JWC TO THOMAS CARLYLE; 22 May 1834; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18340522-JWC-TC-01; CL 7:179-189.
JWC TO THOMAS CARLYLE
Templand Thursday [22 May 1834]
Well My Beloved, we are once more asunder—and not one only, but both of us adrift— This is sorry work! the only comfort is it need not last longer than we like, which I think will not be long. We have only to exercise a little more patience—to put forth a little more endeavour and we are again united under a roof we can call our own—with our own bed to sleep in, our own chairs to sit in, and our now broken divided existence gathered again into a whole. Let us be of good heart then—we have nothing to be seriously troubled about—we are without a home for the present (if we can ever be said to have had one) but we have each other still—and we have our senses—and cannot be cut out of Gods providence1—even by “the presen Government”2— We are better off, than many who would pretend to pity us. My worst grief at present is having been constrained to disappoint you, my Ain Husband! so anxiously you would expect my letter—so perplexed you would be when it come not! Alas I was loath to di[s]appoint you for I know how desolate you are feeling in that foolish City—how much fretting you are enduring all alone—but it was unavoidable. To send a “deliberate letter”3 on Wednesday was purely impossible as you shall presently see—to have sent a hurried distracted line would have made confusion worse confounded.4 And now that I am writing I could fill the whole paper with “sorrows of Goody” about your departure and so forth—but this time we must not indulge in pathetics even when we can get them—but attend mainly to the practical which certainly never more required our undivided attention— Heaven help me to be what you have so often advised me to, “brief in narration”—otherwise I percieve [sic] it were easy to drive you to utter distraction, so much I have to tell and of so perplexed a kind.
I begin with the concern of the house—not the house to be got—but the one to be disposed of— I have been able to do no better than set [lease] it to the Macqueens—that is, to set the park to John Macqueen at a rent of £10 on condition of his Mother living in the house, and keeping it and all about in good order—and giving admission to any respectable person whom we might hereafter find, to take it for shooting quarters— The bargain to last till the end of Macadams lease. On the whole this arrangement is satisfactory to me and I think you also will be satisfied with it— John Macqueen, whom I have now seen, is a fine, straightforward, fellow whom it is pleasant to think of having to do with; and his Mother is known for a woman of approved fidelity— Moreover they will pay the rent such as it is, and as they have a taste for good order, and even, I find, for something beyond, the place will be well kept— Mrs Macadam would have given £12 I believe for the convenience of having an inclosure for her cows and taken charge of the house; but then we should have felt no security that the premises would have had the smallest care taken of them by people of such slovenly habits— There were two applicants on the very day you went: the first I was obliged to communicate with thro' my Mother being in bed with a terrible head—but it was no matter how he was communicated with; for it was neither more nor less than the Man Maxwel[l] who carted the potatoes from Templand—and cheated me out of sixpence—he had a wife, he stated, with a surprising faculty for keeping Gentlemens houses, provided plenty of firing was allowed her—and having occasion for a grass park—thought both parties would be accommodate[d] by making a bargain—the plain question “what rent he was minded to give,[”] put him to a nonplus (“never having given that a thought yet”[)], and sent him abruptly away—to return on Tuesday when he had considered—but as I anticipated we saw no more of him— The next opened the business in a quite original style—by sending me up a Certificate as to character and privilege of church communion, written out long years back by the late minister of Keir5 and signed by my grandfather as elder—the ‘John Welsh’ written in faded ink was an appeal that obtained him a special audience; being better by that time I came down to the strangest old mortal I ever beheld—whom I shall entertain you with a detailed account of when the time for laughing is arrived— He was a Farmer out of a farm—more sinned against than sinning6—name John Twynham[—]family consisting of a son and sons wife and their “two male childer”— he wanted such a place as ours or a worse to keep a cow or two in the mean time and “keep his plenishing together,” but