TC TO JANE WELSH CARLYLE; 19 October 1835; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18351019-TC-JWC-01; CL 8:227-232.
TC TO JANE WELSH CARLYLE
Scotsbrig, 19th October, 1835—
My Dear Goody,
It will perhaps most readily of all express the confusion I am in to say that writing even to thee I have this moment seen best to tear up one half-finished sheet and fling it in the fire! My head is all tumbled and my heart: deep, deep Silence were of all earthly things the thing I should like most today. However, it is very clear to me what thy impatience must naturally be; the main matters too are all settled; a letter conveying never so indistinctly even that fact must be welcome: I take a new sheet therefore; and will send that, by Heaven's blessing, be as it may. O Goody!— Understand, however, if the little vein of satiric humour have again come into play, that this is literally the first post, by which any letter could have come that was worth sending. There have been delays, errors, perversities: how erroneous are all men and things; oblique, oblique, not a right-angle accurately right anywhere; but ever the cursedest bevel and discrepancy,—to the waste of time and effort, which should be spent not wasted!
The estimable Marion Hay kept me trotting and inquiring, learning nothing much except that she “could not be recommended as a Cook”; in spite of which I was determined, and so was she: but alas, her Mother and friends &c &c, whereby ten good days were lost, and the outcome zero after all! Then were journeyings to Dumfries; talking, talking* no fixed prospect; great cry and little wool.1 Mrs M'Diarmid, on my first call, promised and languished; on my second call, had been able to do nothing, but “speak to Mrs Wilson of the Commercial”;2 who again, when I waited on her, had been in like manner “able to do nothing”: the result was still good words plus nothing. At Annan meanwhile by my own and Mary's industry I had got choice of two: the one a forward would-be beauty, and universal artist in the servant line; full of Dock English (for she had been as far as Manchester), of self-possession, taproom ceremony; vulgarity exchanged for natural unbreeding: the other a young unfortunate (only twenty-one, yet with a walking “Misfortune”), whose account of herself was modesty itself; whose air and physiognomy seemed promising to me. On Saturday Night late, returning for the second time from Dumfries and good words plus nothing, I hired this Misfortunate; and think, on the whole, she may do quite tolerably well; far better than the Dock-English; perhaps better than Hay herself would have done, who I found “could not be recommended as a Cook,” which was the name she gave herself; and also was occasionally unhealthy. Thou must take her, as thou gettest her, Bairn; for I could do no other better. A shifty healthy little lass; of small stature, but hardy and sharp; submissive, anxious to learn and do the best; rude native Annandale, who says “uz” instead of “me”; if without manners, at least with no ill manners. She spoke of her “misfortune” without hysterics; but really in a candid natural way which pleased me more. Conceive her as almost certainly ABLE to wash and dress, possessed of “eminent” skill in sewing and even shaping (having studied it), “not a cook at all,” except of her Father's and Mother's rustic victuals (which she does well, as would seem); who has swept rooms, and the rest of it; who actually keeps her Father's Cottage next door to Mary's, all clean as a pin: this I do believe is a fair total of her acquired talent. For the rest, my decided guess is that she will prove an orderly methodic creature; thrifty, honest (more than hand-honest; there is no cant visible in the body), with the truest wish to do well. I judged “by the physiognomy alone”; it was her face passing Mary's window that first put the thought in me. Not a beautiful face; on the contrary a tawnyish, small coarse face; but the black eyes look out on you with a humble painstaking expression, of sincerity, industry, endurance: it was (bating the Misfortune) a better face for service, if a worse for friendship, than the estimable Hay's seemed to me: a stronger face, and a healthier quieter one. She comes with me; on the same terms as Hay would have done; and I hope and believe thou wilt make her a kind of blessing to us. This matter, then, is settled, the best way I could: with unspeakable relief I wash my hands of it for year and day; the girl being likely to stay with us so long at least. She is of the size of Mary, more slenderly built, not ugly at all to look upon: her name, tho' she is “no Cook at all,” is Anne Cook; and Mary will try her in porridge-making! Here I leave her till sight.
