The Collected Letters, Volume 11


TC TO JANE WELSH CARLYLE ; 20 August 1839; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18390820-TC-JWC-01; CL 11: 171-175


Scotsbrig, 20th August (Tuesday), 1839—

Dear Spirit-of-S., 1

Had it not been for your pressing injunction, and the shortness of your stay at Ayr, with such uncertainty of posts, I would not have written today; being, to speak figuratively, under the influence of fiends, fiends chemical and vegetable,2 to which I am given up for a season! You must put up with such as I can give you.

Wednesday proved one of the ugliest days, and my road over the hills was rough, as I computed, with some ten thousand loose stones; however, Doandle3 held toughly out; I was at Ecclefechan about three o'clock, and had not passed a hurtful or very uncomfortable day. After an hour or two's study of the Letter I perceived that in all probability Jack did not mean to quit London till he had heard from me: so, that same evening, I despatched the cash too, but under cover to W. Hamilton; calculating that Jack would post over thither full of rage as soon as he read his own case of a Letter, and so would unexpectedly by the same post find the kernel too lying ready for him.4 As it actually proved. Letters however, as indeed you saw in one instance, came popping along hitherward every second day,—to tell us that we must pay 13 pence halfpenny5 and sit perfectly still. I calculated that Tuesday (this day) would end it: but greatly to our surprise, Alick's Tom, on Sunday morning early, came over with the final letter, and tidings that the Doctor was actually there by Coach from Preston! I met him and Alick on the Potter Knowe;6 they jumped into the Gig, and this mighty enterprise of getting our Doctor home again was happily completed. The money had been “all right,” was settled at 5½ per cent., and except the postages and coursing no harm whatever had been done.

Jack looks a little greyer, not otherwise altered, or if so for the better rather. He expresses great satisfaction over his Duke, satisfaction over Lady Clare7 and many others: he listened rather with interest, you would have said, to your quizzical message about Miss Jessie,8 and inquired, rather rapidly you would have said, “Where is she now?” My idea is that he will not get married, within a near date; but that he is not without notions tending that way. His plans, if plans he have, he has not spoken of yet. He had seen Darwin, Wedgwood, Wrightson, Mill; but brought no tidings of importance from any of them. He had also dined with Fraser, now out of Prison I think; and seen him while in.9 Darwin looked “dull”; Mill looked “much improved,”—told him Sterling had an “Article” on me coming out by and by.10 He “would have liked rather well to go to you at Ayr; but” &c &c. Today my Mother and he are gone to Annan; and I (under the influence of fiends) sit scribbling here to my Spirit-of-Soot.

Nonentity, or as near an approach to that as the human faculties are capable of, has been my history ever since I returned. I feel it pleasant, even useful for a time; with solitude and freedom there is something in it that seems very wholesome for me. I have written no more; will not try it again till I get to Chelsea. In Fraser's frank I sent a Note for Creek;11 bade Fraser too [sic] send him a copy of the new F. R. Jack has brought a copy of it with him; it looks very well; is to be bound in red coloured cloth, with gilt letters.12 He has also an American Miscellany concern, tho' as yet only the two volumes that we know.

I have also been in communication with Stewart of Gillenbie about the sale of Puttoch; Nelson had spoken to him the day I saw you. He expresses great zeal to serve me; evidently “desires my acquaintance.” I had appointed to visit him on Monday last if he said nothing; but he had a messenger here, some 7 miles off, who roused me before 7 in the morning, to say that he was called from home, that Wednesday or any subsequent day would do, and that I would surely “stay to dinner.” I had the chemical fiend in me that morning (not yet exorcised), it was before 7 of the clock, and I suddenly roused; alas, I said Wednesday would probably still do, but it runs in my head that I treated the dinner, impolitely, almost like an offence, as the notion of it was at that moment; and there it still hangs. We shall see tomorrow. He is really very civil this Stewart and a clever sensible man. His aid in this same sale could not fail to be valuable. He can say too whether one should do it now or wait. My lowest computation of the probable price gives a decisively superior amount of interest to the present rent, and no trouble whatever with it thenceforth; my opinion is that it ought without fail to be sold when the time is of average quality for selling.13— God help me! Here, visible from this window, slowly sailing down Purdhamston brae, is W. Grahame, evidently bent hither to see Jack! Yes indeed; there is his knock; and I am doomed— — — 4½ p.m. That fatal man has sat these two hours and more; still sits: one cannot assassinate him, he is so goodnatured withal; I have got him set to the Miscellanies, and retire hither to finish. Isabella is to make tea; I am free at least till then. “Died by the visitation of Clatter!”—

Stewart has another thing in hand for my behoof: the letting of a small Farm for poor Austin and Mary. I believe nothing will come of it; “The Marquis” has already “given his promise to another,” I dare say. They must make a shift elsewhere, poor crea[tures.] Austin was here today for some hay he had bought; Jamie and he are off to look at the Farm in question, but a new letter arrives from Stewart, since they went, expressing apprehension of that kind.14 We shall know tomorrow.

So passes existence with us here. As for my poor Duckie, were it not for such close neighbourhood of the Town-clock, things would look not so ill with her. I am very glad to hear of that plunge in the sea: I feel always as if there were health in it for everyone, it does myself so much good. Also we do not let ourselves be nooled [beaten]! No, there is no occasion for that, I think. The British subject stands up for himself; endures no defeat; hopes soon to attain the blessedness even of no battle. When you tire of Ayr, as I said, take a place in the Dumfries Coach, and warn me the day before. Or if you find it supportable, still more if you enjoy yourself at all, end it peaceably, by the natural termination. We must make for Cumberland before long; there will be little good farther got of it in this quarter, I doubt. I have not yet written to the Marshalls, nor will I till you come. Return of post, I fancy, will do it, at any time. I sent a Newspaper to Spedding of Keswick. Did you write to Mrs Chorley; to Miss Wilson or anybody? It is not of much moment. Creek had sent a Newspaper to Templand; it came hither; nothing else, except your Chronicle15 from Ayr. There is a delightful immunity from Letters here. Cavaignac's I retain for you, tho' there is nothing in it except wind-melody. He speaks of Pepoli, what we know, that his marriage has not taken place. Pepoli, Jack says, cut him (as he thought) or half-cut him. va ben [all right].

O Goody what a useless wretch I am! Armseliger Faust, ich kenne Dich nicht mehr [Wretched Faust! I don't recognize you any more].16 We must try to take up a new sort of stitch soon. I do not think I am yet ready or very near ready with any Book, but I am and must be ready to resume the possession of my faculties, and shake this sick sleep out of my eyes. The Article, or some Article, must be written. Ye must just excuse us this day. Poor Goody! But it will and shall all be better yet, and as good as need be. Courage, my Bairn!— Jack has a bottle of Eau de Cologne for your Mother (this a secret, if you like?); for you or me, nothing that I see. What has this little girl &c? Remember me as is fit to the good Hostess; good, but with the best intentions always unfortunate! Really one could weep to think of poor human nature; but it is a thing not to be remedied by weeping. Enough of it here.— A Letter seems to get hither from Ayr in 24 hours (yours came on Monday); from Templand it takes 48;—remember this in your writing and messaging. I shall look to get some letter or sign from you very soon; a letter will be more distinct. Adieu dear Goody, dear enough if thou knew all. God bless thee ever!

T. Carlyle

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