October 1831-September 1833

The Collected Letters, Volume 6


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE; 17 October 1832; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18321017-TC-JAC-01; CL 6:244-252.


Craigenputtoch, 17th October, 1832—

My Dear Brother,

I fear we have got again into a sort of perplexity with our Correspondence. About three weeks ago, I received your Castellmare Letter; having sent one off, which I might have expected would be in your hands about the same time:1 that of mine however was directed to Naples, which City you appear to have quitted sooner than calculated on. If you have left no Agent there to forward Letters (which however is unlikely) there will be a pretty lacuna! In that Letter, I said it would be better in future that we wrote in the single Letter-and-Answer way (without overlapping one another, as now); but that in any case I would study to follow your instructions for the immediately next time. No very precise instruction, however was given; only in a corner of the sheet I found: “direct to Rome as usual.” Alas, I had directed nothing to Rome; and this is the first thing I send thither. My last Naples Letter in point of quantity was at least equal to two of your Castellmare one; and as I was quite immersed in ‘composition’ at the time, and had not stirred from Craigenputtoch in the interval, or spoken above about four words in the day to any creature, it seemed better to wait. I finished my ‘composition’ the day before yesterday; am bound for Annandale in the end of the week: and so here we are. I will not seal this till I have seen our Mother, for I have heard nothing of them in a positive shape for many weeks (by the blame of Jamie in part): but they will tell us by word of mouth; and may even send you a marginal greeting with their own hand. It is within the reach of possibility that our Boy may bring us up a new Letter from you today (which is Wednesday); but I fear not likely. Write to me, at all rates, the moment you receive this; and then let us begin regularly.

