The Collected Letters, Volume 13


TC TO JANE WELSH CARLYLE ; 29 April 1841; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18410429-TC-JWC-01; CL 13: 118-120


Scotsbrig, Thursday, 29 April, 1841—

Best Goody,

I have just written to your Uncle Robert;1 I will now write a word to you, tho' in no great case for it, being in much bustle &c, and with only a fraction of time left.

Your Letter was handed to Jamie and me yesterday, as we drove thro' Ecclefechan, on way to the Gill and Glen Stewart; on one of the beautifullest days ever seen, by far the beautifullest I have yet seen here. Down the Hoddam Road I read you. Hoddam Brig, with the rooks cawing and the river rushing, one of the finest spots in Scotland, not unknown to poor Goody either: this, and earliest and some later recollections, had come in view as I ended. Ay de mi!

We found Austindom; then the Glen House,—one of the stillest strangest-looking places my eyes ever saw. It stands not two gunshots from the Dumfries Highway in middle of a populous country; and yet La Trappe2 could hardly be more secluded. A clear-gushing simple Annandale burn has hollowed out a little dell for itself; just as all Annandale burns do; but here some mortal of the house of Douglas has planted beeches, firs, junipers; built impassable stone-fences, and the strangest Fantasticality of a many-cornered, many-winged two-storey Mansion or Cottage, shut out from the profane eyes of all men! Walks serpentise thro' the woods, all round, especially rearward towards Kinmont House and Marquisdom;3 the brook gushes, the trees musically sough, and many linnets and sparrows do their best to sing; a moss-house perched on one height, and alas a green hydrastisy with steps cut to it on another: this with the Fantasticality of a Mansion or Cottage, desert now as Hades or nearly so, is Glen Stewart. O Heaven, why cannot I anywhere on this Planet get some such sheltered little Gill, with a reasonable commonplace of a Cottage built in it,—that I might live there in some degree of sanity, not habitually half mad or rather more so!— Arrived in front of the Mansion (Austin and Jamie were with me), the motionless mutch [night-cap] of an old woman became visible thro' one of the windows; so motionless that I thought it was a mutch hung on some stick to rest itself: but no, an old woman, to our knocking, stirred under it; hobbled out on a crutch, blind of one eye, all but utterly deaf in both ears, yet gleg [quick] as a hawk in the inner chambers of her intelligence,—a most fantastic wreck of an old woman in the middle of this Fantasm: I did not till now bethink me that it was one of Tieck's Tales (that of the Parrot and Old Woman)4 that she put me obscurely in mind of there!— We were admitted, and saw the place: alas, I fear it will do nothing for us. It has four rooms of no extraordinary dimensions, and perhaps some fifteen or twenty closets; a labyrinth of nicknacks,—wholly a Cockney Fantasticality put down there in Cummertrees:5 it ought to pay a great rent from some foolish Cockney, and to me such a House as the Craigenputtoch one would very literally be far more useful, agreeable, valuable! I have said nothing yet; but do apprehend this will be the issue. I must look elsewhere. My appetite, almost passion, for the country grows by what it feeds on:6 travelling, too, I may have made out, does not suit me at all. Heaven guide me to what is wise, not foolish! I return to London, qua London, as towards sulphurous penal fire. My soul is sore here, but it is not mad; I feel health of all kinds returning to me fast, could I but get staid here.

Yesterday I should have been at Templand; the weather having partly dried, that was my intention; but the night before, came this Letter from your Mother.7 I wrote straightway to say that I would conform. On the whole she is, as usual, “with the best intentions unfortunate.” The meeting at Annan seems far easier: but it involves me, owing to the hours and dates of the Steamers, in the ugliest complexity; and I fear has thrown Newcastle altogether over the lists for the present! I mean to try still to be off towards Liverpool on Saturday by the Annan Steamer: if I rush right on, you may see me on Sunday! I think, rushing right on, might perhaps be my best plan: we shall see. I am not unhappy; on the contrary I am very composed, and in a state rather pleasant for me,—but in which speech of any kind, except commonplace to friendly ears, were a positive nuisance to me. I must write to you again tomorrow, were it but one word,— Nay, hang it, I suppose there is no writing tomorrow, for the Sunday post! Well: it is possible I may come on Sunday morning; but it is likelier on Monday: if you do not see me on Monday, expect a letter: that is all I can say.

My poor Goody! Ah me, I wish I were happier, healthier that is, for thy sake still more than for my own. One must take thought, one must hold his peace, and do. Why should we despair of anything now? Surely the worst and unmanageablest of our days seem past!——— I continue to sleep from 8 to 9 hours. My Mother is getting rapidly well again.— Poor Creek; [an]d his Absurdity No 4!8 Fuz's article on Sterling is very well for Fuz;9 John must learn to digest it, and much like it, for his own purposes, or suffer by dyspepsia—there is no other way.— W. Grahame waylaid me last night again, with two invitations to dine (as lion) with two Annandale Lairds.10 No, by Allah!— Adieu, dear Jeannie mine. Be well and good when I return. Thine ever


Jamie has guessed or as good as known, since Thursday gone a week, that he was not to get the Farm, and has said nothing, till I spoke to him yesterday by accident! I continue to like Jamie; a piece of right unadulterated Annandalism!