October 1831-September 1833

The Collected Letters, Volume 6


TC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE; 12 January 1833; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18330112-TC-MAC-01; CL 6:295-299.


18. Carlton Street, Stockbridge, Edinburgh / Saturday 12th January, 1833—

My Dear Mother,

I sit down to fulfil my promise of writing to you; the more gladly as tho' there is not much to say, there is nothing to say that is bad. Jamie will have given you our history up to the point of starting on the Thornhill Coach. We found the fares raised from Saturday night to Monday morning; which circumstances mainly provoked me to take an outside seat, not an inside; and so after all deprive the greedy scout (Clarke of Dumfries, whose work it was) of any additional profit by me, nay bring him to make five shillings less.1 The outside seat (about which I doubt you have been grieving all this while) was much the better of the two kinds, and could at any time be exchanged for an inside; the weather being so remarkably good: indeed, that was the very best day we could have got had we had our choice for a month. About eight o'clock at night, we were all finally landed here, without the smallest injury; found fires lighted, even tea-dishes set out; and soon made ourselves quite at home. Next day the Carrier faithfully delivered all our luggage; the next again, that Trunk which Jamie might tell you had been left at Thornhill, was also handed in safe and entire: the goods are now all dispersed over presses, storerooms and chests of drawers; and so at length, as the saying goes, Here we are! Our accommodation is such as ought to content us very well: it is a fine street this, like the best sort in the New Town; our floor is in the corner house, and fronts two ways, one way into a sort of circus, where huge trees are growing, and a great body of rooks even now keep up a cawing. You remember something of Stockbridge (we are a little way to the left hand, just when you have crossed the Bridge from the Edinburgh side), and how clean a smokeless kind of place it was: indeed the reek generally of Auld Reekie seems the clearness of mountain tops compared with the horrible vapours of London. The streets too look all so orderly and airy; and every here and there one meets with some known face as if one were still at home. Within doors we have space enough for all purposes: a large kitchen, two large and even handsome rooms (in one of which I now write, and mean to study) as dining-room and drawing-room; three bedrooms; with all manner of etceteras too tedious to mention. The height of the whole cannot be less I think than sixteen feet! They are such windows there as I have seldom seen. The only beggarly thing about the whole establishment is the Beds. Wretched, crazy, creaking Tent-beds, on which no man of any stature can spread himself with freedom; hangings of the miserablest cotton, bedding hollowed out into a ditch in the middle; and of bed-clothes such plenty, that we put all the blankets in the house into one bed! However we had partly foreseen this last evil; and brought over a store of blankets to Templand, ready to be sent for at any time: and now just while Jane was about writing for them, one of her Aunts here tells her that they have about 30 pairs of good Scotch blankets, which they will lend us joyfully any part of; which accordingly we purpose to supply our want from. There is no kind of clock in the house; but I have laid out my watch, into a woollen mat on a table: if Alick or Jamie could get me that same ‘Twenty-shillings Watch’ I was once talking of, and send it hither, it were very welcome. I should have added that as to the ditch-shape of our couches we fell upon a notable device: tumbled out all the matrasses [sic], tightened up the canvas, and then—filled up the centre of the space to the height wanted with good rye grass Hay; which when the bedding is replaced and all put in order again makes a quite level, very tolerable thing of it. To such uses are materials put: this Hay, which Rowantree2 painfully got on the braes of Dunscore, descends not into our Cow's stomach there to be made milk of, but into Mrs Colquhoun's (Cohoon's) Bed there to bring the sleepy a little rest.

Thus you see, my Dear Mother, we are likely to be very well situated here, so far as outward things go; may live agreeably enough till the spring come back; profitably one can at all times live, if he rightly will. My health, I expect will continue as good as it was; for I shall [have] more exercise and spiritual entertainment. Jane, poor little lassie, slept very ill the first two nights (till we got used, and the ditch-beds put right); but has now come into her old way again: she has farther got a very worthy old Doctor, an intimate friend of her Father's, to attend upon her; who shows the greatest affection and attention, and really far more reasonableness than any Doctor I have ever seen in these parts. It is old Dr Hamilton,3 a notable man here, called cockie Hamilton, for he still wears a cocked hat; and is indeed quite an old-fashioned person,—a better kind, I think, than the new-fashioned. Perhaps he may do her some good; which is the likelier, as in the meantime he refuses to prescribe, and only waits and observes, declaring that her present method of management seems quite good.

