April 1849-December 1849

The Collected Letters, Volume 24


TC TO JANE WELSH CARLYLE; 2 September 1849; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18490902-TC-JWC-01; CL 24: 210-214


Glen Truine House, Kingussy / 2 Septr, 1849—

My Dearest, what can I do but write to you, even if I were not bound by the natural law of the wayfarer? It is my course whenever I am out of sorts or in low spirits among strangers; emphatically my case just now, in this closet of a House among rains and Highland moors, with a nervous system all “dadded about” by Coach travel, rail travel, multiplied confusion, and finally by an almost totally sleepless night! Happily this closet is my own for the time being; here is paper, here are pens and the invaluable writing-case: I will tell my woes to poor Goody; well do I know that, in spite of prepossessions, she will have some pity for me. I must not write a Jeremiade either; I will try to write a history, and that in my present mood seems lamentable to a sufficient extent. That you, my own dear, should be perhaps sorrowing lest I be too happy here; and that my actual quantum of “happiness” should be what it veritably is, in fruition and outlook: this is of itself Jeremiade enough!— My table too is only about 18 inches broad; so that, in spite of the writing-case, the chance of free penmanship is much abridged.

Farie and I, after that dolorous dumb parting, got along to Perth, with the usual steam-phenomena; sad enough in spirit, one of us; and Farie, poor fellow, mumbled something of “tendencies to suicide” which he seemed to have been turning over in his head. Pipes were not procurable in Perth, nor good tobacco; the George Inn moreover was found full, and we had to retire upon another (the “Salutation,” good luck to it!), in which beside the glare and suffocation of gas, gas in the very bedrooms, and of nasty bagmen tearing up their suppers, there seemed nothing to be had but a tumbler of brandy-punch (water tepid, as usual), and apartments that promised little sleep. We walked long in the streets till the noises had subsided: poor Farie gave me his blessing, and took the worst of the rooms; I put out my dirty gas, tumbled into bed, and being dead wearied, slept a deep stony sleep till the Boots next morning roused me with “five o'clock, Sir!” I slipt the half-paid bill with a pencil-marking under Farie's door, and at a quarter to six was smoking on the Coach-roof, numberless importunate porters and other incommodities all well behind me. You may fancy what the route to Dunkeld and Kinnaird was, new to me after five and twenty years! The fat old Landlord at Dunkeld grown grey & much broader, was the only known living creature. A still, Olive-coloured mist hung over all the country; Kinnaird and the old House, which was my sleeping-place, when I used to write to you,1 were grayly discernible across the River amid their trees: I thought of the water hen you have heard me mention, of the pony I used to ride, of the whole world that then lived,—dead now mostly, fallen silent forevermore even as the poor Bullers are, and as we shall shortly be! Such reflexions, when they do not issue pusillanimously, are as good as the sight of Michael-Angelo's Last Judgement,2 and deserve their place from time to time. Killiecrankie (which is the beautifullest mountain pass I have ever yet seen)3 lay dim and soft in the hazy light; pleasant after breakfast; my companions were an Eskdale or Roxburghshire grazier or shepherd, who alighted at many inns for a glass of whisky; and a fat entirely ignorant Yorkshire cockney, voracious of salmon, and furnished extensively with private edibles,—a totally ignorant man, staring wide-eyed over “this is the Highlands”: an ancient woman rode with us some miles, an Eskdale or other such grazier's widow (as I fancied), going some “picturesque tour”: sad people all; I myself sat by the Driver, and except some service to the old woman, whose look and accent rather touched me, held my peace, looking around and within. At Blair Athol4 the old woman got down to wait for a son-in-law (as one could gather); and here my prior knowledge of the country ended, and all beauty of ditto along with it. Wild bare moor, growing ever wilder, no mountains either to speak of, and the rocky Garry5 not better than many a Galloway burn; the scene altogether was not better than that about Crook Inn and Moffat-wards,6 to which it bore some resemblance in fact. Finally the top waters of Tay were reached,—Dalna-spiedel7 where those mighty hunters at Linlathen had been;—and the “Truine,” tributary of the Spey began to testify that we were now in Invernessshire. Hitherto all had gone well, or no worse than anticipation; but from this point matters began rather to decline. At the Ashburton “Bothy,” a bare new Farm-house (to appearance, Hunting cot, in fact) very bare, unfurnished-looking and near the road, no face shewed itself, except one within window; a coarse man's in the act of being washed: the Coachman said, their carriage came almost daily down there, but today there was none;—I had to do the other eleven miles therefore, with little prospect but that of meeting strange “gunner-bodies,” and diminished prospects of the one thing desirable, repose. About 2 o'clock, they shewed me “Glen Truine House,” a rather foolish-looking turretted diminutive-pretentious, grey granite House, standing