October 1833-December 1834

The Collected Letters, Volume 7


JWC TO HENRY INGLIS; 23 November 1833; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18331123-JWC-HI-01; CL 7:43-46.


Craigenputtoch 23d November [1833]—

My dear Sir

I beseech you, do not estimate my gratitude for your letter,1 by the alacrity I have displayed in answering it. It was delightful to laugh with you again at anything, even a fellow creature's indigestions; and still more delightful to find I was remembered by you, while modestly supposing myself forgotten of the whole earth: I thanked you, then, from the very bottom of my heart; and would have told you so on the instant but for an inveterate habit of procrastination I have somehow acquired. Whatever is to be done, tho' it were but to sti[t]ch a button on my Husband's shirt; I must put off till “a more convenient season”: and it is inconceivable what woes are thus originated,—just in that single matter of shirt-buttons, to go no further. “Females” that are fulfilling the end of their being, videlicet, “bringing up children,” should be attentive to whip at the very first symptom of this tendency.

Why did you not come in Autumn, and make amends to us for the loss of Hunt? “Craigen-poo-toch” looked so well this year, and I felt so well, and could have enjoyed your company after a quite other fashion than thro' the last winter; when ‘my memory was a long train of indigestions,—my prospects more of the same.’2 John Mill had to go to France; so we were disappointed of him also: and were thankful to Providence for the windfall of a stray American,3 ‘come out for to see whatsoever things were wise and of good report,[’]4—from one end of Europe to the other. With such accuracy of investigation did he prosecute this object, that he arrived, by paths unknown, at the door of Craigenpootoch, which was, of course, opened to him with all the pleasure in life. To find the Christian charities inside, and even the Graces seemed to occasion him the most agreeable surprise. Carlyle had been represented to his transatlantic imagination, quite Teufelsdreckish,—a man severe—living in complete isolation, and partial barbarism: the Individual before his bodily eyes was shaven and shorn, overflowing with the milk of human kindness,5 und mit Weib im Hause [and with a wife in the home]; a blessing which the amiable American estimated highly—himself having lost it after an exceedingly brief trial.6 He went ‘on-on’—and we saw him no more. Our next inmate was a broken-down Barrister7 who some years ago enjoyed the threefold reputation of a Scholar, Genius, and Gig Man; but who is now literally lying among the pots,—having made his last stand against the world, on a not too solid basis of whisky and water— He with a pretty pettish wife of the fine Lady sort, but also taking into whisky exhibited to us for one mortal week a specimen of that sort of company which is worse than none; which at Craigenputtoch of all places one is tempted to deny the possibility of. But they also passed on, and again all was silent and continues silent to this hour. Yet here in the midst of this almost fearful silence we are fixed for the winter—resolute to assert the superiority of mind over matter, by neither going out of our wits nor attempting our lives thro' the dismalities of the ensuing season. Would you but come at Christmas it were an act of Mercy never to be forgotten! But alas! you are “an ornament to Society in every direction8 and society will not part with you, and you will not part with society to console suffering virtue in its Patmos— Yet it is better to be loved than admired—better to have one friend than one thousand acquaintances—I doubt if there be one individual alive, out of your own family, that loves [you] more truly than Carlyle does; or even than I do, which however is less to the purpose —yet who of your whole acquaintance sees less of you than we? This is not as it should be—I put it to your conscience, whether the ‘infinitismal [sic] system’ be a whit more rational in the practice of Friendship, than in the practice of Medicine? One meeting in the course of half a dozen years seems to me as great an absurdity as an ounce of salt put into the Pacific Ocean—and the Frien[d] must [su]ffer equally with the Patient under such a treatment. Will you come then? O do? I want to ask you about the amiable ‘In-deeed’ [sic],—about that fearful Epergne;9 and fifty things that you only understand the true essence of, and can satisfactorily describe to me. Come! and I will show you a caricature that you will never forget—and more—will give you a beauty of a teapot! I know it would do you good to revive your impressions of the contrast between this life and your life—to try how locusts and wild honey10 taste after the luxuries of civilized cookery[.] But if it caused ‘an indigestion’? no fear! the only things a truly catholic “disguster” (such as yours is) “likes as ill as a piece iron” (borrowed from an Annandale lady who thus expressed her decided disapprobation of yew-cheese11) are stupidity falsity, and gigmanity. From these you cannot pray the good Lord to deliver you more heartily than we do. But I was to leave space for some story about books—and I am almost at the end of my sheet—Will you give my kindest regards to your sweet gentle wife—and a kiss for me to that poor babe who is likely to be mismanaged as his Mother, I take it, has not studied either Anatmony [sic] or Phrenology.

[TC's postscript:]

If you pass Cadell the Bookseller's12 shop, in St Andrews Square, could you step in and ask him if he have a Copy of the last Foreign Quarterly Review for me? Should he answer, Yes, then say that the way to send it is by addressing “Care of Mr M'Kie Bookseller, Dumfries,” and leaving it at Oliver & Boyd's. Lastly that I will beg his Clerk to take note of this in writing, that he may not again forget it.— Why did you send me only literally an invoice? A Letter of two sheets could have come as easily, and had been a dozen times more welcome[.] Think of this another time.— Have you Beaumarchais' Works (7 voll.);13 or can you get them easily? M'Kie and Oliver & Boyd are my ready Carriers (every Monday) of all such things. Finally, is there any hope of you at Christmas? Not a gleam!—Ever affectionately— T. C.

[JWC's postscript:]

If my letter is worth nothing to you; at least it shall cost you nothing—I enclose it to the Advocate.