasion— As to the manner of hou[se] I may begin by restricting your quest by three [great] limitations—first it must be free of bugs, secondly of extraordinary noises—and lastly of a high rent. such a place as that my Mother tenanted of Miss Sheriff would answer well enough— perhaps Miss Dora if it were modestly suggested to her might make another migration into the country—she never seemed to s[t]ay at home on any account but because she had a house on [her] hands. Henry Inglis represented Comely Bank as being inhabited now by strange haggard ruffian-looking people whose calling was questionable—in that case it were no longer pleasant but otherwise I should still prefer it to any part of the new town— a floor in the heart of the town were my last recource [sic]—any suburban situation especially if self contained were preferable—the nearer yourself the better and … [JWC has deleted several words here and written “Second thoughts are best” under them.]. With respect to house room—there would be required at least a sitting room and bedroom with some sort of adjunct that might be slept in “at a time”—a kitchen and six feet for the Maid. a small patch of outdoors accom[m]odati[on] were extremely desirable where my husband might smoke— It was most piteous to see him reduced to perform that process in London on the top of a cistern! looking as he stood perched aloft “on that bad eminence”5 with the long pipe in his mouth, for all the world like the emblem over a Tobacconist's door. Now look round you and see what is to be had and on what terms—and report progress—and as the time draws on and my knowledge increases—I will give you more definite instructions.

Does your Uncle ever make the smallest mention of me? ever inquire if the mischievous creature who broke his folder6 is still working devilry on this planet, Alas no! She is sober enough now—a long succession of bad days and sleepless nights have ef[f]ectually tamed her— O Bess, for one good laugh with you, for the sake of old times! I do not remember the time when I laughed. C[rying is] now the order of the day.

C[h]olera is raging in Dumfries—and the whole town and County in a state of distraction—as if death were now presented to them for [the] first time because it is presented in a new shape!— As if God had not appointed to all Men once to die!

A kiss to your Uncle—kind regards to Sam— What is Mr Simpson doing? Your Cousins? every body? For god['s] sake write to me soon— My Mother is bilious and terrified— My Grandfather as usual[.] I am going over tomorrow to rouse her.

God bless you

I am always your affectionate friend /

Jane W Carlyle