July-December 1858

The Collected Letters, Volume 34


TC TO JWC ; 19 July 1858; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18580719-TC-JWC-01; CL 34: 51-54


The Gill, 19 july, 1858—

Dearest,—The pretty Letter did not fail on Saturday; and today (while you yourself get nothing) there has come a Newspaper, with strokes on it, one of them so manifestly dwarfish as to indicate not “good” but only, “I wish it were good, for your sake!,”—thank you all the same, or more, my poor little Jeannie. I can persuade myself you are not worse than when I last heard; alas, I must put up with that: who can send good news when there is not any?— I long to hear tomorrow what you think of the Scotch expedition; I persuade myself confidently you would at once be somewhat better in the Country; and except the poor scheme last proposed, I can see no sure way of your getting a fair trial made. If you dare undertake the thing, all particulars can at once be settled; and the road, swept clear of loose obstacles, will be wide-open with only its native difficulties, which I confess are neither few nor small in my poor woman's case at this bad juncture! John with his poor Boys appears to be actually about to evacuate Scotsbrig too “in the first week of August,” so that there wd be another resource, were you in these localities. Come, poor Jeannie mine, if you at all dare! There is gig-driving without stint, whh I think you might stand in the sunny intervals (of which we have some hours almost daily, weather fresh, airy, greyish, really not bad at all); and I am convinced, your poor faculty of sleep wd immediately increase under such a regimen. Yr bedroom really, in all essential particulars, is excellent: clean, big (the two rooms together), may have what air you like or no-air; and a silence such as you have hardly known in any sleeping place, Town or Country. The best of eggs &c, the best of coffee;—and such brown bread as I believe is hardly procurable in Great Britain elsewhere: “Miss Hay's brown bread,”1 a genuinely excellent article; at the easy rate of 5d per Quartern loaf (actually that); probably the cheapest bread you ever bought.— — But I will say no more. Only this of loitering in London, this will never answer at the present season in such circumstances!—

The day before writing my last Letter I had ridden down by Annan,—round the North side of it this time, as I did round the South when last here, and up the main street again in both cases: this time, it was market day, but the sky and earth were all in friendly tune, and I had strange impressive ride of it, every stone and turn being familiar to me, and of the numerous human faces not one recogniseable as ever seen before. One has in reality the privileges of a beatified ghost2 in such case: at that is rather a sombre one, I can promise you! Jamie of Scotsbrig & his son John,3 I afterwards learned, were there; but I had missed them. The thot of this miss, the need of a longer ride next day, or perhaps mere accident sent me off on Friday after dinner to ride over Hoddam Hill (strange old scene, in whh you were still vividly present) and on to Scotsbrig. I found that a rather cloudy operation, owing mainly to Jack & the poor Boys; I got tolerably thro' it however; and came trotting home with a f[l]ight4 of ghosts escorting me thro' the dusk and damp, but witht other accident, still in time enough. Unhappily I had not put on my Mackintosh, but kept it tied to the saddle, tho' a blessed wind was blowing, and my doublet none of the newest. I woke next morning far too early; and found, by symptoms, that I had taken cold by the buss. By heaping new wrappages on my bed &c, I immediately checked that bad affair, and it is pretty well in abeyance ever since (perhaps gone altogether), and only the natural set of circumstances acting on me, “milk diet” &c &c, whh tend towards good in the end); but I will take better care another time. Another consequence was, Jamie & the Dr came over yesterday to return my visit! Jamie I could have done very well with, much the sensiblest person I have spoken with in these parts; but John was very “detached,” flighty, flimsy (cannot help it, poor soul!) & tumbled my Day abt my ears a good deal. Alas, that is Life; that is what Life now has in it. Take it, and be thankful!— — In the evening, being quite driven off my Charles XII,5 I read Moumou, at your repeated recommendation. Truly it is an exquisite thing; pathetic in a high degree, tho' not over true; what we may reckon T.'s masterpiece in the Poetic line. Seduced by the title, Faust,6 I read the next too;7 whh has high elements in it, but is not well done at all, and must be called bad rather than good. I expect to finish Karl XII tomorrow; I get strange glimpse into old sunk memorabilia out of that rather stupid Book.

A thot that sometimes rises minatory on me is, “Should not you go to Germany, Sir, and see those Battlefields?” Conscience is obliged to answer it knows not what! I believe I shd be considerably stronger for such a journey than I was 3 weeks ago. I mean to look more into it, were my poor little Goody once settled in any tolerable way. Idleness I believe will not permanently do for me, however old I grow. But truly, on other grounds I care less and less for disturbing myself with anything in the shape of “work,” of what I have to call “work,” bless the mark!8 The most deathless epics seem to me such a paltry thing to what they once did; “frail craiters9 really being a good deal concerned in them oftenest!—

The 3 tailors still continue,—not to end till this evening at soonest. Properly they are perhaps but 1 ⅔ (two of them being sons of the chief (and perhaps only 27th parts or so): at any rate, such indeed this whole clothes operation has been scandalous and disgusting to me in some measure,—owing to the anarchy of things and shopkeepers in these parts. Never mind! I have got a very good dressing-gown (colour only questionable; it is whitish-grey, cd not be helped), a good new cape, two wretched summer coats (cobweb & despicability all that cd be done), 3 pairs drawers, 3 waistcoats (sleeved), 2 pr trowsers, and all things trim and repaired;—and tomorrow I shall be free probably, and out of the cares of cloth. Thank Heaven.

Madam Blaize seems to be a very flagrant phenomenon; and I cannot but think it rather a luck I had taken Albert Gate that night:10 a madcap Frenchwoman, produced or even supposed to be produced by Brougham and Vox,11 does not attract the serious mind in any manner of way!— Are there not still several things I have omitted? There are plenty in; and poor Goody shall get free.— My commiserations to Nero: I often think, were he here, with this daft collie whelp, chacing rabbits &c to no12 purpose, the happiest and most ignorant of Canine creatures, he might become a new dog. Poor Moumou, after all! I suppose you cried considerably over her, whh indeed was not difficult!— Adieu, dearest. T. Carlyle