The Collected Letters, Volume 11


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE ; 27 July 1839; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18390727-TC-JAC-01; CL 11: 153-157


Templand, Thornhill, Saturday 27th july 1839

My dear Brother,

We were very agreeably surprised over in Annandale by the announcement, which Jane forwarded without delay,1 that you were on the road home to us again; unexpectedly, and rapidly arriving. It made the black wet day at Scotsbrig bright for us all. Our Mother in particular was “right glad that he's to be back again, poor fellow.” As the chance of a Letter being in time for you at Rotterdam seemed very imperfect, I contented myself with despatching a Dumfries Courie, which I considered would answer all essential purposes. Did you receive it? At all events you have arrived! Half an hour ago my Mother and I (for she too is here) went out smoking, after breakfast, to the old seat at the end of the shrubbery towards Thornhill, to look over the July earth a little, when old Mary Mills2 hove in sight, and produced from her lap among other things a Times Newspaper with three strokes, which I instantly interpreted as a true token. Heaven be praised for it. I write directly; hardly knowing what I mean to say; but understanding well that you will expect some sound from me, and very glad to write, in these circumstances, whatsoever may come uppermost.

You would find no house at Chelsea this time; a mischance which one one [sic] cannot but regret, perhaps more than enough. We have been in this North country some three weeks now or more; we had to wait almost a week in Liverpool, no steamboat being ready to sail; we arrived at Annan (Jane dreadfully sick) where Jamie, Alick and “the Gig” waited us, in a heavy shower of rain; we staid two days at Scotsbrig, then all night, detained by rain, at Jean's in Dumfries; then at last to Templand for breakfast on the morrow. All our kindred in these two Dales are tolerably well; our good Mother seems to me better than we left her, really wonderfully strong and fresh for her years. After a day or two I returned back into Annandale by myself, leaving Jane here; I expected Proofsheets, the concluding sheets of the Revolution, which have not all arrived yet; I staid nearly a week; was at Annan once, where I bathed, called for B. Nelson, did not see him; I was at Burnswark, at Ecclefechan, was greatly imprisoned by rain; on Monday last my Mother and I got into the gig, to Dumfries, where I left her with Jean, one of whose children was suffering much, and making her anxious (it is the youngest, it is better now); then on Thursday, a beautiful sun-and-shadow day, I returned for her by appointment, and brought her up hither where I compute she will stay till Monday. This is our travel's history3 hitherto. I am tolerably well,— except when some cursed lamb-soup or wash of that kind deranges me; I enjoy unspeakably the silent green fields with their peaceable cattle, and no crackling Cockneys visible or audible,—ah me, how blessed is the soughing [sighing] of the woods, the ancient everlasting song of brooks and streams, compared with any human speech one can in general hope to fall in with! I find it as yet a sufficient felicity simply to be let alone.— Jane does not enjoy herself nearly so much; the reverse of me, she prefers London to all places; indeed she is not well here, and has no soul I think out of her own household whom she cares a farthing for. We get a beautiful drive in the Gig when the weather permits; we came the other evening along Drumlanrig Bridge, an ancient most austere-looking erection, not above seven feet wide I think, with a great red flood just then tumbling far beneath it,—and Jane apprehensive, so fast were we going, that she should be canted over into the same; an imagination which haunts me ever since. The whole scene is beautiful, princely, Castle, woods, streams, hills; and all was doubly interesting to us for a shadow of Jack which it seemed to have in it, tho' Heaven knows he, at bottom, has little to do there.4 On the whole this Gig and Horse is a great comfort to us, our chief secular comfort; and I often feel that it is really a successful kindness, thanks to our Brother for it. We hope he himself will come and take the reins before long. The thing was cheap; not much above £20 in all; and yet it is an effectual thing: a solid yet smooth-going decent rustic gig; this they got for £10; it was John Scott of Yorkshire the Surgeon's gig while he lived, then some other person's, from whom Alick bought it; I have now put our Mother's name on the back of it, at which she in secret seems by no means offended, and so it runs paying no tax to her Majesty, stands safe in Scotsbrig barn when not running. Many of the substantial farmers are getting these named Gigs; Gigmen proper do not put the name, but pay the tax instead, as they have a good right to do. The Nag, which we call “Donald,” or rather “Doundle” if you understand that, is one of the best gig-horses extant; quiet, peptic, strong, swift and expert; yet he cost only some £12; his knees were broken in some drunken race at Langholm Fair, so that, tho' without intrinsic damage therefrom, he is unfit for the market. He can plough, cart, ride, all very tolerably well; I was on his back this morning early, along the hilltops on the Drumlanrig side again: he will be well enough worth his meat to Jamie, with the gig over and above. In short, my dear Brother, your gift, as I said, has been successful; and I enjoy it as a brotherly kindness with many satisfactory thoughts of various kinds. It is better than a stroke over the crown, that!

