The Collected Letters, Volume 2


TC TO ALEXANDER CARLYLE; 24 May 1823; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18230524-TC-AC-01; CL 2:359-362.


Kinnaird-House, 24th May, 1823.

My dear Alick,

I am just arrived at this nook of the great Strath-Tay;1 and the first moment of privacy at my command I consecrate to the kind desires of my friends at home. You shall have a narrative of all my outs and ins, since the morning of our parting.

On arriving at Moffat, while ripping out the fastening of my trowsers and gaiters, sitting at my ease on the Coach-roof, and patiently undoing Mag's needle-work, I was astonished to hear my name pronounced in a tone of gladness by some one in the crowd below. It was a measurable space before I could pick out the speaker, and reply to his civility by saluting in my turn the facetious little Dr Fyf[f]e of Haddington, a creature somewhat above the size of Thomas Thumb, shallow and flimsy as need be, but full of life as all little creatures, crickets to begin with, use to be. Jack once saw him call on me at dinner. He was now on his way to Edinr, and took his place beside me with infinite glee; handing me his snuff-box, telling me his queerest stories (very very stale in general), and fidgetting about in the briskest manner you could imagine. I made shift to laugh as well as I could at the wit of this slenderest of the sons of Esculapius, and as the day was fine we did tolerably enough, till towards two in the afternoon. Then however it began to rain, and the little Doctor was obliged to screw himself together and hold his peace. The shower was long and sharp, and a scullion of a woman, whom Fyf[f]e was acquainted with, and received with open arms when she mounted the Coach on this side of Crook, insisted on holding one of the ribs of her umbrella right on the point of my shoulder. I should have been wetted, had I not taken measures to remedy this arrangement, by crouching myself down till my own umbrella got to be lowest, after which I sat as snugly as could be expected in such a case. At Noblehouse the rain abated, and I laid in a mass of bread and beef sufficient to keep me eating for the better part of an hour. Then taking a quid of tobacco into my jaw, and wrapping round my legs with good wheat straw, I bade defiance to all the elements of nature, and rode on in better heart than either Fyf[f]e or his Lady, tho' they were both wrapped up in dreadnoughts, and she was at least as weighty in flesh as both her male companions. At Pennycuik, the rain began again to be heavy; and I was peering out below the edge of my umbrella, when I noticed thro' a window in the Inn, the sallow visage of—Frank Dixon!2 He was returning homewards on a little flinging pony, being tired of lingering longer in the “reekie Harlot,”3 and had made just nine miles since morning, obliged as he was to seek shelter at the out-breaking of every shower. We talked five minutes together, both sorry I suppose at being thus darted about like shuttles from end to end of the kingdom, without getting more than a glance of each other as we passed. A little while before, I had met the Waffler,4 glittering with moisture, and waving his whip round the ears of Bobby, among a crowd of other Carriers. I asked if he had got the Box: I bullied him in secret, when he answered n-n-na! I took care however to secure you against more disappointments on this head, shortly after my arrival.

Wilkie was overwhelmed in confusion, when she saw me: the house was full of paints, and she feared I should fare badly. One reason among many why I should try to make my stay but short! Accordingly after swallowing some tea, I set out like a roaring Lion, went thro' business as if that day had been the last of my life, and by ten or eleven o'clock I had “a' by.” Wilkie erected me a bed in my old bed-room, where I slept, tho' annoyed at first (for the last time in this world) by the Manties, soundly enough for eight hours. I arose to finish all my arrangements, and at ten o'clock I was in the interior of the Waterloo coach on my way to Perth[.] The skipper of the Burntisland steam-boat and I had a small adventure about smoking, otherwise our whole journey was delightful. I rode on the outside except when it rained. My old Fifeshire looked in general very ill; but this county of Perth was beautiful from the very first. Strathearn (the valley of the Earn) is the finest looking piece of land I ever saw; bounded by monstrous wild rocky mountains waving in trees and heaths, and offering between their bases the most luxuriant crops of wheat &c in the best style of cultivation. I could speak a whole day about this country and the town of Perth and the people I saw there, and so forth; but there is not an inch of room for any such operation. If I went on as I began there would be no end thro' a score of sheets. So I must content myself with saying that I arrived at Dunkeld last night about 8 o'clock, after a delightful ride, which terminated in a place still more delightful than any other I had seen. Had it been to Mainhill, I would have walked on; but among people of such a fashionable turn, I judged [it] unsuitable to proceed farther, and so tar[ried] all nig[ht] in that ancient clachan. My sleep was pretty good, and [in the] morning I felt strong as ev[er]. The distance hither is six (or as the people call it sucks) miles, which I easily walked before noon, and pleasantly tho' it was raining. The [Buller] family received me hospit[ab]ly and shewed me into my quarters, where I spent two hours in unpacking and arranging my goods. I have now dined, and having all put to rights, I am scribbling to Alick. This is the most meagre of details: but some night thou and I, boy, will sit up and tell it all outside and [inside] till the clock begin striking the short hours ere we part. Meanwhile, tho' confused, as a man so tired and perplexed has right to be, I can gratify my good Alick's heart and the hearts of others that will hear him, by declaring my firm persuasion that I shall certainly be quite comfortable here. I am lodged in all respects completely to my mind. It is a room in a house the whole of which but for this is empty. It was a kind of cottage inhabited by the former man's Mother—all very dashy with its papered walls &c; and one of the rooms has been fitted up in a neat enough style for me, and a capital bed-room it will make. It has a window on each side; the one looking into a quiet courtyard with nothing in it that I have seen but a few turkies, the other into a bowling-green surrounded with tall trees, where the birds are singing even now in spite of the rain. I shall be as quiet as in the middle of [the] Sahara; shall bolt my door and study and read and smoke according to my own pleasure. This night I am going to send to David Hope of Glasgow for a stock of pipes and tobacco: I shall be quite as I want to be.

You must write to me immediately at great length, telling me how you got home, and how all and sundry are doing with you. Jack can take a part of your sheet if you have not time: tell him I saw his Bookseller,5 and arranged every thing. Give my truest affection to every one at Mainhill. I hope our Mother is well: I have dreamed about her every night since I went away. Be good to her; none deserves it [more]. Good night my dear Alick! It is close dark, and [I must] end.

Your affectionate Brother /

Thomas Carlyle

[In margin:] I believe the post comes only every second day: but I shall soon learn more particularly.

The address is: Mr Carlyle / With C. Buller Esqr, / Kinnaird-House / Dunkeld