The Collected Letters, Volume 27


TC TO JANE WELSH CARLYLE ; 30 July 1852; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18520730-TC-JWC-01; CL 27: 192-195


Linlathen, 30 july, 1852

Dear little Bairn, you are on the road to Sherburne today; sweeping prosperously, I hope, thro' green and yellow fields under the pure summer sky: and I will send you a word of remembrance to reach you there before you leave again. Your Letter came duly yesterday morning,—the Newspapers the evening before (there being an incidental messenger at the Post-Office that evening);—I meant to write yesterday, but about noon there came other arrangements from without in upon me, and I reflected that today would answer equally well.

You say nothing about your sleep this time; which does not, unluckily, permit me to infer a quite favourable state of matters on that side; all the less, as you suddenly take up a resolution to tell me nothing of all the subsequent tumults which the carpenters &c may occasion in your domestic establisht! This is a very rash and unsound resolution, I do perceive; and my express instruction is, that you do faithfully send me account of all things: you need not fear their being too oppressive here; the contrary, with one's imagination busy, is what would be truly oppressive.— Above all things, if you could get any light from Morgan and from your own experience combined with him, as to the grand question, About what time he actually will (if he prosper) be about preparing to evacuate our poor premises? The “six weeks” he talked of are nearly gone already, and belong [to]1 the realm of youthful fables. A practical answer in prosaic approximate fact is very needful for us, however. We cannot know how to arrange our motions at all till that is in some measure known. For example, my “ten days,”—which I must not extend very much, for fear of trespass on the invisible sacred fences,—are fast running to an end; will be fairly over when you return: in Annandale, with John there, I evidently cannot long hold out, or even try to hold out: for the Ferguses &c I feel not the slightest capability in my present humour: What then will the bare hand do? It seems to me Morgan's answer will much determine what motives there are for the German journey. Travelling, of all kinds, grows more and more horrible to me; nor do I yet quite see that there lies in Fredk alone sufficient motive to lead me into such a set of sufferings and expenses; but if the thing cd be so settled that, since we must travel somewhere, a travel to Germany might immediately follow this Scotch one (say three weeks hence, not later), that might evidently be a grand consideration in determining the business. Or on the other hand, shall we cower into some hole, the nearest best, and give up Germany to the winds. I am very weary of all locomotion, of all jargon-talk with my indifferent brethren of mankind: “she said, I am aweary! I'm very very weary,”2—truly so could I say;—and Neuberg's curtainless beds, with the Rankes, Varnhagens and other gabbling creatures one will meet there, are not very inviting!— Question Morgan, however, and still more your own prophetic gift of human intelligence; at [least]3 let us see a little what our capabilities are.

It is now a week since I came hither; and the b[i]lious4 turmoils are only now beginning to subside, and a kind of new regularity to supervene; tho' the circumstances surely have been altogether favourable. Better weather never came from the sky; kinder landlords (tho' the wearisome is in permanence here, I think), nor better lodging, no man need wish. Yet so it is. Only by dint of spending my day almost all sub dio [under the heavens], most part of it in solitude, and with other good precautions, have I managed so far. These last 2 nights are the first in which I have got into tolerable sleeping &c: and in general if I am quiet, we cannot yet boast much of our “joyous existence” in these parts!— The fact is, there have come certain Oliphants (Indian Major with wife and boy); a sister of Sir D. Dundas, and other incidentals;5 and the talk of them is not an improvement to the solitary self-consuming soul! But we ought to be thankful too;—and are, in fact, a grumbling bad man, after a sort.

Let me not forget to say that your little Deptford mission, so soon as I shewed it to Thomas, was cheerfully undertaken by him; and a letter was straightway sent off to Admiral Stuart (?), not by Erskine himself, but by one of these people (the Dundas, I think, a Widow “Robertson,” or the big Oliphant, an Indian Director) who knows the Admiral better than E. does. As I could give them no account of Dodd (?), and yet had charged them to send his letter back to you,—they inclosed the said Dodd letter in an open cover with your Address, then the Admiral may study it, along with all the testimony I could give; and after that, he will doubtless seal it, send it to the Post-Office, and so restore it with at least symbolical response.6

Yesterday our call was to St Andrews: I had said I shd like to see it; and the good T. took order in Dundee as to the time of trains &c;—and in fine yesterday, rather on the sudden at last, it was decided all the males of us (Oliphant père and fils, with T. and I) shd get under way instantly (it was now noon), and so end the infinite discussion there seemed like to be about it,—about noddies for it, about &c &c! We went: and I have seen St Andrews, and brought away a picture of it, which shall be yours some good evening yet;—an interesting picture, and really not an unpleasant day; tho' nearly all the good I got was when left to sit down in silence (which I sedulously contrived), and on the whole when well let alone. We called on Brewster;7 happily found him gone out. We had to talk long with a certain Professor Alexander (a deaf, hollow-voiced but good simple old man);8 we saw the ruins of the Castle (Cardinal Beaton's window there),9 ruins of the grand Cathedral illustrious graves round it;10 of the three old Colleges11 (inhabited by human Owls mostly);—looked at the poor old city with its Berlin-wool shops, and its lanes of rizzard haddocks:—the place is wholly changed since I saw it 30 years ago; become quite modern (on account of the immense Bell School bequeathed to it,12 which has brought all manner of widows, half-caste Indians &c): the streets are full of bathers, sketching, promenading young ladies,—and the chief commodity for sale seemed (as I hinted) Berlin wool.13— Oh Goody, Goody, O my Goody, have pity on me, and be patient with me! My heart is very lonely sometimes in this world.

But you will write when you come home, if there be no good opportunity, sooner. Poor good Mrs Macready, she also makes my heart very wae. If there be any proper method pray let her understand my sympathy, my affection and continual remembrance. A gentler heart than hers seldom lived in this world. And give Mr M'Cready my kindest regards.— Eheu, eheu! Man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets.14

Today Erskine and Director Oliphant (who is a very good brisk sort of thickskinned man and Indian Major, with a prettyish English wife who can sing Scotch songs) are for a drive and a call upon a Sir Something Ogilvie15 (whom perhaps you remember my once calling on when you were here); and I, asked by E. and assenting out of politeness,—shall contrive “not to”; a bathe in the honest salt-water (possible abt that time of day, and by no means always) being much more useful to me; not to say that one repugns from “calling” upon little Lairds and Baronlets, except for reason shewn. This man truly was very amiable in his place; but I don't “desire his acquaintance.

We had Miss Graham of Duntroon at dinner here;16 a quite commonplace-looking, steeve shrewd Scotch Leddy; but certainly with a wonderful talent of wild humour in her,—as her stories, of her hoaxing Jeffrey &c &c, whh she told on due solicitation, made evident to me. I looked at the little sturdy Scotch figure with a kind of real wonder.

There is the luncheon gong; to which repast I never go. It is time I were out again with my German book;—then off to bathe. The gooseberries, cartloads of them, are come, but not of tempting flavour; I have only eaten once: 'bacco is a safer card.— —Adieu, my own dear Jeannie. God bless thee forever.

T. Carlyle