The Collected Letters, Volume 11


JWC TO THOMAS CARLYLE ; 18 August 1839; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18390818-JWC-TC-01; CL 11: 168-171


Ayr—Sunday [18 August 1839]


It is fifty six miles to Ayr, the way we came, and we were as long about it, as would have taken me from Liverpool to London— to say nothing of the superior jumbling— Add to this that the fatigues of the day had to be borne on one bad sandwich, and without any particle of that contentment which gives a charm to even the dinner of herbs,1 and you will think it no shame that I arrived here in a state of wera desperation.2 Poor old Gibson3 however served as a sort of spiritual feather-bed, on which the wearied Cresoot[overwritten and crossed out by JWC] (I cant spell it.) (soot essence)4 might at length fling itself down and taste of brief repose— He had tea and fried whitings, all prepared for us at the Lodgings— had sent in coal and candle, tea sugar and extras and shown himself as usual “the kindest of men”— Even I could pardon his prosing, for the sake of his good-humour—a thing which I have been so little used to of late—and up to this hour my patience with him is still holding out— He had got us excellent Lodgings a dining-room about the size and shape of Mrs Colquhouns at Stock Bridge5—but more plenished looking—and two very excellent bedrooms—mine, which is an attic, has curious dark nooks in it where in a revolutionary period one might secret two or perhaps even three Aristocrats—its window looks away over a beautiful prospect of—house-tops—and I feel in it quite a Mrs Teufelsdröck The Landlady is a writers6 widow and looks quite satisfactory— The greatest drawbacks to the comfort of the location are its vicinity to the townclock which chimes every quarter, and rings for a long time at six in the morning with a sort of passionate solemnity which I should think must drive sleep far from every eye in Ayr— This is one great nuisance and the “brattling and branging” [clattering and vibrating]7 of the servant maids is another— “There never was any thing in the least like it”! late and early—dump dump, clash brash and towards breakfast time, a universal quoit-playing with all the crokery [sic]! Of course I get little sleep, but I was sleeping so wretchedly ill at Templand where there was perfect quietness that I am less irritated by the noise than I should otherwise have been— For the place itself, I can fancy it might be very pleasant to live in under conceivable circumstances— The next time we come to Scotland I think we must try “a bit hadin o'oor ain” here,8 at a proper distance from the town clock. The town and surrounding country9 have a look of cheerful sufficiency which is quite refreshing after the gigmanic stagnation of Dumfrieshire— There are the prettiest little villas all about, where one can fancy people living without being tempted to commit suicide—the country people look lively and intelligent and the town people actually rather cultivated— and then there are capital good shops and markets, and even a circulating Library— And for people that like seabathing, better cannot be found—so good that (only think) I bathed the day before yesterday— It was an awful enterprise truly— I thought the wind would have cut me in pieces while I was stripping off my clothes—and when I ran madly into the waves to be at the end of it; it was like cramp the whole way up as the water deepened— But at last I bobbed down the head of me twice and when I ran out thereupon tho' my wet flannel gown was clinging all round me I felt quite warm— My Mother poured a gulp of brandy down my throat—and I ran home (only some three or four minutes walk) with little regard to appearances— I felt better for it all afternoon and meant to repeat the thing next day, but I had such a nervous horrid night and next day felt so like taking a great cold that I durst not— However the sun has shone out now for the first time and if it be as bright a day tomorrow, I have a mind to try another time—no sea can be clearer, and smoother at bottom, and the shore is all solitary as if nobody bathed at all— (I have a horrid pen and no knife so do not loose [sic] temper with this writing) Yesterday we dined with Mr Gibson at his farm, a nice house bui[lt] for the father of Lord Alloa10 —He hired a Phelanthon11 to convey us, and showed us Burns Monument birthplace &c &c and Thom's Tam o Shanter and Johnny12 for which a pretty establishment has been built beside the monument—and having crammed us with victuals brought us back at night— “The kindness of that man”— It was very pleasant to see all these Burns memorabilia—but as “there is always a something”13 it rained on us the whole way— He is to get me the loan of a mule however and I will ride back to the place again— If it were only to get a little more speech with the ploughman who shows the monument.— who is a great philosoph[er] and deals in figurative language—

Poor Gibson has pleasure-drives enough laid out for us to occupy the next month and consume his whole stock of spare cash—but I suppose we shall be returning about the end of the week— If my mother wants to stay a few days longer however I shall not object—for I am not afraid of my life here— I know a very intelligent shoemaker—and several other people of that sort, and the time does not stifle me as it did at Templand— There is even in this very house a fat scullion whom it is cheering to talk to, she looks so struck by what one says to her, and sometimes fall[s] into a great clash of laughter—that puts one in mind that there is such a thing as mirth in the world— I cannot write here the house feels always so open but I am not thro Nickelby14 yet and I am netting at times— My Mother continues the worst-natured of women—but I let her be doing and “keep never minding”— Once a day—generally after breakfast she tries a fall with me—and in three words I give her to understand that I will not be snubbed—privately resolving to be sore up in the world indeed, before I subject myself to such unreasonable usage again— I will send a newspaper on arriving at Templand—and you will then come I trust and take me away— Answer this immediately—address Post office

Kind regards to all—


After Lectures, and considble reading for Cromwell, talking abt Scheme of London library, struggling and concerting towards what proved “Chartism,” and more of the like,—we set out togr for Scotld, by Lrpool, abt july 2d or 3d;—for Scotsbrig both of us in the first place, then she to Templand as headqrs, I after leaving her there to return to Scotsbrig as do [ditto]. All whh took effect; my remembrce of it is now very indistinct. I do well recollect this pretty Letter, howr, and other green spots in the waste. The ‘Gibson’ of this visit to Ayr is the same “Silverheaded Packman” noted above.15 In those years he had quite renounced trading and led an easy, rather nomadic life, ever wandering abt in charge of a Lrpool yg gentn of great wealth, and of decidedly weak mind,—inoffensive (practically) altr [altogether] to poor Gibson, and less afflictive even to the fancy than he cd have been to any as faithful guardian. This was Gn's last employt in the world, and it continued still a good many years. To the last he was was [sic] loyalty's self to all [that held?]16 of Walter Welsh or Family,—devotedly ready as in the old “Black Wull” days. Good old soul.

T. Carlyle———Ecclefn

In the Coach, while returning from Ayr, as she told me long after: Fellow Passengr got talking: “So you are from London, Ma'am, and know Lity [Literary] people?— Leigh Hunt, ah, so!——— Ah, and &c. And do you know anything of Ths Carlyle?” “Him right well; I am his Wife!” whh had evidtly pleased her dear little heart, my Darling little Woman.