July 1836-December 1837

The Collected Letters, Volume 9


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE; 7 July 1837; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18370707-TC-JAC-01; CL 9:239-245.


Scotsbrig, 7th July, 1837—

My dear Brother

There is no larger paper within my command at present; neither indeed am I in good case for using such: I must write my straitest hand, and manage to send you most of my news in miniature. I have not written one Letter for a long time back except on sheer compulsion: my laziness, my weariness are very great; yet not perhaps the better for indulging altogether. Your Letter arrived here some three days ago. Many things are still uncertain, but somewhat seems to be settled; if we wait till all be settled, it will be like the Rustic with the River.1

I left London on Wednesday morning gone a fortnight2 (this is Friday). I descended the Thames with your old boatman into the Hull Steamer: I took the 10/ set of Steamers, which I thought might be more select: it was a dreary squeeze for eight and twenty hours after all. I slept about one minute in a horizontal posture on the main hatchway, and above half an hour afterwards sitting on a folding-stool. We had to wait, after infinite jangling false-speaking and reprimanding, all night at Hull; but after that, the conveyance by river and railway was beautiful; as indeed the weather all along was of the best, and the stir with every drawback beneficial to me. A Dr Hunter, Jane's Cousin, was waiting for me in the reek and dust of Leeds; where he hospitably detained me all day: a flourishing medical man with endless perseverance, assiduity, decision and blarney; a medical man with the talent that leads to success. He seemed half-cracked with Anti-Radicalism; otherwise a man that did not bore me so much as seemed probable. I learned that Geordie Jeffrey3 was prospering amazingly over about Grimsby in Lincolnshire; keeping three horses, &c: they were plaguing him about the Apothecary act.4 On Saturday night I got to Manchester and Jenny & Rob's. They have now a clean little cottage in a new street on the Northwestern skirts of the town: 7. Bank street, Oldfield Road, Salford: Jenny has been better ever since they went thither; Rob, in the present commercial crisis, has withdrawn very dextrously out of his cloth-business, and restricts himself to the trade in tea. They seemed well enough together; as happy as one can expect mortals to be. He is of vulgar nature Rob; but not without shrewdness, firmness; of a hoping healthy character; likely to find himself a road in the world. On Monday afternoon I left them for Liverpool: the Steamer was to sail next evening. The Maryland Street people were in their usual way; I saw George Johnstone, hardened very much into a kind of routine man; not entertaining to me. His Mother now lives with him; he seems to flourish well rooted. He was at that very time attending poor Margaret Irving (Edward's Sister, Ferguson's Widow), who was lying at her Brother-in-law's house, in the extremity of incurable consumption.5 Ah me! I saw her last a blooming young woman and wife; I remember her a merry-faced pretty lassie at school with me: tempus edax rerum [time devourer of all things]6!— On the morrow morning (Wednesday, precisely a week after starting) about 8 o'clock at the end of the new Jetty at Waterfoot, I at length descried a broadhatted head nodding to me, which I recognised to be Alick's. Ben Nelson too was waiting at the Hill End. Alick took me to his house (engaged in a vague way, just round the corner Northward from Mary's), where Jenny had breakfast nigh ready: we half walked half rode on a pony of Jamie's up to Scotsbrig in the evening; my Mother stood in the yellow light waiting for me at the corner of the Shed with Isabella and grandchildren: all, by God's blessing, as well as they usually are. So ended my travel hither. Jean at Dumfries is the only one I have not yet seen; but we had a line from her this morning, with all right. I have sent you off two Dumfs Couriers, one only yesterday. The weather, after a long miserable spring, is the beautifullest I ever saw; the trees wave peaceful music in front of my window here, which is shoved up to the very top; Mother is washing in the kitchen apartment to my left; the sound of Jamie building his Peat-stack is audible; and they are stirring beat-potatoes down below. I write to you so.

There is nothing hitherto fixed about Alick; but this I think I can see slowly ripening out of the confused uncertainty, that he will not go to America at present. His determination that way was at any rate of the faint sort; and the opposition my Mother makes, her tears, brokenhearted lamentings, all the sadder that she sees him not drawn but driven and going with little heart, are sufficient to extinguish the enterprise. I have said far more than I intended to say about the unwisdom, the cowardice of lying rotting here, when there is free life elsewhere: but our poor Mother answers “All that is true, but it'll do nothing for me: I'll never see him mair.” When I talk of weakness, she says Yes, she is grown quite old and weak, and can stand nothing: Alick I think evidently will continue in this country. His situation too is very unsatisfactory, unwholesome, to be accounted dangerous. I do not think his habits are worse, nor do I know that they are better, as to the matter of drink: but he is involved in a coil of difficulties, and could not evince to himself his resolution and his power to be free; sour internal discontent is likely to have grown, not abated, by this ineffectual project. I design next time I see him, probably this afternoon, to counsel for one thing that he altogether dismiss America from his speech and thoughts: it will be one chimera the fewer for him. Nothing can be more disagreable to me in my present mood than the consultations we hold under my arbitership; long drawn confused inconclusive colloquies, wherein no speaker evinces any fixedness of determination, and so nothing can be determined. There is life too, they all agree, here for a man that will take it up in the skilful way: but Alick's temper and way of operating is not favourable to him: besides he has really had ill-luck. He must even try once more; and profit by the lessons he has had. What he will do, or how he will try, is all a problem. There are farms to let, but he views them without hope, with a kind of disgust. Jamie is quite willing to shift into Craigenputtoch at M'Adam's rent: with endless reluctance I had decided accordingly to write to Mrs Welsh and secure it for him for next Whitsunday: my scheme was to ask simply that he might have the preference with the highest rent that could be got (I myself to pay what difference there might be, under hand): this was the issue of our conference on Wednesday last at Annan, where Mother also was; but on our journey homeward, late with Jamie in a cart, it turned out in answer to my question that Alick had not above half the money that would stock Scotsbrig, Jamie not a sixpence more than he would need at Puttoch! That therefore is again all at sea. On the whole, I find it will be expedient for me to hold back out of the affair as much as possible, and let it ripen silently of its own accord. A thing that a man undertakes on other than his own resolution is apt to be ill undertaken. What I like worst in the Scotsbrig project is the air of defeatedness it has on Alick's part, which I fear will do him mischief. We must hope and wait. Luck changes; much is possible for a man that will be wise. Our Mother is obeyed; as she ought to be in such case, for really it seemed quite to break her down. John of Cockermouth sets out on Sunday first; I procured him an introduction to Grahame's Brother at New York; and recommend him to Greig, whose answer as to Alick has never come yet: I sent all off in a double-letter to Cockermouth yesterday. Clow of Land is fixed to go in August; has his Property advertised for sale;7 will take five sons with him.