Already we have had a variety of visits; and have called on several. Jeffrey was here yesterday, but did not find us in. I saw Napier, in great haste; and shall by and by perhaps come into closer investigation of him. Henry Inglis sat with us some hours last night: he has got married, and has a child; and looks a good deal wiser; as affectionate as ever. John Gordon has at length, after many years of hunting, caught a kind of place, a Secretaryship in the College; which will enable him, with what he already has, to live with some security; safe against cleanness of teeth.4 There are no bounds to his regard for me; otherwise he is a wearisome man. Professor Wilson has just lost a Sister; so I have not yet seen him. Dr Irving of the Advocates' Library told me the day before yesterday that poor Frank Dixon had at length got quit of all earthly woes: he died, about Moffat, some two or three months ago. Poor Frank! I daresay, in all the British Lands there has not been for the last ten years a more wretched man than he: but now that is of no moment, and the question is quite another. Yesterday I met Mitc[hell] in the street, and walked home with him: he has suffered much within the last two years; has had the worst health; and even now looks exceedingly ill; with a short, unsound cough, headaches, great weakness: I fear he is far from out of danger. Such are the various lots of men. Yesterday also I saw my old comrade Murray: he is withered up into a poor sapless creature; keeps boarders, had two prattlers jingling the pokers and so forth; also his Picture in oil grinning on him from the wall; seems meanwhile well at ease, and moderately glad that he is what he is: there let him play his part, with a blessing! Robert Welsh they say is looking in bad health: today at three o'clock I am to go and witness the Baptism of his child, and see him for the first time. I have dined at old Mr Bradfute's, who was very hospitable; had come over hither the very day after our arrival, a great effort for him. On the whole, we have every reason to be well content with the feeling people show towards us: people indeed can do one but little good, and but little ill; however, what we could wish of them here they freely offer; which ought to be reckoned among our mercies, whereof now as always there are many.

The Letter which lay waiting here was not from the Doctor, but from John Mill:5 I wrote to the Doctor the day after our arrival, and told him all about Scotsbrig: I think he must be waiting for some certainty about our Edinburgh journey; yet may perhaps write within some fortnight or so: I will send you immediate word about it.— I sent off both the Newspapers yesterday; I think you will get yours today; they will not be later next week; perhaps afterwards a day earlier, if I had once got the news of my Address here conveyed to London; as yet, the Examiner has to come round by Dumfries. You, on your side, must not and will not be slack in sending me news; consider that I get no weekly paper. But Jane, I know, will prove true: she shall find me always active in replying. I sent her a short Note (at her request) by Jamie; perhaps you guess on what subject. Tell her farther that I again only wish her to exercise her own discretion, and have the most perfect confidence that she will see her way thro' it, and pursue the right way. For the rest, that whatever makes her happy will meet all my wishes in regard to it. But, in any case, the proverb says, ‘there is luck in leisure.’6 On the whole she is a wise true girl; also, ‘a determint body’: I have no apprehension for her.7 Give my kind love to all and sundry of the rest: they may all help Jane with filling of the sheet. For yourself, my dear Mother, I can only again advise, Be careful of your health; live, as you have long done, in dependence on the Great Giver, who will never leave you nor forsake you; and from us your much indebted children expect as your good right all that we can do to help you. I am very glad I came thro' the snow-broo [slush] to see you; I shall feel much easier for it while I am here. And so, dear Mother, live in hope, in this Place of Hope, and know well that God is ever waiting to be good. May He bless you all and always!

Your affectionate son, /

T. Carlyle.

If Jeffrey come in today, I will make him frank this: if not, I know you will pay your 8½d cheerfully; tho' certainly you have but a dear pennyworth of it.— You shall not be troubled with this wretched paper again: I have but one sheet of the old sort left (which I have to write on to a Stranger, to Mill): I bought this last night; but prudently and luckily took only four sheets of it. It is very bad.

Perhaps in some weeks I may send you a Book-parcel by the Dumfries Bookseller, which you will get by Notman. Tell Jane not to forget to mention whether it is the Scots Worthies or the Cloud of Witnesses8 that you have.

[JWC:] God bless you all! he has left me nothing else to say—yes—I may repeat what is no news that the butter pig is safe and excellent—we have a delightful house here—and my own old Dr is going to cure me so that I shall be able to enjoy my blessings— I have heard from Mrs Montagu—9