January 1829-September 1831

The Collected Letters, Volume 5


JWC TO ELIZA STODART; 5 February 1830; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18300205-JWC-EA-01; CL 5:68-70.


Craigenputtoch 5th February [1830]

Dearest Eliza

This has been the unluckiest new-year to me! Every day some Job's-post or other tempts me to curse my stars! It began with the death of my pig—my sweet, wise, little pig, who was the apple of my eye—he got a surfeit one evening, and next morning I was pigless! and just when my long cherished hopes of him were approaching their fulfilment, and a few weeks more would have plumped him out into such delicate bacon! So the glory of this world passeth away!1 On the back of this severe family-affliction followed a disaster occasioned by a quite opposite cause, being the consequence not of overfeeding but pure starvation: a stranger cat under the pangs of famine rushed wildly into our larder one day, making straight in the direction of a beefsteak—and, before you could bless yourself, snack [quickly] went the steak, and smash went a corner dish; which you know was as bad as if the whole four corner dishes had been broken or at least a pair of them. And alas! this was only a beginning—this smash, it seemed, was but a signal for the breakage of all the crockery glass and china about the house— For now Nancy2 became as it were suddenly possessed with a demon of destruction which shivered everything she laid hands on—nay—the supper-tray with all its complement of bowls, plates &c &c she “soopit ower wi her tails” [swept over with the tail of her dress]! one fell soop!— But already I must have filled your eyes with tears—and will not tax your sympathy with a detail of all my grievances—indeed one sheet would not hold them. Only attend to the last, which you must help me to remedy, being in truth the main cause of my writing again so soon—— Last week we were despatching a boxfull of books to Sam3 to be transmitted to their various owners in Edinr— None of our own people being “at the town”4 that Wednesday it was entrusted to the Carrier, who naturally was charged to pay it—but our ill luck pursuing us even in this small matter, the carrier either misunderstood or proved oblivious; and so the package was despatched with all its charges to be defrayed at Bank-street!— Now, tho' intrinsically considered the damage done by this mistake be trifling, yet you will understand how one should find it abundantly vexatious—and I beseech you to explain to Mr Aitken how the omission which must have appeared to him so singularly inconsiderate occur[r]ed— and to charge him (by his Lady's love or whatever he values most) to place this with every expence which these book commissions cost him, to Carlyle's account. If he does not we shall not be able to apply to him with any freedom, and I doubt if in all Edinr we could find another as helpful.

And now contrary to my usual practice “I must plant a remark” or two on the weather— It is well we have meat and fire ‘within ourselves’ (as Mrs Roughhead5 used to say) otherwise we should live in hourly apprehe[n]sion of being snowed up, and consequently starved to death without even the mournful alternative of “eating our own children.” Oh for a sight of the green fields again or even the black peat-moss—anything rather than this wide waste of blinding snow! The only time when I can endure to look out (going out is not [to] be dreamt of) is by moonlight, when the enclosure before the house is literally filled with hares—and then the scene is really very picturesque—the little dark forms skipping and bounding over the white ground so witch-like! A still more novel spectacle exhibited itself the other day at broad noon—seven black-cocks “as fine” (or perhaps finer) “as ever stepped the streets of Greenock6 came running down the wood to within a few yards of the door— Such are the pleasing varieties of life here!— You will allow they are extremely innocent—

Carlyle inquired if I had sent his love the last time—and charges me to remember it now—we speak of your uncle and you over our evening fire both often and kindly—my kindest regards are with you both—my Grandfather continues much the same— God bless you—always affectionately yours

Jane W Carlyle

A good new-year, and many of them!— T. C.