For the rest, the ancient Smith has taken possession of Harry, yesterday morning, at the charge of £4..15 (the Crown-piece was luckpenny);3 with whom I have good reason to hope the poor beast, on beat-potatoes and meal, with kindness and next to no work will fare handsomely in his old days; and engrush[ingratiate]4 himself as he is well able to do: nay on the contrary supposition of his selling him again, there was also some kind of arrangement made. Two bacon hams of unquestionable quality, and forty pounds weight, are also in the way of being provided; the eight others can be ordered, or any portion of them, if the Coagitor speak. The like is to be said of meal: also a way for it to travel in; by Whitehaven, namely; the road to which is a certain shop in Dumfries. Two sock-boards are a-making; finally on Saturday my last transactions in Dumfries was having my foot for an hour in stucco [plaster of paris], and discoursing to the proper artificer on the nature of lasts: there is to be a pair out here and a pair of shoes made on them in few days hence.5 I studied sore to go up to Templand, were it only for an hour; but Mother and Alick were with me, their plans and engagements lying elsewhither: if your Mother would wish me for any purpose to go up, let her speak and I will still go. Our conveyance on that occasion was a light—cart, and one of Alick's trotting galloways. Harry's riding had grown intolerable, or next to that: travel of all sorts has hitherto suited me ill; or rather I should say the lodging and miscellaneous treatment I meet with on travel. Thus is the business all settled; except my getting back to Chelsea; of which more anon. Rest is not for the wicked,6 and I have had little rest: this very day, for example, when I had entered on the second paragraph (where the asterisk is),7 did not Andrew Beattie8 (of America and the water of Milk) come stumbling in, and sit talking till Dinner and after it, and need then to be dismissed; and so I write all this by candle-light after tea!
I am to go tomorrow to Graham, who has been here, and saw me also at Annan. He [is] very friendly, but very wearisome; talks unceasingly about a “Mr Menzies” (pronouncing him Menzies, as he is spelt),9 a man to me heartily indifferent; whom I had flatly to refuse going to “call on.” They are dining this day, Graham and he with David Aitken: Heaven grant he bring none of them about me tomorrow! I avoid gigmanism here as the pestilence; work-cartism is no less an offence to me: what I pray of men is to leave me alone in my glory—till the liver get a little better. It is the strangest mood I live in amid these autumn leaves; all things are so full of golden interest, yet with an inexpressible sadness; my soul is exceeding lonely; sparrowlike,10 companionless, worst of all when I have “company.” Were a ghost to revisit the glimpses of the moon,11 I fancy its humour would be such: but for a man—!—The only creature I have seen of the friend sort that has given me the smallest pleasure was poor Aird12 at Dumfries, with whom I passed a night: he is in quiet lodgings in Irish Street; doing literally the impossible with that Newspaper of his; a poor simple man, shying about, in a bent twisted attitude, with the under lip set awry; the very image of innocence, simple-heartedness, and confused effort that cannot prosper. Many loves he sent to you and Mother; also one Newspaper, which went off only today. M'Diarmid paid me your £10; and did nothing else of significance: indeed the second time he was not at home; I ate not, or drank not, or tarried in his house. Douglas13 I also forced myself to see: loquacious, radical-logical, healthy, prompt; not likely to continue in Dumfries, but ready to go elsewhither and anywhither. At Annan I saw Tom Grahame and his Sister: “affectations!” as Parson Evans14 has it: the very kindness of the wicked is like his unkindness a sort of offence to me. Other men and gigmen, in great numbers, I have as good as cut; really without malice, but from weakness of digestion. Clow of Land,15 my declared admirer, is a sensible man; yet I had much rather miss his tea. Not even Wull Brown of Linbrigford16 but will invite me to tea: alas, I must “decline from eet.”17 The old hills, these clear-gushing burns, and what of solacement, of Affection I can still lean on, they may hold for me,—are my best company at present. I feel careless of all issues of Destiny; with little hope that is not beyond the stars: a mood of sunny splendour and Erebus gloom; really not unpleasant; in which beyond all things I feel perfectly quiet. O Jeannie dear, do the best thou canst with me! It is actually no easy task thou hast. God will order it; His Will and our (we hope, honest) wills.— As for returning, I have sent to Newcastle about “the Boat that sails last this month, or first next month”: after all, probably Liverpool and the Umpire will prove best, tho' I shudder at both. My travel however now is about ended till that; and I shall then be stronger; for at bottom (were I not jaded with so much trotting and jolting; three days of it last week) I am considerably mended. I sometimes sleep now till 7.
