October 1831-September 1833

The Collected Letters, Volume 6


TC TO MARGARET A. CARLYLE; 20 September 1833; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18330920-TC-MAC-01; CL 6:440-444.


Craigenputtoch, 20th Septr 1833—

My Dear Mother,

If you called at the usual time, you would be disappointed in the Newspapers; for in truth they were only this day put into the Thornhill Post-Office, and cannot yet have got the length of Dumfries. I had myself been disappointed; that was the reason. Gracie of Sandywell was to bring the Letters last week, and literally did so: but the Postmaster forgot the Papers, as I conjecture, and then took pains to deliver them to “Nethertown,”1 who, good easy man, allowed them to lie quietly by him till yesterday morning when I, by a kind of accident having heard that they were there, called and got them. We will try to avoid such mischances in future; of which, indeed, it is perhaps strange that so few befal us here. However, the present one has proved a gain on the whole: for I, hearing nothing of the Newspapers, directed the Minnyhive carrier to call for them on Saturday; who, of course, brought me no Newspapers, yet something far better, namely this inclosed Letter from the Doctor, which otherwise I must have waited for till Wednesday, and you till Wednesday week. So putting one thing to another, we will rather rejoice than grumble.

Poor Jack, as you will find, has got safe over the Water, and begins his expedition as prosperously as could be wished. There is no more sailing now; nothing but the finest country in all Europe to roll thro', where the people will all be gathering their grapes (during these weeks) to make Rhine-wine of, and singing their vintage-song, as merry as maltmen, or rather as grape-men, who have a still better right to be merry. Jack has plucked up his spirits too; the travelling party promises to be agreeable; and all to prove favourable. So we will wish him heartily good speed; and wait with hope that of this too good may come and not evil. We have great reason to be thankful, that amid unnumbered perils we and so many dear to us are still saved alive, to see good, and to do good (if we will) in the Land of Living,2 in the Place of Hope. You will read in the Examiner that fearful shipwreck of the Amphitrite,3 one of the horridest things ever recorded: that happened on the friday-night (before that “shake-wind,”—it was a death-wind there)4 not above twenty miles off where John was landed safe on the following Monday. These have all fearfully perished; he and we are left alive.

When our Doctor will write again he does not say. It will be some five weeks, I think, before he can get the Letter he appoints me to write him: but probably he will write to some of us before that; from Switzerland or wherever he has a little day of rest. At this time he is perhaps in Brussels, a gay Capital such as Edinburgh: he goes eastward next into Germany, and then up the Rhine (part of his old route to Munich); and so on towards the Swiss Alps where that river springs; a beautiful road. Most likely he will pass thro' Constance, where our noble Huss5 testified to the death: he may tell us what he says to his “scarlet woman” and her abominations there! You and I shall not be with him to lecture from that text; but his own thought (for all that he talks so) will do it. The dumb ashes of Huss speak louder than a thousand sermons.

But I must tell you something now of myself: for I know many a morning, my dear Mother, you “come in by me” in your rambles thro' the world after those precious to you. If you had eyes to see on these occasions, you would find everything quite tolerable here. I have been rather busy, tho' the fruit of my work is rather inward and has little to show for itself; I have yet hardly put pen to paper: but foresee that there is a time coming. All my griefs, I can better and better see, lie in good measure at my own door; were I right in my own heart, nothing else would be far wrong with me: this, as you well understand, is true of every mortal; and I advise all that hear me to believe it, and lay it practically to their own case. On the whole, I am promising to occupy myself more wholesomely, and to be happier here all winter, than I have been of late. “Be diligent in well-doing”;6 that is the only secret for happiness anywhere: not a universal one or infallible (so long as we continue on Earth); yet far the best we have.

