August 1857-June 1858

The Collected Letters, Volume 33


JWC TO TC ; 7 August 1857; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18570807-JWC-TC-01; CL 33: 12-14


Auchtertool—Friday [7 August 1857]

Oh my Dear! I am going to put you off with another scrap; tho besides my promise of a deliberate letter today, there is come a nice good letter from you to be answered. It is not physical inability however that hinders at present. I slept last night after my “dreadful gripe,” and feel better, for the moment. But just before your letter came, Walter offered me a drive to Kircaldy, and as I cant take walking exercise just now, I thought a drive would be a “great advantage”1 besides that it would give “an opportunity to the Post office,” after the London Mail came in. So I welcomed the proposal “in my choicest mood”;2 and went up stairs to write to you why I wasn't writing in case you should fancy me worse; and to put my things on— when what should follow me but your letter? Most unexpected blessing! for a girl who was sent to Kircaldy last night, to bring “suet and plumsfor an improvised dinner-party here today, was told by me to ask at the Post office, and brought the parcel of photographs &c but no letter—how a letter can have arrived since, I dont understand the least in the world. I was very glad of even the photographs last night, tho' the Study is horrible to see! So black that it gives one the idea of a dungeon more than anything else, and, Oh my! so disorderly that I felt a wild impatience to be there redding it up a bit.3 Tait gives me the idea of a man going mad rather than gathering sense. The little figures under the awning however are charming—and one wont grudge him a little “fame” for these—“a hundred years hence”4

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The attic study, by Robert Tait, 1857
Reproduced from Reginald Blunt, The Carlyles' Chelsea Home (1895)


I am better situated in material respects than I was at first here—Maggie having seen with her eyes the bad effects produced on me by their distracted way of living, now makes a point of giving me my meals early and regularly—which is not hard to do—since I “want but little here below,”5 in the shape of food— Also I myself have been driven by pressure of circumstances from my usual modesty and actually express my likings and dislikings with a certain Oliver Twist boldness.6— So I shall I do very well till the insipid offspring with two nurses arrive on the scene—and then having given it due lyrical recognition and congratulated the mother7 on having done what England expected of her and more8—I may be off to Morningside with at least no harm done— I had been thinking of Portobello myself—or rather Anne Welsh had suggested that expedient for combining comfort with sea bathing— I shall see—(as the blind man said)

As for Scotsbrig—really if John and his boys9 were a hundred miles off I shouldnt go there at this rush!— If I went to Scotsbrig I should have to go to Thornhill—where I have been pressed to come for months back—and to other places—a fatigue and excitement that I shudder at the thought of, in my present weak state— Morningside where I am really made very comfortable and treated very affectionately and a little more of Sunnybank—where I must go, having promised—(one doesnt break promises to people upwards of eighty) will be quite as much “change of air” as I can possibly be the better for— Surely the heat in London can't last much longer—here it has never been warm enough to dispense with a fire!—

God keep you—excuse this hurried scrawl—

Yours affectionately

Jane W Carlyle