August 1843-March 1844

The Collected Letters, Volume 17


TC TO JANE WELSH CARLYLE ; 30 August 1843; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18430830-TC-JWC-01; CL 17: 100-103


Scotsbrig, 30 August, 1843—

Dearest,—It is all right: Mazzini's revolution has burnt priming; my Goody is well,—and has got a new sofa for nothing!

The Tailor's Boy bringing over my last new waistcoat yesternight duly brought your Letter along with it; and I read. There was not time to write by him; nay the thing to be written was not yet matured till today's weather disclosed itself. In all locomotive projects here you must compute the horoscope of wet and dry. These two days are again bright and beautiful as new silver; three days of dry are always a considerable sign of more: I decided some time yesterday that on the morning of the third fair day (which will be tomorrow now, if it prove fair, as there is at present good prospect of its doing), I should accept that as the best assurance there was of continued fair weather, and take Dunbar Battlefield with me before I came home. If on the other hand tomorrow prove wet, the omens are against me; I will stick where I am till, on Saturday afternoon,1 they can tumble me into the first Liverpool Steamer, and thence home direct by the swiftest method. A terrible pleading went on within me to have this settled as the best method at once; the easiest and pleasantest (with Goody at the end of it) none could deny it to be: but at bottom I detected in the heart of all objections to the other these two, as the grand substance of the whole: Laziness and Pusillanimity;—to whom, as was fit, I at last resolved to give no heed. I wrote last night to Fergus, leaving the matter open; but a probability still in it. Indeed he, I think, will only come in for a day or two in any case; I can linger nowhere now; and Dunbar and the South shore of the Forth hold all the business I have to do thereabouts. Tomorrow morning, if it do prove dry, I will write to Miss Donaldson;2 the same day I must get across to Dumfries; then on friday morning off by the Mail to Edinburgh, and if possible (I think it will be still possible) out to Haddington that night. Haddington— O my dear little Bairn! The next day I can devote to Dunbar; scan it at full leisure (alone will be best); and return at least to Haddington that evening. If the weather do keep up! A curious feature of the business will, in that case, be that I see the Battlefield on the very Anniversary of the Battle; the third of September, namely, Oliver's grand day, ultimately his death-day:3 this without any forethought;—is not this too an omen? Finally, this morning, having awoke for perhaps the tenth morning hours too early, tho' with a distinct feeling of improved health too, I decided—ye immortals do but think of it!—decided on a desperate drench of castor which I had to mix with coffee with my own hand! The last, mixed by others, was a futility, melancholy to think of;—but this is none! I believe the old Egyptians were quite right to begin their year as they did: hast thou, a poor innocent Goody, any notion how? Not the least. But the price of senna rose always at that season; and the sanity of mankind felt itself increased.4

If therefore, O Goody, there come not contradiction by the Postman 24 hours after he leaves this, that is to say as I compute on Friday night about tea-time,—nay if possible there shall come confirmation then,—thou art to fancy me gone off as I say: at Dumfries while thou readest this; at or near Haddington on the subsequent evening. And if on Saturday there be a Letter duly despatched—whither shall it direct itself? “Post-Office Edinburgh”: there will be nothing else so safe: but I will give precision of direction tomorrow. I wait only for weather here; and then bolt. If tomorrow do break down again, it will be rather provoking, such a mass of heroic resolution all wasted;—yet how easily shall I console myself! If you wrote off to Miss Donaldson a line for herself on the friday, it might arrive while I was there? But no; do not bother yourself. I will stand by the Edinburgh Post-Office whether or not,—if tomorrow do not dash the whole thing.

Jack must be at Liverpool; extremely in want of a resolution for the morrow, I guess; Arbuckle sails today, and then there will again rise, What to do? Today I will apprise him that in me is no sure hope. He is likeliest to come off then towards London: but perhaps will not go, if he find good quarters anywhere, till towards the time of my arrival. He ought to be helped in “seeking a lodging”: it is the first foundation-stone of all benefit for him.

Let me not forget: Mrs Russell and both Margaret and Mary did repeatedly report or express “thanks, thanks” for Mrs Carlyle's kind gifts.5 I did not know there would be any newness in them to you. Mrs Russel did not speak apologetically about Letters, nor indeed at all about them; but the “Thanks” rose everywhere, so there is no mistake. Poor Margaret was decided to come and “meet you at Annan,” if you came into this quarter. She told me Mrs Russell gave poor old Mary a jug of milk every day.— I must tell you another thing I heard there, which struck me considerably. You remember a lump of an old woman, half-haveril [idiot] half-genius, called Jenny Fraser? “The Duke” had decided on high that not an inch of ground for a Non-Intrusion Church should be allowed in that region; no Church shall there or thereabouts be. It is paltry to stop the mouths of men that observe any measure in their complainings; very poor,—even if a Duke had made all the land he refuses to concede a few square yards of. Well; but old Jenny Fraser possesses about Boatford a patch of ground, independent of all persons, just about equal to holding a church and its eaves-drops; and says, she will give it! Hunter of Morton-Mill6 and Agents are at work; go to Jenny, offer her £10, £20, indicate possibilities perhaps of more: Jenny is deaf as whinstone, tho' poor nearly as Job; she answers always: “I got it from the Lord and I will give it to the Lord”;—and there the Free Kirk it seems in spite of Duke and Devil is to be!7 I had a month's mind to go and give Jenny a sovereign myself; but I remembered two things, First that she had for some reason or other become a stranger to her former Benefactress;8 and then secondly that it might have a factious look, better to avoid at that moment. We can do it better afterwards; and I shall hear your opinion withal. “Duke versus Jenny Fraser”: it is as ridiculous a conjunction as has happened lately These poor people, living under their Duke, in secret spleen and sham-loyalty are somewhat to be pitied. “The Earth's the Lords and no the Duke's,” as Charlie Rae9 said!

But I waste time, and have none to waste. Expect tomorrow evening a Letter or even no letter;—but I will try to put in a word as we pass Ecclefechan.

Adieu Dearest, adieu. It will be about a week longer before I see thee; but please Heaven, it shall not be long. I think there are worse Goodies to go home to? Yes!———

Affectionately evermore

T. Carlyle