The Collected Letters, Volume 27


TC TO JANE WELSH CARLYLE ; 9 August 1852; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18520809-TC-JWC-01; CL 27: 212-215


Scotsbrig, 9 Augt, 1852—

Thanks, dear little Goody, for your copious entertaining Narrative of your adventures; which, if it failed at Linlathen, was duly lying here to welcome me when I arrived on Saturday evening. Your expedition to the west had its romantic ups and downs for the Doggie and you; all ending handsomely, however: certainly in the annals of modern courtesy it would not be easy to parallel that of the galloping barouchette; we may say, in a superficial sense, the age of chivalry is not gone!— Poor Mrs Macready, that image of your parting with her is very sad. But it was a pious debt you had to pay, this journey you have made; and we hope it will have done you nothing but good either outwardly or inwardly. You had a dreadful quarry of noise and dust and mad confusion to return to; which is quite appalling to myself whenever I think of it; which, in the present windbound state of our affairs, is a thing I very often or indeed almost continually do. Catch me consenting to a “thorough reparation” ever in my life again! What to do in the business I cannot yet in the least decide; and yet decided it must be before we are many days older.

At one o'clock on Friday last, an hour after the last letter I wrote you, Erskine and Farie (faithful escorts, who however cost me a hottish walk instead of riding) put me on board the railway steamer at Broughty; and in less than two hours more, after no adventure, or experience except that of sadness, solitude (beside two innocent stupid human beings, male and female) and on the whole oppression and ennui, Fergus and Royd1 were to be seen waiting for me on the Kirkcaldy Platform; and there I alighted, to pause for exactly 24 hours, for my only good train (it turned out) was this one I was now quitting. All was very high and grand in the Fergus house, and I may say extremely kind,—had it not been so “undeniably dull,” aggravated now by the suspicion that I think it dull,—heigho! However, the afternoon was dry and airy; F. and I walked westward along the beach, and I had one other nice bathe, in a delightful cove among rocks: seven o'clock came at last; the Royds were very quiet, no other company,—nothing wrong with the butter either;—and on the whole the time rolled tolerably along. Mrs Royd, who has much more female talent than most of the Ferguses, sang Scotch songs: an exquisite voice, better than any Lind's, I thought, but spoiled by ornamental flourishings, super-refinements and want of true intellect: she sang Coolun with such melody as was never heard, and yet poor Goody's play of it on the Piano witht any singing is a better thing.2 Huhu! Why do I speak irreverently of those good people; their treatment of me was the pink of courtesy, nay even of kindness that might have been called Samaritan had it not been so splendid. Eliz. Pepoli speaks of coming home next summer; terribly plagued with that old Picture-cleaner Lawsuit, otherwise well, and desiring to hear of you.3 At parting Miss Jessie with emphasis recommended herself to the same graceful individual;—and in short, after an abstemious lunch, intended to serve as dinner, I took myself successfully enough, and got once more (thanks God!) into the element of silence and something that at least seemed to be leading towards business. Of course I “remembered” Auchtertool; but in the present lie of circumstances, and mood of my own stomach and heart, there seemed no possibility,—and will explain when Jack goes.

