candlestick

October 1833-December 1834


The Collected Letters, Volume 7


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TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE; 18 November 1833; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18331118-TC-JAC-01; CL 7:36-43.


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE

Craigenputtoch, 18th Novr, 1833—

My Dear Brother,

Your Florence Letter of the 24th October has been here above ten days: I was hindered from answering it till now by the current of several important processes, which I wished to see reach their issue first. We have been kept in a state of unusual bustle; and I shall have a whole bagful of news to tell you, if I can recollect them all. First and most memorable is our Sister Jane's marriage. The poor little Crow! She is wedded hard and fast, since yesterday gone a week; and lives in her own house in Lochmaben-gate,1 with James Aitken her Chosen. Our first intimation of it was some four weeks ago, just after the arrival of your Milan Letter; one night hard on twelve o'clock, when all were asleep but Nancy and I, the sound of horse's hoofs was heard, which proved to be Alick's: in the course of talk, he told us that all was settled. About two weeks before that, Jean herself had sent me a Note, that Jemmy was extremely determined on marriage, whereby my presence down at Scotsbrig were highly desirable forthwith. I had fancied that a Letter to James, sent next week, had done the business; but now it stood out in clearer light, and one saw the roots of it extending farther, and the Scotsbrig Establishment doomed in a short time to dissolution.2 What could we do but accept the unalterable, with our best preparation; and rejoice heartily that it was no worse? Alick left us next forenoon; and we determined to be ready for attending the wedding.

Accordingly, on Saturday gone a week,3 my Dame and I set off betimes; and after hard drawing on Harry's part, and hard driving on mine, reached Catlinns (with lamps burning) towards six o'clock. Catlinns at this season is most bleak, most muddy; but Alick's welcome was of the warmest, and made amends for all: he drove us down next morning (“between showers”); all was well at Scotsbrig, and delighted to see us. Your Italian Prints all framed in flaring imitation-rosewood with gilding (by Aitken's help) hung round the room up stairs, and made a most dashing appearance. Preparation commenced next morning long before earliest dawn; all, including our Mother, seemed content; the poor little Bride herself had a suitable air, expressive of much, wherein a shade of resoluteness, almost of sternness was also traceable. At half past nine arrived the Middlebie Priest and his Wife (while I was only half-dressed); had to sit half an hour looking at the Pictures and the Book-case. Few minutes after ten came Alick mit Weib und Kind [with wife and child], and more essential still, the Bridegroom with Jemmy (who had gone up on Saturday) for [the] man; and a Gigful of Griers and so forth for wedding-company. The ceremony was over in ten minutes more, and the whole party lashing away at Breakfast. Our Mother stood it all with the greatest composure; a few separate tears, while the Priest did his work, and no word of complaint whatever. Indeed, I rather fancy she felt it at bottom to be a good arrangement; Jean, she had often said, was growing “a bauld hizzy [a bold hussy],” and, not submitting well to her discipline, gave her somewhat to suffer. By and by the Priest (shallowest of men) went his ways; Jemmy, as “best man,” strove lustily, by all means, liquors included, to keep his company in heart; at last, about one o'clock, they set to a cold mutton-pie, of gigantic dimensions; which having reduced to pygmean, they all (I too now joining) drank the stirrup-cup,4 and dashed off along by the Cauldronedge, amid mud enough, yet with bright sunshine,—another stage forward, on their Life-journey! To me none of these Epochs are other than solemn even sad things; but the thoughts they cause are perhaps better suppressed than uttered. We saw poor Jeankin again, as we came homewards; and had tea with her and her Husband: she looked “as well as could be expected”; a wise, little resolute creature; who in no situation whatever were to be despaired of. We calculate that they may do moderately well: James Aitken (for whom she had finally refused W. Brand5) is no bad fellow perhaps “after all”; certainly an ingenious, clever kind of fellow, with fair prospects, no bad habit, and perhaps very great skill in his craft. I saw a copied Ruysdael,6 of his doing, which certainly amazed me. Let us all send them our good wishes, and hope, here as always, the best. He is not worthy of Jean: but “one must take the best she can get.”

