January 1829-September 1831

The Collected Letters, Volume 5


JWC TO ELIZA STODART; 16 January 1831; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18310116-JWC-EA-01; CL 5:207-210.


Craig o' putta—16th January [1831]

“Thee Lord bless thee” 1


It is long since I got your letter; and it was also very long before I got it. Never say I was not ready to correspond at any rate you pleased—your pleasure seems to be a very languid rate; an[d] so be it!

I find myself in tolerable health, and sound mind. How do you find yourself? Have the late political changes any way affected your destiny?2 Have you gone into office my dear friend? The Edinr news travel hither so slowly—often via London—that you may even have been appointed Court-Marmalade-Maker3 without my hearing a word of the matter. Jeffrey writes faithfully and fully—no one else in Edinr—but his local information never passes the garden-walls of Craig-crook.4 You used to send me “sundry news of every kind”; and often has a letter from you recovered me out of dolefullest dumps: but alas! you have either lost your talent or hidden it in a napkin!5 a letter from you now-a days is as rare a curiosity as yon big Moth which my Mother presented to the Museum. Mercy what think you is come of it? Our Mother was shabbily used about that “little Eagle” of hers: I remember she had engaged to the Postmaster at Fort Augustus; that he should see his windfall in the Newspapers; and was making sure of at least one silver ticket of admission, which would enable her, without the charge of half a crown, to regale herself with a view of the “valuable addition presented by Mrs Welsh,” as often as she pleased. The Professor, I think, merely “wondered what the Moth was doing so far north at that season of the year” on which somebody else suggested a second wonder: “what Mrs Welsh was doing so far north at that season of the year.” And so the whole Moth-speculation died a natural death; and only the bottled up Moth-Eagle or Eagle-Moth remains (if indeed it do remain) a memorial to coming time of Moth-inquisitiveness female philanthrophy and professorial ingratitude.6

But where were we? I was saying that a letter from you was a rare curiosity—and the words, Heaven knows how, instantaneously brought back the image of that illfated little being, which has not been once in my head these half dozen years.7 Well! it is vain to reason with you further on the subject of writing: for you will not ‘hearken to the voice of the charmer, charm she ever so wisely.’

I should like to spend another week with you and renew my years, as in my last visit—not that I am looking any older than when you saw me. On the contrary notwithstanding my prediction that I should fall off rapidly after twenty, I keep my looks surprisingly well— An old Irish packman met me riding alone the other day, and modestly insinuated that I should buy an almanack of him—“By no means”— “But I have travelled all day Lady and got nothing to pay my Lodging”! “Well—for Gods sake—there's a penny to you” “Thank you young Lady—thank you most kindly—and”—his gratitude and his voice mounting higher and higher till they reached the pitch of enthusiasm “and the Lord send you a Husband according to your heart!”— “Amen, friend”!— From which passage, one may infer one of two things—either that an Irish packman thought me too youthful looking to be already provided with a Husband; or that he conceived the provision of a Husband incompatible with galloping over the country alone. I saw in one of your letters to my Mother—that you were living very quietly—yet Gentlemen bring you nice nosegays— We I imagine are yet quieter; a gentleman either with or without a nosegay is a thing we never dream of— Yet let it not be forgotten that no later than yesterday, an old woman—‘old Esther of Carstamin’,8 the likest thing to a witch that this district has to boast of, presented me with two old plates! I was to keep them “as a memorandum”: but so long as she is on foot I shall not want for a living memorandum. Poor old creature! her Father was Laird of Carstamin and “took lump sugar to his toddy” But the Devil was busy with him—and with Esther too—for she had a child “by chance” (she told us) and then two Husbands; also by chance it would seem—for one after the other left her so soon as the ready money was spent and there she sits in a half roofed hovel on the moor—a monument of wrath—“a widow yet a wife” nay twice a widow and twice a wife— She totters about peoples['] houses, where she can find them—and picks up scraps either in honesty or dishonesty— If she hear a swine squealing (and her hearing is wonderfully acute in this particular)—away she posts in that direction—to try what windfall of tripes or livers may come her way— But Alas alas! They killed four swine within a gunshot the other day and “nane was ever at the pains to say— Hae Esther there's a puddin' te'e [for you]”— Mercy how I have clattered thro' four pages!

What are they thinking in Edinr about Mrs Mac-leod?9— We are deeply interested in Henry and he has not written since she was found.— God grant he may not get into any duel— The newspapers throw no light on the business.

I was at Templand last week—my Mother was surprisingly well; considering how she has been harassed of late—my Grandfather was peaceable tho still lying in bed— A Mr Gibson was there—

Sam10 is requested to settle a small account for Carlyle and to give you the balance [to] get me a pair of very strong shoes from Rutherford— He has my measure— There is no hurry about them—only leave them or more properly speaking have the goodness to cause them to be left with Sam who with his accustomed helpfulness will forward them to me— I was sorry to hear of his cold—but as he made no mention of it in his note I trust he is quite recovered— my kindest remembrances to your Uncle[.] Carlyle joins me in wishing you both very many happy years— And believe me ever your affectionate friend till death

Jane Welsh Carlyle