In Edinr I loitered 55 minutes by the clock,—day fine, but defective in wind,—no soul visible, or clearly conceivable, whose acquaintance I desired or had ever had: of mortal man only old Dr Monroe4 and (as I now bethink me, for at the time I did not rightly heed it and had only an unpleasant feeling of surprise and riddlemaree) Lord John Russel, those were the only creatures I had ever seen before. However, I had a cigar; and I decided to walk with it in the Grassmarket (unvisited for 30 or 40 years), and to see, if you can believe it, the West Bow again where poor Goody (not the Goody I now have to me) bought a snuff mull long ago. Alas, the West Bow itself has taken wings, there is now no West Bow, but a broad fashionable kind of Circus, with worsted-shops, print-shops, and I almost think a kind of Terrace: much has taken wings! On the shady side of the Grassmarket, however, I had seen groups of lazy dirty women and children squatted on the flagstones, cheerfully gossiping, who seemed to be possibly rather “happy,”—poor little Jeffrey, gone too, all gone!— It was on the N. Bridge that I saw Lord Johnny; in the train itself Monroe (very ugly and baggy) who got out at Slateford, intending apparently, like several others, some Sunday amid the Pentlands5 in some neat box handy by. Of the rest of my journey I say nothing; except that a vile waiting-place, “Carstairs” I think, where we hung on for 25 minutes, waiting for other trains, and without leave even to smoke, I saw from my window a bluenosed enigmatic figure, amid the simmering crowd making toward some refresht-room, who, in the act of passing me, plainly disclosed himself as John Gordon; to whom, in my horrible state of torpor, I did not make sign, alarmed at the starting of speech in such a moment; and we were gone before he reappeared. Alas, has not life tragedies in it? At this station, when the Glasgow trains did arrive, I got two inmates into my carriage: a foolish loll of an old Cumberland gigwoman and her foolish old fishing and touring gigman of a husband; who were in open quarrel, at least the wife was, and quite in the wrong too (mark that); by whom the rest of the journey was made still duller and more mephitic, and especially the prospect I had had of a cigar was totally cut off! I declined any conversation (to speak of); but sat silently looking out upon the moors and the setting sun, and infinite space and the worlds of memory and eternity; and so, after some dashing showers, which all ended about Lockerby, I found Jamie on the station-platform with a gig hard by; welcome tea under this roof about 9 p.m.,—and so here I am, at another point of my program. Since I began writing there has come a Note, thro' Linlathen, from Countess Blanche; I could not have gone (tell her if you write) in the mood I was in; and am happy to be off, which you needn't tell her.

My poor old Mother is wonderfully brisk these two days, her eyes quite bright and lively, tho' evidently she is feebleness's self. Isabella is weakly too; and I believe goes soon off to Whinnyrigg for “sea-air.” Margt Austin takes charge now upstairs; and to her I, by invisible but strict laws of the place, am mainly assigned; a change by no means in my favour. Jack has not yet showed face; is about Moffat, after gratis “patients”: both Jamie and my Mother seem a little tired of these gratis patients, of this incessant jingling after nothing at all. Jack however, poor good soul, finds it infinitely important and a quite interesting rural existence. He has trimmed all the outskirts of Scotsbrig into a really neat, railed planted condition, and beautified this his own room very much, where I have lodged these two past nights,—where however there is a sad smell of paint, defect of the old ventilation, and no good sleep procurable hitherto. He comes this evening; I shift into the other room. He is for Fife and a “consultation at Auchtertool,” as he wrote, in a day or two hence. My inner man (so-called) is very ill off here hitherto; and I mean to resume my compress, which I had been obliged to lay aside ever since leaving home.— This is all, dear Jeannie mine; surely this is enough!

Of Germany &c I will say nothing, indeed can say nothing, till I get time to reflect. My heart shudders at any kind of travelling, with such nerves and such digestion as I have. But somewhither, it appears, we must go; and kind of faint call of duty seems to point towards Germany rather. But it will never do to leave you behind me: you surely deserve this one little pleasure, since it is going; there are so few that you can get from me in this world! If we go, therefore, it is we, not I; so far I see. But how to go? Curtainless beds, noisy sleepless nights—Neuberg himself is rather formidable to me! For indeed I am very weak at present, much disheartened, dyspeptical, and in fine contemptible (as I often urge) in some degree! “Ye must just excuse us the—day.”— — To Gully's I cannot think of returning; especially for so long a time, nor indeed to Malvern much at all. But a rustic village “somewhere” might be truly agreeable! More next time.

My poor old Mother comes in with her anxious sincere old face: “Send my love to Jane, and tell her” (this with a waeish tone) “I wad like richt weel to have a crack wi' her,”—“once mair,” she phrased it last night, the good old woman.

Adieu dear little Goody; I hope there will be something for tomorrow again or soon. I am tired with this small Note today.

Yours ever /

T. Carlyle