October 1833-December 1834

The Collected Letters, Volume 7


TC TO ARCHIBALD GLEN; 28 January 1834; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18340128-TC-AG-01; CL 7:88-91.


Craigenputtoch, 28th January 1834—

My Dear Sir,

William himself wrote to you last week, with I know not what coherence or minuteness of detail: it was the last thing he did before entering on his new way of life. I intended to bid him say that you should hear from me by next opportunity, or even to mark as much on the outside of his Letter; but, by accident, both purposes failed; and so today I am perhaps better than your expectation.

Tho' your Glasgow packages all arrived, in best order, and perfect suitableness, on Wednesday night, and we were all down next day to see them laid out, it seemed fittest that W. should not remove till Monday Evening, as perhaps in his new quarters the Sunday might hang heavier than another day on his hands. We were all to walk down with him, and have tea there, and “heat the house.” An arrangement which seemed to gratify him; tho' he had been getting himself in order for shifting even on the Thursday morning. However, Monday proved as wet as possible; so there was no stirring; till on Tuesday about the usual time for walking, Mrs C. set forth with him (I being busy), and took possession. He looked sad as he took leave of me, but strove to look cheerful: the Pipe-box was not to be opened till night, when I was to come, and “do it in a solemn manner.” Which I did; and found him all adjusted, and really looking quite comfortable. Peter has put on “the Door” he talked of; there is a new cast-iron grate with all appurtenances; the Carpet, which fitted completely, was pronounced to be of the best possible pattern; the Bookshelves with Books were hung opposite the fire-place; a green cover on the table: all was right, and looked surprisingly snug. William and we had, as far as might be, arranged the order of his hours and proceedings at Carstammon; for he has a most happy tendency towards order in all things; he was to be called at eight o'clock; to take a walk, on all fair mornings, before breakfast; to learn so many Propositions &c &c.

Since then we have seen him every night, precisely with the stroke of seven; which was the hour agreed on. He brings his Propositions in his head (much more accurately than he once did); demonstrates them, in spite of my impugning, which he bears always with the old patience: then we read duly a piece of Homer together; wherein I am less the Teacher than the Taught, for I find him distinctly deeper in Greek than I. Thro' the day he walks; extensively when the weather will permit; has been at the top of Bogray Craig1 &c: looks in Books, hardly reading much; learns these lessons of his; and doubtless looks forward to seven o'clock as the summit of the whole day. We have generally finished our lessons at nine: then the lady plays to him, some half hour; and he is home before ten. This is the course of one Day; and you may fancy it with only slight variations, as the pattern of all Days. Only on Sunday nights he is to come and have tea with us; and let us have, instead of Geometry, a little “profitable talk.”

Judging by this week's experience, all seems to get along quite tolerably. Mrs C. went down yesterday to ascertain as far as might be, whether household matters of bed and board were on a right footing; and had reason to report very favourably on that head. The Austins on their side speak very kindly of poor William: “he gives them no trouble”; “is a real clever mannerly man, it is a great pity o' him” &c &c[.] William himself at all times answers like one well satisfied with his accommodation every way “for the present”; tells us how snug his little room is; how he can wait better there than anywhere “till his time come.” One night, but that was before shifting, he told me with great earnestness, it was the most blessed month this, for quiet and peace, he had spent for long long.

With regard to his general state of intellect and prospects of cure, I think it were rash to say more than we used to do when you were here; neither on the other hand have I seen any cause to say less. His cure at best must be very gradual, I have always thought; if from month to month one can trace any improvement, it will be much. I on the whole retain all my old hopes. Certainly William is not worse than when you saw him; I flatter myself in general that he grows a little better; but his variations from day to day make one's persuasions vary, and one cannot affirm it. In the evenings he often looks much wiser with us; but then we believe that to be considerably the best of him. His Regalities and Conquests,2 I think, have turned up only twice or so, since you left us; the last time on Sunday night: but even in these relapses I imagine I discern an improvement of character: they are briefer; the illusion hovers farther in the distance; he is less confident of it; feels you would say almost ashamed that he has spoken of it; and in a little while will talk in the most reasonable, even judicious way (so far an answering goes), for the fit generally lasts but a few minutes. He feels too for most part, and often plaintively admits or asserts that “sentience” is not come yet: he said to me one night as I convoyed him home: “haeret lateri lethalis arundo” (the arrow sticking in his side)3 “twenty months of it, sir: O, it's too much for any one man.” These are but moments, however; his general temper is good, indeed excellent; the same Patience and Firmness we used to see in him; of which also his looks are very expressive.

Finally I have long since discovered that his state of body is above all other things influential on him: so much so that one might almost say his Disorder was of a bodily sort. In this particular I have some difficulty with him; for he himself makes no conscience of taking pills: however he will do whatever I desire him to do; and confess most truthfully if he have forgotten at any time. I think too he is perhaps becoming a little more sensible of the importance of that humble duty; which, at any rate, country air (if the weather were mended) and abundant exercise, one may hope, will more and more supersede—

Such my dear Sir is the faithfullest picture I can give you, in this hurry. I hope earnestly you will find a distinct improvement, when you see us in April: at all events, I do not see where in the world poor William could have a better chance than [phrase cut away] … goodness of his disposition; on his youth, and the intrinsically slight nature of all that is wrong with him.— Throughout this Letter I have striven to write decidedly below my persuasion, not above it. Still hope then that it will all be as we wish it; believe in any case that it is for the best.— By and by I will send you another Despatch; I will write instantly if anything go wrong. We got your two Newspapers; welcome tokens of you: William seemed quite charmed with your Letter; he had watched the whole afternoon for our Postboy. He desired me yesternight to assure you he was very well. I think you had better write to him: all manner of news about yourself especially will interest him. Direct, care of me; or Carstammon near Craigenputtoch.

We fancy you getting briskly under way in your new line of Occupation; and prophecy all manner of good about you. My Mother went away a week ago; deeply interested in William; as were my two Brothers, who also saw him here for a day or two: all of them charged me to write about him. Let us know how you get on; and be not discouraged if you find the road a little roughist [sic] at first; remember, that is the nature of all new roads, travelling smooths them.

The Lady sends her kindest regards. Remember us kindly to Mr Lamond, whose Household with the fair (headmost) Head of it we hope to know one day. Also to my old Friend Burgh Councillor Hope,4 whose Letter gave me real pleasure, both for his sake and its.— Great need of some Mary Dallas! Neither Moon nor Sun has been in, for the last fortnight. [Closing and signature cut away]

[Overleaf:] William is here while I seal; bids me say that he “feels quite comfortable at Carstammon”; “shag and pipes all right.”