The Collected Letters, Volume 27


TC TO JANE WELSH CARLYLE ; 13 August 1852; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18520813-TC-JWC-01; CL 27: 223-225


Scotsbrig, 13 Augt, 1852—

Dear Little Goody,—On reflexion, I find that this is the last post of the week; so I may as well write you a word, by way of complement to yesterday's confused story; tho', as is natural, there is not the smallest particle of new occurrence, nor anything in the least strange to be said. I pride myself on the sleep you are to have, on Saturday night, after reading this; and feel what a pleasant anticipation that will be, while you sit at tea with my prophecy of it in your hand! Poor Nero himself, I suppose, must be disturbed out of his natural rest by these commotions; how much more his mistress: truly I am sorry for you; and thank the Old Jews for providing at least one fair chance in the week for the wearied believer. The quantity of (mostly avoidable) physical noise and disturbance, and sad mutual misery therefrom, which human beings have provided for one another, is truly surprising.

Today there reigns the admirablest quiet in this establishment; and out of it the loveliest autumn day that could have dawned. All creatures have gone off to the Lockerby Lamb Fair: more power to their elbow! Even John is gone; intending next for Moffat, or indeed he scarcely knows whither: a most locomotive man, and perhaps the idlest that now fancies himself full of business in this part of her Majesty's dominions. Perhaps he will come back by tomorrow evening's train; perhaps he will go on to Edinburgh; perhaps—?—On the whole, tho' he struggles to be goodnatured to me, and I can now and then get some words of really rational conversation with him (for he, at least, understands everything that is said), I find his continual close-rubbing on me in this narrow household a thing that requires management, and yields but a mixed return. Futile affections, sad memories, much that is futile, and has proved other than one had hoped. Poor soul, I know no such wasted set of faculties in all this world; and wonder withal at the provision Nature has made for keeping him happy and, at little expense, quasi-victorious under that perversity of destiny. “He gets five or six letters aday,” says Jamie, “and I dare say little in them.” Business, forever business: a rattling as of vast floors of nuts continually getting stirred and shovelled,—all deaf. Not a kernel to be met with:—if there be not one perhaps in this of Mrs Watts;1 in whom Isabella pretended to read symptoms? I believe it might well be an improvement: but, as usual, there will in all probability nothing come of it at last. “Poor fellow, after all!” He has a contended,2 cheery thoroughly unmalicious heart; and these are enviable virtues as the world goes.—— Isabella is down to Whinnyrigg, with her oldest and youngest children, since the day before yesterday, “for a week of sea air.” My Mother is reading Luther's Table Talk, and I have got Jack's firm fir-desk in the other end of the house. Margt Austin, a really handy lass, is preparing me two eggs and a mutchkin of curdled milk for dinner at 3; and is so silent one cannot hear her in the absolute noiselessness which otherwise prevails. I sat for a morning's lesson (actually sat today) in the bottom of Scotsbrig linn, on a fine flat crag (where one could lean too, and had a checquer of leaves for shade) in the middle of the gushing burn; the air pure as Heaven: really one of the nicest places, and a kind of bath for one's sick polluted and smoky soul,—a symbolical bath, so clear and pure were all things, a stripe of the immeasureable azure overhead, and tones of Eternity audible amid the solo-singing of the burn. Ach Gott in Himmel, wie reich, und doch wie arm, wie bettel-arm [Ah God in Heaven, how rich, and yet how poor, how destitute]!—

Of Germany I will say nothing more till perhaps monday next. On the whole there is nothing to drive me thither but a kind of shame, and the desire not to be a poor coward. Of pleasure I could expect absolutely none; of pain and disgraceful wretchedness very much. Nor do I care much for quitting even Frederic; really at heart I do not much love him: yet perhaps I could write a goodish kind of Book upon him; and it is disgraceful to be driven away by beds witht curtains, and the freaks of a diseased fancy and exasperated nerves. Early next week I must write to Neuberg, Yes or No. On the whole you could join me just as well, after Silesia, could not you; and that wd give the workers four weeks more of you? Tell me next time, When you could get away with least damage to the workers, or whether not with none by and by?— The grand argument with me, I believe will be necessity; as is usually the case with mortals so circumstanced! No more of it, for one day.

I am sorry to hear of your one good worker being still busy in my room; that surely must be the smallest of his “paintings,”—paintings not the thing most necessary there! However, I leave it all to Goody, I do loyally; and foresee that, one way or other, she will actually make a nice thing of it: she never failed yet, the shifty little creature. But are you putting some clothes-shelves, some Press, or an apparatus for convenient stowage of clothes? Think of that, my ingenious Goody; do not desert me there! I thot once of shelves with a door at the left-hand corner of the fireplace: wd that do anything? The “thot” was cursory, and I pretend only to state the want; by no means to provide for it;—is not that ingenuous? One other thing tell me, and no more: Has Morgan put in that Hole in the cornice; that ventilating cavity, I mean, which is to shut and open from the upper window? If he have forgotten—! But he cannot have forgotten; nor will Goody permit him. Fergus told me, Cubitt's3 plan now is, simply to put a hole thro' the wall above each window; hole free into the air, with a lid at the inner end of it whh you can open or shut with a string. Nothing better; not even my own plan, tho' perhaps as good.— — Oh Goody, Goody, take thy morsel of tea; and may it be drink indeed to thy poor little soul,—and give Nero a drop (very weak and sweetish),—and fling away this rag in peace of mind; and sleep till ten on Sunday morning, like a good bairn. And God bless thee forever.

T. Carlyle

My Mother comes in: “Did ye gie my respects till her?” Poor body, no I didn't, but here now I do.