As I said, there is little or nothing to be written of Transactions, where the changes of Weather and of Nervous Sensibility are almost our only events. You can picture out Puttoch, and how I now sit here (in the Library) with a blazing fire of peats and coals, careless of the damp surly Elements, having only Dulness to struggle with. We keep a Famulus2 to go errands, yoke the gig, curry the cattle, and so forth; who proves very useful to us. Jane is sitting in the Dining-room, reads, sews, rules her household, where cow, hens, human menials, gardencrop, all thi[n]gs animate and inanimate need looking to. She is not quite so brisk as she was, and the Trefoil has long been discontinued: however, she is certainly far better than while in London, and on the whole continuing to gather strength. The gray Mare about six weeks ago kicked her harness to pieces with us, down at John M'Knight's, without the smallest provocation; but did us no damage, I even brought home the Dame on her back: however, such conduct was not to be dreamt of; so we despatched the animal to Alick, to make ready for the ‘Roodfair’; who as we since vaguely learn (for they have not even informed us of this) has sold her to Jamie, that he, in carts and plough-harness, may teach her ‘another road to the well.’3 With unexampled dexterity, having procured an Awl and Threads from Dumfries, I mended the old harness again (indiscernibly to the naked eye); and now little Harry draws us, and makes no bones of the matter, being in good heart, and well provided with fodder both ‘long’ and ‘short.’ That is the way we manage. All lies tight and sufficient round us, and need not be in disorder: we want for nothing in the way of earthly proviant, and have many reasons to be content and diligent. Recreations we have none; a walk, a ride, on some occasions a combined drive for health's sake alone: Miss Whigham (of Allanton)4 called here the other day; and this simply is our only call since we came from London! Poor William Corson, indeed, bounces up about once in the month to tea: but he is nigh distracted, and one cannot count him. I tried the Schoolmaster, but he is a poor rawboned Grampus [Ignoramus],—whom I lent a Book to, but could get no more good of. I have tried some of the Peasants, but these also without fruit. In short, mortal communion is not to be had for us here: what then but do without it? Peter Austin (of Carstamon, Castra-montium;5 we too have had our Romans!) is very useful to us; a decent punctual man, the shrewdest of these parts. On the whole I do not think I shall ever get anythi[n]g better than a cheap and very peculiar Lodging here; no Home I imagine has been appointed. For whom is such appointed? The most have not even a Lodging,—except by sufferance.— Be this as it may, Cochrane had paid me for the Article Goethe, and adding this to what elsewhere could be packed together I (on that Dumfries Jury-day; for I was summoned thither to act in that way about three weeks ago) I converted the whole into a Bank-letter, and paid off the Lord Advocate, ‘plack and bawbee’6 (£43”10 for you; £60 for myself); and now except £11”2 to you (£100 minus £45”8 to Alick and this £43”10) owe no man any money. Be the Heavens thanked for that, at all events! The Advocate acknowledges his debt cleared: it is the only thing we have heard of him for a great while. I imagine, our relation is a good deal cooled; and may now be visibly to him, as it has long been visibly to me, a rather fruitless one. His world is not our world: he dwells in the glitter of saloon chandeliers, walking in the ‘vain show’ of Parliamenteering and Gigmanity, which also he feels to be vain; we in the whirlwind and wild-piping Battle of Fate, which nevertheless, by God's grace, we feel to be not vain and a show, but true and a reality. Thus may each, without disadvantage, go his several way. If Jeffrey's well-being ever lay within my reach, how gladly would I increase it! But I hope better things for him; tho' he is evidently declining in the world's grace, and knows as well as the world that his Political career has proved a nonentity. Often have I lamented to think that so genial a nature had been (by the Zeitgeist, who works such misery) turned into that frosty unfruitful course. But as George Rae said: [‘]D——— you, be wae for yourself!’ So there we leave it,— On that same Jury-day (where by the by nothing was given me to do, but answer to my name, under penalties) I got the Proofsheets of that Fraser concern “THE TALE by Goethe,” which is his leading item for this Month, but has not got hither yet. It is not a bad thi[n]g; the Commentary cost me but a day, and does well enough. The produce belongs to my little Dame, to buy pins for her: she got it as present long ago, at the Hill: and reckoned it unavailable. The other Translation (mentioned in other Letters) follows close, next month. Fraser also applied for a Paper on “Walter Scott”: I declined, having a great aversion to that obituary kind of work, so undertaker-like; but said I might perhaps do it afterwards. This thing I have been cobbling together last, is a long (fifty-page) Paper on Diderot for Cochrane,—when I do not specially know.7 I had an immense reading, to little purpose otherwise; and am very glad to have it all behind me. And now after a few days' sight of Friends, I must back hither into the wold, and dig a little more. We are not for Edinburgh till six weeks hence (for we change our servant at Martinmas8); so there is time to do somethi[n]g previously. I shall have funds enough: there is this thi[n]g; Napier too owes me above sixty pounds, some of it for nine or ten months, and seems to be shy of paying. I shall see better what he means in Edinburgh. His Review except for Macauley [sic] (who as yet has only sung old songs, of Liberalism and the like, with a new windpipe) is the utterest “Dry rubbish shot here”:9 yet by a kind of fatality it may linger on who knows how long, and perhaps Naso10 does think my moisture would improve it. A la bonne heure [Well and good]! There are plenty of Able Editors zealous enough to employ me: this is all the ‘fame’ (Fama Dira [Fearful Fame]!) I fall in with—or need. So that when you come home, Doctor, there will be a considerable volume for you to read; and I, in the interim, have lived thereby.— We have sent to Eliza Stoddart [sic] to be looking out [for] a small furnished House for us; that is the way we mean to do: lodgings we could not venture on again so soon. I do not mean to work much there for a while, but to ask and look, that makes me the busier at present. It is three years since I have been absent; and several thi[n]gs will be changed. Did you hear of their meeting at Edinburgh for a Monument to Sir Walter Scott? It was the best they could do, poor fellows: why not acknowledge it as such? If the whole matter, alas, seemed hollow, flimsy, theatrical, and nine-tenths false, there was a one-tenth of Truth at the bottom; and for this decimal fraction we will put up with all the rest.11— As to the printing of Teufelsdreck, it lies over for better insight; shall not be attempted, at all events, till I have money of my own, to pay the piper. Your offer, dear Jack, is kind, brotherly, suitable; neither shall you be forbid to pay for ‘debts,’ and much more (if you come to have the means, and we prove both worthy): but in the meanwhile it is madness to reap corn not yet in the ear (or kill the goose for her golden eggs—if you like that figure better); your great outlook at present is to get yourself set up in Medical Practice; for which end all the money you can possibly save will be essential. Should you ever come to be a successful Doctor (and that tho' a difficult, is almost the only success not an impossible one for the sternest honesty), who knows what all may be done: in any case, I look to see you a faithful Doctor; a real not an imaginary worker in that field whereto God's Endowment has qualified and appointed you: the rest, I can say honestly, is within the merest trifle of indifferent [sic] to me. How long (were there nothing more in it) will it las[t]! Walter Scott is now poorer than I am; has left all his wages behind: if he spoke the Truth, it was well for him; if not, not well. As to the anonymity of Teufelsk, it is an aesthetic objection, not a prudential one: there is perhaps no man in Europe that needs to trouble himself less with that same Prudence; hoping nothing what thing should I fear? Nay, could I be sure of all the world's knowing the Book to be mine, it would answer me better. But we shall see the Book, after all, is little other than a dud; what I most want is to be rid of it.

