April 1848-March 1849

The Collected Letters, Volume 23


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE ; 11 September 1848; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18480911-TC-JAC-01; CL 23: 106-110


The Grange, 11 Septr, 1848—

My dear Brother,

Thanks for your long good Letter, which we read here with great satisfaction.1 Letters arrive in the morning, by a rider from Alresford, before we are up; they go in the evening;—and in general it seems the rule that for every kind of place (South as well as North) we are a day later than London. To me very few Letters come; on the whole, as few as I can manage: but news from Scotsbrig are distinguished for me, independently of this, from all other news. Right thankful am I to hear what you report of my dear good Mother. O take care of her; take her out and give her a drive when the weather favours,—that always used to do her good;—at any rate, a little walk to the Fairy Brae, up the Moor, or as far as she will go, this you can always manage when it is not absolutely raining.— Jamie seems to have begun his harvest the very day we came hither; we hope he is getting fast on, tho' if your weather is like ours there must be many interruptions. Our bright Southwest weather, gave place to broken grey some days ago, ushering itself in with thunder; and last night there came on a heavy tempest of wet and wind, which has ended for the present in a cold brisk wind from the North with the clearest sunshine: excellent so long as it will last. Even here the harvest does not seem by any means finished: I noticed on Saturday various fields uncarried; one large field of oats, all raked into coils, as the fashion is here, and the people busy at it with their waggons, but hardly seeming to work so fiercely as I have seen in Scotland on occasion. A man told us certainly an “eight part” of the average crop was wanting this year.

As for our own life in this grand mansion, it is one of total idleness, and has in it scarcely anything one can call an event for a penny letter. It is a sumptuous elaborate representation, which has to be transacted, seemingly, for its own sake; no result attained by it, or hardly any, except the representation itself. To one like me it would be frightful to live on such terms! But happily that is not my lot; and for a few days it may answer well enough.

We rise about 8; a valet, who waits here, is charged not to disturb me unless I call till half past eight; but he comes whenever I ring, and that is almost always before the ultimate limit of time. Shaving, dressing, bathing, all deliberately done, last three quarters of an hour. I have an excellent high and dry room, two rooms if I needed; with three windows looking out into the woods and lawns, which are very pretty with their big sough and the sun shining on them from the right (for I look towards the North); a huge old-fashioned bed with curtains (which latter is a rare blessing), and a degree of quietness which cannot be surpassed. Were it not the unwholesome diet, which I try to mend and manage, one might sleep to perfection here! Sleep, in fact, is one's best employment at present; and I often do a snatch of it, even in the day time.— Before nine, as I said, we are out, most of us, I eastward, into a big portico that looks over lake and hillside towards the rising sun,—where among the bushes I have a pipe lodged, which I light and smoke, sauntering up and down, joined by Jane if she can manage it, much to my satisfaction. Jane lodges some doors from me, also in two pretty rooms which look out under this same portico; unless the weather is bad, she generally joins me on smoking occasions. Breakfast is at half-past nine; where are infinite flunkies, cates, condiments, very superfluous to me, with much “making of wits” (as Bölte calls it), and not always a very great allowance of grave reason. That ends in about an hour. From that till 2 o'clock I continue trying (rather faintly) to keep private in my own room; but do not always succeed. To go down into the drawing-room is to get into the general whirl, and renounce even the hope of reading to any purpose. At 2 is luncheon, my share of it a glass of water; and gradually after that, all go for “exercise”; the women generally to drive, the men to ride,—for which end there are, within the Park and without, innumerable conveniences,—roads, cross-roads, “green alleys” and gravel ones, woods, downs, &c &c too tedious to mention! Last Saturday I had the pleasantest ride of all, being left entirely to myself, so I went and explored the country round Alresford, and the pleasant village itself (about the the size of Lockerby, but much cleaner and prettier); I looked into many little cottages, with their scoured floors and trim dressers; all looked bright both in town and field in the beautiful autumn afternoon,—and the mind of man went wandering on all manner of thoughts. Another day I went with Lord A. to a Justice meeting (Petty Sessions, I believe they call it); saw all the Publicans get their “licences” (really a good looking class of rustic citizens, many of them in leather leggins and white smocks), saw lastly a “case of bastardy” tried, old father, young daughter with superfluous infant, and putativ[e] author of do, who did not deny, but merely pleaded utter poverty,—a really tragical and miserable scene, all the parties looked so miserable! Another day we rode, certain of us, to the scene of Cheriton Battle, or Alresford Battle, a once famed Fight, between Waller and Hopton in 1644,—of small importance now.2 I have read a little mainly in Bohn's Book (Joinville, Vinsauf)3 and the Newspapers; I am to ride over and see Helps, some 14 miles off, one of these days;4—in short I am utterly idle, and my history amounts to the “blash [watery stuff]” you have just now read! Of our Company I need not say much; it comes and goes, and does not often leave much trace behind it. Lady Sandwich (Lady H's Mother) is a most cheery old Dame, full of private history if you set her going; there is also a young Lady, a Miss Ferrer (or Mitford,—Greek Historian's grand-daughter, if I rightly understand),5 who has been much in Paris, and “has converted five Baptists” (to the “nominal” Church, at which feats there has been much laughing lately); a rather pretty, rather reasonable, and most cheerful and agreeable young soul: she has gone to Town today (to attend a dinner,—only 60 miles!) and does not return till Wednesday. It is said “the Greys” are coming, I know not exactly when, then “the Taylors” are coming,6 or the Taylor and Helps to meet him, &c &c nichts zu bedeuten [it does not matter]: and so we will at last leave all that. Jane continues pretty well in health, decidedly better than when in London; is a little ill off for heat sometimes, being unwilling to light the fire in her room. I think she wrote to you one day, but I do not yet hear of any answer.— “Helen,” old Kirkcaldy Helen Mitchell writes yesterday or Saturday, to say that her “shop” &c at Kirkcaldy is all in failure,7 and that she is just coming to London again to seek a place! Jane is strongly tempted to take her back again; and indeed I suppose will end by doing that. The poor unfortunate little tick of an Helen has gone thro' her fine-Ladyism at Dublin, her “shop” at home in Fife, and ends after a long circuit where she began! Better so than worse.

I shall be very anxious to hear what Hope Johnstone has made out in regard to the Station. Dr Arnott, I think, is the man that shd have a “deputation” wait upon him!8 You really must not let the matter perish if you can save it.— Tell me also, if you can, that poor Miss Graham is well again. Poor old Grahame, it would be a terrible stroke to him if anything befel there!9— — I need not say how glad we are to hear of Jamie's recovery. I think a strict medical order of teetotalism might perhaps have a very good effect there?

A set of people called “White Quakers”10 (of whom I know not whether you have ever heard) invite me to come over and see their sublime brotherly establisht, “within five miles of Dublin on the Naas road”; where they are “organising labour” at a great rate. Your cover will not now hold their epistle. I must answer it today by some mild No. And therefore adieu, dear Brother,—and answer soon and at large; and give our blessings and love to all, from my dear Mother down to Jenny's youngest bairn, or that other with the blue eyes who “has no sense” yet. Write soon and plentifully. Ever your affectionate

T. Carlyle