July 1836-December 1837

The Collected Letters, Volume 9


TC TO JANET CARLYLE HANNING; 28 August 1837; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18370828-TC-JCHA-01; CL 9:295-297.


Scotsbrig, Ecclefechan, / 28 August 1837.

Dear Jenny,—

Your letter to Mary at Annan got this length on Saturday night. As you appear to be impatient for news from this quarter, not unreasonably, having had none for six weeks, I am appointed to write you a few lines without any loss of time whatever,—a thing I can easily enough do, being even idler to-day than common.

We were not so well pleased to hear of your fecklessness and pain in the stomach during the last fortnight, but we hope it is but something derived from the season and will not continue. There is very often a kind of “British Cholera” in this harvest time. It is even very frequent at present in this region, owing partly to the air (as they say), and chiefly, perhaps, to the new potatoes and other imperfectly ripened substances which people eat. Jamie, here, had a cast of it for two days just a week ago, rather sharp, but he is free now. Our Mother too was taken with it,—came home rather ill from Ecclefechan one day,—but by aid of Castor and some prime Brandy has got quite round again. You do not say that the disorder has got that length with you, but very probably it is something related to the same business. The only remedy is to be careful of what one eats, to take due moderate exercise in the open air, in case of extremity employing a little medicine. Cold, especially cold feet are very bad; but the great thing is to take care of one's self, especially to take care what one eats. New potatoes are very unwholesome for some people.

We are now all well here, and with the slight exception mentioned above have been so ever since I wrote last. Alick brought us news of you. Alick's news are the main ones I have now to send you. He quitted Annan on Monday last (this day gone a week), and has been in the Big house at Ecclefechan ever since. I suppose he explained to you and Robert the plan he had of setting up a shop there. He has gathered himself together, and is all alive after that same enterprise now. We had him and little Tom over here all yesterday. Mother, Jamie, and I walked with them to Cleughbrae in the evening. To-day, as we understand, he has got masons and actually broken in upon the house to repair it and arrange it for that object; Hall Moffet1 and his retinue having been got out. It is in a sad state of wreck, the poor house, but Alick expects to put a new face on it with great despatch indeed; and then, “shop drawers” and all the rest being provided, and James Aitken's brush having given the last touch to it, he will unfold his wares and try the thing in the name of Hope. We all pray heartily that it may prosper beyond his expectations. Ecclefechan is a sad Village: only last Friday night some Blackguard broke 14 panes of the Meeting House windows. Fancy such an act of dastardly atrocity as that! But it lies in the centre of a tolerable country, too, and certain there is need of some good shop and honest Trader there.

I have seen Mary pretty frequently, the last time on Friday last. She is very well, and all her bairns are well. James has always some work, though seldom enough, and Mary is the brightest, thriftiest little creature that can be. They go on there as well as one could hope in these times. We had a letter from the Doctor, too: still in the same place,—Albano, near Rome; still well; uncertain as to his future movements or engagements, though it must be settled some way before this date, if we know how. He seemed to think it very unlikely that he would be here in the present autumn, the likeliest of all that he would try to return next spring. The Cholera was in that country, but had not got to them. We fancy they will not fail to fly out of the road of it, if it advance too near.

I was at Dumfries since I wrote: up to Templand, and then again at Dumfries on my return. Mrs. Welsh came home several weeks ago, and had at the time I was up, and has still, her Liverpool friends with her. The house was very crowded. I was not very well, and stayed only four and twenty hours or so, cutting out my way in spite of all entreaties. Jean and her two Jamies are very tolerably well: the elder Jamie a thrifty, effectual, busy man; the younger as yet altogether silent, staggering and tripping about,—one of the gleggest [liveliest] little elves I have seen. There is talk of her coming down to Annan this very week to have the benefit of the tide for sea bathing. Jamie of Scotsbrig, who goes up to-morrow to pay his rent, will bring us word.

The other morning, walking out, I met Robert's father2 at the “Lengland's Nett,” coming down from Dairlaw Hills with a row of bog-hay carts he had been buying at Dairlaw Hills. He was hale and well to look at, and reported all well. I suppose he has been very busy of late; seldom were so many roups [sales] seen in one season; all the farmers selling off, none of them having money for their rent day; Land farm, and now all the stock, crop, and household furniture have been sold off. Poor Clow goes off for America on Wednesday morning by the Liverpool steamer. People are all sorry. The Burnfoot Irvings, or Sandy Cowie for them, have bought his land: £4000.

Betty Smail, bound for Ecclefechan, has been waiting this half hour till I should be done; I did not know of her when I began. The needfullest thing, therefore, that I can do is to tell you about our coming. It will be soon, but is still uncertain when. I should say in about a fortnight,—nay, in a day or so less; but it depends somewhat on a letter we look for from Jane which has not yet come to hand. Jane, you must know, after her mother's departure went into the country with the Sterlings, friends of hers. I wish her to stay there while she likes, and would get home about the same time as she; a month was the time she first spoke of, and that I have little doubt will suffice,—so my guess is as above given. A newspaper with one stroke on it will come to you (barring mistakes) two days before you are to look for us. This shall be a token, and we need not write any more. Alick has some talk of coming with us to get his goods ready then, but I think he will hardly be ready. The butter and another firkin of butter has been talked of and will be forthcoming, but it seems dubious whether any of it will get with us. It can come before or after, I believe safe and with little expense. Mother will bring “some pounds of it” in her box. I shall perhaps be obliged to go back by Liverpool, and must not calculate to stay more with you than a day. My Mother sends you both her love (she is smoking here); she “will tell you all her news”3 when we come. Compliments and good wishes to Robert from all of us. We are glad to hear his trade is better. A glegg fellow like him will get through worse troubles than this. God keep you, my dear little Jenny.

Your affectionate Brother, /

T. Carlyle.