The Collected Letters, Volume 10


TC TO JANE WELSH CARLYLE ; 27 September 1838; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18380927-TC-JWC-01; CL 10: 188-193


Scotsbrig, Ecclefechan, 27th Septr, 1838—

Dear Goody,

This is probably the last Letter you will get from me dated here at this time; I begin to make serious arrangements for departure: some time next week, as I compute it, I shall be with you at Chelsea, and then the rest can be learned by word of mouth,—which will be a far better way; will it not? Meanwhile, Jack has arrived duly; and all goes whirling with doubled confusion. I seize an hour of the morning, snatched from a Day as to which no Plan, after various attempts, could be formed; I will send you forth a word or two of Autobiography, and make that certain at least.

Our journey, my Mother's and mine, to Nithsdale took effect; but not very prosperously. Our Gig-horse, a huge nag of Jamie's not used to such work, became unwilling to perform before we reached Dumfries; you can figure it, with my Mother in all her tremulous apprehensiveness, sitting by me! We got to Dumfries, however; procured a better gig for the morrow, and yoked the ugly quadruped again: this time before ever leaving the pavement, he flatly refused to act at all; he would not even take us back to Annandale: we had to unyoke him, and send him home, giving up Templand for that day. I had already seen M'Diarmid and Aird; had nothing more to do in Dumfries, but wander up and down with such entertainment as my own sour thoughts, full of pity rage and sorrow would afford me. One good thing was, M'Diarmid had faithfully paid me, nine sovereigns for you for Puttoch; which coins I have or will account for.1 He would take no percentage this time; we shall have to make him some acknowledgement by and by. His wife2 was fat-sentimental, as on former occasions; little Mac himself as kind as could be,—wretched only that I could not eat and drink with him. He has not succeeded well for this year with the letting of Puttoch; but has better outlooks for a near future. A certain Colonel Somebody of Mabie3 has the House and Game this season at the easy rate of £4, there being no Game; but he will preserve the Game this year, and in future years give £10 for his accommodation, and perhaps plague us less about it. As for Goody she with Macqueen's4 and Macdiarmid's instalments in her pocket will really be in funds for the present; able to bind Revolution Books5 and what not (considering the Savings Bank too), according to her own sweet will. Nay there are other funds too, I guess! A Letter from your Mother, unrefusable, but which seemed to me to hold cash: a truly monied Goody! Poor Aird6 is the same interesting rustic he always was; vegetating, like willow in flowerpot, regretting the free watercourses, where his right place were. We walked to Lincluden Abbey,7 in the soft evening; talking wersh [insipid] philosophy about the “glorious spirit of the Past,” and such like, not a word of which would I dissent from, but let it all pass in peace. I also saw Burns's House,8 the little oblique angled hut where the great soul had to adjust itself, and be a King without Kingdom: it seems vacant since the Widow's death;9 some dirty children sat on the doorsill, and the knocker seemed torn half off;—the soul of the man is now happily far away from all that.— Jean and Jamie were both as kind as could be; but you know what their house is! We huggermuggered as we could. They are prosperous both, I think; have a noisy gleg [lively] little child,10 and near prospect of another I should fancy. Jean received your Parcel with great expressions of thankfulness; she made your last gown, I think I heard, into quite an eminent one. Mary too at Annan was emphatic in her gratitude, in her affectionate remembrance of you. All which was pleasant to hear.

But to get along. On the wednesday morning (morrow of that nag-business, second morning of mine in Dumfries), I got upon the Edinburgh Coach, leaving my Mother whose health did not promise well; and got safely to Templand before breakfast was begun there. A certain fat good-natured “Mr Boswell”11 with a Greenock dialect garnished by Lancashire “dock English,” otherwise a very excellent young man, sat there; “waiting for Mr Alick Welsh12 down from Crawford.” Your Mothered [sic] entered soon, right blithe to see me; then Alick as expected; then breakfast, and a pleasant tho' too talking day. Templand and Nithsdale, all moist and green but sunny (for the time) and yellow with harvest, looked as beautiful as ever; your Mother looks no older, not altered in any way: the chief danger now as ever that you be overloaded with good victual, or otherwise killed with Kindness. I spent the whole time talking to her, the youths having soon gone out to fish or see the Grey Mare's Tail;13 I flatter myself I was very agreeable. She was kissing kind; made me promise, if it were in any manner possible, that I would bring up John and my Mother still, and stay there for a series of days. She packed up apples for Sister Jean; a small pot of marmalade for my use at Scotsbrig; two larger ones of “rasp jam” for your use at Chelsea:—sinner that I am, they took to leaking on the way to Dumfries, stained as with blood in many places a clean shirt for me, and I left them there. One of them now has got hither; I will still try to fetch it on, bad company tho' it be. There is also the Letter I spoke of,—evidently not full of writing. On the Thursday afternoon I came off again by the Glasgow coach. Little Whigham of Allanton14 sat on the top beside me; very cheerful, speechful: Poor Mrs Brydone [sic] of Dunscore15 had just been sent off to Glasgow Madhouse; so he told me. A new horse was waiting at Dumfries, but the night wet and too late for travelling

