The Collected Letters, Volume 27


TC TO JANE WELSH CARLYLE ; 23 August 1852; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18520823-TC-JWC-01; CL 27: 244-246


Scotsbrig, 23 Augt, 1852—

Dear little Jeannie,—The rain of the afternoon has cleared, or promises to clear; and I will walk to Ecclefechan with a Note to you; better than nothing in the huge idleness that is now around me and in me!

I did not get your Note yesterday; and did not expect it today, having understood that a call was made at the Post Office, and it was only made at Middlebie, in vain: so about noon today poor Jean came cheerily stepping thro' the stubble with your fine thick packet, and a very thin one from John who was still due from Moffat: right g[l]ad1 was I to hear of Goody, a day sooner than my disappointment prophesied. Jean is gone since; went away at 4 o'clock on a little shelty to join the train at Annan, and has had rain ever since, poor thing; will be home, however, and at her own fireside, in half an hour now, we hope. John too has come, reporting good news (Helen “clearly a little better not very much,” your Uncle brisk and well “for him”): a big portmanteau likewise is here for me, not ordered yet not unacceptable; for the rest, endless babble and bother; and a companionship decidedly inferior, both intellectually and morally, to Jean's. Heigho! I am very weak myself; overclouded with biliary and all manner of dispiritment; and in fact considerably to be pitied and despised just now. We will surely shake away these unworthy tangles nevertheless; and shall get to stand firmly on our soles, if it please Heaven, by and by, for all that!— I awake pretty regularly at six; have not a moment absolutely to myself (for most part) except what I steal; and pass the day in an empty mood of irregular vacancy sorrow and inanity, which is by no means to be commended in a man.

For my German journey I have yet made no preparations; and the day (Saturday first, properly thursday or friday from here) presses on with an odious velocity: all the idle, feeble, and perhaps some of the prudent elements in me cry out, “Why go? Seek shelter in some tub rather, in any solitude where thou couldst sleep, where the whole human species would perhaps be pleased to forget the existence of thee!”— However, I see no way of honourable retreat; I suppose I shall have to go; especially if Neuberg's Letter come with any encouragement in it. My own room at Chelsea, I conclude, is full of paint; no possibility of sleep there; alas, there my cowardice need not look for shelter.— Never mind all this dear Goody mine; it is merely the grumbling incidental to dyspepsia and the load of life; it is on the whole the nature of the beast, and must be put up with as the wind and the rain.

My good old Mother is somewhat better than she was at my first coming; she is still cheerful, even quizzical and has glimmerings of the old fun and genial Scotch laughter when her pressures are lightened; but it take[s] so little to overload her quite, and then the aged soul is bent down to the ground. Jamie, busy with his crop is off nevertheless with Isabella to the wedding of some niece2 in the Dornock (Annanward) region;—hence the failure of a Gig for Jean today:—Jamie is graver much than in past years, but shifts along gallantly[;] Isabella, suffering much, and weak as water to bear it, lies heavy on him, I can surmise; but he carries his various considerable burdens in a composed, truly creditable way, which some of us might learn from if we were apt.— Yesterday I stole out, and under the shade of a spreading ash, a glowing sun and no wind all round, I read Helps's new volume;3 a genial bit bookie,—written in the kind of “good-boy very good” fashion, but really well and almost poetically so far as that will let; and I loved poor Helps for it; and saw him, and his litt[le] books, and his little household, wife4 and pretty little children (so pretty I could eat one of them) with real sympathy and recognition for the moment! I have read nothing else at all but Newspapers once a week, and a German volume and half on Silesia since I came hither.

The Potatoes are all rotting here, heartily and universally for a ten days past; the Earth's produce otherwise is excellt; the weather in general do. Too good for such caitiffs as we generally are; “better than I (for my own share) deserve!”5— — I have made acquaintance, at the foot of the Fairy Brae, with one of the purest wells of water in her Majesty's dominions: poor Jack, two years ago, hewed out a hole for it (the size of a cocked hat, and about that shape too, being semi-egg-shaped); I have established a clean cup in it, and go daily twice or oftener to drink largely; which I find a most medicinal practice, better than all Gully's steepings, tho slight in its amount.

Your account of the House and Operations is tragical, and yet really comical as you put it; Goody has an art in writing, and is a creature of considerable spunk in all situations! It will be got done one day or other; and we shall sit down in peace and thank the genius of Goody. Whom may Heaven bless and reward; as Heaven surely will (for all the good she does) one day or other! And so good night.

Write me again if possible by return of post; and tell me candidly what state my bedroom is in: I do grudge to go to Germany without you, and feel as if half the scheme were gone on that account.

God guide us both; and a good sleep to Goody the night this comes. One (small) bit of sugar to Nero; and so enough.— T. Carlyle