October 1833-December 1834

The Collected Letters, Volume 7


TC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE; 3 December 1833; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18331203-TC-MAC-01; CL 7:48-50.


Craigenputtoch 3d December, 1833—

My Dear Mother,

The Note1 here inclosed is for Alick, and I see no safer mode of conveying it than by Scotsbrig, tho' it must loiter a little by the way: there is nothing very pressing [in] it. A few lines to yourself must reconcile you to being made a Carrier of.

I hope Notman delivered you the Pills, so stupidly forgotten. The hasty scrawl that went with them would signify that we were here, and little more; I was hardly this twelvemonth in such a hurry. Since then, all goes on as it was doing; in spite of this most disastrous weather, the worst we have had for long. We, indeed, sit snug; and defy the tempest: but Macadam's stable-slates jingling off from time to time suggest to us what many are suffering; some, doubtless, far out in the “wide and wasteful main”!2 Both Jane and I go walking, by night, if not by day, when there is a gleam of clearness; I take now and then a kind of deck-walk, to and fro, at the foot of the avenue, in a spot where, you know, the wood shelters one from all winds that can blow. Last night (about dusk rather) coming along Blackmark Road right in the teeth of wind and rain, I—frayed the skin of my heel (with the wet clog-leather); and so, shall ride for the next day or two: this, I think, is all the misery that has befallen since you saw us!

Grace came home at her appointed time, and Nancy had not gone away; having no service to go to. She went at last, with a blessing; seemingly in a very strange humour: Jane surmises there may be a “misfortune” in the wind! Poor Grace does her very best; and tho' slow, yet being regular as clock-work, makes wonderful way. It is augured that she may cut a quite reasonable figure; and from her, as one of the faithfullest characters living, we ought to put up with much. Harry (whom she saddles) and she have got into the most intimate terms; and converse a good deal; he by nickering and whinnying; she in the human Scotch dialect.

We saw Jean and her man and household as we passed thro' Dumfries: it was all looking right enough; one could hope that they might do very well there. Aitken, I find by a Picture3 over his mantel-piece, has quite another talent for painting than I gave him the smallest credit for: it is really a surprising piece to have been executed there. As to Jean we have always known her as a most reasonable, clear and resolute little creature: of her in all scenes and situations good is to be anticipated. So we will wish them heartily a Blessing; with hope.

Ever since Alick left us, I have been writing with all my old vehemence: this day too I insisted on doing my task. It is about the “Diamond Necklace”; that story you heard some hint of in Cagliostro. We shall see what it turns to.— I am in the Drawing-room tonight with my big table (and side half to the fire, which is hot enough): Jane at my back, also writing; what she will not tell me. We have been here together, these three days; the rain had run down the vents actually in large streams, and damped everything. This is what I call descriptive minuteness.— Let me also say, I have been reading in poor Waugh's Book,4 and found your opinion of it verified: it is actually “far better than one could have expected,” and contains some interesting things, things at least which give rise to thoughts that interest. Poor Waugh! “Poor fellow, after all!”5

Alick's little Letter (one of the smallest I ever read, but not the emptiest) informed us of what had been passing at Catlinns, and that you were there; he said, well. Have you returned from the expedition still well? I cannot too often impress on you the dangers of winter weather: you have a tendency to apprehension for every one but for yourself. Catlinns is not a good place in winter; and were Jenny not the healthiest of women must have been very trying for her.

But there is another expedition, My dear Mother, which you are bound, which I hope you are getting ready for. Come up with Austin and Mary to Jean; stay with her till you rest; sending me up word when: on Wednesday, or any other day, I will come driving down, and fetch you. In about a week hence, as I calculate, I shall be done with this scribblement; and then we can read together and talk together and walk together!— Besides this in the horrid winter weather is a better Lodging for you than any other, and we will take better care of you—we promise. The blue room shall be dry as fire can make it: no such drying except those you make at Scotsbrig where on one occasion, as I remember, you spent the whole time of my visit in drying my clothes. Lastly that when “you come you may come,”6 Jane bids me communicate to Jamie that she wants three stones of meal; but will not take it, unless he take pay for it.

And so, Dear Mother, this scribble must end—as others have done. Tomorrow I believe is my eight-and-thirtieth birthday! You were then young in life; I had not yet entered it. Since then—how much! how much! They are in the Land of Silence (but while we live, not of Forgetfulness), whom we once knew, and (often with thoughts too deep for words) wistfully ask of their and our Father Above that we may again know. God is great; God is good! It is written, “He will wipe away all tears from every eye.”7 Be it as He wills; not as we wish.— These things continually almost dwell with me; loved Figures hovering in the background or foreground of my mind. A few years more, and we too shall be with them in Eternity. Meanwhile it is this Time that is ours; let us be busy with it; and work, work, “for the Night cometh.”8

I send you all young and old my heart's blessing; and remain, as ever,

My Dear Mother, / Your affectionate, /

T. Carlyle.

Mary or Jenny must write unless you are coming directly. Send all news; of Farms, and all else.