And now, dear Doctor, here surely is enough about my poor Upputting [situation] and manner of Working or Bungling[.] Could I prevail on you to write as minute a realistische account, it were something. Nay I am not half done yet: but space must be left for what may occur till Saturd[a]y; the sheet cannot go till then. Of external news greatly the most momentous is that Cholera has been at Dumfries for some three weeks; but seems now to be rapidly abating. It was rather beyond the average in violence, and the terror of the whole region has been immeasurable. Even up here, they were going about with open mouth and staring eyes, wonderful to behold. Macdiarmid had sounded the note of preparation for some thirteen months, and when it came, all flew into pitiable distraction. The quantity of real understanding in mankind must be very inconsiderable. All carriers have stopt for these three weeks (for that reason our Boy is down) all marketting [sic], not even milk could be brought in. I understand by experience the infectious influence to be ve[r]y inconsiderable; above all, the whole thing to be inscrutable, that can neither be kept out, nor fled from, nor remedied when there: if it is to kill us, then it will kill us, but should find us at our work, and not thinking of what we can do nothing more in, but of what we can do something in. They behaved best in London: after all that the Long-eared individuals named Medical Board had hoped (whose bray is said to affright lions) the rational people went about their business, and none but glaring Gomerils [Blockheads] (like George Irving) were to be heard even speaking about cholera: the very populace, in their rude-way, took heart, and called it the “Cholera Humbug.” We here have got two bottles of the best Brandy, with some Laudanum or Paregoric (I rather think the latter) as simple universal stomachic stimulants: I could never hear of aught else the whole noisy Faculty had yet hit upon. We do not expect that the Disease will come hither; and shall not surely go to seek it, if we have no business: but live in that “humble boldness” which at all times (even as now, for when were we not liable to die?) beseems god-created Men. I have no doubt, our Mother is in the same mind: these are the times when it is seen whether one has anything in himself, or merely depends upon outward accident only. There are one or two persons known to us who have perished (Thomson the Architect): whether any more immediately connected with us, I wait with some anxiety for the Boy's coming back (by whom I wrote to my Uncle) to know. The great mass of victims are as usual dissipated, ill-fed, above all, terror-stricken people. It has been in none of the villages, in the Annandale side; tho' some Dumfries fugitives have died there. Four were in Penpont, one in Thornhill; none yet in Annan, where I see Waugh has risen from his lurking-hole as Medical-Board man, and publishes as Secretary's Admonition and Advertisement, a counsel earnestly conjuring all people to—call a Doctor.—12 I will add no more till the Boy arrive: he should be here soon, for it is near two o'clock.— 7 o'clock. The Boy returns with good news: none of our kindred there have suffered; the Disease is fast declining, and things assuming their old course.— We go to Thornhill tomorrow; then over the moors to Alick's, and Scotsbrig, where I will finish the remainder of this sheet. I think you will like that way better, tho' it cost you three days waiting. And so good night my dear Brother!— T. C.