For the last two weeks till this day Jane has been away from me; at Moffat with her Mother and Cousin most of the time. I led the loneliest life, I suppose, of any human creature in the King's dominions; yet managed wonderfully by keeping myself continually in work. I clomb to the Hill-top one Sabbath-day for my walk; and saw Burnswark, and fancied you all at the Sermon close by. I was down at Dunscore another day, and thence with the Minister to see the Barjarg Library, which I have some hopes of getting admittance to, a favour that would be very useful here.7 Another evening there came up to me the poor youth Gray,8 whom you have heard me speak of; a miserable, almost shocking sort of figure, ruined by vanity and whisky; resembling Badams in his condition. I was heartily sorry for him; but relieved when he went away; and on the whole best contented when left to myself altogether. Wattie Johnston (Macadam[']s father-in-law) was another interruption: but with him I made rather short work; such as he seemed to merit and require.9 Finally on Monday morning (yesterday) I went over to Templand, and found my bit Wifie, altogether defaite [exhausted], not a whit better but worse of Moffat and i[t]s baths, and declaring she would not leave me so soon again in a hurry. I had sanctioned and advised her going; but was glad enough to see her back, and so glad to get back. We are here again safe, and ought to settle ourselves a while. She had seen the Andersons,10 all better than when here: “Betty Smeal11 doing excellently.” It is true enough that John Anderson is to Law about the Estate; and some say will get it; is sure of a good Lawsuit at any rate. It is said to be for his Mother's sake mainly that he makes this attempt: for whose sake he likes, I doubt it is no fair one.12

I think of you all here daily; am wae for the harvesters on wet days, and wonder whether my Mother is well, and what the rest are all doing. Thank Jean for her most seasonable little note; tell Jamie there is a line in the Doctor's letter, which he ought particularly to note. Jean will write to me again; perhaps next Wednesday? I long to hear how you are, dear Mother: I join earnestly in John's entreaty and caution, that you would be careful of yourself; at this season especially. She must tell me also when you are coming up, or any of the rest. Alick and Jamie I suppose will be here at Roodfair time13 (which cannot be far distant now: will none of the rest come with them?[)] As for me, I think I must put something on paper before I come down again, be that when it may: it will be kind of spur to me, if I need one;—or rather “a sheaf of corn at the far end”! You however I am bound to fetch (in the Clatch) and take back whenever you determine.

My large sheet is almost done. I have had the worst of pens; and, I doubt, have more than once brought Jean to a nonplus. You will gather this from it, that I am as well as usual, that you are all as dear to me as of old— Again I request Jean to tell me by some Note or sign (two strokes on a Newspaper-cover, or anything) that you, my dear Mother, are well. Take care of yourself dear Mother; for sake of us all. My kind love and prayers for every one of you. May He watch over you whose eye never sleeps! In this world of shadows may we all look towards the world of realities, “that city which hath foundations!”14 Good [night] dear Mother. Your affectionate,

T. Carlyle—

I send a Magazine, tho' I suppose you have little time at present.— Tell Jean I got both the Manchester papers; also the parcels quite regularly, and direct, by John Shaw.

Tell Alick (with my love) that I have been looking to him these several weeks to get me some stock of old horse-corn; for Peter can get me no more in the glen. M'Adam brought us a little pokeful from Dumfries to keep things going; we have in all perhaps something like a Carlisle bushel. If Jamie have any grain left, of course it is all one; but I recollected ricks at Alick's, and thought of a Cart at roodfair: I can take a sack of oats or more (for there is a barrel too).

This old black coat was left me by Jack; but I have a blue one in much the same condition: so I send this down to Jamie Austin to try if it will fit him. If the sleeves are too short, new cuffs might improve them. At all rates, it will make spencers for “Fill't-mi-wi'-potch,”15 and characters of that stamp.— I have the Picture here, which is meant for you, but not framed yet.— My Compliments to Burnswark16 if you see him: he would tell you that he was here.— Jane's best love to you all. She thinks about thirty pounds of butter will serve; and she wants it in 3 little pots, 10 lb each: she has Pots here; but expects to see some “conveyance” here before Roodsmas, and settle it then.— Again, good-night.

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