before going further required to know “the performance expected from an occupant of the house, or in other words the labor to be expended thereon”— provided I “fixed a low rent to entice people to come” he was ready to make a bargain. I judged him to be a very honest man—hard as flint—very sly at driving a bargain and scrupulous in adherehing [sic] to terms—one whom Alick could transact with better than I, and who failing the Macqueens might prove the next best resource. So I explained to him that I was not at liberty to conclude anything about the place that day; but engaged to meet him at Dumfries next Wednesday—being resolved to go down and get that matter finally concluded. Your note which came by Hugh on Saturday night confirmed my purpose—and also a visit from old Nanny on the Monday. I should there find Roberts answer, Irving, Twynham,7 Macqueen and Alick and have the whole matter at once before me. Roberts answer was that he thought the rent mentioned extremely moderate but that Craigenputtoch alone did not afford him scope enough for shooting—besides he had taken ground in the next country for this year, he advised me to apply to Irving— Irving was not at home when I sent first—and the second time he was but had nothing to say—he had not seen Babington—was to see him that day at dinner—and if Alick would call at some place he named at six he would let him know Babingtons mind— I recommended both him and Babington to——providence, and said no! we should dance no more attendance on them. George whom I found in the Courier office told me by that time that it could not be the Priest who had any notion of taking shootquarters as he was no sportsman—but the Brother of the priest, a great shooter and “one of the most damnable skytes [rascals] with the manners of a gentleman that encumbered gods earth” one whom we were better to have nothing to do with. Macqueen was seen next—he was quite content to do either way we liked—to take the park and furnish up his Mother in the house—or to let it alone and keep her where she was. Twynham thro' the kindness of Tom Smith had been provided in the interim with “two apartments sufficient to contain his plenishing in ‘the still’”! (the Distillery)— I sent for Macqueen to Bechs8—and over a bottle of ale made the agreement above mentioned—writing out a little contract with my own hand to be mutually as gay to his and Alicks great amusement— I further appointed him to come over on Tuesday morning (he could not come sooner) to tell me what articles he chose to buy for his Mother— I might perhaps have got more rent from him but as he said—that he would give what ever I understood to be the value of the park I was bound to ask no more than its value. To finish off the business of Craigenputtoch I may add here that I asked George if he would take the farm when Macadams lease was out—he answered that he was dying and I fear it is too true—but that if he lived so long he would either take it himself or find us a Tenant capable of managing it—and was still of opinion that it should bring two hundred pounds— So far my Wednesday's business was easy compared with what had to go on ‘collaterally.’
Alick's first information was astounding—that all “the plenishing” for London was to be packed and laded [loaded] by Tuesday night (the first Tuesday) and put into the steam boat on Thursday—so you had appointed—and accordingly William Austin was to be up with two carts on Saturday night—Jamie of Scotsbrig on Sunday night on the little pony and Jamie Austin with one cart on Monday night—yet not till Monday night was I to hear from you and be assured that there was a house to furnish—and instructed what sort of furniture would be needed.— I thought at the time I had never known you do anything so Irish—it was like “taking the stones of the old prison to build the new and keeping the prisoners in the old till the new should be built.[”] Since I got your letter in which you do not once mention this appointment—never once seem to calculate on its having been carried into effect—and above all speak of mats being sent when you must have known that the whole packing would be over before I could possibly receive or hear tell of them—I begin to believe in spite of their positive affirmations that you made no such positive appointment. When were you ever inconsiderate? when did you ever forget an appointment? when did you ever inflict on your Goody such a horrid press of work without consulting her wishes or convenience— No! they must have misunderstood you. My Darling never mind! it is all managed I think for the best. The packing had indeed to be transacted without other guidance than my knowledge of what was essential to any