October 1856-July 1857

The Collected Letters, Volume 32


JWC TO THOMAS CARLYLE ; 30 July 1857; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18570730-JWC-TC-01; CL 32: 209-211


Auchtertool / Thursday [30 July 1857]

Here I am Dear, “hoisted on to the toother ane”1!— The sea was tolerably smooth after all, and I was only mildly sick. Old John2 was waiting with the dog-cart—(Walter is still in Liverpool with Jack3 who has been having a dreadful attack of “rheumatic gout”!) My portmanteau, by dint of furious exertions of my own, was not carried on to “the North.” And I reached the Manse about four o'clock, “all there,” and “this side up”; but horridly jumbled thro’ o'ther, and with a touch of “real mental agony in my own inside”!4 Little Mary is much plumped out since last year; but looks to me still in a nervous weakish way, that any imprudence might aggravate into incurable illness. Maggie is the same little golden-haired impersonation of good-humour and “Practical Endeavour”—And the place is all over roses and knots of ribbon as usual. They seem heartily glad to have me with them; and I had new occasion to admire their hospitable politeness when I found that only a fortnight ago there had been the downbreak of a Cook— and a new one to be sought up. Which fact neither Maggie nor Mary nor Walter made the least allusion to, in the different letters I had at Sunny-Bank from all three of them about my coming! They have a new cook now and hope to “make her do”—Hope springing “eternal in the human mind”5 But when Walter returns (he is expected on Saturday) and recommences with his little improvised dinners (“to thirteen”) I look forward to a new Pronunciamento in the kitchen.

The last cook was a very Free church woman.6 She “came in to Prayers” one Sunday night in her morning gown, with bare arms, and “flopped down on her chair disdainfully” (Maggie said)—Afterwards Maggie mildly remarked to her on her dress and said “you know I like to see you tidy on Sundays”— “Oh,” says Mrs Free Church, “for the matter of that; there is so little difference made in this house between Sunday and the other days of the week, that I quite forgot it was Sunday”!! Whereupon Maggie proposed to her to leave and she cheerfully acceded.

My Aunt Grace came from Morningside in the omnibus with me to see me off— After having settled myself on the omnibus and looked out a little at the lovely Braid Hills;7 my eyes unconsciously fixed on the broad plaid-waistcoated belly of the gentleman opposite me, and next to whom Grace had taken her seat— What a big man, I thought—and glanced from his belly to his face; it was rather handsome—at least very goodhumoured and gentlemanly—or rather gentlemanfarmerly—and with its light brown hair and whiskers, looked younger than the ample belly—which was not however a pot-belly—only a broad stout one— Suddenly Grace having looked at his face also, commenced a hearty shaking of hands with him, and said, “there is Jeanie—Mrs Carlyle—don't you know her?” He held out his hand with a smile and blush in which I recognized Robert MacTurk!8 It was very uncomfortable to have been staring at his belly for five minutes and then to find in him an old lover9— I wished I had sat down any where but just exactly opposite to him— The situation as contrasted with our last interview was so absurd!

He behaved very nicely considering—expressed much “disappointment” felt last summer when he found I had been at Thornhill without his seeing me—and gave me a pressing invitation to visit his wife and him, now or at any time “Poor fellow after all”!

On leaving the omnibus I stumbled on Colonel Hamilton Veitch10—whom I had seen already at Haddington— He is the one nice sane Veitch—of the lot. He had just read the Indian news and said People generally would think it bad, “because Delhi was not already taken and the mutineers already put down— The English being so conceited that they always thought they had nothing to do but walk up to a thing and it would fly before them—”11 But those who knew the country, he said would be only too thankful that Bombay and Madrass were still quiet— All the old Indian officers here abouts have been predicting this outbreak for years and years back.12

I found here a charming letter from Lady Sandwich forwarded from Sunny Bank I will answer it soon—but today I am not up to more writing—having lost my whole sleep last night—

I wonder if you have got the comb and like it— Lady S says you are going with her for a week—13 I am glad to hear it, for I am sure you are overworking yourself— But it will be a capital Book—