The Collected Letters, Volume 4


TC TO JANE WELSH CARLYLE; 14 April 1827; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18270414-TC-JWC-01; CL 4:202-206.


Scotsbrig, Saturday-Night [14 April 1827].

Dearest Wife—What strange magic is in that word, now that for the first time I write it to you! I promised that I would think of you sometimes; which truly I have done many times, or rather all times, with a singular feeling of astonishment, as if a new light1 had risen upon me since we parted, as if till now I had never known how precious my own dearest little Goody was to me, and what a real angel of a creature she was! I could bet a sovereign that you love me twice as well as ever you did; for experience in this matter has given me insight. Would I were back to you! I would have ten thousand kisses, and my own Jane's heart would beat against her Husbands!

But I have no leisure for investigating these egaremens du coeur [wanderings of the heart], which may be discussed much better by word of mouth. The house is smoking, and I am tired to death; having slept only four hours since Alick and I returned from Craigenputtock, this morning between three and four o'clock; our cattle and ourselves uninjured indeed by a ride of 70 miles, but all heartily saddle-sick.— “Well Sir and what did you see at Craigenputtock?”— I saw green fields far greener than I had anticipated; Nature doing her part to maintain her children; and such a scene of human sloth and squalor, as I scarcely think could be paralleled within the county. Mr Blacklock we did not see: he was down on a pleasure excursion to Glen-Esley Distillery, with certain of his womankind mounted on two shelties! Better, I thought, if he had taken a rake and scraped away a little of the filth and glar [muck] with which all parts of his premises from the cow-stall to the parlour (literally) were inundated; better if he had been thatching his stript mill-shed, or mending one of the many holes and gaps in his stone dikes! In fact, Jeanie, I must rejoice particularly that I have taken this journey; for I came upon the people unawares, and all the nakedness of the land2 was revealed to me. It is my decided opinion that this Blacklock will never pay any proper rent; and if the Craig o' Putto were mine, I really think I would almost rather build a ring-fence round it, and leave it gratis to the tee wheets [lapwings], than allow such an unprincipled (I fear this is the word, unprincipled) sloven to farm it for money. I spoke of thinning the plantations! By Jove they have rather need of thickening: at every gap in the dikes you find somewhere between a dozen and a score of young trees cut down as if they were so many broom twigs, and carelessly dashed in to stop the gap, in place of building in the stones! Nay Alick and I computed some two hundred yards of wattlework (vulgarly called stake and rice)3 absolutely formed entirely of young firs, some of which were as thick as my leg at the butt: the whole number of them we reckoned between two and three thousand. I should add, however, that most of this must have been the work of Tom Macqueen;4 only some twenty or thirty yards seemed to have been repaired (with rather thicker trees I thought) by Blacklock. But what totally took away from me all pity for the man, and made me use the harsh word unprincipled, was this fact, palpable beyond discussion, that the scoundrel had actually wintered his cattle (I mean had them lying over night thro' winter) in the heart of that long stripe of planting that runs transversely from the height down towards the water! The fence had been broken down; and there had the kyloes5 been ranging and rubbing, and eating and breaking! Had he taken a furnished house in Herriot-row and driven in his cow to eat her draff and dreg on the Brussels carpet of the drawing-room, I could sooner have forgiven him. It was altogether damnable. We tried to ascertain by inspection whether the gaps by which his bullocks had found access to this comfortable shelter had been accidental or intentional: one of the places was half and the other three fourths filled up; so that we could judge but vaguely; and all the charity we had corroborated the evidence for the milder hypothesis. The damage done extended indeed only to a score or two of yards; for the cattle had been of christian spirit: but the spirit of their owner was too well marked by it.— But why dilate on these things? The man is an utter and arrant sloven; and had simply gone upon the principle that most probably no mortal concerned in the farm would ever see it during the lease.

