October 1831-September 1833

The Collected Letters, Volume 6


TC TO ALEXANDER CARLYLE; 18 September 1832; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18320918-TC-AC-01; CL 6:227-230.


Craigenputtoch, Tuesday 18th Septr 1832—

My Dear Alick,

I hope you noticed on the Newspaper a small announcement that I “could not come” to meet you tomorrow; so that no portion of your inducement to be at Dumfries might rest on my shoulders. I am not without a sort of persuasion that Tomorrow after all, if it be fine, may tempt you to stay at home for harvest work. For which reason I despatch this forward by your carrier Walters,1 instead of directing it to be left for yourself with Shaw.2——— I have but a very little time at my disposal, and must be brief.

The Limbs of the Law summoned me down to Dumfries, on Saturday last, to ‘serve as Juryman’: I went; and answered to my name, about half past 10 o'clock: this was all the duty I had to do. The case was a Sherriff's one; of a wretched ragtail chimney-sweep, who had stolen an Ass value 20 shillings in the Parish of Ewes: they sentenced him to imprisonment; after which the fifty or sixty men who had been obliged to throw by their work and mount their horses on his account, were dismissed, and went their way.3 I contrived, however, to get all my little bits of business done; and so, being very much pressed by work here, was obliged to resolve on not losing another day, even tho' I had the prospect of meeting you there.

The rather, as I now find that we can do a while without new Harness. I got an awl and threads up from Dumfries by the Boy, and have made the most surprising job of it; you would not know that anything had happened. Then, as we are to be away in winter, and so forth, it seemed to me the new Harness might spoil: besides, what is [as] true, there is no superfluity of money going just now. I have paid the Advocate (last Saturday), and have still a few pounds over, and more due: but it will all be wanted, and more too that I have yet to earn for Edinr and its expenses. So will let the Harness lie: if you have any chance, pray inform yourself at the Saddler's what such a thing can be had for; it will be to purchase by and by, if we keep the Clatch running; which, while resident here, I see not how we can help doing.

Jemmy and you, I daresay, will be at the Roodfair:4 can you not come up hither at night, and see what we are doing, and rest yourselves till Saturday? I fear, not; and yet it is perhaps possible, if you are thro' the Corn and the Potatoes not begun yet. We shall see.— I hope there is no fear of your getting rid of that Grey Beast, on some sort of terms. I must just leave her in your charge; and since you have had so much trouble with her, let you finish her off.— Harry, I find by last Saturday's trail, runs like a rein-deer in the gig; one of the gleggest little fellows, if you remind him that there is such a thing as a whip. He is stout and thriving, but lazy,—unless where you have such a chance for quickening him.

We know not yet when we go to Edinr; I have still much work to do: it cannot be till a month or so after Martinmas.5 We have hired the old Servant, whom you gave a ride to last whitsunday: she can ride, yoke &c; so that we think of dismissing Robert, for whom there will be no work. Now on this latter point I had a message to you from Jane and partly from myself: it is to see whether Jamie needs a Boy of that kind thro' winter, for I think he had one last winter, and [th]at this might suit him. He is expert enough with horses, rather a good Carter I think; willing to work, but totally unable to get thro' with almost any work, unless there be some commander near him, when he will stretch himself really handsomely enough. He performs pretty well (not exorbit[ant]ly) with the s[poon], is not [a bother, or] in the least troublesome: but the thing th[at in]terests us above all things in him is the natural sense the poor creature manifests; his love of Knowledge in all sorts; and what is of infinitely greater moment even than this, his innocence and veracity. We have never detected him telling the small[es]t falsehood, or so much as prevaricating. I could like well to fancy the poor creature in good hands, where he would see and hear honest sensible things said and done; and be stirred up and sharpened, even by roughish usage to put himself forth into exertion. He is very desirous, it seems, to learn husbandry work; and could easily learn it, had he a tight stirring master. Tell the Scotsbrig people about all this; and see whether they say anything. We shall likely send him down to the Fair at any rate, and he will see some of you at Beck's.6

I have taken up all your sheet with this small charitable matter, which is of a sort one ought not to neglect.——— There are four Numbers of Fras[er's] for you and a Life of Mary Wolstoncroft [sic]7 (once a famous woman): I think they will serve you till we come down.— Alas, I have a long dour job before me first. But I am toiling at it, and it cannot last me long. Tell my dear Mother that I am as impatient to come as [she] can [be to] have me; that I will set off the very day I am at liberty; lastly that I think surely in four weeks from this date we may hope to [see] you.

It was cleverly done to slate your house with your “own hand” (as Edward Irving used to sign his name), and get it over before the Tirl-trees season.8 You will have a very tolerable place of it, heartsome in summer, stormtight in winter; I hope and believe it will not disappoint your modest calculations in other respects. Courage, my dear Brother! The willing arm will yet find work, and wages for it: “there is ay life for a living body.” We are all born to hard labour; and might easily have been born to worse.— I have filled up all your sheet with “mere nothing”;9 and must now desist, and wrap up. God be with you always! Ever your affectionate,

T. Carlyle