October 1831-September 1833

The Collected Letters, Volume 6


TC TO ALEXANDER CARLYLE; 9 September 1832; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18320909-TC-AC-01; CL 6:223-227.


Craigenputtoch, 9th September, 1832—

My Dear Brother,

I have got into a small perplexity here, in which I need your assistance. It relates to the grey mare.

Last Wednesday afternoon, Jane and I thought of having a little drive in the Gig, and got yoked and seated accordingly, with the Beast all brushed and corned, whose behaviour on the last occasion, as on all previous ones, had given us no reason for distrust; least of all on the score of temper. Nevertheless at the first crack of the whip what does the brute do but whirl round upon the Green, and attempt rearing; to the infinite terror of the Leddy, who forthwith dismounted, declaring she would venture no step farther. I reassured her; led and then drove, still with some uneasiness, to the outer gate; where, having discovered that the choke-band was tighter than it should be, and slackened it, Jane was persuaded to get in again, and away we drove without farther sign of obstruction. All went well as possible, till we got to M'Knight's,1 whose wife and children were busy disloading his Cart (about 5 in the afternoon): the Beast made a kind of volunteer halt there, but easily enough went off again; and then about ten steps farther, we meet one of the Shoemaker's Children trailing a child's-cart, at which our quadruped took offence, and shied considerably, yet got past without splutter, and then—simply set to work and kicked and plunged as if Satan were in her, till her harness is all in tatters, and as she still cannot get away, lies down; whereupon I (who had sat doing or saying very little) step out, with my reins, seize the bridle, get Jane out, get the foolish brute free of her straps,—and our gigging has reached an untimely end! The suddenness and then the quietness and calm deliberation of the business were matter of astonishment: one minute we are driving prosperously along, in three minutes more we are gigless. M'Knight's wife kept disloading her cart all the while, as if it had been nothing out of the common run. The poor woman is very stupid, and indeed in the family way at present. John however arrived before all was over, and helped us what he could. We borrowed an old saddle from him, and walked off; leaving the Gig-wreck in his warehouse: at Sandy Wells I set the poor Leddy on this old saddle, and leading the mare myself in all quietness arrived home in quite other equipment than we had departed. The Boy took Harry and a pair of Cart-ropes, and had the Clatch home at dusk: it was far less injured than you would have thought; nothing broken but the leather-mass and two leather straps that fasten on the splinter-bar (swing-tree-bar) which the traces hook upon; and the under woodwork (I mean, the continuation of the shaft, nearly above the axletree, on the left side) rather bruised and twisted than broken. This the Vulcan has already mended, quite effectually, without difficulty. As for the harness, it is done utterly; flying in dozens of pieces: you never witnessed such a piece of work as I had to get it thrummed [put] together in any way, so that it would drive as far as the Smithy; a Saddle-crupper fixed on it; one trace lengthened and a new eye cut, the other shortened to the utmost (to make both equal); spliced bridle &c &c: the most Irish-looking vehicle perhaps ever seen in these parts. The question now remains: What is to be done?

As for the harness, all things considered, I ought not perhaps to be sorry that it is finished: we seldom went out without something in it breaking; and nobody knows how long one might have gone on cobbling and stitching, always throwing new money away. A quite fresh Harness can be got (a Saddler at Thornhill anxiously showed me one, nay two) for little more than five pounds; and it will be best that we are obliged to get a new one. I have no skill at all in these matters; and will not deal with the Thornhill man, till you and I have investigated Dumfries together, and found nothing better there. Harry will draw us at any rate thro' winter; with the present tackle, one may bring the vehicle down to get new tackle, and that is all we can expect of it.

With regard to the Mare, I must now leave you to act for me, and judge for me. Jane has declared that she will drive with her no more; and indeed I think it were very unwise, unless with quite other security than any skill of mine. We must sell her then, I suppose, if anything like the value is to be had for her. The old money would please me sufficiently; or, indeed, any money you think her worth. I may mention, however, my own persuasion that the Beast after all is thoroughly what is called quiet; that it was my poor driving that mainly caused the accident: had I given her an effectual yerk with the whip when she first began kicking, or rather offering to kick, it had been all right. No shadow of vice in the creature have I ever seen before or since.— Unfortunately, as you see, she is in poorish condition for sale; one of the hind feet too has got the hair peeled, which perhaps could not grow in time. The Roodfair is in two weeks. I have no food here to fatten any quadruped; but Jamie, I think, has plenty of clover, and you must take him into counsel. Indeed, he was once talking about keeping her or some like her for her work till grass-time again: so here is another possibility for us. My persuasion is that any handy man could make this Mare still do anything he liked without difficulty; and perhaps had she got a winter of carting and ploughing and other sobering, she might be easier to deal with next summer. Manage as you see best. I think the horse a good one and very cheap: however, I have no reluctance to part with her. I do not think, she will ever ride very handsomely with me; she is flail-legged, skittish a little, and does not seem to thrive here (she has had oats and grass and very little work); she does nothing well but the jogtrot, and about forty yards of cantering: her syNEWS are quite loose under you. Larry was quite another at her age. I believe I must renounce the thought of a riding-horse here; at all events, your little black mare would ride as well as she yet does, and for all else would content me infinitely better. Again, I say, decide for me, and act for me.

I think there never was such a long-winded deluge of a Narrative poured out by me, as this same, on so small occasion! I am excessively stupid, tonight, and in haste too. So, my dear Brother, you must just interpret what I mean, by your own acuteness of wit.— Send the Boy off early on Tuesday morning; he has things to get at Dumfries. Of course you can send no positive word what is to be done with the mare, till you have seen Jamie and consulted with him, and considered with yourself: but tell me when you can meet me at Dumfries to buy new Harness; and whether the Roodfair is the only day shortly you could come on, and whether that would do for the purpose. I like such gatherings very ill. Moreover, do not by any means leave your harvesting for that errand: we are in no pressing haste.— And so I conclude this confused interminable story of The Gig Demolished or Pride gets a Fall.2

I am tolerably well (and so is Jane); my reading is done within two days, and then I have five stern weeks of writing. Wish me good-speed! I must and will be thro' it. We shall meet before then, I hope.— I often think of you here, in these solitudes; and how the places that once knew you now know you no more, and I am left alone on the Moor. Courage! Let us stand to our tasks, and give the rest to the winds. We shall meet often yet, in spite of all; and often hear each that the other is behaving like a brave man. I know no other welfare in this Earth.— Jean writes us that your house is roofed again; we rejoice to fancy you free from raindrops; and fronting the winter with better shelter. Catlinns will have a new face3 when I come,—which will be, I trust, when this ‘Article’ is over.— You would see John's Letter; you would get the Review and the Printed Piece on Goethe. I can lend you other things of the Magazine kind: but suppose you to be far too busy for reading as yet. Tell me how goes your harvest; when you hope to be done. How you are all.——— You will soon see our dear Mother; tell her of our welfare, and that she will before long hear of us again. Thank Jean for her two Letters; say the Hat does excellently: no news I can get is so valuable to me as that our Mother and all of you are well. Love one another.4 One day we shall not all be well any longer.— Our kindest wishes to little Janekin and her Mother. The ‘new creature’5 will be a great solace to you: receive her and retain her as ‘sent from God.’——— Remember me and my Leddy to our Mother and my good letter-writing Jean, and every other one of them, and say we shall both be down ere long. Were my Article but done.— God be with you, dear Brother!— Ever your affectionate

T. Carlyle

Peter Austin dirties your Newspaper rather; but you can still read it; and he is very ready to oblige me in any way—