August 1843-March 1844

The Collected Letters, Volume 17


TC TO JANE WELSH CARLYLE ; 2 September 1843; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18430902-TC-JWC-01; CL 17: 107-108


Edinburgh, 29. Claremont Street 2 Septr (Saturday morning) 1843

My Dearest,

I am here safe in John Gordon's; just preparing to get out to Haddington: as the London Posts there (which go now by Carlisle, some tell me) are a little uncertain, I must despatch this word to you where I am that you may have something on Monday without fail. I too shall find something at the Post-Office here; shall I not? You see what ink I have; what paper and pen; and I have already written three Notes, and my time is fast going!

As the Mail was to start from Dumfries at six o'clock without pause by the way, and there seemed no great convenience in Jean's for a getting up of breakfast so early, and I myself had had enough of sleep, I preferred the heavy Coach yesterday at 9; Aird and the rest warmly recommending it. It took me by Thornhill &c! I had not duly calculated on that. And yet who knows but a day of such sad solemnity spent in utter silence, tho' painful exceedingly, was worth enduring. Nobody knew me; I sat two minutes on Thornhill street, unsuspected by all men; a kind of ghost among men. The day was windless, the earth all still. Grey mist rested on the tops of the green hills, the vacant brown moors; silence as of Eternity rested over the world. It was all like a journey thro' the Kingdoms of the Dead; one Hall of Spirits till I got past Crawford. At Glenochar a man stood waiting for a newspaper; the driver called him “Mr Hunter”; I looked, he was redhaired, large-nosed, the rustic counterpart of poor Adam Hunter,—his Brother.1 John Blackley2 stood speaking within a yard of me at the Inn door in Thornhill; I was as a spirit, in the land of spirits, called land of the living.

At Crawford, Dearest,—I was on a sacred spot; one of the two sacredest in all the world: I was at Her Grave! I tried first to gain as much time on the Coach; this being impossible the goodnatured Driver offered to wait. In my life I have had no more unearthly moment. Perhaps it was not right,—tho' doubtless you will thank me: at any rate, I could not decide to pass. O Heavens,—and all is so silent there; smoothed into the repose of God's Eternity: and the hills look on it and the skies;—and I thought How blessed all that was beyond the dreary sorrows and agitations of all this. Why should I dwell on such a matter?— I mean to go and see your brave Father's Grave too;3 and I will speak no word about it; you shall hold it for done without my speaking.— If in your Letter of tomorrow, you indicate where Betty lives I will try to call for her here;4 but after that I shall perhaps not have it in my power.

Kindness itself could be no kinder than Gordon: he had failed once at the Mail whither I appointed him, and had come out to try again at the other Coach,—in time to rescue me from the Boots of the Waterloo Hôtel. His Wife is absent;5 tant mieux [so much the better]; we have gypsified; I had some 5 ½ hours sleep in spite of thousandfold noises.— I think of Haddington for this night (if the Donaldsons are there; if not, Dunbar), and back as I can get: On monday morning is likeliest. So I have written to Fergus.— Gordon keeps me talking without interval; it is his one fault, a fatal one! I have sent a small Note also to Thomas Erskine.6 How strangely those old sounds “Caller Hairrin [Fresh Herring]”7 affect one! O dear, O dear. my regards to John if with you. Ewig [Eternally]

T. C