August 1846-June 1847

The Collected Letters, Volume 21


TC TO ALEXANDER CARLYLE; 2 September 1846; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18460902-TC-AC-01; CL 21:36-38.


Dumfries, 2 Septr, 1846—

My dear Alick,

Before quitting Scotland, I will here, in a very confused element, among Jean's children on a Dumfries Wednesday, write you a hurried word. I have been in this native region the better part of a month; left London about the end of july, and joined Jane in Lancashire whither she had gone a little while before me; abode there about two weeks; then came over to Scotsbrig, where I have been, off and on, ever since. Jane could not muster resolution to accompany or follow me; she has lingered to and fro in the region of Liverpool or Manchester ever since; and is this very day, as I understand, travelling homewards by the railway, to arrive at Chelsea, and be quiet again, tonight. She was not at all in a strong state when I left her; but I believe has improved since, tho' to all appearance she is but weakly still.

One of the most important acts we did was the making up of a Box for you to “Bield near1 Brantford”; an actual deal Box, full of rather useless nicknacks, the usefullest we could find, which I suppose to be now at Sea, fairly on its way towards Montreal, from which Town it will be forwarded to you, we hope duly and without cost: the Paulets, Merchant people with whom we were staying, undertook that for us, and seemed as if they might succeed. You shall hear more minutely, if once I were got home, as to this Box and its contents: I do not think it can well reach you before October according to the guess I now form.— Before that, I had sent you off thro' Mr Greig a Copy of the new edition of Cromwell, which I hope may be getting near you almost by this time; it is the best and final edition of the Book: your former Copy you may give if you like to Brother John. I was terribly tired before I got done with that job, among such confusions as I was in; but now I have done with it, and all is right there. And so enough of Books and Boxes for the present.

Our good old Mother met me on the close at Scotsbrig with her welcome once again; and has yesterday again given me her silent farewell,—a very wae affair for both of us! It is inexpressibly sad to me, such a parting, after one of these confused visits; and I often think it would be better for me if I never came again! But that ought not to be either, while the opportunity is left.— Our good Mother is in her usual health, not specially complaining of anything; but grown now very feeble, easily struck down with any whiff of cold or the like. She walked out with me sometimes as far as the top of Middlebie Rig; was cheery and patient of heart, anxious as ever about one and all of us. Repeatedly she expressed her reflexions upon not hearing from you for so long back; but we endeavoured to quiet her by alledging your harvest labour in these weeks. We hope there will a Letter come soon, and speak for itself.— Jamie has been building, a kind of Tofall [lean-to] (of small extent, for a scullery and boys'-bed room) in front of his dwelling house, besides a Stable (last year) and other little things: I understand his stock operations have been pretty successful, and he was rather thriving: we left him busy in the heart of his shearing,—some parts of his crop very good, others decidedly light and weak; as I understand almost all the early corn is, this year, ill-filled, poor and half-useless; only the cold corn being good. In the turnips also there were deficiencies; and as for the potatoe crop, that is utterly gone, not worth digging; here and in Ireland and everywhere it is totally rotten and lost! If it were not for Indian meal, the Irish would be in a dreadful state; some five millions of them absolutely without food or means: but there is plenty of Maize corn in the Earth, and this year the Government has very wisely decided that the Country Gentlemen shall cess themselves, and procure work for the Irish Peasants, so that no willing labourer may be without means of keeping himself alive!2 We consider here that the Potatoes are about as good as gone altogether, and not to be depended on any longer as an article of food;—which will make a most complex affair for the governing parties in years coming. What to do with a people whom you have no potatoes to give, and who have wages like ours? A grave question indeed!—All thro' Annandale, this year, there are such wages as were never seen before; the great Railway rapidly in progress, 3 and 6 pence a-day for a spademan: but the poor wretches only drink more whiskey with it, make themselves greater brutes with it! Indeed most of them are Yorkshiremen; all the labour in Annandale is nothing like sufficient for the job: and in about another year it will be done.— O dear Brother, I am at the bottom,3 and nothing is yet said!—

Jack has come thus far with me; for I am going round by Ayr and Belfast (in Ireland) to vary the route a little; and do not yet expect to be home for about a fortnight. Jack as you know has been at Scotsbrig for several months; our Mother seems to be rather the better for him; and he does not yet see any way of being busy to better purpose than there. I wish we saw him settled some where poor fellow.— Jenny came down, to assist during my stay at Scotsbrig; I doubted we were too crowded about our poor Mother, and did her harm with our confusions; but she would not let us say it. Jenny is to stay yet a week; Jack sees me away here, and then returns. All are well and seemingly doing well here. The like at Gill, where we saw them yesterday; busy inning4 and mowing. All join in the kindest affection to you. Write immediately, if you have not written by this Packet just arrived. Adieu dear Brother. / T. Carlyle