October 1831-September 1833

The Collected Letters, Volume 6


JWC TO ELIZA STODART; 24 May 1833; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18330524-JWC-EA-01; CL 6:392-395.



My dear Eliza

You have been thinking doubtless (for the heart of woman is prone to evil thoughts) that I did not display alacrity enough in writing to you. But judge not without knowledge: first hear the dolorous tale I have to tell; and you will find that my friendship has in this case been without reproach.

You have first to learn that we were in Edinr two days after you and all our acquaintance supposed us gone! actually secreted in Mrs Blackey's1 house, with feelings which I should suppose akin to a Gohsts [sic]—for, O tell it not in Gath!2 Eliza! we had—missed the coach! the old horror had been transacted anew! And well might we keep ourselves secret! well might we hide our diminished heads,3 and shun the cheerful face of a friend! You know my way of being always too early—perhaps you do not know, that my Husband always puts off till the last moment— this, almost the only, discrepancy in our habits has produced many little argumentations betwixt us which on that illfated morning I for the first time determined to evade. Accordingly tho' up in good time (indeed I did not close my eyes the whole night) dressed and breakfasted in good time, we somehow trifled away five minutes over and above what there was to work on, and on reaching the starting place, bag and baggage, saw our ‘Convenience’ (as Mrs Rennie used modestly to call her carriage)4 vanishing at the far end of Princes Street! Let us drop a veil over the disgraceful home-march! Enough to say that I was forthwith deposited in bed with the dreadful[l]est headach[e], and remained there, most of the time we had to wait; glad my existence was unknown, that so I might be left in quiet. It was now too apparent to me that I had got Influenza; I only hoped that I might brave it out, and keep up till I was landed at home. But I could get no further than Templand, after suffering by the way such misery as I shall not soon forget. There I had to keep my bed for a week— My Mother too was laid up with it for three days, so I had the additional vexation of being looked on as a pestilence. On Monday I took the road again—reached the goal of all my wishes, for the time being—again had a bad turn that confined me in bed—And only yesterday felt myself like living and today eat half of a salt herring to breakfast on the strength of which I write— So confess that I have lost no time—but on the contrary am displaying a most satisfactory ardour in the matter.

We found the house—not merely standing but in the best order— The Woman who had charge of it thro' the winter had kept the damp out—and Nancy had sorted it to a wonder without my superintendence. My Cow is at the point of calving— My little horse is in high mettle—my hens are fat and laying—and all have returned from their diverse winter-quarters—making together with ourselves a ‘reunion’ of the most Idyllic discription [sic]! So far we have cause to be thankful. But as there is always some confounded drag on the contentment that is of this world—so a spectacle presented itself on our return enough to have made a passionate person explode. but me who am an example of patience and submission it only moved to tears. One of the woods (just think of it) the one on your left as you approach the house was burnt to cinders! a melancholy mass of blackened stumps, while all around was shining in new verdure. The Tenant had been burning heather—the trees had caught fire—and he simply retired into his house and left it to burn! O Eliza—I could cry yet to think of this—to think of my Father taking such a world of pains to plant these woods—to think they have had rain and sunshine vouchsafed them for more than twenty years, to be finally consumed in one night thro' the carelessness of a lout like Macadam. But he pays his rent, and that is everything—the appearance of Craigenputtoch is of consequence only to us. Well be it so! we shall not stay to see it reduced to its original desolation. I wish its improvement had not been my Father[']s work, and then I should not care tho it were let on a nineteen years lease to the Devil himself.

One thing however I shall insist on—namely that I should hereafter have the melancholy privelege [sic] of being informed when my property is burnt or otherwise destroyed—instead of having the fact concealed from me till it could be concealed no longer—even my own servant commanded by my Mother not to tell me of it— You see I am angry—more so perhaps than becomes a pretender to some Philosophy— But I am giving vent to my feelings on the occasion here for the first time—as a way of getting in some measure rid of them— To turn to a more agreeable topic— Will you give our affectionate regards to your Uncle; of whose kindness to us during our stay in town—from the first day to the last (a sort of kindness so much after our own hearts—) my Husband and I have many times gratefully commemorated— Do you too my dear Eliza accept our kind remembrance of your kindness— Write to me soon—and love me always— Your affectionate

Jane W Carlyle

When you see Mrs John5—pray apologize to her in my name for my incivility in going off without seeing her after her manifold civilities towards me— I did not give up the intention of calling—till ten o[']clock on Monday night when I found—I had still so much to do that it was impossible fo[r] the whole day had been taken up with callers— During the two subsequent private days I was too ill—besides I could not have made my neighbourhood known to one without offence to my aunts and you and others——