Of Brother James who set off again to Dumfries and only returned the night before our departure, I saw very little. It appears to be a fixed resolution with him to wed that Miss Calvert of his; nothing almost, since Werter's time,7 has equalled the intensity of his devotion in that quarter. By Letter I had explained to him that he must needs wait till Whitsunday, till our Mother was provided for; and then we should all wish him good speed. This I reckon to be at present his outlook. Our Mother keeps the best heart; neither fears the future, nor needlessly mourns over the past. From all we could learn in talking with her, the arrangement that would suit her best were a house of her own, and a field or two, in the close neighbourhood of Mary. Mary's Jemmy had actually offered for a farm, where our Mother thought she could have managed well enough: but that, we have since learned, is a lost chance, the farm being let otherwise. There are still plenty of Farms (tho' with more than plenty of competitors); Austin too has left himself disengaged after Martinmas8 to seek for one. Various other schemes for our Mother offer themselves. We expect her here in two or three weeks; and shall then consult farther of it. She seems to be in the same sort of health as you left her in, far better she says than you found her in: she had been “twenty rake [trips]” at the Post-office asking for that Letter you half-promised her: however, I brought some comfort; namely, your Florence News just arrived, in my pocket. She sends you always her blessing from the heart: I think you should write to her specially; she were poor indeed when she grudged the postage of one from you. She is insatiable on that head.

I will now record for you a little smallest section of Universal History; the scene still Annandale. The tuesday [sic] after the wedding, I sat correcting the second Fraction of Teufelsdk for Fraser's Magazine: but towards night Alick, according to appointment, arrived with his “little black mare,” to drive me “somewhither” next day. We, after some consultation, made it Annan; and saw ourselves there about one o'clock. A damp, still afternoon, quite Novembrish and pensivemaking. The look of those old familiar houses, the jow [sound] of that old bell, went far into my heart: a straggling funeral proceed[ed] up the street; Senhouse Nelson (now Reform-bill Provost), with Banker Scott in such priggish clothes as he wears, and two others of the like, stood on Benson's9 porch-stairs gazing into Inanity: Annan still stood there; and I—here. Ben10 was from home; his little son gone to London; the maid thought, into some Hospital, some Navy appointment, into she knew not what. Finally we determined on seeking out Waugh. Old Marion, as clean and dure as ever, hobblingly admitted us: there sat the Doctor, grizzle-locked (since I saw him), yellow-wrinkled, forlorn and out-cast-looking, with bees' wax and other tailor or botcher apparatus on a little table, the shell of an old Coat lying dismembered on the floor; another, not yet so condemnable, which with his own hand he was struggling to rehabilitate! A new cuff I saw (after he had huddled the old vestment on) evidently of his own making, the front buttonholes had all exploded, a huge rent lay under one armpit, extending over the back; the Coat demanded mending,—since burning was not to be thought of. There sat he; into such last corner (with the pale winter sun looking thro' on him) had Schicksal und eigne Schuld [fate and one's own guilt] hunted the ill-starred Waugh. For the first time, I was truly wae for him. He talked too with such meekness; yet is still mad; talking of £1200 to be made by a good comedy, and such like. When we came out (since the state of his Coat would not allow Waugh to come with us to the Buck [cart]), Alick and I settled that at least we would assure ourselves of his having food: Alick therefore got twenty-shillings to take him 4 cwt. of potatoes and 8 stone of meal;—three-fourths of which have been already handed in (without explanation), the rest will follow at Candlemas. So goes it in native Annandale. A hundred times since has that picture of Waugh botching his old coat, at that cottage-window, stranded and cast out from the whole occupied Earth, risen in my head, with manifold meaning. His Prophecy-Book has not covered expenses; his Pathology the Longmans, very naturally, would not have.11 I endeavoured to convince him that Literature was hopeless, doubly and trebly hopeless for him; farther advice I did not like to urge. My sole consolation is to know that for the present he has plenty of meal and potatoes; and salt cheap. Perhaps it is likely he will fall into his Mother's state; let an indolent insanity get the mastery over him; and spend his time mostly in bed. I rather traced some symptoms12 of that. Gott behüte [God forbid]!13