house, and the value of our gear—nay our goods had to be sent off without other address than a name and a number 1 but it is all safe (I hope) in Nicholson's warerooms at Annan whither I shall go so soon as I know its destination and address it with my own hand. Unless you prefer my coming first to help you in your troublesome quest, when I shall entrust that part of the business to some careful hand. I should have infinitely preferred leaving it packed at Craigenputtoch. But the men looked all so grim that night of the letter—as if I could help it or you either, and reflected about “people being all thrown off their own work for no end”—and declared it was quite impossible to gather again and come back! and so when Alick asked what I meant to do I said resolutely finish in the dark as we have begun—number the bales and take a receipt for them from Nicholson and let them lie at Annan till we heard further— It would be better he thought to laid [load] them into the vessel at once, and send them off (without direction!) for “to a certainty you would have got a house before they reached London—and you could go and inquire for them,” but I declared that if I should hawk all Dumfrieshire for hands to carry them into the sloop I would not do any so absurdly rash as that. I charged him further to get the carts weighed[—]packed and afterwards empty—but I incline to think the steam far the best conveyance as it saves so much shifting,— Moreover our packer the best in Dumfries the best I believe in the whole world assured me the furniture was much more heavy than bulky and a conveyance where bulk was the criterion of expence should be prefer[r]ed: he is a most experienced hand—found by Jamie Aitken and from what I saw of him I should have no hesitation in following his advice so Except this burblement of having to send off the things without a proper direction all has been well got thro. Tho I (and every body in the house) had to be up three successive mornings at three and did not get lain down till one at night—my head has never been so bad but I could mind my business— I am sure the things may travel to the worlds end without damage—so well are they packed and so cunningly to save bulk. And their [sic] was the finest dry weather for their journey to Annan; which was a natural point since they were to remain unpacked for nobody knows how long. But you are wondering what things have been thus strangely thrown out sang froid to charity. There are the two red beds (I judged it better to cut them down if need were than let them be wasted) the feather beds and wool mat[t]resses (these things would have been unsafest of any to buy there, for fear of bugs) the two chests of drawers packed with the best of the books, the plate, the napery, the looking glass and pictures &c &c. The two small mahogany tables and the two half circular ends— The writing table—winecooler packed with crystal—the stone and china and glass— The dining room chairs and Lobby chairs. The three brass fenders— All the carpets except the old green one— The clock packed in the up stairs hydrastiry (a device of my own) Some light new kitchen tin articles and a very few of the heavier utensils for which I had a particular favour. All the books and all the whole pipes (the box was nailed up before your letter came and there was no time for subtracting the little ones[)]. Oatmeal—some hams (I sent one of the bacon ones to Macdiarmid) pots of marm[a]lade &c— Two pounds of tobacco (which I ascertained from Mundel after it was bought[)] came from——London! via Glasgow— I shall take down the makers proper address— Window hangings and brass furnishings (not the cornices which the packer declared not worth carriage) The Venetian blinds (in a package by themselves so that they can be returned from Annan to Jamie Aitken that he may try to dispose of them if they are found to be useless[)]. Blankets—and doubtless some other small items which I cannot at this instant recall. And what is come of the rest? it is all satisfactory disposed of—even to the very rubbish which made the Irishwoman the happiest of women whom I had working for two days (Grace being quite useless) and a most active and skillful indoors worker she proved— The Macqueen roup [sale] went all to nonsense as was to have been expected— I had a great ado running, and inquiring, and writing, about Drumpark one, which was to be on the Monday of our packing and would have answered in point of time—but the speculation was terminated by the politest note from Broom the Town clerk to say that he could not let my articles into the sale as it was illegal to sell any thing at a roup that had not been rendered an account of to the excise some