On the morrow afternoon arriving at Ecclefechan we found Letters at Alick's; one from the Speddings, announcing first their joy at the certainty they seemed to have of seeing me; then, of later date, a Postscript signifying that they had been at Scotsbrig seeking me, and that I was now bound to come!16 The other Letter was from Jack; it indicated that in all likelihood he had been at Annan some hours, waiting the sight of me. After refreshment, and new misventures with horses, I set off to Annan with our old horse; and then at Mary's in the cool of the evening did actually find Jack, found Goody's Letter, Review of Sartor, gift to my Mother, and all as right as it could be! Thanks to thee, my good Wife, tho' my hot-tempered one! O my dear Jeannie I have more regard for thee than perhaps thou wilt ever rightly know of. But let that pass.— Jack, as you say, is the very [De]mon of the Uncertain, Démon de la chose incertaine.17 I have even less tolerance of that than [form]erly; yet the man's good-nature at bottom is inexhaustible; one cannot long be angry at him, the best way is to go your own road, and laugh. No peace has been here since he came, except two days that he spent at Dumfries (having failed of Templand, and only sent off a letter of mine, inclosed in excuses, by Andrew Watson);18 last night (it was Rood Fair)19 he returned again with Jamie. Rome is evidently the place he will go to: indeed at Dumfries yesterday he found a Letter from Lady Clare, offering him the old terms if he will wait till February and then go back with her! I incline to think it will perhaps really be the best way; no man in that humour need try London, need try anything resembling London. But for the present his haste to be back thither, “by the 3d of October,” is like that of a lover on assignation; the rather as he finds I have not completed my arrangements, and cannot well go till the 5th or 6th. It is clear he comes back with me; but nothing farther is clear.

I have bought Lawrence a cap, one of the best ever seen: I cannot conceive all this you tell me about his sketch, and imagine it must be a foolish fondness that blinds the black eyes of the woman. I have also got two waistcoats from Shankland.20 I have not got my Tobacco yet, but hope to get it. A stone or so of tolerable oatmeal I will bring; the rest shall follow in some four or five weeks. Shall I order any butter, and how much? Poor Isabella does not herself superintend it this year, and the price (owing to Steamboats) is 11d a pound; it is good butter, but very salt; what shall I do? Wait till we meet, and then send some order about it? I would furthermore fain try to get a morsel of whisky, and bring it with me. John Fergus says, all Scotchmen do it.21 These little things once ready, I am ready and the Railway brings us down with the velocity of light,—Goody boiling the kettle in expectancy! Poor Goody I wrote to Alzdorf a hurried Letter from Dumfries; I could testify little of him; I said what I knew. Bravo, Goodykin! it was well done to demolish that Southwood Smith; were it only that he was the stuffer of old Bentham he is avoidable to me forevermore.22 I am sorry for Hunt; but man cannot help him. I wrote to Emerson yesterday; in a very confused manner; but directing, as you advised, that he should proceed with his further printing on his own footing. I am to write again when I get home. Hast thou got me any shirts? Wreck [ruin] is the word here.

And so in fine my Dearest I am coming back to thee, like the ill sixpence; whither else can I go? It is very right as thou sayest that I am chained: London is the place I do at bottom believe; Rome surely we will not at all think of since (God be thanked!) there is now no cough in the business. In about a week from this date then, a Steamer may be setting out; and in eight-and-forty hours after that! But I will write, or otherwise indicate the day. Do not you write after Tuesday at latest.— For us here two things present themselves as possible in the interim; both of which may very readily fail: To run over to the Speddings, whose brief call here, and no one to receive them, presses on me; or else to run up to Templand, according to promise exacted and given. I had brought myself to the point of Speddingdom this morning, and proferred it to Jack; but he will and will not. It hangs uncertain till the hour. We have a gig and carthorse till Wednesday next, and weather seeming to mend. But on the whole, I am perhaps as well entirely dormant here. My last travel gave me a dirty little cold, a continual small headache which sticks by me still. Consider it all as “chose incertaine” except that I shall be with thee, and—! O my dear Good Wife. But the Angel, as thou sayest, does stir the waters,23 more ways than one: surely our better days are still coming.— All here salute you right heartily. My mother is proud of her gift. Ever your own

T. Carlyle—

Your Mother did not seem to me to contemplate going to Liverpool sooner than about the end of October. Your Aunt there was in a less painful state for the time,24 your Mother wanted to wait till Walter25 were gone &c &c. Gibson,26 it seems, is there at present; extremely brisk.

Speddingdom is as good as given up, I apprehend, for this year. You and I will go next year; shall we?—Templand is not likely either.— The Uncertains27 last word, as he passes me this moment, is: “Tell her that I'll be there on Wednesday night”: pay no regard to that! Do not write later than Monday (we will now say), if you write at all. But indeed an old Newspaper and strokes will do as well as anything for general purposes. Farewell, dear Jeanie mine! My Mother sends special “best respects,” and “thank her most kindly.”