January 1835-June 1836

The Collected Letters, Volume 8


TC TO JANE WELSH CARLYLE; 6 October 1835; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18351006-TC-JWC-01; CL 8:216-222.


Howes Annan, Tuesday (6th?)October, 18351

My Dear little Wifie,

There has been a longer delay in writing this time than I anticipated; and now at last if I would not again disappoint thee, I must write without deliberation, with the smallest possible convenience: I expected to be back at Scotsbrig last night, and to write there (as indicated in the Newspaper) with all fit means and appliances; but the weather, as it usually does in these weeks, proved rainy; I staid with Alick, and must write here at his desk, or be too late for the post. You know what sort of thing writing here is! This Pen, for example, marks; but if it do not mark there is no tool other than an old razor for mending it: Sic de caeteris [Thus for the rest]. However, I have a room to myself, a good fire and a locked door; kinder welcome never met man than that which meets unworthy me: so with or without much coherence, in the middle of the squaelling [screaming] of contented or discontented children, and the moist blustering of October winds, in view of the old steeple of Annan, with trees grass and mugworths2 (that would delight Leigh Hunt) more immediately at hand, I dash you off some fractions of Autobiography as I can.

The journey to Liverpool I shall retain for long winter evenings. Garnier3 I fancy would call and say that he saw me safe in the Coach: you can fancy that I lumbered along, much-enduring, and got to port some time within the twenty-four hours. Literally to port: for our so-called “Liverpool Mail” proved to be properly the “Chester Mail,” and took us some twenty miles of round about; landing us at last in the surly gloaming(for the day had been wet) on the bare stones of the Dock; out of a Steamboat namely! There is no end to the deceptions of men and coach-keepers! However, the grand question was now, What to do? I was dusty, unslept, sulphurous; Maryland Street as I calculated would be just at dinner; we were far from it; far from the Carlisle Steamer, the times or seasons of which no man there could tell me of. With a Porter shouldering my luggage, I wandered to Steam-Offices; to a wrong Inn; finally to the right one (in Dale Street), learned that the Boat would verily sail at three in morning; got hot water and a bedroom; intent to brush myself there, and, spending the evening with Uncle,4 sail, asleep or awake, at the given hour. I was wae exceedingly to open thy little red poke [bag] with shaving tools, and find it all so right and orderly; Mother and thou sitting probably at tea 200 miles from me. Bagmen surveyed me as I ate my beefsteak and drank my thimbleful of brandy; I set out forthwith for Rodney Street and Maryland Street. A long way; and a dim one, compared with the London ways. In a dingy street an elephantine figure stalked athwart me; I said, “Dr Carson!”5 it grunted affirmation; told me in a grunting somnolent tone what turns I had to Rodney Street; then lumbered on along its way without other salutation or goodnight. Heavy Bull of Bashan,6 thought I, retire to thy crib, and proper sliced turnips with chaff await thee there!— At last behold me in Maryland Street; the goodman welcoming me in his own open-hearted brotherly way, the good lady making me tea with toast and “Irish honey,” little Johnnie surveying Aunt Grizzie's7 present; all hands blithe to see me; all things attainable there; only not the one thing needful, rest. Tower-of-Babel Johnstone8 and his Daughter came directly, or were already there: Dr Arbuckle was soon sent for, and came. The good Doctor told me he was just leaving Liverpool and Europe: his romantic mysterious source of supply (which he now made no mystery of) had dried up; and invitation to Marinam (near Pernambuco, a Cotton-station in South America)9 had been sent him, to practise among the English and Portuguese there; which invitation he had accepted; he was to sail in a week! I could not blame him; but that too was a wae feature of the night. The young ladies sang and played; the old gentlemen and young drank red wine, ate shrimps and other supper, and all laughed as I talked: at length, after midnight, I arose and said to Arbuckle that he positively must then and there take charge of me, get me stuck in some lockfast place; or should he even tie a shot to my feet and fling me into the Mersey brine: for one way or the other sleep was grown utterly indespensable to me. You may fancy the friendly obtestations, outcries and preventives, all which I had resolutely and with brevity to wave aside. Arbuckle led me thro' streets and confusions, I got bills settled, got porters, passed thro' mountains of cotton-bags with sleepless watchmen on the top of them; on thro' Dock police &c &c to the Carlisle Steamer; and there under the void night with a heartfelt invocation to God to bless him I took leave of the good Arbuckle,—probably forever in this world. We were sad enough both; but so the Powers would have it. Sleep, after some jerkings and startings, rushed down on me; drowned all snorings &c &c; I awoke at my old hour of six; reeling in my drawer-bed, with the glad feeling that we were at sea, and must either get home soon or be drowned. I fasted; for we were all sick; the weather (for some hours) wet and gusty: finally after adventures and misshanters [misadventures] (for I had fallen asleep, and they sailed past Annan-foot with me, &c) I got safe to poor Mary's in the Suburbs of Annan at nine in the evening. It was Roodfair day;10 all were at Dumfries, and she was alone: the kindest of little women. In spite of rains next day, Alick and I got to Scotsbrig at the hour of sleep; they put me into a dry snug bed; I ailed nothing but headache and sniftering [from a cold]; and, next morning, having “indulged in a Cup of Castor” I began rapidly to recover. I have done literally nothing since but go on with that; and so here I am, not at all entitled to complain much.

