July 1836-December 1837

The Collected Letters, Volume 9


TC TO JANE WELSH CARLYLE; 22 July 1837; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18370722-TC-JWC-01; CL 9:258-264.


Scotsbrig, 22nd July, 1837—

Many thanks, my dear Bairn, for thy two long lively Letters; the faithful reflex of that Cockneyland Phantasmagory, all glittering and whirling with changeful sights and sounds, from Opera soirees [sic] to Madhouse cells; in which, however, this one satisfactory fact evinces itself, That my poor Jeannie is tolerably well in it, and enjoys herself a little there. Poor Bechetti, poor Pepoli, poor everybody! Sauve [sic] mari magno.1 I, sitting here on the safe brink, have not had two gladder hours than those thy two franks gave me. It is a pity, and perhaps not a pity, that so lively a pen did not turn itself to writing of Books? My coagitor too might become a distinguished female. Nay, after all, who knows? But perhaps we are better as we are. “Probably just as well.”

I know not why, did pure utilitarian intellect rule us, I should write a Letter today; a Newspaper and two strokes, to indicate from the bottom of my ditch, that nothing is wrong with me; and a third, if that were at any time needful, to indicate that I do with my whole soul “wish you well”: this really is the amount of all that with quires of paper I could write. I am doing nothing, witnessing nothing. My stupidity is great, my sadness, my tranquillity. Nothing more ghostlike diversifies anywhere the green surface of July in this world. But yet if to anybody on Earth then surely to thee its partner of good and evil does the poor worn-out soul of me turn. I will clatter and croak with thee for an hour, as the hour yields. They say, I am growing better, looking better; I do believe it is a kind of road towards betterness that I am travelling: this is the sum of all my news.

Your first Letter came on a Sunday night. An old teacher of mine,2 the first teacher I had, the son of the venerable old man that baptised me, was preaching at Ecclefechan that night: my Mother had gone, I not; she returned with the Letter. The preacher in person, along with one David Hope of Glasgow a Kinsman of his,3 called one evening; I returned in from an unearthly walk on the moor after sunset, and found them: fat, loquacious, full of good cheer; they interested me considerably for about an hour. Graham[e] has almost given up plaguing me: I positively refuse to go, and be bored and prove a bore; my sole ambition is to be let alone. Very generally the history of my day is somewhat thus: Breakfast shortly after such hour as I awake at (any time from seven to nine); shaving, dawdling, reading, smoking, till dinner about two or three; a ride on a little violent walking pony of Jamie's, oftenest to the top of Blaweary4 (you remember the road to Catlinns), where I have the benefit of total solitude, and a prospect of wide miles of earth sea and air; then tea; suceeded again by dawdling, smoking, reading and clatter till porridge come and el[e]ven o'clock and sleep. No man need do less. The weather in general is noble, verging of late towards rain and thunder; but with sunbursts that Poussin or Claude5 might profit by. I cannot be said to think of anything; I merely look and drowsily muse. When tide and weather serve (as yesterday) I ride down to bathe: poor Nelson is much sadder about his son than when we saw him; he is always extremely kind, but also rather tiresome. Alick or Mary gets me up some victuals; I smoke a pipe, and amble home again. At Annan I one day did make out the call on Mrs Irving;6 she, her Daughter and Son-in-law,7 all Dicksondom, were at home: a most melancholy wreck. Poor Margaret (Mrs Ferguson), a widow these two years, is dying at Liverpool in the house of a Brother-in-law. Dickson's eyes have been operated on again; he sees a little with one of them: the old woman is broken down into a chaos of gossip, impertinent curiosity, tears, clatter and confusion. Embarrassment and rigour looks from the once bright eyes of Mrs Dickson: ah me! I also fell in with Waugh yesterday: he stood for an hour looking over the steamboat Jetty; motionless, perhaps occasionally spitting into the tide. When I spoke to him his words were hardly intelligible for the ornamental lisp; which seems to have aggravated itself much: he is publishing a new theory of human life or the nervous system at three and sixpence (thickthpenth-a):8 I left him to his fate in a minute or two. One evening, I rode in by Dr Arnott's: he was sitting with a face like the setting Sun; quite private over a tumbler of Glenlivet,9 his new gravel-walks silent and weedy; a blank Immensity all round him; very dull, very kind. Old Cressfield, my Father's last surviving friend, I have not got to yet; but will by some favourable tide.— On friday last we made out Dumfries for the first time: a “dandy-cart,” one of Jamie's horses, and Alick to drive my Mother and me; the finest evening in the world; I silent as the yellow sunlight, not unhappy. Jean and her James are huggermuggering along not unprosperously; rational sufficient people both; Jean, I always say, excepting only another Jean, is the woman of most natural faculty I know. Also you can tell whether she is a leddy or a gentleman.10 We did not get off till Sunday evening; I, even then, having to take the sin on me. These are the only two nights I have been out of this bed. M'Diarmid was new-shaved, clear, and not drunken-like; poured out on the floods of jargon about electioneering and the like; unprofitable highly. His wife is the same drawling victim of sensibility; “expects you to dinner then”; but does not attain you. Mac's best, indeed only good news was that he had rescued your Puttoch-game pin-money,11 tho' Clarke sits in jail a bankrupt:12 clever indeed; Mac had taken Madeira for it. He was going to pay; but did not, the Clerk having gone out: I shall have to call again. He has a fresh advertisement in this week's Courier; hopes to let the game this year at a higher rent: his charge of commission is 5 per cent; he seems to think it no favour, tho' it is one. Aird too I found, tho' with difficulty. He is not succeeding I think in any way. His mouth stood twisted into helpless-looking curvature; he was growing grey on the temples: my presence seemed to give him a moment of pleasure; he spoke of Heraud's Review; expected the Westminster: neither he nor Mac had got their copies of the Book; Aird was to send and seek. The last word M'Diarmid spoke to me was from the top of the stairs, “Now if you've anything to write you know” (with a knowing glance), “I'll publish!” What on Earth can the man mean, thought I, as I walked away: not till next morning did it grow clear that he meant me to review myself in that widely circulating Journal of his. Ach Gott im Himmel!— Of Mrs Richardson he could tell me nothing, except that she was still in her old place: Oliver13 he had recommended to a contributorship in Chamber's Journal, and some other still thinner thing which I have forgot. Requiescant [Let them rest]! Thou shalt hear no more of them this day. Mrs Crichton's Madhouse is nearly built, and looks very beautiful; one haven at least open!14

