The Collected Letters, Volume 10


TC TO JANE WELSH CARLYLE ; 15 September 1838; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18380915-TC-JWC-01; CL 10: 176-180


Scotsbrig, 15th Septr, 1838—

My dear Goody,

Many thanks are due for that punctuality of despatch, for those bright little Letters you send me. They are the liveliest of Letters, which gives me pleasure because it shews a lively Goody, cheerful and well. They send good news otherwise too; and seem to have the faculty of finding good news to send. Jamie brought me in the last, on the due morning, before breakfast; and a right seasoning it was to one's morning meal; a thing to set one up for days to come! The frank also has arrived, and all goes well. I must now scribble you a word in continuation: on Monday morning you will look for a word, and ought not to be altogether disappointed.

Our Minto visit could not be called a successful one, but we made it do, we got thro' it as gracefully as was feasible. The rain continued on us there, and the rather boisterous dulness, and the dilettantism and discontent. Bess was not in very good health at all, nor could I ever get into anything like free communication with her. The Minister himself in fine got dyspeptical, nervous, “a Procter without the genius”:1 he had a frightful gathering of voracious, bibacious dullards, one day, to see Sam, and never did more good after. We talked together considerably, he and I; but it was too clear there was no conversation so pleasant to David as the sound of his own wish-wash, which on the other hand was to me infinitely insipid. I tried again to like the really harmless and hospitably minded man; but did not succeed a whit better than of old; so gave it up as a thing I could not do. He is of a fatal species; a Half-and-half to the backbone of him, without earnestness, truth of soul, or sincerity of any kind that I could see, except sincere admiration for himself. Old Bradfute's money has made a Manse nicknackety beyond all others, but it has not made any man or woman comfortable. Peace be with them, the good people! I got off on Saturday morning after all, in a smooth way; and do not mean to return soon. Let poor David be as well as he can without me; with me he can only be worse! I suppose he will quit his Parsonage before long, and come perhaps to—London for a time!2 Deus avertat [God prevent]. Let him “look forward into the most unglancing future living without office, bloss von geld [merely on money].”3—anywhere except in my neighbourhood. “Pshaw!” One of Cavaignac's snorts is all one could rightly say of such a matter. The insupportable spirit-merchant4 had departed the day before: Sam accompanied me to Hawick, where I got upon the Coach to Langholm; then hitherward thro' a bright afternoon, in a vehicle of the gig species: arrival about five o'clock, impransus [without dinner] but otherwise quiet of heart. Since then I have huggermuggered, “with the old relish”;5 and done really better than could have been expected.

For you are to understand that poor Isabella is entirely laid up with sickliness, or rather with pure debility and little pain attending it; lies constantly in bed; and has no hope, the Doctor says, of rising from it, till—a certain event happen, not near at hand yet! Poor Jamie has rather a heavy handful, the farm-season so bad too; but he gets on wonderfully nevertheless: it would have done you good to see him bring in the tea-tray sometimes himself, and become valet of all work on my behalf! I kept out of all people's way; not even Grahame6 (till this morning) could get hold of me; I did well enough, found it even interesting, so strange and solitary was I here, present in my birthland, and yet not present. To aggravate the matter there was no horse that one could ride on, no means of transport any whither. Alick went into Dumfries on Wednesday, and hired me the worst of gigs for three weeks at a shilling a day. Your Mother had no Letter waiting for me here, but one came on Monday; most brief; she had been in bed with headache, and could not write sooner, hardly even then. Having got my gig, I was about setting off for her yesterday; I had also written to Spedding, meaning to have Cumberland in reserve: but just at the nick of time we got some enigmatic notice from Manchester about a Steamer arriving; so we turned, Jamie and I, our vehicle towards Annan rather; and did then some half mile out of the burgh actually descry our Mother, mounted in Austin's cart faring safe homewards. She was overjoyed to see us; turned back with us &c; and is now here, busy as a bee: so that all is straight on that side now. She charges me to thank you most emphatically for your Letter to Manchester, which had made her “as light as a feather all day”; she says, “whatever sort of Mother-in-law she be, you are the best of daughters-in-law,”—such a swift despatching little Goody; supreme in threepennies. I now think of Templand for Monday, back probably on Wednesday; then we shall wait for our Doctor from Italy; the Speddingian Answer will be here too: this is all the Past and all the Future I need speak about here. Jack ought to be with you today or Monday; we will look of course for an announcement as soon as may be: the late silence had become alarming almost, as well as tantalizing. If Jack (which I dare hardly expect) sit by you while you read this, bid him welcome once more to his own land; say I will not advise him or sway him by any influence, but should like extremely well to see him here without loss of an instant. Ben Nelson7 was searching for him in the Steamer last but one: so Ben said, whom I met while searching for my Mother by the same vessel. I had gone down, on some notion of Alick's, but of course was unsuccessful. I noticed Oliver Richardson8 and Henry Duncan,9 very red and blousy both; but escaped them, being thirsty &c and indisposed for salutations; I escaped Ben too there, but he found me before tea was well done.— In short, dear Goody, thou must say to Jack that I prognosticate he will spend very little time in London; that we shall have a letter appointing his day at Waterfoot of Annan, when I will, if Heaven please, attend with horse and clatch, and take him hither once again. Finally, if Hanning send a Newspaper with one stroke, heed it not, for it now means nothing. And so let me end this, before my paper altogether end.