Scotsbrig, Monday 22nd.— We left Templand (where Mrs Welsh lies confined to bed by some nervous indisposition these last three weeks), and coming over the heights by Loch Ettrick, AE Bridge and Corncockle Moor, reached Alick's about 4 o'clock on the Saturday afternoon,—not in the very finest style, for one of our traces broke in ascending Lockerby Hill, and Harry was completely tired of it. We saw the Catlinns Squadron on their Potatoe-field: within doors, however, things wore an unexpected aspect; for Jenny, two days before, had brought—a son into the world. Rather quick work, it was thought; for the rest, all well, quite ‘as well as could be expected.’ Mary was there taking charge of the Wochnerin [woman in childbed]. Alick gave us a new horse; and so, after tea, we came whirling down hither by Scroggs Brigg, and the heights of Blaweary. Our Mother was out to meet us: all was right; she in good health and heart; with a fire burning in this room (which now does not smoke); Jemmy ‘just expected from the Mill,’ and every soul delighted to see us. They are in such a bustle with their Potatoe-crop (for which the weather has grown excellent), that I doubt whether I shall get a single signature except my own: however, you are to fancy all kind things from every one of them, and believe that they are not kinder than reality. They seem to be doing well enough here; in good agreement, diligence, honest prosperity. The crop is all safe, and larger than ever they had; our Mother looks as well as I have seen her do for years; they are struggling on faithfully, not without fair success. Alick came down yesterday, and spent the day with us; his Farm also is said to be answering the end: otherwise he has a considerate, determinate well-doing aspect. Let us be thankful for all mercies!— Of country news I have heard nothing; they seem to live very secluded here. The Cholera appears to be very nearly over at Dumfries; the panic here has quite subsided; in this particular circle it never existed. So we will hope all things. Every one is more eager than another for new Letters from you. (Turn over)


Willm Graham is said to have been down here, ‘at the Lamb-fair,’ but returned in a few days; nothing of his movements or purposes is known in this quarter. Have you written to him?— From London we occasionally get a very kind Letter from Mrs Austin or Mill, which latter is our main supply of news. The lady Montague has also written[;] her silence was a Postoffice mistake. Mill continues to see Glen, who is weltering along as usual. From or of the Badamses nothing. I will write enclosing to Holcroft, the first frank I have. Edward Irving has begged for some farther delay from the Annan Presbytery, but is still expected to appear in person. He toils on, preaching in West's Showroom in Newman Street, and has an audience of extent enough.13 Gifts of tongues are said to exist in our Water of Orr district; but we are not troubled with them farther.— I feel quite especially bilious and somnolent today: it is the collapse after that Article work. I have a notion to ride over with this to Ecclefn myself, and perhaps stop up farther and see Dr Arnott.14 I know not when now to look for a Letter from you. Write at all events the instant you receive this, and I will do the like by you. Perhaps next time I may be able to give you our Edinr address Bradfute's 22 George Square is always a pis aller [last resort]. However we shall hardly set out till towards Christmas, and nothing is yet fixed.— I have been sadly plagued with a humming in the right ear (which you remember once syringing with such impetus), but have cured it by introducing a little cotton wool.— Adieu dear Brother! A Dieu!— T. Carlyle.

This is all I can make out; so be content. Adieu!—

[Jean Carlyle's postscript:]

My Dear Brother— It is a long time since I have had any opporty of sending my love to you in words tho it is always in thought—we go on rather snugly here scarcely so short-tempered as formerly— Old James Smith desires his respects talks about you whenever we see him[.] I for my part live a very quiet life here live & let live[.] my Sweetheartkin more-over is said to be J. Aitken[.]15 no room here for more— Your affect Sister Jane Carlyle

[Margaret Aitken Carlyle's postscript:]

God bless dear John Marg[a]ret Aitken [Carlyle]

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