Alick's American speculation, after a good deal of discussion upon it, had to be given up and abolished from speech. My Mother sank silent when the affirmative had been decided on; did nothing but sigh and sit silent, with ejaculations of “I'll never see him mair”: she owned to me when I remonstrated, “I'm grown old and weak; I have not long to live.” Alick's own heart was faintly resolved, not drawn by hope but driven by ill luck. I was forced to say, Let there be no more speech of it then. Jamie professes his entire readiness, nay almost a kind of wish, to go to Craigenputtoch at M'Adam's rent; he thinks it a decidedly cheaper place than this! Alick again, with an angry glance of his eye, was “convinced he could do in Scotsbrig.” Short of saving my Mother's life there is nothing that shall induce me to put finger again in that unblessed quagmire of things; but in case of extremity I have schemed out a proposal I can make to your Mother; it is “a small request,” or rather it is no request at all: but even this I hope to keep clear of, and maintain the silence I have prescribed for myself. Silence alone is wholesome for me on that matter.— In the mean time Alick [is] steadier in his habits than formerly; and having now cut himself off from America, may perhaps be able to [find] some other course here, by persevering in which he may save himself. I have seldom been sorrier for any man. But what can I do for him? Yesterday when I went down to bathe, I found suddenly that he was off to Liverpool, he and another man a kind of Merchant in Annan; Jenny did not know well for what. It was in waiting for a glimpse of them that I saw Waugh spitting into the tide. After long waiting, I got eye on Alick; found that it was for the Herring-fishery he was bound; the other man possesses a sloop, now at Liverpool; they were to take a cargo of salt there, then exchange it for a cargo of salted herrings on the Western shores; Alick to be Captain of the enterprise; not to return for three weeks! I could only grasp the poor fellow's hand, and pray God that it might be the beginning of better things for him. Ay de mi! these are hard things to be borne by men in this world. I think Alick's dispiritment is almost equal to mine; and he poor fellow has nothing to shew for it; not even a F. Revolution; nothing but long years of toil and chagrin and the traces they have ploughed in his own soul. Yet even now I do not despair of him, for he is good stuff. His and Mary's remembrances of you are particularly affectionate: I cannot kiss any children; but I told them you had bid me do it. Anne Cook arrived about a week after me: she declared she “would go to serve you again to any length if she should die by the road.” The greatcoat cape is safe. I spoke to Ane one day; tell all people merely that “her term was done.” What a blessing that new Ellen must be to you; like a new Broom, sweeping clean!—ah me the Paper, the Paper!— Cavaignac has not written, nor I think will not.15 I will send him a Newspaper. What an absurdity that about Teufelk!16 And is it finished off in that way? Methink one ought to say that the Book is specially valuable to us, and had better be got back. I have written a short dull Letter to Mill; my only one since I got here, yours excepted. The Dumfries Mill-Parcel failed; but Nelson sent me the Review from Annan: it is good as good need be for my share in it; I told Mill so, and that I thanked him from the bottom of my ditch, and begged to be left in repose. His Dumfries Parcel had come before that, and a Letter in it; all about the Book, the Book: otherwise I should hardly have written, tho it was my duty. He has been very courageous, I think; and cannot but do good.— I wish you had been a little more minute about John Sterling: it was a melancholy tense for me that of the verb “came,” which you used; from which I gathered that he had left London! I was just about writing to him; to him alone of men. From Clifton, whatever he may be doing there, I shall perhaps hear from himself.— The Liverpool people (your Uncle, I think) send me a Newspaper now and then. Your Mother will be home still about the beginning of August? I think if you could then get away into the country a little with Mrs Sterling, it would be a very pretty arrangement indeed: about the time of your return, I might be thinking of returning; and so from opposite directions we might get h[old?] of one another again; and so and so niente [nothing]. O thou [word obscured]! In any case and all cases, take care of thyself; grow stronger, as I try to do. Perhaps the times are mending for us; esperance, courage!— This is the dullest sad Letter I ever wrote; let its very dulness be proof of my “wish to send.” write soon, write soon. My mother's love to you and your's.God bless thee ever!

T. Carlyle.

A little Lassie is waiting to run with this to the Post; hardly within Post-time. I have got 3 flannel-shirts, two pairs of trousers, and my hair cut; the poor Cumberland girl's brother, her whom they called Barber at Puttoch (do you remember); it was he that polled me.— I have got no drawers yet; but 12 pairs of socks; which you are to “run in the heels.”— If I knew when or how your Mother was arriving, I could with pleasure go and meet her. I had a thot of going up for the cuddy-cart (while at Dumfries) which would be useful here at present. But no. Why do I keep the poor Lassie waiting for stuff of this kind! Adieu again, my dear Life-partner: God keep thee! write soon.

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