July 1847-March 1848

The Collected Letters, Volume 22


TC TO JANE WELSH CARLYLE ; 6 October 1847; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18471006-TC-JWC-01; CL 22: 117-119


Scotsbrig, 6 octr (Wednesday) 1847—

No news today, my dear; no nothing! A heavy wet afternoon, successor of a cold, bleak, spitting morning; the rain almost a relief compared with the iron weather we have had all this while. I have sat all morning “busied,” so goes the phrase, with the “five Newspapers” (not a Letter among them) which awaited me last night: one of the unthriftiest of businesses! I may at least write you a little line, for tomorrow evening's tea; that, if you chance to be expecting it, is as eligible as any other probable investment of a small section of my time. As for news—the Bull, now getting stall-fed, choked himself on a turnip this morning, and lay painfully recovering on the brow of the Linn till lately; that is the most remarkable of the foreign or domestic news we have today. I decided to be idle as a dry bone; and idle to all lengths I am.

Jamie and I came spinning along the dim road last night, thro' the moaning winds and moors, at a great rate: at Hoddam Kirk, flaring with two huge lamps thro' the hollow Night, there met us the brand-new “Accommodation Coach, or Railway Omnibus,” started by an Ecclefechan Citizen of the name of Wullie or Johnnie Scott (known to Jack);1 performing its first diurnal or nocturnal rounds to Annan. Our pony did not shy; but we ourselves almost did,—nothing more astonishing, close by a Churchyard, has fronted me this long time. Shortly after, some rain beginning to spit, it was discovered that we had shed my poor old silk umbrella; left it lying on the edge of some of the dark hills we had come rattling down: three pipes, once stowed safely upon it, were still lying safely in the place; but the poor old umbrella, by superior defect of gravity, had started out, and gone into foreign hands, none knew where! Half-a-crown, I compute, was nearly the value; levity being the one characteristic and chief value of the poor old article to me. About half past eight we were safe here at Scotsbrig; “five Newspapers” waiting us; and so, with tea, small talk and tobacco at discretion, was wound up a melancholy grey, cold day,—to me such; but perhaps not wholly “vacant,” for at least I had plenty of dull sad thoughts and dull sad feelings; and the pleasant day does not always prove the profitablest or the most opulent in the end. Let us take, with equanimity, with thankfulness, the days as they come.

One achievement we did accomplish yesterday: the bringing home of the celebrated “virgin honey.” Here it is, safe so far; a square tin Box, containing 11 pounds (will keep for a year, they say); my poor old Mother's “Memorandum” to you. The edges at the lid of the Box are done, all safe, with gummed paper; perfectly harmless among clothes or whatever else: but there is one grave melancholy question, Whether the Portmanteau can spare so much room? For the size (say, a foot every way) is really considerable. We will do our best. Alas, tomorrow is the packing day, and we have many things to do!— —

—Tea has come upon me, and dark, at this point. I will finish out my poor scrawl; and then go and have a walk, in spite of the rain.

There was one other thing I had to bid thee resolve upon: When the butter is to come, and How much meal we shall have? The butter is now at the best, and meal can be had of approved quality: therefore speak your wishes, speak your will,2 in these small respects.— Poor old Scotsbrig, it is a house of melancholy thoughts to me: a house I am sad to arrive at, sad to quit. As indeed most houses are to an atrabiliar man! Take the “bright side of thy cloud,” as my Mother says.— Did I ever tell you about my Portrait (Laurence's) which is hung up here? It hangs on the left side of the mantel-piece (between mantel-piece and window) in my Mother's bigger room; has a good frame, and a kind of yellow gauze over it; is staringly like, incurably sorrowful and ugly;—made me start every morning, when I saw it first, for a while; but I am grown used to it now. Poor little Postie, the Ecclefechan hero-worshipper, was often at a loss, he told me, to inform people in what house of the village the sublime genius was born. Ach Gott— But, in brief, I must try if I can get to some work again soon; for this dead mud-sea of inarticulate stagnancy is really becoming oppressive. And yet, alas, I see no work close; none yet clear and near: the world is really very huge and very chaotic to me at present

Poor little warmingpan of an Anne! But Postie Piper's exposing of his own wife to such a function is perhaps still more heroic.— Today along with your Letter came one from John; dull, sparse, vague; from which, however, I gather that he was “astonished at your progress in recovery” when he saw you last. My Mother is very anxious to have him here again; as many are. He really ought to come. You made a good hand of your “game”: Geraldine is doubtless eager enough for the Forster verdict:—poor wretches, all of us!— No Letter yet from Spedding; not till tomorrow. I have answered No to Ironside two days ago. I will out into the rain. Adieu my own poor Jeannie. I will try if I can write another word tomorrow, my last from this place at present; after the packing is done. Did you counsel Forster (of Yeadon Seaport)3 to fight shy a little?4 Ever yours T. Carlyle