July 1836-December 1837

The Collected Letters, Volume 9


TC TO JEAN CARLYLE AITKEN; 24 July 1837; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18370724-TC-JCA-01; CL 9:264-266.


Scotsbrig, Monday 24th July, 1837—

My dear Jean,

James Austin is here today, helping Jamie with his hay, and has brought my Mother a cartload of peats; there will be an opportunity by him of sending back the Boxes, and with them a little Book-parcel I wrapt up for you at Annan: I write you a line or two to go and accompany them. There was no right chance, or I would have written to you last Tuesday night.

We got very handsomely home that Sunday afternoon; driving the rain literally before us; for the trees were all dripping when we got to Hoddam, and it still rained over in the Eastward. Hot tea, speedily prepared, set us all right; and none of us had caught hurt from our jaunt. The glass was all whole; next day Alick and I with infinite caution and effort got it all puttied in; where it now stands, we hope for a long while. The pipes had perished, about a half of them; the other half sore frittered about the edges, reduced to half their original dimensions. “It is probably just as well”; they are of a sort of clay I do not like much; they will serve at the rate of one per day till I get others. Thursday morning was the first time I got the bathing tried again; so wet had the weather proved; I packed the American Book1 for you then, which I hope you now will get. Considerable difficulty of communication exists here, in this busy time; we have a small Lassie that goes on wet days for a penny; on other days, her Mother being at hay and she trysted [entrusted] with children to keep, we are at the mercy of favourable accident.

On my return that Thursday night I found your wicker kit all arrived safe. Thomas Carlyle's Pickwick,2 which also I now return read, was brought to us next day. Thank him for it; and say he may send the others if he can: completer dud exists not in Nature; but in my present transcendent state of idleness it is in place if ever. The Athenaeum you sent Thomas will unfortunately never get back: Isabella and my Mother had read in your Letter “you need not RETURN it”; whereupon we, doing just judgement on a mean messin [cur] of an enemy such as said Athenaeum seemed,3 straightway—boiled the kettle with it, and it existed no more! On looking myself at your Letter shortly after, I was shocked to discover very legible these words, “you need not BURN it”! But the evil was done.— For the rest, our Mother's Boddice, I am charged to say, fitted and fits extremely well. I can also testify that the black Carlisle Loaf is the agreeablest Bread I have eaten for months; my thanks to you for it; and for the white one, which tho' of the old unexceptionable quality I leave to my Mother. They are not two-thirds done yet: further, you must not send any more till we speak: Mary has sent up a cargo of Poor-Will loaves4 this day; and we are like to be mouldy even as we are. Next week very probably you may receive an application.

On Friday I went back again to Annan: on my arrival I was amazed to find Alick just on the wing for Liverpool with Jamie Ewart. Jamie has a sloop; they two were to go together, get a cargo of salt for said sloop which was expected to be lying ready there: Alick with the cargo of salt was then to go on board, if the expedition on inquiry seemed promising, and proceed therewith to the western Coast where the Herring-fishery is going on; there selling his Salt and buying their Herrings, he was to do the best he could; and expected to be back with the venture finished in some thre[e] week[s] hence. Ewart was to be back on Tuesday (tomorrow) night: if Alick be not with him, it will be a sign that they have judged the [spec]ulation good, and that we shall probably not hear of Alick till the time I mention. He seemed anxious at setting out; he was very unhappy staying at home: I sincerely wish it may be the beginning of a new kind of luck and occupation for him. God grant it, poor fellow! There is plenty of business here, I believe, for one far less shifty than he; but his temper is sore, his heart is not hopeful towards such things: he must become more patient; above all, he must persist and persevere, there is nothing to be done without that. Of America as I think there will now be no more mention.

My Mother is very brisk; has been working all afternoon in the Hayfield. She and Austin are both here; fetching and carrying, packing and consulting: in this room, writing has become as nearly as may be impossible, even were the Paper not done.— Send the Courier with one stroke on it, if you receive all right. Nay stop: there is still another thing about shirt-collars. It seems you have a special talent for cutting out shirt-collars, with the top part of them all stitched according to one thread. Well here is a piece of cloth; here too is a collar that fits very well: will you cut as many as it will be; and give them out to some semstress with clean fingers: beautiful collars will be the result. You do not make the lugs of them longer than this model, otherwise they hang, like swine-lugs.

I had a Letter again from Jane. She reports and indicates all to be well. Mrs Welsh I conjecture to be coming about the end of the month as she purposed.—When I shall be at Dumfries? Dear Jean, I know not; but it will not be long. My kind regards to the two Jameses, the speaking and the silent. May they both and all of you prosper and increase. I have not a moment for more; nor time to read this over, if it be readable. Your affectionate Brother,

T. Carlyle.