considerable time before. The same objection would apply to all roups then, in my time, and I wished if possible to leave no tag rag behind me. I sent for Nanny Macqueen on the Saturday to learn what there was a chance of her taking— She named the bare necessaries—the Kitchen bed, a few of the worst chairs, and some pots and pans and milktackel—but she also “squinted” at several superfluities—a four-posted bed the old green carpet &c—but [“]wished to put John to no expense she could help”— I made out an inventory of every thing I was not for taking with me; including the drawing room chairs and large dining table which I had not made up my mind about—(the former were so frail the latter so unwieldy and requiring so large a room—) and affixed what I judged a reasonable price—I also marked the articles Nanny wanted, and put a different mark to those she had merely heaved a wish for.9 And had this ready for John Macqueen when he came on Tuesday morning accompanied by Tom— He staid about two hours and in that time he breakfasted and bought every article in the inventory at my own valuation—being the whole left things—except the shower bath which Jamie Aitken was sure he could sell to advantage in Dumfries— The Bookcase which my Mother was sure she could dispose of unseen, and some things I had set aside to give— (my little bed to10 Alick's children—the Kirn [churn] to Mary—a pot and basonstand to Jane—the little chair, trunk and some other little &c to your Mother—the mangle to my Mother— The clock pin she BOUGHT from me at the original price (dear bought even with the third parties into the bargain)—a bedcover to Jamie—a variety of other odds and ends which I thought might be better given than sold went along with these which I do not precisely recollect. The SELLING of anything among our relations was going to prove, I found, a most ungainly business— The prices they talked of were so low and I did not feel right freedom to remonstrate— You are to know then Darling that I have at this moment in my pocket book a check on the National Bank for four and thirty pounds fifteen shillings from Macqueen—which is mostly to be looked on as gained money— For the two back beds he gave 6£ each (Jamie declared them most excessively dear at 5£) The kitchen bed with chaff bed 2£—Kitchen dresser 30/ table 15/ old carpet 25/ sofa 2£ (it would have been nonsense lumbering it away to Burnswark where it would have been an unsatisfactory sort of present (especially as a cart must have been got on purpose) when with the money for it, you could buy William Graham some much nicer more portable present) drawingroom chairs 7/6 each—Andersons bad glass and two worthless toilet tables 1£ dining table 3£ (this was the cheapest article but it had a broken leg & I desired much to be rid of it) Two bed-covers 10/ each (they were as old as myself)—the rest of the sum was made up with bason stands toilet-tables “Kitchen Lumber” (as Macqueen marked it in his list)—garden and stable implements— The dung he got for twenty shillings—having no use for more than served the garden— Peter Austin who disgusted me much with his procedure after your departure could not be made to recollect any thing about dung at first finally remembered your once asking him to tak it, but he was dune wi his potatoes—it would be in time I told him for his turnips—this displayed knowledge of farming did it not? when Alick came I sent him to speak about it again charging him to let Peter know that I would rather have the fun of seeing it tumbled into the burn than have a Neighbour put to the trouble of “carting it away”— After much haggling he made an offer of 15/ which was peremptorily rejected—
Your saddle I left in solemn charge to Nancy— John would have given me 2£ for it—but I durst not sell it for that without your leave. However if you are willing to part with it at that money I can still dispose of it.
And now dearest Life I have rendered a full and faithfull account of my stewardship—and I hope you will not think I deserve to be “cast into outer darkness[.]”11 For all so many demands as are made on my purschen,12 I shall now get out of the country without having to break in on our bill—and after the first rush o' expence13 no fear but we shall be able to pick up a living better or worse. The wood man is busy at our woods, I had to advance him 10£ for which I have his receipt; he will soon be thro' them—and says he must not only pay his outlay but have some profit to boot or it will be the strangest wood he ever had to do with.— I may also mention as comfortable intelligence that old Gracie has an eye to the gig—hoping perhaps to make another ten shillings by it—Jamie I suppose is to take the cart.
