October 1856-July 1857

The Collected Letters, Volume 32


JWC TO THOMAS CARLYLE ; 14 July 1857; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18570714-JWC-TC-01; CL 32: 183-185


Haddington [14th July 1857]

Good morning Dear! I wonder if you are “quite happy and comfortable” this morning? or—what shall I say?—“ConTRAIRy”? Perhaps I may have a letter by the midday post; your last came by it— But it is best, in my own writing, to take time “by the forelock”; his pig-tail is so apt to come away in one's hand!1 Indeed I have less time for letter-writing here than might be thought; considering the quiet monotony of the Life. I am “called” at eight by their clock; but in reality at half past seven—and at a quarter after eight (in reality) Miss Jess and I sit down to breakfast—tea, eggs, brownbread, and honeycomb— This is Miss Jess's best talking time, and we sit till ten or so— From that, till eleven; I may write, or darn my stockings, or meditate on things in general in my own room, without being missed. At Eleven, the carriage comes round, and both Ladies go a drive of TWO miles along the Dunbar road!2 I accompany them, and having set them down at their own door again, I go a long drive by myself. That is my chief entertainment during the day. No where in the world that I know of are there such beautiful drives! and I recognise places that I had seen in my dreams! the recollection of them having been preserved in my sleep long after it had passed out of my waking mind!

I come in just in time to change my dress and rest, before dinner at 3— —a dinner always “very good to eat” (as you say) and of Patriarchal simplicity—always strawberries and cream ad libitum! Between dinner and tea (at six) I talk to Miss Donaldson, and I take a little walk—to the churchyard—or some place that I care for—after tea, talking again or I read aloud—excessively ALOUD—(I read them your Nigger Question;3 much to Miss Donaldsons approval and delight) and before supper (of arrowroot milk) at half past nine, I have run down every evening to speak a few words of encouragement to my poor unlawful cousin,4 in her sick bed— I think she would recover if she could overcome the effects of the frightful quantity of mercury5 Mr Howden has given her. My Heavens what my Father would have said to him!— At ten bed!!

I am so grieved to find the Fair6 which used to be held today has turned into a mere cattle-fair. No booths with toys and sweeties! and I had set my heart on buying a pair of waxen Babes of the Wood covered with Moss (by imaginary Robins) in a little oval spale-box which used to be my favorite fairing! Last night however I bought a—hedge hog! from a wee Boy. I thought I might take it home in my carpet bag to eat the cockroaches— Perhaps I will think better of it!—

Imagine! Miss Jess was so inspirited by my presence, that last Sunday she “took a notion” of going to Church!— She had not been there for years!— Of course I had to go with her—as it was to ‘the Chapel’7 I didn't so much mind, I shouldn't have liked to sit in a strange seat in our own church.8

I found the poor little white-washed-bare-boarded Chapel transformed into quite a little blossom of Puseyite taste!9 painted glass windows! magnificent organ!—airs from the opera of Acis & Galatea!!10—the most snow white and ethereal of surplices!11 and David Roughead12 (he of the “fertile imagination”) CHAUNTING his responses, behind us, and singing “a deep bass”—and tossing off his “Ā——MĒNS”! in a jaunty style that gave me a strong desire to box his ears—

Give my compliments to Anne—the usual kiss to my “blessed” dog

Your affectionate /