It is now time you had a paragraph about Craigenputtoch. Everything is in the stillest condition here. I have read many books; “put thro”14 me a vast multitude of thoughts unutterable and utterable. In health we seem to improve, especially Janekin: we have realised a Shower-bath at Dumfries, and erected it in the room over this (Library); the little Dame fearlessly plunges it over her in coldest mornings: I have had it only twice. Farther, of external things, know that (by science) I extracted the dining-room lock; had it repaired; and now it shuts like a Christian lock! This is small news, yet great. In my little Library are two bell-ropes (brass-wire and curtain-ring) the daintiest you ever saw; finally the Segretario Ambulante [itinerant secretary],15 in fittest framing, hangs right behind my back (midway between the door and the fire), and looks beautiful, really the piece of Art I take most pleasure in of all my Kunstvorrath [art supply]. He is a delightful fellow; shows you Literature in its simplest quite steadfast condition, below which it cannot sink. My own Portrait was to have been framed similarly, and hung by him as counterpart; but Jane has put it in rosewood and gilding, much to my dislike, and it hangs now on the other side of the wall (in the Drawing-room), and keeps mostly out of my sight. If you think that our Piano will still act, that one reach [load] of the Peatstack is carried in, and all else in its old state, you may fancy us all tight and right so far as the case of Life goes. As to the kernel, or spiritual part there can hardly any description be given; so much of it has not yet translated itself into words—I am quiet; not idle, not unhappy; by God's blessing, shall yet see how I am to turn myself. Cochrane refuses both my projected Articles: I have nevertheless written the Diamond Necklace; at least it lies rough-hewn in the drawer here, only these marriages have kept me from finishing it. The other Article I could not now have undertaken to write; the Saint-Simons as you may perhaps know, having very unexpectedly come to light again, and set to giving missionary lectures of a most questionable sort in London.16 Mill is not there to tell me about them, but in Paris; so I can understand nothing of it; except that that [sic] they are not to be written of, being once more in the fermenting state. Cochrane and I have, probably enough, done: but as Wull Brown says, “it is perhaps just as well; for I firmly intended” &c. I believe I must go back ere long, and look at London again. In the meanwhile, learn, study, read; consider thy ways and be wise!17 Teufelsdröckh, as was hinted, is coming out, in Fraser; going “to pot” probably, yet not without leaving me some money, not without making me quit of him. To it again! Try it once more!— Alick was here since Saturday; came up with two Sacks of old oats for Harry; went away this very morning (Tuesday) with a load of wood. He is to be back again some time in winter; he has purchased from Jamie the pony you rode on, and will travel on it,—when the pastern-joint is mended, which has been wrong for some time. Poor old Macadam was shot (did I not tell you?) the day after you went away.— We have engaged Peter Austin's Boy to ride down weekly till Whitsunday, and seek our Letters &c; also a stall of a stable for him at Dumfries, under James Aitken's eye; so we have now settled that foolish matter of “Kerrag,”18 and hope it will do.— Not till Saturday last, when Alick came, did we hear a word from the Advocate. He now writes to Jane in the frostiest, most frightened manner; makes honourable mention of you; to me hardly alludes except from a far distance. Jane will have it that he took many things to himself in the Article Diderot; a possible thing, which corresponds too with the cessation of his Letters. I love the Advocate, and partially pity him, and will write to him in such “choicest mood”19 as I can command at present. He has got the Burgh Reform Bill20 passed, and a set of new mostly Radical Provosts elected; feels nevertheless that the ground is nearly gone from beneath his feet. Ben Nelson, by the by, was highest-voted Councillor in Annan; had to refuse the Provostship.21

And now, dear Brother, what of Italy and Rome? Are you once again settled in that wondrous City; and getting on tolerably there? We cannot but regret the changes you hint at in your domestic element; yet without fear that you will not master these too. Know the deep contemptibility of Gigmanism; strive not with it nevertheless; let it pass, let it gelten [let it serve]: what is it to thee? A nobler arena to work in yet lies in store for you: for it prepare yourself. And now is the Time for your Tolerance; practice well what you can so earnestly preach. On the whole too is it impossible to extract any good, any amusement even from Miss Elliot, and that wild Irish Girl?22 Try better; perhaps you will succeed better. In any case, you have Books, you have a whole living world round you. To look farther into Art is clearly the most natural task for you, there in the centre of Art; I fear I cannot get Win[c]kelmann23 to go along with you here. The Church also is an interesting thing; tho' now I think nearly an extinct one. If you have an interest in it, follow it out; there is no other rule one can walk by. What would please me best of all would be to hear that you had got patients, and were pushing on your own noble science a little. The estimate I have formed of your power to excel therein is the highest in my whole sphere of observation; I rejoice also to see that you yourself love Medical Art, and honour it. Of professions it is the only one extant in this world which an honest man in these days can with the smallest assurance prosecute. Forward then! Forward with God's blessing! Let us be thankful for all mercies; thankful for this great one that each of us has a Brother. Auf ewig [Eternally]!

T. Carlyle.

Jane offered to write this whole Letter, if I would give her time—till another week. I could not; but fancied she might fill up the margins at least; but it now turns out to be impossible: the Macadams are going off instantaneously (we are to take them this week), and there is not a moment of time. You must go without your margins this time. I regret it much but cannot help it. When will you write again? I will answer instantly. Farewell dear Brother! Your ever affectionate,

T.C.

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