I am very happy, Dear, that all goes well at Chelsea; that even Sereetha the Peesweep proves tolerable. Thou wilt write almost directly; my next Letter will probably predict on what day I am to be looked for. Hundred thanks for the “beverage”— O dear me! My Mother is full of thanks for the shawl, quite “ashamed” &c; she sends her kindest love to you and your Mother: there is a dressing-gown bought for you also; which Anne Cook is to make! It is flaming black and red tartan; but of soft texture, and I expect to get the beverage18 of it too, and see you in it with satisfaction, a warm Goody on cold mornings at coffee.— At this instant Jamie returns from Ecclefechan with a frank from Mill: absolutely nothing in it at all. Yesterday there was waiting me (on return from these joltings and trottings) a Munich Letter from John.19 He is well, and all is well; written remembrances for you and Mother. It seems likely, as we guessed, that he will stay there all winter: the ulterior future is at sea. They are gathered in round me; I will close till tomorrow. Thousand good-nights!— T. Carlyle.
Tuesday morning.—I feel somewhat better today; I give Jeannie the top of the morning. Mill says you have still bad weather; ours has mended, for a week and more, into a very tolerable St Martin's Summer:20 men have thatched their stuff, and now dig potatoes with composure.— You spoke of penknives. Who has stolen all your penknives? Mine too you recollect was lost: I had no folder-knife with me, or any; far from it: could not get my nails pared till I bought a new one! Has the Peesweep any turn for cutting-tools? The lost implement may perhaps be lying in some Book; tho' I do not recollect it.— Tom Grahame saw Tiger Wull21 in his loghouse by the shore of the Canadian lakes. The Tiger was in “red Kilmarnock Nightcap, with sailor's jacket and trowsers”; a man wondrous to behold; had plenty of whisky and accommodations. Tom could tell me nothing or very little more that was interesting about America. Andrew Beattie, tho' half-distracted, told me much more of it: next time, however, if he come again at all, he is to come with his fiddle, and fiddle,—as he can well do, one whole day for me. Music has charms! Willm Grey22 is again in Nithsdale: his Wife home to her father's. Grey came (in a cart) before his Mother's death or illness; did not drink much, for a time; but “fell down dead drunk on the floor the night of her funeral”: there my information leaves him lying.— The fourth part of Dumfries seems vacant: “To let,” “To let.”
Andrew Anderson,23 I am positively assured, came as a vagrant seeking quarters to “the Todholes,” a farm near Annan, occupied by a Brother-in-law of Jamie's: this was about two years ago or more (very shortly after his Birmingham dinner to John): he then and there hired himself for six months as farm-servant; and worked it out (very indifferently) under the name of Andrew Allan! Then married the woman whose brains were not blown out. Did mortal ever hear such a story? I rather think it is actually true; but mean always to inquire farther before believing.— Did some Books (of John's) come from Fraser? With a Note? Let them be: some pictures there are for Mrs Jamieson.24
Go out to the Garden the first clear night, and see the Comet.25 very strange! To the left of the Great Bear; fast going abt its business[.]
It will hold no more, dear Goody! Jenny rides with it to the Post Office; last post (thanks to Andrew Beattie) was lost. God bless thee my dearest! Thine ever— T.C.