TC TO JANE WELSH CARLYLE; 7 September 1833; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18330907-TC-JWC-01; CL 6:431-436.
TC TO JANE WELSH CARLYLE
Craigenputtoch, 7th September, 1833—
Foolish Goody Coadjutor,
Was there ever a more foolish order given by any Goody than this of writing thee a Letter, when we have yet been hardly eight-and-forty hours apart, and here in a solitude, in a vacant stillness, of which that of La Trappe1 was but a type? No, thou dear little Goody, it was not foolish; so I obey gladly; nay, would perhaps have done it without order. To tell my Coadjutor everything has become a want of my life. I have taken, as you see, one of my largest sheets, and will fill it all before I end.
Nancy was hoeing in the Gravel, when Harry, close-followed by me, came up to her; about the hour perhaps when you were quitting MacTurkdom, for your last stage. The wild woman soon realised me a few potatoes, on which with butter and a film or two of that dried beef I dined much to my contentment. The Piano was standing there in the best season; but unhappily there was no hand to put it in motion. To avoid getting into abstruse speculations, I took my hat and went out to walk. Seven Days of the utterest solitude lay before me; yet Days, as I suggested to myself, of precious Time; which I might use even here, or misuse. I determined to be heroical, and cast the Devil out of me.
Scarcely however had I reached Stumpy when the figure of Corson, advancing by the side of a dim-looking woman mounted on a white cart-horse, appeared close at hand. Utter solitude, I could now see, was not the worst that might befal one. Corson advanced in his usual gesturing way, and introduced to me in form the dim-looking horse-woman, as “Mrs Smith from Speddoch.” What Mrs Smith from Speddoch might be, above all what she could want with me, was now the mystery; which the heroine herself proceeded to unfold. To speak seriously, for the thing may actually concern us: it was drunken Doctor Smith's Wife, who has instituted (with great success as she alleged) a sort of small mad-boarding-house, at Speddoch;2 and had come up to inquire about poor Grace Welsh,3 having heard from William Gray that she was to be moved. I looked in the woman's face: she has a shifty [resourceful], assiduous air, not without address and manner; seems copious in speech; of a brisk, garrulous, active perhaps rather kind character: in one word, she is old Mrs Gray's Sister; is Mrs Gray herself, dis-gigged, and forced to acquire the faculty of walking. She has three Boarders at present, one of them a Miss Something, of rank; all are with her for that very reason of Drink and Opium; all, she says, have completely recovered; she never had but another, and that one I think died. Speddoch House is but a bad one: however, if she could get Grace Welsh, she would rent the House of Newtonairds,4 close by; where Gillet lived,—who by the bye has now gone mad too. Dr Smith's drink, as Corson assures me, does not interfere with the business; “as he never drinks at home,” or indeed abroad almost,—having I suppose no cash. I inquired of the Dame what her Terms were; but she with the most diplomatic air avoided throwing any light on that. How far all this may be of any consequence for you I have too little light by much for determining; your Mother and you will be best able to judge. One thing is clear: the poor young lady would be nearer all her friends there; another thing seems probable that her keeperess would actually address herself to take charge of her. The rest seems all dubious, perhaps almost questionable. Think of it yourselves. I of course told Goody Smith that nothing could be told at present, that it was not even certain whether Miss Welsh was to be moved at all, but within two weeks would be decided on: if No, I agreed to send her a line to that effect; if Yes, she might perhaps hear of us some other way;—and so I sent her back to Speddoch; and took Corson with me to the Grave of the last Sixpence, and did not get rid of him till supper-time.
