January 1829-September 1831

The Collected Letters, Volume 5


TC TO JEAN CARLYLE; 1 February 1831; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18310201-TC-JCA-01; CL 5:223-225.


Craigenputtoch, Tuesday Night. [1 February 1831]

My Dear Jane,

I have just finished a Letter to our Mother; but must not let the Parcel go without a word for you, to whom indeed some of my chief commissions must be directed.

We were very much obliged by your punctual tidings about my Father, concerning whom we are still very anxious, and not without hopes of hearing something tomorrow. Alick saw Pate Easton1 last Wednesday, but could get no nearer tidings. It was very kind of you, my lassie, since there was no other to write, that you took that trouble: I have only to beg and enjoin you to repeat it regularly and often. Tell us especially how our Father is (there are no remedies for Cold but “flannel and physic”), whether our Mother keeps stout, and all that goes on amongst you.

The day before yesterday Alick and I saw you (after a sort): we went to the top of Darngarroch hill (the hill that lies over Blackmark Moor), and there, the day being very bright, saw far and wide. New-Galloway, Kirkcudbright, Castle-Douglas: Burnswark was as plain as need be; and of course Scotsbrig could not be far. You seemed to have more snow than we, for indeed all our hills were black: however, since then we have had our turn; yesterday was a deliberate slow persevering day of snow-showers; and this day has been quite an adventure that way. A fierce frosty wind is drifting all into heaps: our kitchen door which has not been opened stands sunk half way up in a boiling [? drift;]2 all day it has whirled and heaped itself about this (the Library) window; and we have kept up a constant fire against Frost ourselves and every thing else under strict lock and key. To complete the matter our Maid went away on Sabbathday to see her friends, and how the foolish creature is to get up again (unless in Alick's bacon-carts) I see not. However, I have foddered and watered the cattle; to the very Hens, to so many of them as I could entice down, I have given malt (of which we had a little pot): I wheeled fuel and water round in abundance; Jane has been cooking all day within doors; and I have smoked and read. The wind still howls and whistles; but we hope it will abate tomorrow. This surely will be the last storm of the season.

We thought Jamie would have come up in the frost; but suppose he cannot get away. Tell him that with regard to the Meal there is no hurry: Mrs Welsh has sent us a sack of very good stuff, so that ten stone more will keep us I know not how long. Tell Jamie, however, to bring us a couple of bushels of good horse-corn instead when he comes. I want a little stock for summer and know not where or how to buy it here.

You tell me, my dear Jean, that you are more solitary now: indeed your position has greatly altered within the last year, and you now, young as you are, have to take a kind of front rank.3 Study my dear Sister to acquit yourself well in it. There, as in all scenes of life, you will find that from your own judgement, and your own conscience the best help must be sought. For our Margaret who sleeps now in her silent rest it is vain to mourn: I think of her daily, hourly, not in sorrow so much as in awe and love; and trust the Almighty may one day restore her to us, and us to her, in some holier world than this: nay who knows but she may even now in some inscrutably mysterious way be near us: we are spirits as well as she, and God is round us and in us, Here as well as Yonder! Let us not weep for her, but try rather to honour her memory by imitating the good that made her dear to us. Cultivate that quiet purity of heart, that silent justness and firmness of resolve that we saw in her; be wise and meek [and hum]ble as she was. In some points, I shall hardly see her like again. She had a fairness and loving tolerance in judging of her neighbours, which is perhaps of all virtues the rarest among women. Fewer idle words were perhaps spoken by scarcely any. The mind shone within her like a clear, modest lamp, enlightening all her goings: thus she could travel thro' her earthly course unspotted as few are, and now lies enshrined in all our hearts forever. God is great, God is good:4 if it is His Will we shall meet again, and part no more.

It is very gratifying to me, my dear Jean, to think that in several respects you resemble her that is away. One great virtue I have seen and often praised in you, that of Truth: nay I think if one could never tell a lie (to one's own heart, which is the worst to do), one had mastered the whole secret of virtue. Persist in what you see to be good and your duty; be patient, gentle, submissive even to ill usage: what are we that we should be well used? Did they use Jesus of Nazareth well? Above all, avoid vanity, self-conceit, Presumption of all sorts: want of Humility (which is a deep and glorious feeling could we see into it) is simply the want of all Religion, of all true Moral worth. I know this by the best of all teachers, Experience. Humility is no mean feeling, but the highest, and only high one; the denial of Self it is, and therein is the beginning of all that is truly generous and noble.— Be kind to every one, especially to our Father and Mother; one never repents kindness; a thousand times one does the want of it,—when repentance is too late.— Write to me with all freedom as to your Brother that loves you. Kindest remembrances to all and every one. God be with you

T. Carlyle