July 1836-December 1837

The Collected Letters, Volume 9


TC TO JANE WELSH CARLYLE; 18 August 1837; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18370818-TC-JWC-01; CL 9:290-294.


Scotsbrig, 18th August, 1837—

My good Wife,

If I seem dilatory in writing, it is but appearance, not reality: this is literally the first possibility I have had since your new address got hither. The Government Frank came as fast as it could; greatly to the quieting of my anxieties; after which I waited in sure hope. On monday morning last I set out on a journey too long delayed to Dumfries and Templand. Passing thro' the Village on my galloway, Postie there and then handed me out the Malvern Letter; a Letter from your Mother earnestly encouraging my Templand expedition; finally a Newspaper seemingly directed in Goody's hand too, but marked ominously with red ink, with a huge brown seal, and the charge of some five shillings and odds. This latter I declined; the two former I accepted, and set to reading in the bright sunny morning, heedless of men. Your Mother's was despatched in few paces; but Goody's served me ambling along in alternate sunshine and shadow of trees till I was fairly over Hoddam Bridge. A blithe man it made me; for the poor little Lassie seemed really to be enjoying her travels, and did not, as was too apt to be her wont, “ride thro' the country with her eye fixed merely on the apron of the gig.”1 “She can write a grand Letter when she likes,” said my Mother, last night when I read it over to her on my return. The former account I had got of the feckless waefulness attendant on packing and departing dwelt sad within me; it is such a counterpart of what I have felt so often, or rather do always of late feel: one is ashamed to claim pity, and yet one could greet [weep] for very misery, and might deserve to be prayed for in all churches. The nerves of man are a fearful piece of machinery.— Not till last night at ten o'clock, wearied foredone and the saddest man in all Scotland, did I get to any table where an inkstand and ten minutes of composure might be mine. This morning (steeped to the heart in nauseous Doctors' stuff, ach Gott!) I write as I can. My galloway was small, of violent temper and no breeding; I had awakened, on my Templand night, at three in the morning, on my Dumfries ones at five each, and had to fight my way home again out of the kindnesses of those people with the suspicion resting on me that I was a kind of churl. The old grey walls of Scotsbrig rose tranquil from amid the green branches from the babble of the “caudron,”2 in the moonshine and silence last night; and my Mother's candle was burning in the front window: it seemed all a vision, fast very fast departing; but it was beautiful to me; I shall not be long behind it. O Jane, O my Jane!— But now let me get to work.

The Templand people were all comfortably at breakfast on the Tuesday morning when I arrived; your Mother looking really ten years younger than when I left her. She is clear in complexion, assiduous to provide felicity, joyful as one altogether in her element; and had your Uncle under a short course of castor. He, spite of the castor against which he kicked reluctant, seemed well to live, hearty and jovial as ever; “one of those strong men that can rest.” The girls are beauties in their way; the gold-haired one3 a conscious beauty; pleasant phenomena to see flitting about on this Planet; doubtless of the pleasantest one can behold there. Walter himself seemed to me a very good kind of lad, intelligent withal, and of a fine pacific quiescent nature. What will recommend him greatly to you, he has read the French Revolution, and even was speaking of it with some considerable understanding! Your Letter, read aloud, had “great success”; especially the “By Jove, Hester, this tranquillity”4 produced an explosion of laughter.— My first purpose, as I knew the scarcity of beds, was to get away that night; then, that failing, in the fore noon while heat had not rendered riding impossible: but it would not do; we had all to go and see “Crichope Linn”;5 it was sunset before I could force my way out, and then only with semi-promises to come back, which I have no purpose of fulfilling. Mrs Creighton6 was ill and greatly out of spirits; your Mother went thither while we visited the Linn; I saw no one. Mrs C. I think has written for Elizabeth Fergus; I heard also that Pepoli was to go to Kirkcaldy.— At Dumfries on the Monday I had managed beforehand to see M'Diarmid for three minutes, and get a settlement of him. The Game-rent, poor Goody's addition of pinmoney, was eaten away by some 30/ of expences; I received, deducting the price of the Newspaper, just 3 shillings of balance. But it is straight now, and I will account to thee. Also I have to say that Major Scott7 has taken the thing this year, with privilege of houseroom, for £10, deducting £1 for the goodwill of Nannie Macqueen,8 who seems to occasion some difficulty, Scott being a man that wishes to have all things straight and no croaking in it. I said what I could to explain the footing Nannie stood on,9 and added withal that it would be free to take a complete lease of next year. It seems the woods also need new cutting, but nothing can be done in it this season. On repassing thro' Dumfries I was too miserable to be troubled with anybody; and business being all done, I rode off direct out of Jean's house; towards Annan, for a bathe; and so home, forlorn as you have seen. I must write to poor Mac some note of apology; and also to put in writing the Nannie Macqueen business. Aird I had had a walk with on the monday night; not entertaining: greatly amazed at the F. Revolution, a “most extraordinary Book” &c “destruction of conventionalities; but then what is to come in the place of them?” He tells me he means to save a little money, and then to retire, not marrying, to his native village. With a feeling of great thankfulness, I quitted that confused crowdie [mess] of persons and relations of persons; to sit here, like Cowper's crow on the belfry, and say over it all: “Caw!”10