To tell you what they are all about would take long space. My Mother is well and cheerful beyond what I could have fancied. They have converted those two upper rooms into a really comfortable, quite brisk-looking Apartment, far better than we ever saw them: Jenny is the most assiduous little handmaid and all goes along as smooth as oil. I have heard much about Templand, Hugh11 and the Cuddy. I had much to answer about you and Mother. Jamie's Wife seems a fine sonsy [comely] natural lass, with good sense; whom any one can easily live with: there is a rocking of cradles a quackling and lullabying in all these houses: one generation passeth away and another cometh!12 Jamie lost “half his harvest” last year by bad weather; has much in jeopardy at this moment: but holds on without complaining. Austin is the most diligent pacific of men, but can hardly, if at all, gain a subsistence in this Burgh, so wretched are the times. The result of Alick's jobbing is a loss of something near £20; neither does any prospect open on him: he seems clear and considerate, however; and looks I think mainly towards Upper Canada for next spring. A resolution, of painful character, yet which I cannot dissuade. Austin also inclines that way, tho' Mary is still very averse. They should both go I do think, and together. God guide them! The feet of men are sore shackled in this pilgrimage. The playthings and presents were all joyfully welcomed; the young brood may now again point to this and the other novelty, and say again “It was my Aunt's, the Leddy's at Lun'in:” they are are [sic] a thriving brood, and will be wealth in America. I have seen Ben Nelson (last night), grown very hoary, and his Boy more taciturn than ever; also Waugh, writing “New theory of Medicine,” “Commentary on the Revelation”;13 rusty, dusty, confused of utterance; apparently in decided state of insanity. All is so sad, spectral here: yet it falls on me like healing oil to be let alone, to see greenness round me, to hear neither “shrim-m-mps” sung out, nor wheels grating base thunder, nor Cads quacking “Bennk! Bennk!”— I have written to Nannie Macqueen14 for my saddle; Harry is in stout muscularity and can go tho' lazily: tomorrow we should be in Dumfries, if the weather will. I have also seen Cousin Tom (Frank's Tom)15 a nice youth really.

But now, dearest Bairn, how art thou thyself? Many a time I fancy; but could not hope to know till after I had written. Your Newspaper came, welcome: you would get one from me the same Saturday, then another you will get, then this. O I do hope you are a little quieter, stronger. I do hope that wretched pilgarlock peesweep [lapwing] “Sereetha”16 is off, and something a shade better in her stead! Know at any rate for some comfort that I have (which was my errand hither yesterday) all but hired you a Scotch Servant, to come home with me. Do you remember the Toll-woman near Grange, whom we had no penny for? I am nearly sure this “Marion Hay” is her daughter. My Mother and they all think she will answer, if any will: her people are douce good people: she has lived two years as Cook (I think) with Mrs Tom M'Turk,17 also about the same space with Little of Cressfield,18 they want her at Gillenbie;19 she prefers London, at least London wages. I came yesterday as I said, and saw the cratur; she is keeping house for her Brother a Baker20 here; Mary had found her out,—almost against hope, for Betty's Daughter could not come, tho' leaving Moffat. Well; the lass is of slight nimble figure, with a rustic simplicity of intelligence and goodhumour in face; can and will wash, sweep, scour, cook, and do all things: I must carry her to London (she has a Brother there, a shop man): that will cost £2..10; her wages must be £5 the half-year without perquisites; if we or if she want to be off at the end of the first half year she returns half of the £2..10: and goes her ways. I will inquire of Miss Little of Cressfield today; meet the girl again on Thursday, and hire her if it seem good. My own private notion is that she is no first-rate servant; more like M'Turkdom than Chelsea; yet it is indubitable that Cressfield and others have wanted her back again: her goodness of character and temper (or rather I should say nature, for there may be quickness of temper, in that face) seems well proved: she wants no tea-money, beer-money, carpets &c &c; and the chance is that as compared with any we have had, she may be a very jewel. I endeavoured to make all plain to her; especially to an elder gled [greedy buzzard] of a sister that had come with her: the creature looked innocently in my face, with a kind of trustfulness: for a year I do incline to suppose she may do. Shall I take her then? I see no other that I can do. She seems some 24 years of age; an attachable creature; may be handy, orderly (the probabilities are that way) is certainly submissive, lively and modest: better than most women. What can I do (let Miss Little testify or not) but take her, and be thankful? Nicht wahr [Don't you think so]?

This business of the Lass then being in a fair train, I must speak to you of Harry. Harry ran away, and flung off my Mother (not blameably) he has performed other beautiful feats (they are really wise and laughable): my Mother will take him again from Alick, who has been feeding him on bought hay all this time: but the result of the whole is, he is not of use to any of them here. Now an ancient Blacksmith near this house, a man I remember of old,21 has seen him, and fallen in love with him; a man “extremely kind to horses”: he will give the value for him, and keep him popping about in the easiest kind of employment in his old days; therefore I ask, were it not wise to sell him to the ancient Blacksmith? Say Yes, and it shall be done: say No, and I will try to do some other way. The result in money can be about some £5: but perhaps there were no smoother old age to be provided for the poor beast, than even this same, which offers itself. Write: about this; and O about so many other things! Without delay.

O Jeannie! My fingers are all as black as a crow (for our inkbottle is a phial), and my head itself is not of the clearest, and I had so many hundred things to speak about; and to think about unspoken! Keep thy heart up, my brave Lassie: it shall be well!

Probably you see John Sterling; to whom remember me brüderlich [brotherlike]. The Stim[a]bile Signor22 I would fain hope comes only once in the two days: he is an absurd blockhead of a figure in that establishment of ours,—whom thou wilt restrict. Kindly to Mill, and to Pepoli, if they come, as I hope they do.

Many true wishes were to go from these regions to Jane; but I have my door locked. Their love to us is all they have; but they give that freely. Kiss your Mother, and say that means my love. Love me, my dear lassie, and fear God; and I swear by Him there shall nothing go ill with us. God bless thee ever, my Dearest.—Thy own, T.C.

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