From the boundless flood of “mad and mad-making” claver that he emitted, take now these slight Biographic notices, which constitute my whole stock of scandal. That parvus puer [poor boy], heir-apparent of Auchenhay, is dead;5 since the day of its reputed Father's funeral. Neither was the thing (I mean the birth of it) in the smallest pathetic, as you would make it; but rather the reverse. Old Auchenhay knew nothing of it, believed nothing of it (there seems to be evidence of this); and it is openly suspected, some—god may have intervened! It was a dignus vindice nodus [knot worthy of an avenger], if one ever was. There was surely some more Biography the Fool told me: but it has evaporated,—I fear, without return.—
At this interesting point of my Letter, it has struck 10 o'clock, and I have had my supper. Were the Goodykin here, she would send me to bed; but I am a free man, and keep writing. Dear Goody! I wish she were here nevertheless. One is “all-too lonely in that wide bed,” in this wide Moor, in this wide Universe!— However I must forward with my history; and surely in a rather more succinct manner. Yesterday morning, while the bright sun was welcoming you (I hope, without headache) to the Watering-place, I stirred little, yet was not wholly idle: I adjusted various small matters; wrote a long Letter to poor Mrs Swan; a long one, yet the lamest utterance of my feeling on that sad matter; for I was stupid, and could not even feel my feeling rightly, much less think it.6 After Dinner, I went to walk. Sitting with my back at the big stone in the “Sixpence,”7 looking out over the void Moor, I hear a little squeak of glad unmelodious singing; and presently Midge, in red jacket, with a bundle, heaves in sight; dashes back astonished into a kind of minuet, answers my question with a “Sur?”—and then to the repitition [sic] of it, “How they were all at the Hut?” chirps out, with the strangest, new, old-woman's tone, “Oh! bravely”: poor little savage! I met her again in the way back (she had been with Nancy's gown, I suppose), and did not kill her with my eyes, but let her shy past me. The red Midge in that vacant wilderness might have given Wordsworth a Sonnet. All day, I must remark, Nancy had been busy as a town taken by storm, and indeed still is, tho' I know not with what: most probably washing I think; for yesterday there appeared once a barrow with something like clothes-baskets, and today white sheets swung triumphantly on the rope: she gets me all my necessaries quite punctually, and, as fit, no questions are asked. “Noty-bena,” after a long effort, I remembered the shelling of your peas, and told her of it.— After tea, I did—what think you? Composed the following beautiful Doggrel on the Linn of Crichope,8 and fair Ludovina (I hope, she is fair): quite a jewel of a piece;—for which however there is not room on this page. Say not that I am idle: I even determined to keep a Diary for these seven Days, to see how I should spend them and let it be seen. Of the present Saturday the grandest event might be the following. Sickish with little work, I took my walk before dinner: reaching home, at the corner of the house, I meet a pig apparently in a state of distraction (grating harsh thunder, its lugs o'er its shoulders distractedly flow), pursued by Nancy in the same! The Sow has not so much broken the Gate as rent it, the sideposts of it, into two, and left it hanging “like a bundle of flails.” After dinner, I with a sublime patience borrow “Joseph's wimble [gimlet],” and under ten thousand midge-bites, with tools blunt as a wild Indian's, actually construct a bran-new, much-improved Gate; which you shall look upon not without admiration,—if it swing so long. I sent a new message to the Joiner; but do not in the least expect him. I had meant to excerpt from Bayle, and such like; but the fates, you see, had mostly ordered it otherwise. However, Night found me, like Basil Montague, “at my post”; namely, at my gate-post, and nigh done with it: I had tea, and Goody's Letter (for it is hers, as well as mine); and so here we are.
But now, Dear Wifie, it is fit I turn a moment to thy side. Is my little Janekin getting any sleep in that unknown Cabin? Is she enjoying aught; hoping aught,—except the end of it, which is and should be one of her hopes? I shall learn “all” on Wednesday (for she will write as I do); and then “all and everything”—when? I am patient as possible, hitherto; and my patience will stretch if I know that you enjoy yourself, still more that your health seems to profit. Take a little amusement, dear Goody, if thou canst get it: God knows, little comes to thee with me, and thou art right patient under it. But, Courage, my Dearest! I swear, better days are coming, shall come. The accursed baleful cloud that has hung over my existence must (I feel it) dissipate, and let in the Sun, which shines on all. It must, I say: what is it but a cloud; properly a shadow, a chimera! O Jeannie!— But enough: if I am happy, art not thou also happy in my happiness? Hope all things, Dearest; and be true to me still, as thou wert and art. And so felicissima Notte [happiest night]! Keep well, for it is now midnight; and dream of me if thou canst. With best love to Mother and Cousinkin,—Ever thy own Husband,
Take CRICHOPE LINN too.
M'Adam had brought two bushels of corn: he is not paid yet; I bid Nanny offer some approach towards payment.
You have not forgotten Mrs and Miss Anderson? Repeat my kind wishes for them.— When do you go to the Grey Mare[']s11 Tail? Or do you go? Take care of thyself. It is needless to say that I write in the warm Dining-room with my Desk; the Library set my teeth chattering, and I left it.