For the rest, my idleness since leaving London has been as nearly as possible entire. I do not remember that I ever in my whole life was emptier of all strenuousness, or effort of any sort, of all meditation or purpose, nay of all emotion. My time indeed is totally clipt in pieces hitherto; I cannot get myself fastened at all. I have been reading a very little in Poor-Law Reports, in Wieland's Horace,5 in Wilhelm Meister, which latter Fraser proposes reprinting, both Apprenticeship and Travels, if the original Edinburgh Publishers do not object: Tait rather hangs back a little, Oliver and Boyd have frankly given way, as indeed they were bound to do.6 This is all my work, up to this date! Conscience, however, does now begin to stir me very prettily in a dyspeptic morning before breakfast; I positively must and will try that Article of mine, tho' it is dark, dubious, questionable and even inane beyond any similar thing of mine I can remember.7 But what am I good for if not writing? I can see no reason otherwise why I am alive or take the pains to keep myself alive. In short we must and will set about trying! The stupider one is the more pressingly essential is it to try,—and to succeed. That Article on the Working people has been delayed two years too long for me; it is a feeling “sinking into languor of resignation” with me; two years ago it might have ended in “satisfaction of fulfilment.” Enough of it here. Surely there is need of a word on the subject now if ever! Ecclefechan itself has its Chartists; they were rattling a very slack old drum, and shouting round the rumble of it, passing “resolutions” I suppose, last night I was in Alick's,—very curious to me to hear. By the way, before I forget, let me say that Rob Hanning and Jenny have quitted Lancashire, being driven out by the poverty of innumerable unemployed spinners; and, after some considerable hithering and thithering, have come over to Annan or Northfield, where they occupy Jamie Jeffrey's old abode8 which you remember; purposing to wait there till a new season at least. Rob, busy as a bee, is already trading in corn &c, and floats to and fro from the Mersey waters to the Annan, like an aquatic creature. They are well enough all, Jenny much better than in Manchester; they will shift along, I believe, as heretofore more easily than most

But now, dear Jack, after all this tittletattle, make haste to tell me where you are, what you are doing, are going to do. Our movements will depend a good deal on yours. We hear from the Creightons9 that your Duke is expected here this summer; hardly your Duchess: my plausiblest conjecture for the present is that she, the children and you may hover some time about Richmond perhaps; in that case, we may make the greater speed back to Chelsea to be near you,—more commodiously now than at Ischl [We] have some little visiting to perform in Cumberland and Westmoreland, and nothing more [which] is not wholly at our own discretion, were the hot weather over. You will of course write directly. I grieve to think of you in London lodgings;10 I at one time thought of billeting you on Darwin (43. Marlbro' Street), a most hospitable man; but probably you are freer at your own hired hearth. Go and see D. at all events; you will be a great treasure to him in his present state of destitution. Spedding is discoverable at the Colonial Office. Mill returned just when we were departing; I did not see him. We heard from Mrs Sterling this morning; do not neglect to go thither. Fraser would give you the American Book, the half of it that is come? His concluding Proofs are expected every morning. W. Fraser I fear is in Marshalsea Prison; for an “assault”; “always unfortunate.” Craik is at a place called Vine Cottage, Old Brompton; at all events, Publisher Knight knows of him: he sends us a Times now and then, with slight return; a good man, but prone to come and see you too often. Mrs Austin is at Richmond; Lady Byron lives there too, a pale melancholy woman. I must write a word to Cavaignac, who has been writing to me, still asserting the heroism of the Vengeur. Jane is writing, tho' with headache, in her own bedroom: I am in the drawing-room here, with Alick's11 old desk brushed up; and can hear my Mother and Mrs Welsh down in the Garden, amid the waving of leafy trees, in the fresh grey weather. I will make my Mother write a word somewhere before this goes off. For the present I ought decidedly to call halt. Ever yours, dear Brother.— T. Carlyle

[Margaret A. Carlyle's postscript]

Dear John I am glad to think you are come back again write soon and may God be ever with you to bless you and do you good your own Mother. / Margaret A C

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