half a mile off, on a shelf among the Hills to the left; a scene really not unlike the Crook; for Spey and Truine join here, and the country is rather an undulated plain, or very broad valley, with no high Hills but one near by: a bare country, for the rest, and by no means a garden of Eden in any aspect whatever! The “gillie that was to wait for me” was by no means waiting; he “mistook the time,” nothing but solitary bare moor was waiting: I took the next cottage, left my goods there; walked, found nobody (as usual): in brief. Oh Goody, Goody, it was 4 o'clock before I actually found landlord, 4½ landlady (I walking all the while with no refection but cigars); 5 before I could get hold of my luggage; and eight (after vain attempts at sleep, amid noises as of a sacked city) before any nourishment (for which indeed I had no appetite at all) was ministered to me. From the hospitalities of the great world, even when kindly affected to us,—good Lord deliver hooz!8 Stanley (Eddisbury), just about mounting his gig for departure when I came, kept me talking two full hours, and roving about on foot “to find the people,” before he went away: that talk, such as it was, is the sensiblest I have yet had, or am like to have here soon.— In fact, when I think of The Grange and Bath House and Addiscombe, and consider this wretched establisht, and £500 for two months of it, I am lost in amazement. The House is not actually much beyond Craigenputtoch (say two Craigenputtochs ill-contrived and ill-managed), nor is the prospect in a higher ratio; and for “society,” really Corson,9 except that he was not called “Lord,” and had occasionally his “forehead all elevated into inequalities,”10 Corson I say was intrinsically equal to the average of gunner bodies! Oh Jeannie dear, when I think of our poverty even at the poorest, and see this wealth, which do you imagine I prefer? The two Lords we have here are a fat “Sidney,” a sensual proud-looking man, of whom or his genesis and environment I know nothing, and like as well to know nothing; and then a small leanish Canning (Adventurer Canning's son, whom I angered much at the Panizzi Committee); neither of whom, speaking only of “birds,” is worth a doit to me. Their wives are polite elegant-looking women;11 but hardly beyond the Belcher range, not a better tho' a haughtier. Poor Lord Ashburton looks rustic and healthy, but seems more absent and oblivious than ever; a few reasonable words with me seem as if suddenly to awaken him to surprised remembrance. Young Lord Bath you know; merchant Mildmay (H's brother),12 really one of the sensiblest figures here, he and Miss Emily Baring (is Emily the long-nosed blonde one?)13 make up the lot. And we are crammed like herrings in barrel; the two lads are in one room; this apartt of mine, looking out towards Aberdeenshire and the brown wavy moors, is 9 feet by seven, a French bed, and hot water was not to be had “from scarcity of jugs”;—and I awoke after an hour and a quarter's sleep, near 2 a.m; and one of these peers of the realm, Canning I think, snored audibly to me beside his peeress thro' the wall; and, except two whiffs of 'bacco, what comfort had I (except it might be patience and reflexion) all night, till 10, when a cup of tea became attainable?— In fact, it is rather clear I shall do no good here, unless things alter exceedingly! I mean to petition to be off to the “Bothy” tomorrow, where at least will be some kind of silence;14 I must go, and will, if I miss another night of sleep, and have to dine again at 8, amid talk of “birds”:—and on the whole, so soon as I can get what little bit of duty I had discovered for myself to do here done, the sooner I cut cable or lift anchor for other latitudes, I decidedly find it will be the better! Pity me what thou canst, poor little soul; or laugh at me if thou wilt: Oh if you could read my heart and whole thought at this moment, very surely there is one sad thing you would cease to do henceforth!— But enough of all these sad maiseries, which indeed I partly myself laugh at; for really I am wonderfully well today; and have this impregnable closet, with a window that pulls down and the wide Highland moors before me, worth looking at for once; and shall get out of this adventure handsomely enough, if I miscalculate not, by and by. Milnes is to be here in a day or two, and these Lords of Parliament with their gun-boxes & retinues are to go: the coach also both to Perth and to Inverness passes daily, Sundays excepted;—and we shall know “shooting-lodges” for the time to come!

Will this find my poor little woman tomorrow evening or when? O my little child, dismiss your anger against me (I deserve no anger, nor is your grief founded on any fact at all): good Heavens, let me have my home in your heart, where alone I can have any, even as before from of old!— Yesterday I wrote a word to John, you were to have followed; but in half an hour unexpectedly the cry arose, “Post, post!” Either at Haddington or else at Scotsbrig you shall very soon hear from me again God keep you, dearest. I said to John, “Thursday or Friday” for Scotsbrig.— The rain is off, and I shall walk. Adieu, dear woman

T. Carlyle

Do not forget my respects and sympathetic regards to the good Miss Donaldsons; say also how I wished and purposed to come, and you forbade And write soon; something comfortable if you have it; if not, something other.