July 1836-December 1837

The Collected Letters, Volume 9


JWC TO THOMAS CARLYLE; 30 July 1836; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18360730-JWC-TC-01; CL 9:28-32.


Templand—Saturday [30 July 1836]

Dearest of friends— I write the thanks which I cannot speak.1 It may be true in most cases as you have often admonished me that “he who gives quickly gives twice,”2 but in the matter of letters, I am very certain that he who gives tardily gives three or four times. Your letter had been anxiously waited for, and all that anxious waiting told to its advantage: tho' by the way, there is not much wisdom in telling you so: since I would rather that the next came to hand enhanced by no such fraudulent merit.

It will not be long however that there will be any need of letters passing between us either swiftly or slowly. Nothing could make living here at all expedient for me except the conviction that I was thereby gaining physical good. and such hope fades further and further into the distance every day. I shall get better in London or not get better as may please the upper powers. in any case “there is no use in rebelling against Providence”3 and I shall try all I can not to rebel. but here!— Mio Caro, the rain raineth every day; there is no victualling to be had till ten every morning, at least not without an almost superhuman effort, and I awake quite regularly at four! there is no quiet to be had except in your bed room with the door locked, (for the children Maggie, Mary, and Johnny4 are in perpetual movement, seeking whom they may devour) there is no bread to be had (that is not next thing to poison) for love or money or tears or supplications or even “bursts of parliamentary eloquence.”5 You know my Mothers way—she will give you every thing on earth except the thing you want—will do anything for you except what you ask her to do. As for new milk you may have it in any quantity—but then ONLY immediately before your breakfast or immediately after your tea; and the proposed sip of brandy in it—without which I incline to believe it unwholesome—that is offered, is pressed upon you to your pudding, your water, plain, diluted, cold, and hot—but to your milk (since the thing was mentioned,) it is impossible to have it without a sacrifice of one's modesty too cruel for so trifling a gain! All these things are against me! as I indeed anticipated they would be. and my greatest consolation is, that you are not also “in the midst of them!6 You could not have lived here two weeks on the present principle (in spite of all your passionate longings for the country) and I see not how the present principle could have been altered without our all having been born anew. It is wonderful that one should vex and frighten oneself so much in anticipation of serious evils, when it is all the little things of life which in reality make up our happiness or misery. One more fact let me mention having come off without any sufficient shoes, and the roads here being more like kennels [street gutters] than roads; I bought a pair—not made in Northampton—a shilling dearer than the best in London—easy as possible to slide the foot into, and already they have lamed me, both heels and toes, to such an extent as I shall not soon recover from. Consider all this, dearest of friends, and imagine much more that I could tell you of the same sort, and infer from it if you be wise, that the thought you are apt to dwell on too exclusively: that “God made the country and man the town”7 is to be taken with large reservations; is indeed to be “strongly doubted”8 You may depend upon it Sir, Man and even the Devil have had a very considerable hand in making the country also.

The most providential looking thing which has happened to me since I came here, was the other day, about an hour after the receipt of your letter, that a boy came to the kitchen door, offering for sale—two scrubs!!9 Judge if I did not purchase them on the spot!—scrubs so manifestly destined for me and for no other— They cost twopence and I hope soon to see them in brisk action at Chelsea—in the mean while it will be something to keep Ann in heart.10 Give her my compliments and say I am glad to hear she is doing well, and that I will not fail to rum[m]age out “wee Jen”11 when I go to Annan, and will speak french to her if need be. Did John tell you that I saw Jane's12 Mother in Lancaster— We had but five minutes and poor Jane herself was at the far end of the town—but the Mother came running, a most intelligent, amiable looking woman, who seemed greatly delighted to see me, gave me the most comfortable accounts of Jane, and assured me that she continued to think of me with “the greatest love and respect that one human being could bear to another”—such being the case, I shall surely write to her when I return to London and can get a frank— It is highly consolatory to be loved and respected by a person whom you have scolded for six months without intermission; as it proves there must be an inexpressible something in you which triumphs over all contingencies. If Jane Ir[e]land loves and respects me there is no reason in the world why you should not do the same. you have never had quite so [bad] a time with me as she had, poor girl.

Mrs Crichton has been absent at Aberdeen but is returned I believe, and I think of going to ma[ke] a few days visit to her. Most probably I shall go down to Annandale the end of next week. I shall be able to do here till then without explosion, for I am going to swallow a doze [sic] of senna tomorrow morning, and one has fine times with my Mother after an act of docility like that. Let me know when John is to set out— I do not know how I shall return—by earth, air, or sea; if any cheap and safe conveyance offered, I should certainly try the air this time—for the other two ways I have proved to be equally detestable—and killing.

The sea offers the attraction of a glimpse at Edinr13 if indeed that can be called an attraction; now that so little is left for me there to take pleasure in, and that the bad magic of my dispepsia “makes that little less.” I shall see after all your commissions to the best of my power—but a word of the shirt collars. I left London without any pattern calculating on getting one of those you forgot at Scotsbrig—but now in your Mothers absence it is highly probable they may not be able to lay hands on it.— do you therefore, take a penful of ink and, laying a collar on your next sheet, ere you begin to write, go round the edge of one half of it with a black line.

Poor John Sterling is gone14 I suppose— He wrote me a long letter, with evident effort—speaking of his future in a tone of sad gaiety or gay sadness, I know not which to call it; but it was grating to my feelings. I do not expect we shall ever see him again and we shall certainly never see a better man.— Poor Mill! he really seems to have “loved and lived”15 his very intellect seems to be failing him in its strongest point,—his implicit admiration and subjection to you. What a mercy I did not go with them! You make me ready “to shriek at the very idea of it.”16 You need not be envying me the gooseberries—there are plenty—but the Mountain Thrushes pick them all—sic omnia [thus all things]! O—I have seen William Menteith17—and his beautiful wife18 much fitter for him than I—young as himself and silly as himself—and happy-hearted as himself—

I sew and read Whilelm [sic] Meister!! God bless you Thank you for all the kind encouraging things you say to me I wonder you never [tire?]

John Sterling said you were in good spirits—“I am exceedingly happy to hear it.”19

You do not say that you miss me—but I hope it is out of self-denial not indifference.20