August 1857-June 1858

The Collected Letters, Volume 33


JWC TO TC ; 15 August 1857; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18570815-JWC-TC-01; CL 33: 30-32


Craigenvilla Saturday

[15 August 1857]

Now then, thanks God,1 I am back into the regions of Common Sense! have a nice little “my-foot-is-on-my-native-heath-and-my-name‘s-Macgregor”2 feeling; the lungs of my Soul begin to play, after having been all but asphyxied with tarnation folly! Such a scene of waste, and fuss, and frivolity, and vanity, and vexation of spirit, I desire not to set my foot in again on this side of Time! “All sailing down the stream of Time into the Ocean of Eternity for the Devil's sake amen”!3 I am sure it wasn't my irritability. Looking back on it coolly from here, I am as much disgusted as when I was in it. Just before leaving I received two notes, one from Miss Jessie, one from Mrs Royds4 inviting me to Kircaldy and to Balgreggie,5 for “as long &c &”— I answered them from this side the water with any amount of polite regrets. I was taken to the Kircaldy station instead of Burntisland Walter having business there. Of course the first person I saw there was Mr William Swan;6 and he was “crossing” too; and took me under his ample wing. The sea was as smooth as a looking glass, and I wasn't upset the least in the world. When my cab stopt at the gate, here, every body ran out to meet me, three aunts, maid, and the very cat, with whom I am in high favour; it came purring about my feet, and whipping my leg with its tail. But you needn't say a word of that to Nero. I respect his too sensitive feelings. They made me quite comfortable and got me warm tea in no time. We had just finished when another cab drove to the gate out of which leapt John from Richmond and one of his Mothers Sisters.7 I rushed off to open the house-door to him, and you should have seen how he started and stared! He looked dreadfully weak still poor fellow; and coughed much: but not so incessantly as when we parted in London. He told my Aunts I looked better. They gave me nice porrige to supper and plenty of milk not turned as every drop of milk and cream at Auchtertool was!! and I have slept better both the nights I have been here. Yesterday I wrote two notes to Fergusdom, and one to Maggie8 who had extracted a promise to that effect, and then feeling headachy I put myself in the omnibus to go and see Betty;9 meaning to write to you on my return. But the rain, which had been drizzling all morning, took to pouring down, and after waiting two hours at Betty's I “lashed down” eighteen pence “all at once”10 and came home in a cab— Even that strong measure did not prevent me from taking “a chill”—and the glass of strong cordial Grace administered made me too—“What shall I say? drunk. upon my honour”11—for any more writing. But I escaped a cold— Today it is again thick small rain and I wont tempt providence by going out even in an omnibus. I have written a letter to your sister Jane, from whom I received yesterday a pressing invitation to visit her at Dumfries. Out of the question. I wrote to Mrs Russell a fortnight ago that I would not go into Dumfrieshire this year. By the time I get done with this and SunnyBank I shall be heartily glad to get home. Betty says “my Dear, ye just toiled yersel last yer, Oh ye manna do that again! and I don't mean TO. Nobody knows what going into Dumfrieshire is for me. Haddington I am now got used to—like the pigs—to a certain extent—but Thornhill! Oh mercy!

Grace got hold of your proof sheet yesterday and shut herself up in her bedroom to read it. I knocked at the door to say something and she opened it with spectacles on and the open sheet in her hand looking so fierce at being interrupted— She thought I was the maid Her opinion is “it will be a remarkably interesting work—really very interesting— she can see that by even this much”

They all send you their kind regards and say “tell him to come down”— Dont they wish they may get it!— Your letter has come since I began this—and Ach since I began this I have recollected tomorrow is Sunday—but you will get on Monday morning I sent the photograph to Isabella a week ago Compliments to Ann and no end of kisses to Nero— I hear nothing of Geraldine—too much taken up with Mr Mantell12—Yours affly JWC

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Portrait of Walter Mantell, 1856

Courtesy of Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, N.Z.