I have literally spoken to no extraneous mortal here but Grahame and Ben. G is w[eary] exceedingly, but friendly as ever. If I were rested I mean to call on Cressfield and Arnott,8 hardly on an[yone,] if even on these. My soul's one wish is to be left alone; to hear the rustle of the trees, the gushing of the burn, and lie vacant as ugly and as stupid as I like. There is soothing and healing for me in the green solitude of these simple spaces. I bless myself that the broiling horror of London is far, far. Jane has not written to me yet, but will probably this week. Her Mother ultimately volunteered to stay with her at Chelsea till I returned or a new light rose. Jane can do very well with her, Jane being mistress of the house; otherwise it is really bad work. I have written to Jane that if she could pig in with me, we might manage for a month between Templand and this; but I have left it to herself. This lovely peaceful weather were surely good for her; but she amuses herself in London, and does not suffer much from heat. Anne Cook is come back to Annan without outbreak on either side; a very nice Northamptonshire girl had been got (thro' the Sterlings and Cunninghams) some days before I came away: she promised to do very well indeed; at least till London spoiled her. Anthony Sterling was gone; to Switzerland &c; he hoped to have the luck to meet you somewhere in Lombardy in the end of August: if he heard of Lady Clare he would make for you; he was about that time to be drawing nigh a certain port on the Adriatic whence a Steamer sails to Corfu. John Sterling was expected very shortly in London; then to return and take up his family, across the South of France, to Pisa he still says.— It was the Stimabile that wrote that thing in the Times;9 Hunt was the Guide writer;10 the Spectator paragraph was by one Crawford, a hard East-Indian Scotchman, struggling always towards Parliament, whom I know slightly.11 I am much mistaken if I did not send you all the Guides that treated of me (some three); but perhaps they were lost on the way. A piece in the Globe I did not see till I came here;12 Arnott had politely sent it over to my Mother. “A favourable review in the Chronicle13 (which Grahame had heard of at Waterbeck), a “favourable review in the L. & Westminster,” &c &c: no one of them have I yet set eye on. I find it, at bottom, hurtful to look after the like: one has a prurient titillability in that kind; extremely despicable; which it is better wholly to steer clear of. The “Westmr” Article is by Mill; I will get that at Annan and read it. The Guide was a Paper set up by Buller and some of that set, in which Hunt was engaged as a writer: it was spreading and succeeding but did not yet pay, and their money was done; so they sold it, and a quite new management has it:14 I told Jane to send it on to you for a time or two, but to discontinue it if she found it very dull. The first No you should get almost along with this. I will send you the Courier as usual.— Here is Mother coming with dinner; I must finish were there no other reason. I have said nothing of my own outlooks and humour; indeed as yet there is nothing to be said except that I am resting hors de combat. Next time I shall be in better heart. I am very quiet; if sad, altogether pacific. Jamie has a kind of pony, small but very brisk, which will do well enough. I have no Books with me; except Joh: Müller's Hist. of Switzd (in German),15 a very original work, of which I have not yet finished a volume. I can as near as possible do nothing, which in the present case is something. Come you to us in September. Where I shall be to meet you is uncertain; but somewhere or other we will meet if alive. Write hither at least [on]e other time.— I am sorry the Book-parcel has never arrived. The first Vol ought to have been there at 5 Pl. V. long ago: the second I think was sent only a short while ago; Cavgnc has waited long for an opportunity. I told Jane to ask him more minutely about it. Perhaps it will be “just as well” if all be still lying in store for you when you come in Septr. Cavgnc will not have any trade with Louis Ph's Amnesty:16 he is somehow not completely within the scope of it, and is loth too to submit. He has never yet reviewed the F.Rn; does not I suppose know what to say of it.— Did Willm Fraser write to you? He called on us one day at Chelsea; was to be off for Paris “next day”: friends had interfered and got some settlement for him; a house in Baker St. &c: he was to go forward in his Law career, and become a new man. I was very sorry for him. One of the most harmless men; but quite unsettled in himself; the root of all other unsettlement.

Paper fails altogether. Arbuckle had been heard of lately from Maranham; was well liked, doing well.— Poor Ben Nelson seems much sadder about Edward than when the bustle of London was round him. His money affairs too are said to be bad. He always asks for you. A Letter would do no harm but good. Poor Ben.

I leave the other margin for my Mother, and take farewell here. Gott mit Dir [God be with you]!— T.C.

Dear Jack may God bless you and keep you at all times—your affectionate Mother MAC

Be patient at Long Alba [Albano]; never mind those Spaurs17 and Duds; a man's a man for a' that.18 September is coming, and Jack with it. Adieu dear Brother.19

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