The Collected Letters, Volume 13


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE ; 28 July 1841; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18410728-TC-JAC-01; CL 13: 200-203


Newby, Annan, 28 july, 1841—

My dear Brother,

Your short Note was lying duly for me at Alick's, as I returned, in a rather disastrous manner, from escorting Jane up to Templand, a week ago all but a day. Jane had left Liverpool on the Tuesday after you saw her (Tuesday gone a week); deciding, not very wisely I believe, to come by the Steamer with Ellen, after all: Jamie and I were duly at Annan to meet them; they arrived sick but recovering; Jamie took charge of Ellen along to the Cottage here, I drove off with Jane towards Dumfries and Templand, purposing to stay with her there till the Monday came. Templand was already crammed with Liverpool guests; our bed was six inches too short; I had slept ill for two nights before, and Jane for one night had not slept at all: the result was, there could no wink of sleep be had there for me, and very few winks for poor Jane: wherefore, about three in the morning, I arose, packed up my bag, yoked my Gig, and drove off again towards Dumfries and Scotsbrig, thro' the blessed dawn. All was hanging wet as a sponge, the Nith running red and swoln,—various Herons fishing in it; who, with the Thornhill Post and myself, seemed the only terrestrial labourers awake at that hour. At Dumfries I contrived to get some hours of sleep; and reached Ecclefechan, in such mood as you understand. It was there and then that I found that Letter of yours.

My news since amount to the simple fact that I have been considerably out of order, below par a good way in point of health, and am not righted even now; but that on Monday I did succeed in meeting Jane at the Flosh Toll-bar, and getting hither in the evening, and am now decidedly in the way of being righted. That Templand Expedition was not the cause of my illness, I think, but rather the accelerator of it merely; I know not whether it is the new milky diet of Scotsbrig, or what it is, but this new biliousness of mine is not of the old sort at all, but a totally opposite one, as if, according to my guess, there were now not too much bile in me, but too little or next to none at all! Am I not a pretty oscillating character? This wretched body of mine is really all but too great a burden to be borne.— Happily Jane is rather in good heart, and I contrive to keep myself very quiet.

This same “furnished cottage” is a considerable curiosity of a place; of the tiniest dimensions, as if space here on this beach had been not less precious than in the heart of London; but it is papered, dry, well-carpentered, and free from smoke; by her contrivances, by the purchase of some small odds and ends, Jane is making it all very habitable. Already this morning at nine I had a bathe: the tide is not ten yards off; I ran out wrapt from sheer nakedness in my dressing-gown; flung off the gown, and laid a stone on the top of it, then plunged in, one plunge and no second. I had a pair of old shoes on my feet, which some six or eight years ago were yours. Jane had coffee ready when I came in. Our friends, good hearts, are perfectly affecting by their kindness, by their true wish to help us. Poor Alick had a gift standing here of a half-a-dozen of Port and Sherry for Jane, a bottle of good brandy and one of whisky for me, &c &c: I could almost weep over it, yet I am very glad of it. Mary had her girl over here with a little bottle of cream, with offers about peats, coals, and I know not what: we are to drive over thither this afternoon. Tomorrow (Thursday) Jamie of Scotsbrig is expected as he returns from Annan market; next day we make a flying call at Scotsbrig: there are two beds and a snug little garret (where I now write, looking out towards Cumberland, or rather the shroud of Cumberland) which either my Mother or Isabella, or both of them together, are to come and take possession of about Monday, when the tides will be prime. Yesterday we drove only into Annan, for the wind was a tempest there; bought groceries from Jamie Ewart, bought snuffers, wafers, ink, and a whole miscellany of “Bath bricks and other combustibles”: I put most of my cash into Nelson's Bank; saw Nelson himself, looking old, sourish, saddish and embarrassed; spoke to no other but to him and Ewart, and the vender of ink. Such is our history here,—if you add Books enough, Müher's1 &c, and tobacco enough.

It is the loneliest place surely I could have found anywhere in the world, this, at present. Sky and Sea, with little change either of sound or colour (for all day yesterday it was but half light)—such is our whole environment. Very strange, very sad yet very soothing, is this multitudinous everlasting moan of the Frith of the Selgovae2 vexed by its winds; swinging in here and again out, like a huge pendulum hung upon the Moon, ever, ever, as in the days of Plinius3 and far earlier! Eternity is long, is great; and Life, with all its grievances and glories and other “trash, trash,” is very short and small.— Last night, about nine, I walked round by Water-foot: on the top of the knoll there, they have now got a lighthouse; I was looking up as I passed, and there at that instant the sputter of some lucifer, or kindled wick, disclosed within few feet of me a red bristly Annandale face, busy in getting the lamp lit;—I met no other living thing on my round all the way by Milnfield to Newby again. Sehr Gut [Very good]!

Mary has now got her £20; Jane brought it down with her from Dumfries: all safe, and accepted with infinite gratitude. The like is one of your chief luxuries. I was to write and tell you. Has Jenny ever written? I believe her to be very unhappy just now; I believe Rob not to be mad, but be ruined, not to have any money, never to have had any, but to ha[ve] been a liar from the beginning. Your Note meanwhile has availed him well: he has ceased horse dealing, appears to be thinking seriously Que faire [What to do]?4 Jane5 will have to shake him altogether out of the business. I do not think we can profitably interfere with her farther at all for the present. Adieu dear Brother. Yours ever

T. Carlyle