We inquired into his stock; and to our amazement found that he had next to no stock; having employed the ground chiefly in what is called taking on other people's cattle; that is feeding transitory droves or flocks at so much per week or month. In place of six score of beeves he has at present great and small, some seventeen head; a few sheep, two goats and four Highland ponies. Alick and I computed that his whole goods and chattels might amount to little more than £100 in value. He is ploughing however (with two very care-worn horses), and if let alone without any claim for rent, may still live a year or two; tho' I reckon he would by and by find even this a hard process. Now this plan of farming by borrowed stock is one not acknowledged by any landlord; or at least it entitles him to demand security for his rent; since without some cautioner he has none, the law not allowing stock of this kind to be seized for the landlord's behoof. In fact, I am inclined to believe that the Blacklocks have no money, and this Blacklock has evidently no talent for farming any such place as Craigenputtock.

Old Nannie6 came and pressingly entreated us to have some tea; nay—attempted to allure us with the offer of clean blankets,7 and excellent horse-prov[en]der to tarry with her all night. She sent you and your Mother about a hun[dred] sets of compliments, and inquired again and again if she was not to see you before Whitsunday? Poor Nannie has been ordered to flit, it seems; and “'tweel” indeed], says she, “I'll be very wae.” She walked with us to the gate; insisting much on the propriety of seeing everything with one's own eyes, and of the greater and greater propriety one would find in it the longer one looked; and hinting at last with much circumspection that all was not as it should be with Blacklock; “and wiser folks than me will be cheated,” said she, “if he can do any good in it.” We cut short poor Nannies innuendoes; and with great cordiality wished her a thousand good nights, the voice of her “compliments” still sounding “over the health” when herself was out of sight.

Now quæretur [question]: What is to be done? I think, on all accounts, even if it were not on our own, these men are to be got out; nay if they will not go peaceably, packed out. I left a note for Blacklock, requiring his presence along with his Brother's at Dumfries on Wednesday, with his “rent of course”; which rent, however, I have very little hope of seeing any six pence of. In case he do pay me, then I call upon him to sign his lease; and what he will find it more difficult to do, to procure us a proper cautioner,8 since he chooses to keep no stock of his own on the grounds. By degrees, I shall open to him our project of taking the place from him; and if he will consent to carry himself off at Whitsunday first, he ought to have some allowance (I was thinking of some seventy pounds—that is his paying another £ 100): if he will not yield to reason, then I should certainly counsel to let the law have its course; to hypothecate instantly for the £60 due at Martinmas, and directly after whitsunday for the next £110 (tho' then there will be little to hypothecate upon), following it up with a process of ejectment. For my own share, I have no sort of idea that he would let matters come to such extremity, for it would both “destroy his happiness and ruin his business” (as a drover); and certainly without our Mother's direction, I shall not dream of taking the smallest legal measure, which in any case I should deprecate as an evil of great magnitude.

At all events, if the man will pay up his rent, and keep his farm, which in this case he can do (till 1829 at least, for we are now 10 days too late for warning him out even for next year), then before he and his cautioner sign the lease, it would surely be well that some most vigorous clauses were inserted regarding the woods &c &c and all other loopholes by which this unfortunate sluggard may do us an ill turn. I neglected to take a letter from your Mother to Mr Adamson,9 empowering me to demand a sight of this instrument: but she will send it down to me along with your letter to the Dumfries post office on Wednesday; and I shall get it about four o'clock. Also would she send me the present missive, if she have it, or whatever document it is that records this bargain with the Blacklocks. In that case it were better to make a parcel of the papers and send them by the (Mail) Coach. I shall inquire at both places, if I do not find them at one. Perhaps this is of no great consequence; for I have a considerable persuasion that the people will be inclined to deal peaceably: but it is good to have the whole matter before one; and if they said this and that was fixed upon, I should feel rather helpless. Perhaps if the paper is not at Comley Bank, she can have it sent me from Templand: this however, only in case I need it. At all events you will write on Tuesday-night “to lie till called for”; and tell me all you think and feel and know. On Wednesday you send the Examiner hither, where it is too likely it may still find me. Indeed it is scarcely possible that I should get away before Saturday; so I think I must write to you again. But I have hopes that the thing will be well settled at last. I scarcely know what I have written; for my eyes are half-blind; and I am wearied and fond and wae and bewitched and bedivelled, and “feel a kind of inclination to bark.”10— Good night, good night, my darling wife, my dear wee wife! I send you ten thousand kisses. Be sure to write. A Dieu!

Bid your Mother advise me about the sum I should offer for their going peaceably away &c &c. Also give her my truest filial regards.

My Mother's best kindest regards