The Collected Letters, Volume 4


TC TO JANE WELSH CARLYLE; 27 March 1828; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18280327-TC-JWC-01; CL 4:346-348.


Scotsbrig, Thursday Night (Late) [27 March 1828]

My Dear little Wifie,

I write two words to prevent uneasiness on your part, tho' I know not that I was ever much unfitter for writing. I have just returned from Annan, where after a long and laborious consultation with Surgeon Thom,1 I do not find that I have realized anything of almost any tangible consequence. He thinks on all grounds that the prime root and origin of all our dear Auntie's maladies is deranged digestion; and agrees warmly with Mr Russel[l] in considering this as the great object to be kept in view, now and henceforth. Were it not for the great weakness of our dear Patient, he could have no doubt that the disease might be completely brought under subjection; and by new regulations of diet and medicine finally extirpated. As it is he strongly advises antibilious medicines, tonics &c: the chief thing of any novelty seemed to be the stress he laid on Sarsaparilla, which he said would do all the good that Mercury could do with far less harm. His notions about diet, mastic-and-aloes pills &c were such as I had often heard before.

On the whole, he expressed himself as uncertain whether he could understand the case much better by seeing it than by such a description as he got of it. At first, indeed, he seemed to think it decidedly unadvisable that so much trouble should be incurred for such an object: but on our second interview (for we met twice today) he seemed to be rather fonder of coming up, tho' more as it struck me out of a certain newfangledness than from any fresh hope of doing good. Meanwhile, he gave me a paper containing his deliverance (of which the chief feature is that of sarsaparilla); and it was agreed on between us that I should write to him or see him again; and he would at all times be ready to come up whenever it should be requested.

I could not by any means resolve to press this journey of his till I got farther confirmation. Thom has degenerated not a little in point of manners and I think general character since I met him last, which is about ten years ago: he is not now what you could call a Gentleman in any sense; but a sturdy, vindictive, decided and rather as I fear ill-principled Plebian. The man, I still believe, has talent and invention beyond the common level; distinctly beyond, but not far beyond: add to this a fiery, resolute temper, and a character broken in the eyes of the world, and not very whole in his own eyes; and you have the materials out of which a sort of gifted quack, perhaps a Liston or Saunders2 or some such character might be compounded. To bring up a man of this sort seems highly questionable: accordingly, as you see, for the present I have left it altogether open; and tho' I certainly think that other advice than Dr Russel[l]'s ought forthwith to be looked after, I will limit Thom to his written Paper alone, which I am to bring up with me, and exhibit on Saturday.

Yes, Dear, on Saturday; for that knee of mine is sore, and I am very saddle-sick, and must have a day's rest before I ride farther. Besides I partly engaged that you were to go up with me to Craigenputtock on Sunday afternoon, or early on Monday Morning to meet our two Architects, my Uncle and the Joiner; who wish to have their final directions on the spot. With this view I directed Alick to send over little Pen (so they call your old friend the Shelty of last year, which is now at least a very swift and assiduous canterer) to convey you up; for the men are to be there early in the forenoon. I am not ignorant that it will be a poor enough conveyance for you, the back of Pen: but there is no other, unless you can hire or borrow or otherwise procure some gig or vehicle of that sort, in which Larry could draw us both, up as well as down, in one day. This surely were much better; very much, for the riding will not agree with you. Try therefore what can be done on Saturday; and if you succeed, just request the Boy to take back little Pen, and dispose of her as he sees best (at Minnyhive or Craigenputtock), and do you hold yourself in readiness for Monday Morning early; and send back word to that effect with the Boy, that they may not expect us on Sunday. The accommodation is about equal to what we had there last year: but there is a rather fair prospect held out (of the house ultimately, and even soon being good).—— One other resource remains for you: to send me by myself; but this, unless you are particularly detained, would be the worst of all; for several new arrangements will have to be mooted and fixed upon. Decide dear Wifie as it pleases thee.

A boy runs over with this early tomorrow, and strange to tell, if all prosper, it will go round by Moffatt and Dumfries, and find you in the Evening. Kiss me, thou foolish Creature, and let me go. Dost thou not see that my fingers are blue, and my nose with a doxology; and my Mother stirring the porridge for me, which is now boiled to the uttermost? She specially bids me send her kindest regards. So good night, thou good Cheapie, and believe thyself ever dearest to me—at least till Saturday perhaps about tea-time. Thy own Husband

Thomas Carlyle

My best love & sympathy to both Mother and Auntie.