The Goethe is framed and poor Sandy an outcast14— it is quite a splendid picture—we must not part with it even to Sarah Austin who would perhaps give you a graceful little kiss for it—but she may have David Aitken's if you like—
You will now see the history of my not writing on Tuesday15 yesterday was as busy a day as any—for after the last carts were gone—I had my own duds to pack—and the Macqueens' things to collect into some sort of decent order—and then I had to go in by Barjarg on the road hither and replace the books— My mother staid with me to the last—worked like a Turk—was pettish enough and annoying with contradictory advice—but on the whole helpful. Poor Harry had to draw us both and Hugh yesterday. Since we came here she has been as kind as possible—so you are not [to] fancy me wretched— We found Walter and one of the Chrystals on our arrival which rather disturbed the repose we were flattering ourselves with and too much in need of— This morning I rose at four (I have got such a habit of early rising) and wonderful to say quite free of headach[e]— Was I wae to leave the Puttoch? to be sure I was! but I made little greeting [weeping]—just a little in our own room all alone immediately before starting. It consoled me greatly to be leaving the poor house not altogether dilapidated but to a certain extent like itself— If we want to return, we are to have our own things back, with a deduction for use— So that in case of a revolution or plague we can be again fitted up there for a few po[u]nds of money— Besides one is sure the place is going to be rightly kept, since they have been at such outlay in furnishing it— Macqueen has hired a decent maid about forty—very cleanly, and acqua[i]nted with the keeping of houses. On the whole dear “let us be thankful”!16
And now what is to be said about your house? First and foremost I vote for having nothing to do with Mrs Austin's—these arrangements always give dissatisfaction and besides it is not till August that we could have access to it—and in the mean time our goods are at Annan and Goody without home. That Brompton one appears far the likeliest speculation—my counsel is to take that if it can be had on reasonable terms— But if there be any drawback which I am not aware of & if you have found no other to your mind, then I am of opinion I should come to you in Ampton Street or where else you may be, and help you with my judgement such as it is— In case of a house being taken I shall sail in the same boat with the furniture and have the satisfaction of seeing with my own eyes what comes of it in Liverpool— and be in London in time to receive it—for no body is so necessary at the unpacking as some one that has been at the packing. In the other case I shall start when you bid me—by the next boat but one shall I not? that is Tommorrow [sic] fortnight— I should prefer tomorrow week, only there would be little time to work on after receiving you[r] answer. And moreover the next17 is my sick week, when it is probable I shall be more useless than ordinary, after so much fatigue— How often I called to mind your kind injunctions to take things quietly and “save myself”; and strove to obey you[.] But these inju[n]ctions were all rendered fruitless—
That day in Dumfries was such a day as you never saw—so much hithering and thithering about the house—so much running after packers—so much hunting for mats &c (I got two dozen and three which with a few at home were sufficient, for 9d each nearly half price from Bryden Spirit Dealer good and large—) then all “the victualling” to provide for such a number of people—all the investigations about Drumpark—it was one in the morning when we reached home— O Good what I would give for a long long sleep in your arms. I have never however neglected nourishing myself with wholesome food and even a little Brandy and to my care in this particular I attribute it that I have continued so well.
There is a kind letter from my Uncle to my Mother this morning in which he says of our departure “This change in the order of things would come suddenly on you and like all similar changes throw you into a meditating fit; but we will hope it is for the best; as without doubt they know what they are doing, and I shall be much deceived if we do not see ‘Him’ something to astonish the world yet, he has it in him if he would only let it escape in a tangible shape.”
I have heard nothing of the mats—and hope they will not come—in case they did I consulted the packer how I might get rid of them—and he thought Thomson [woul]d readily buy them of me—
And now darling I must conclude—tho' my paper is not exhausted, my strength and intellect are—
Commend me to our “celebrated” friends and to the poor Miles— with whom I am most thankful to know you lodged— And so God bless you my Husband— Be not “Bloody” but “bold and resolute”18— and your Goody, “tho' desperate, no coward,”19 will strive to be the same and all will work together for good. My Mother sends her kind love—
Your faithful Wife /
Of Chicco? O ask me not to speak I pray thee
It must not be revealed but hid!20
He is at Annan I trust by this time so far on the way— But it is still possible I may change hi[s] doom—
Grace remained behind us to lock the door, and deliver the key to Macqueens boy, who was to be sent for it— I parted from her with no regret—
Glen came to take leave an hour before we set off and gave me a bit of gingerbread which he had brought from Kilwhanidy whither he had gone on Peter's pony the day before— He “shewed little feeling” but doub[tless] was sad at heart— I gave him your cap and the old picture of the Advocate to hang over his mantle piece— Why has the Noble Lady not written to me is she still in wrath?21