You will still get to Ramsgate, will you not? It were a great pity [to] miss it, if it seem pleasant and still possible. Meanwhile drive about what you can, keep your heart light, and be well when I come. I do not think it will be long this time. The Spedding answer will hardly tempt me, unless Jack linger too long. I think it will be better to leave these grand North-of-England things all in a lump till we both go, in a kind of state, next year? If the Fates will so turn it. We shall see.— Emerson's Letter is very kind; I will write him some kind of answer, but cannot respond as to his printing scheme yet, till the actual Book have arrived, as specimen, and one can shew it to a Bookseller, and ask what terms he will give for it. Fraser or Saunders it is all one, I think: money is not procurable in this Island by that method, it would seem. At Edinburgh I wanted a copy of Sartor, poor beast, to send over to Elizabeth: Sam had got no copy, had never heard of it, and only then wrote off for some,—such is the Saunderean energy! Depend on it, therefore, my bonny little Bairn, all these vague things they tell thee about Sartor, are mere vague blarney;— and think farther that we will not care a strand whether they are or not. No; a certain fair Critic long ago among the peatbogs10 declared Sartor to be a “work of genius”; and such it is and shall continue tho' no copy of it should sell these hundred years. I agree with you farther that unless some Bookseller will make a specific offer of cash, we ought to leave these beneficent Americans to manage their own affair themselves.— No word of Alzdorf or his Letter; indeed I rather doubt if Sam now knows my address properly: very well; but say so if you see the man.— I have told you nothing about anybody here: it will all be better by word of mouth. Poor Mary is still depressed and doure [gloomy] about the loss of her child; otherwise shifty, kind and helpful as ever. Ann Cook has “a good place”; attending upon some old dame somewhere in Lancashire. Alick is not altogether right yet, but much better than formerly: his traffic prospers beyond what could be looked for, and he seems more quieted, reconciling himself to his allotment: he is far greyer in the temples than I. It gives me the strangest feeling to plump suddenly into view of these conditions of existence: hearts so kind, a lot so sequestered; the sweep of Time passing on in these little creeks too as on the wide sea where I have to navigate. One can say nothing; one's heart is full of unutterabilities. But on the whole, Life is all great and unutterable; the little Ecclefechan shop, as the grand Napoleon empire, is embosomed in Eternity; a little Dream and yet a great Reality one even as the other.— Adieu, dear Life-partner, dear little Goody of me. Write directly, if Jack be not there writing. Be well, and love me. Thine ever

T. Carlyle

If Robertson11 ask again, say that unfortunately I have not written a word for him, nay that on taking myself to task I find almost no likelihood of doing it now, or on any of these subjects he talked of! My hand is out: it must be something infinitely nearer one's heart than Crocket12 or Macaire13 that I could fasten on.14 I have no mind to weep, but also I cannot laugh,15 least of all giggle, at present. His Review is a———Mum! We must wait and see. My shirts are all giving way; yet they will serve till I return. I have lost one (left it at Kirkcaldy—it was a bad one), but in return have found two here. Get thou the address of Jack's shop, and drive towards it!

I left my shaving-brush and nail-brush at David Aitken's too! Think not I am grown entirely a dunce: there were reasons, there were excuses. I sent Aitken a Newspaper since; we parted sweetly. Have you written to Kirkcaldy?

I hope this scrawl is not too late; Grahame came in upon me with his clavers [gossip]: I will delay it no longer.