January-September 1845

The Collected Letters, Volume 19


JWC TO THOMAS CARLYLE ; 31 July 1845; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18450731-JWC-TC-01; CL 19: 120-122


Thursday [31 July 1845]


There is such a packing going on today as would make the hair of your head stand on end; if you could only behold it thro' a powerful telescope! The quantity of things that “cannot be done without” at Elensborough “beats the worl”! every floor is strewn with pots of preserves, circulating-library-novels, groceries, new bonnets, bottles of pickles, white muslin dresses(!) everything you could mention for being eaten or worn—“and I in the midst of it”! My Uncle has been wandering from room to room all morning, holding up his hands and repeating “God's curse! God's curse! and this is pleasure”! Tho' only an onlooker I feel as unsettled as if I were to sail in the Achilles at nine tonight with the rest— But even in this detached state of mind I feel a movement of the Spirit to tell you that my head is better today, hoping to find your cold “in the same”— Yesterday was indeed a day in which one might console oneself—if one could—with being “thankful one was not in Purgatory”! rain pattering incessantly against the windows—a whirring and shuttling inside one's head, as if “the mighty Weaver” were doing piece-work in it! and such a smell of roast-meat (there being an enormous leg of mutton for dinner) as might have given Chadwick a new idea—as to the cheapest mode of dining a Union.1 I lay on the sofa in the drawingroom and thought about “the solution”!—with small result— In the evening came Dr James Carson2—and a young Nicholson—all in black this last—being just returned from the funeral of his only Sister—a promising girl of sixteen the poor Mother's chief comfort of late years— I recollected the time when Mrs Nicholson—then Agnes Lochart—consulted me whether “setting honour aside” she ought to break with the minister of Durrisdear3 and marry Joseph Nicholson—where were all these young Nicholsons then?—this lad who sat there looking so sadly—the girl who had just been laid under the earth? Had Agnes Lochart not “set honour aside” but lived true to the memory of her first love—my Uncle William4—would these existences have been forever suppressed by her act!—if her act could have suppressed them what pretension have they to call themselves immortal—eternal—what comfort is there in thinking of the young girl just laid in her grave?— “My Dear, you really ought not to go on with that sort of thing—all that questioning leads to nothing—we know nothing about it and cannot know—and what better would we be if we did?

“All very true Mr Carlyle—BUT—!—at least one cannot accept such solution on the authority of others—even of the wisest— one must have worked it out for oneself—and the working of it out is a sore business—very sore—especially with “a body apt to fall all into holes”!—

I will write to your Mother when I get to Seaforth— Jamie says expressly she is well again—do not be vexing yourself needlessly—above all when I am not there— How long will it be till you have finished— — Will you join me at Seaforth? will you go to Froyston?—or what? Geraldine makes sure of my visiting her—which is now possible since she tells me her scrub of a brother is gone to Irland for three or four weeks— She comes to Seaforth on Monday—less explosive I trust than last year— I have had to buy new flannels since I came the weather here is as cold as november God be with you Dear— Ever your own