TC TO JAMES AITKEN ; 14 February 1838; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18380214-TC-JA-01; CL 10: 23-26
TC TO JAMES AITKEN
Chelsea, 14th Feby, 1838—
In a Note just written, to Mr Adamson Factor1 for the farm of Craigenputtoch, which place he has advertised for letting on lease, I have referred him, in so far as anything might turn up in respect of the house and park, to you as my factotum in the matter. You must act for me in regard to it, and decide for me; I have told Adamson that your decision was to be regarded as mine. In all probability he will consult you. I will now recapitulate to you what I have stated to him as the gist of my purpose about it; much the same, or perhaps altogether the same as my last directions to you on the road from Ecclefechan to Scotsbrig that day you drove me over.
Our special properties at Craigenputtoch, as you know, are the house with garden, offices, woods, the cow-park, and right of cutting what peats are needed on the moor there. I have told Mr Adamson that I am ready to let the favoured tenant, provided he be not a savage man likely to ruin the house, have the whole premises there for £20 additional rent. That it was understood M'Queen2 would offer both for farm and house; and that if he will come up to these terms, he has my consent; but for the rest that there is to be no cramping of the farm-letting by this of the house, but the house is to be left to its fate, if a tenant eligible for the farm prove unsuitable for it. M'Queen I have rather commended; M'Adam discommended (as he deserves):3 they will decide as they like about that. And now suppose M'Queen should not be preferred, or should not incline to give the £20 (which is but £10 or £8 for the house, since M'Adam I remember offered £12 for the park itself), it will rest with you, in that case, to determine what is to be done; and really I have no doubt you are far better qualified to do it than I here, hundreds of miles off the place, and thousands of miles off the sort of business connected with it. It strikes me however that if no undestructive tenant will give anything, say so much as £8 for the house, then in very deed it is worth something more than nothing to ourselves, standing there empty, ready to be let to any game-destroyer; ready to be lived in any summer, should such a notion come upon us. I suppose Nanny M'Queen would be willing to live in it for nothing as she now does, on the clear understanding, which ought to be made clear to her, that she was bound to admit reasonable game-destroyers to a reasonable share of it without farther fash [trouble] like that of last summer.4 Or if Nanny preferred taking herself away, then I suppose Peter Austin5 or some honest neighbour would for a small sum consent to look after it, so that it could be let in shooting time. The field in that case might be let to him, if he wanted it; or it might be let to the tenant with the understanding that at any time he would surrender it, on a deduction of £10, or whatever the rent he gave for it was. In short, dear James, it is a confused, contingent business; which can only be decided on the spot. I shall request you to put yourself in my place, and to decide for me. You can consult with Alick if you are in any doubt. I add only that in case Nanny M'Queen goes away, there is a long list of furniture and lumber (not valuable, but yet rendering the house habitable) which she got for £30, with this stipulation that we were to have the power (not the obligation, at all, at all) of purchasing them back for the same money at her departure. Whether it may be of any use to insist on this, or at all go into it, I do not in the least know; I do not even know, nor is it written anywhere to my knowledge, what the things purchased were: however, Alick does know, and will assist you with his counsel, or with more active help on the spot if that be needed. Jane is clearly of opinion that this matter ought to be left where it is; and truly seems to be right. Therefore, let it lie.6 The chance of our soon coming to bury ourselves for a few weeks in the summer at Puttoch is certainly not [grea]t. It may be doubted likewise whether £30 worth of furniture, laid out for the cha[nce of g]ame-shooters were not very much of the nature of money ill spent. Alick and you [discuss i]t; you will know how to decide. I beg you to decide, with the best wit you [have and] in the spirit of mercy to keep me free of farther fash [bother] on the subject. And so [good be with y]ou. Do your best; and reckon that the best can do no better, [and] that you [have] well deserved my thanks, go as it will.
It is but short while since I wrote Jean all my news. Today I sent you a Roman Newspaper, which had just come with three strokes; indicating that Jean's Letter had got to hand safely, and that all was well. The Article Scott was duly sent off; and I conjecture would arrive duly. I have not heard a whisper from Annandale or Scotland since Jean's Letter. I must write to my Mother tomorrow.——— We are tolerably well, in spite of the horrid grimness of this frost; which afflicts me, fond as I am of cold, and keeps Jane close prisoner these many weeks. Tell your goodwife to wrap that bit boy in flannel; I am sorry for him and all short-skirted creatures, poor little thing. The people here are all begging; very ill off many of them; without work, and coals near £2 a ton! It cannot last always thus.
My great outlook for the present is getting something ready in the shape of Lectures. I know not what it is to be; but I have yesterday taken possession of a separate room, with intent to continue there till I ascertain what. Like your half-frantic Joiner, I aye maistly work in a place by mysel';7 finding a great convenience in that. There is little doubt but something will come out of me by and by. In the mean while all goes tolerably enough; I am as much praised &c as is good for me, or perhaps more: I have assurance that if I muster impudence and anything to say, there will be people to hear me. The Review Articles are to be printed in America; the F. Revn I have just learned is printed again there: I am to have a little money, it means, from both those enterprises; it will be curious enough,—were it once come.
I beg a thousand kind remembrances to all the kindred: I should like well and very well to hear that all was well with you, that Mary & her James had got a farm, that Alick's new trade was prospering, that you were all in your usual course with progress more or less. I think Alick too is in my debt as to letters. Jane writes with me in kind love to you and yours;—advises withal that you “keep yourselves quiet, close and snug during this wild weather.” I hope your accounts have been moderately well paid up; that you are fronting the new-year under fair auspices. Be steady, be active, patient. The hand of the diligent will not even yet be entirely foiled. Good be with you [and yo]ur friends! So prays, your affectionate,
15th Thursday.— I have written to my Mother today; and send you again, before closing, my blessings and wishes.— That of Nanny M'Queen's £30 furniture, as you see, is to be considered as nothing. You will not forget the man Lauric and the thinning and sorting of the woods.8 Bitter weather still.— Adieu.