Such, dear Jean, is my travel's history;11 literally no history at all, the due record of which were entire silence, had one not a Goody to write nothings to. Regret not that thou hast not been near me; O no! I have been in the hospital here, in the mud-bath, where it is far better to be left alone. The inexpressible feeling of sadness and life weariness that overloads one is not base nor unendurable if it do but keep good-natured, if it issue not perversely in hard words to those we love! It is medicinal, I do believe. Much irritation has subsided; my feeling towards all mortals is most usually one of pity again, “beginning with William Corson”;12 to my loved ones,—O Heaven! I have turned my eyes little into the Past, little or not at all into the Future; I have lain in my mud-bath, and in very truth made the nearest approach possible to doing Nothing, a difficult thing to do. We shall see what will come of it. I cannot here estimate my new capabilities, or what even approximately my position in London may now be. With eyes lifted up, no longer fettered to a desk and sheet of a Book, one must look round and try to ascertain. Life always there is for the living;13 someway or other we shall get lived: my ambition restricts itself to that. If an Angel were to demand with all the crowns and laurel-garlands that ever girt the heads of Adam's sinful posterity in the one hand, and in the other an offer of Peace, the Power to be at Peace,—O Angel, I would say, keep thy garlands, let me, were it as a breaker of whinstones, have peace! Enough of this.

I have had no Letters that you have not sent except a short one from Mill, and a long one from John. Mill writes to ask me for an old Letter of his about Carrel and Paris; which Letter, I replied, was unattainable, being in your keeping, and you gone to Malvern. He is busy writing a Book “on Logic”; and seems anxious for my verdict in favour of the enterprise. Write surely, since thou hast a mind to write: that is the rule. He says in reference to Thackeray's Article, which he attributes to Sterling, it will get me many new readers: esto [so be it]! By the by this Article did us all some good here. It was a sunny Monday morning; Alick had been up here, Jamie and I were escorting him homewards: daily for above a week had the little messenger flown to the Post Office without any effect at all; what was Goody about, why was there no tidings or token? Lo, on the top of the Potters Knowe (the height immediately behind Middlebie), Betty Smeal unfastening her luggage; presenting two Newspapers with their strokes in Goody's hand; one of which was this Times! They made me take place under the shade of the head and beechtrees, and read it all over to them, amid considerable laughter and applause. One is obliged to men in these circumstances who say even with bluster and platitude greater than Thackeray's, Behold this man is not an ass.— I wrote to Cavaignac;14 I think his Letter very sprightly and unsound; but I do value the man as among the manfullest I know. John Sterling's Letter you doubtless read? An inarticulate blast of music: your criticism of his Life and way of doing seemed to me very just. But there is more hope of him now; hope of his living, which includes all other hope for him. My brother John's long Letter held out no prospect of his return in September, nor fixed determination of any kind; Ladyship waiting on a certain Frau von Spaur,15 undecided &c; Jack himself not guessing how it would be. The likeliest seemed to be his trying Rome another winter, and returning perhaps in spring. The cholera was girdling them in, in spite of all the Pope's industry: it had struck me they would be retreating before it, but they were not. Alick here has resolved at last on opening a shop in Ecclefechan, in my Mother's main house in that village. It is a forlorn prospect; but I cannot say to him it is not the best. Some hundreds of thousands in this country this year, as I learn too indubitably, have not known for ten months past what it is to be satisfied with food. The condition of the lower classes is frightful, and we have mere Io-poeans [cries of joy] on the Poor Law. I am sorrier for no man than for Alick; but hope still of him: the face he shows is even good, considering all.

As for thee, my poor Goody, sole possession that I have in the world, close knit to me tho' so cruelly separated, do thou, my little dear, take all care of thyself, and be well and hopeful when we meet again. Enjoy Malvern while it is good; the second day after it has grown tiresome, take coach and go home. Have the house swept for me; I think I will soon meet thee there. September is supportable in London, at least the end of it. At all events it were as well we met soon now. If too hot, we might run over to Boulogne on our own account? Write directly, so soon as there is any distinct prediction to be made. I wish I were near thee, O I wish—I wish—many things. Write any way, directly. I can no farther: my soul and my body are alike sick today. Adieu dear Wife! Keep a good heart: be sincerely cheerful when there is real fun; sincerely sad when the misery is real. Sad is serious, the beginning of insight, of conduct.God be with thee, my own.

T. Carlyle

Did you get two Newspapers, one in a variety of hands? I think I know what your marked Newspaper must have been. Somebody told me there had been some notice of me in the Globe, some praise: it was that marked?16— Say the kindest thing you have to Mrs Sterling for me; one of the kindest, tempered with acid, to his whirlwindship.17

The little girl is waiting and post time come. Exit.

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