August 1857-June 1858

The Collected Letters, Volume 33


JWC TO TC ; 20 August 1857; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18570820-JWC-TC-01; CL 33: 40-43


Craigenvilla Morningside

Thursday [20 August 1857]

Whether the spirit move me or not; I must write today in my own interest. A letter will be going from you to Sunny Bank else, before I am there to receive it—“and then I should be vaixed.1

My purpose to go there on Saturday raised, when it came to be known, a quite unexpected hullibulloo; and tho' persuadibility is not my besetting weakness, I consented “eventually”2 to stay till this day week. Now that their hearts seem turned to me with the affection of Father's Sisters; I feel to owe them a sort of obedience(!) as well as affection, as such, and could not persevere in doing what they were going to be seriously offended at, as well as grieved.

“Three weeks at Sunny Bank already!—a fortnight at Auchtertool!—and only a week with the nearest relations I had on earth! &c &c”— And the only urgent reason for hurrying away I had to give could not in politeness be given! viz: the indegestion of sermons to be suffered during the night of Sunday! So I just made up my mind to it; the easier done that I sleep pretty well here in general, and indeed “Ise proud to say Ise some better.”3 I take my plain regular meals with a certain heartiness—feel less fluttery and haggard—if not much better at walking yet. And my Aunts insist I look better. There was need!

I made out my call on little Mrs Samuel4 Brown. I expected to find a sorrowful looking young woman in a widows cap, who would be pleased to see me, but probably agitated; the pleasure at seeing me was the only thing I found of all I was expecting! a young woman with rosy cheeks, and cheery looks, a bare head, with smart little knot at the back of it, tripped in, and thanked me for coming with a—serenity!—gaiety almost!—that—took away my breath! I, who cared nothing about her poor husband, could hardly keep back tears to see how—the waters had closed over him! There was Woolners first medallion of you, handsomely framed hanging on the wall opposite me. And she talked of “the imme[n]se5 debt of gratitude Mr Brown owed you” and of “what a pleasure it must be to Mr Carlyle to think of the kindness he had shown to so many young men.”—never a tremor in her voice or a shadow on her face! And yet she seemed a good, honest little body; only with the thickest of skins! “Seven years, Mrs Carlyle, to be always beside such suffering!” I could hardly help saying “yes! and seven years to endure such suffering”!

Yesterday I went into Edin in the omnibus, and sought out Nichol's6 address in the Directory, and went after him. He lives in a top flat in Queen Street. John Stodart whom I met (as usual) walked to the house with me (a few yards) and climbed the stairs to ask if he were in, before I gave myself the trouble to go up. Nichol had opened the door to him himself, and John stupidly told him who wanted him. But there would have been no charming scene, even if he hadn't. Poor old Nichol is past taking any part in anything emotional. He is grown thin, and wears a little scratch wig, and the twinkling smile which used to constitute the expression of his face had left it utterly. “Well!” he said surveying me calmly “I cant say I should ever have recognised you.” I might have have7 said ditto to the remark, but was too polite. John Stodart went off. I ascended with the old man to his clean cold intensely bachelor looking diningroom where we sat down side by side on a hard black sofa— He asked me all the usual questions—in a cold, rather low tone, and didn't seem to care the least in the world about my answers, or any liveliness I could bring to bear on him. At last he informed me (and it was a sort of relief to my feelings) that he was “rather deaf”—in fact almost entirely deaf, I suspect. He had retired from teaching last year—and is now living there “ohne Amt [without a job]8 he repeated several times, in his poor toneless old voice, that he took my visit very kind, and he offered me a glass of wine, but didn't seem sorry I declined, I came away very dreary. A life of monotonous toil—to earn money enough for retiring upon when one is deaf and dried up and can't get any good of it.


Here your letter has been brought up— The back of it gives evidence of a rather distracted state of mind!9—“TWO stamps as Grace said where half a one would have done; to feel the weight”

I called at Susan Hunters but she hasn't yet returned from Germany10

After all, there is in the world only one set of people—every body is in some way hooked together— Major Davidson came to see me, and told me the people the Mackenzies were staying with in Scotland were him and his wife! He says the government will be very blind if it dont send Mackenzie back to India for the Afghanstans are perfectly devoted to him11—and he might rais a most efficient regiment among them one day

Yours affly / Jane W Carlyle 12