The Collected Letters, Volume 11


TC TO JOHN A. CARLYLE ; 13 September 1839; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18390913-TC-JAC-01; CL 11: 181-185


Chelsea, 13th September, 1839—

My dear Brother,

On this friday morning, having now mastered or shoved aside the most pressing of the affairs that were waiting for me here, I sit down to write according to engagement. Alick will bring the Letter over for you, I hope, on Sunday morning, and find you well to welcome him and it.

We got along in the gentlest manner, without adventure of any kind, to Carlisle, where we arrived about three o'clock. The luggage lay safe at the Bush Inn, which however was not the place our evening Coach was to start from; the morning coach starts from the Bush, but the evening from another Inn called the “Coffee house.” However, we abode by our Bush; the “head-inn,” a very orderly desirable house, tho' a dear one;—our bill in it, for horse, boy and selves, was ten shillings for these two hours, but our treatment also was good and satisfactory. The boy arrived about an hour after us; we had passed him some five miles from the city, not recognizing him at once. He looked very blate [bashful] and bewildered, would not say what he could like to dine on, but expressed no unwillingness to dine on something; which accordingly he seemed to have done at last; for he looked sated, glass-eyed, and as it were clogged with victual at the time we set off, and I could rather have liked to see him arrive safely at Scotsbrig, tho' there seemed small likelihood of danger, and I straitly charged Boots and all persons concerned to get him under way forthwith. “Doandle” had been fed and scrubbed: the boy's duty consisted in paying sixpence to the ostler, and not flinging himself out till he got to your door. The sight of the luggage brought to my mind that I had never repaid Jamie what he paid for carrying it from Templand thither; I gave the boy cash for that, 3/, which I judged withal might be useful to have in his pocket by the road. He stood by the Coffee house-door, with the old great coat hung over his arm, looking listlessly at our departing coach; that was the last of him. On the top of Shap Fell,1 about nine o'clock, I judged you might be all questioning him; glad to learn from him that all had gone well,—as I hope it did go on his side no worse than on ours.

Till five o'clock we had plenty of time, and not more than that, for getting all things arranged: one inside seat was open at Carlisle when we arrived; they have two, an inside and an outside, which they can let there beforehand; the outside was already taken, so that till the vehicle actually came, there was for me no certainty but only a hope. However, at five, it had all gone as right as possible; Jane sat within, our whole luggage on the top, and I in front of it between two simple persons, of the harmless miscellaneous class, the place on the coach-box occupied by a tourist dandy in white hat and scotch plaid and Taglioni coat,2 also a very harmless person; whom indeed I had taken for the driver at first! We had the finest evening, the finest night; I had six cheroots in my pocket and a ready tinder-box; I sent many a silent thought towards you, and wished my dear Mother could have known how well we were. Your cloak was of essential benefit; I wrapt my own well round my legs and feet, keeping yours round my shoulders, and suffered next to nothing at all from cold. It was two o'clock when we got to Preston; the mail train to start about three. They crammed a cup of hot coffee and a buttered muffin into us, then us into an omnibus, and after some jolting confusion and delay into a railway vehicle which at three shot off with us into the Night. A small rain had begun by this time; the first spit of it I felt in my face as we drove up to our inn-door at Preston. The whirl thro' the confused darkness on those steam wings was one of the strangest things I have experienced. Hissing and dashing on, one knew not whither, we saw the gleam of towns in the distance, unknown towns; we went over the tops of towns (one town or village I saw clearly with its chimney heads vainly stretching up towards us); under the stars, not under the clouds but among them; out of one vehicle then into another, snorting, roaring we flew;—the likest things to a Faust's flight on the Devil's mantle;3 or as if some huge steam nightbird had flung you on its back, and were sweeping thro' unknown space with you, most probably towards London! By degrees I fell asleep; woke as little as possible till I heard the sound, “Wolverhampton was our last stage,” and knew that Brumagem [Birmingham] was now nigh. Jane had slept some too; we had ample room in our machine, and could lie stretched across it. At Birmingham there was a change of vehicle, and luggage to be shifted amid the rain; however, all was again right; an excellent breakfast, with deliberation to eat it, set us up surprisingly; and so with the usual series of phenomena we were safe landed at Euston Square, soon after one o'clock; and in another hour, by a most ugly hackney-coachman, here at our own door.4 Helen had fires on; she had arrived only twelve hours or so before us, having come by Hull for cheapness: it was on the whole a piece of luck that we did not get away on Monday. All was as right here as it could be in a house so dismantled, not a paper-clipping out of its place, but the place of no thing discoverable at once. I borrowed a pen from the Marshalls, and despatched the Corn Law Circular;5 I discovered pipes, and smoked;—by the bye, you may assure my good Alick that dried, it is the right tobacco after all, that same, which he took so much trouble with, and I shall thank him for it all winter! Finally, we had two chickens boiled (tell this to my Mother), and [ate a?] wholesome dinner; the third chicken roasted was our dinner yesterday. We slept long a[nd] deep. It was a great surprise: the first moment, to find one did not awaken at Scotsbrig! Wretched feelings of all sorts were holding carnival within me; the best I could do was to keep the door carefully shut on them: I sat dead silent all yesterday, working at Meister, and now they are gone back to their caves again. Jane has already rehabilitated the house; could she but get her spoons from Darwin, who perhaps is not in town! We spoke at Fraser's door as we passed in our hackney; the Meister sheets were soon forwarded, and all goes right there: the Miscellanies arrived, and correct as to binding; the F. R. packed into boxes, and waiting for a Boston ship, or destined now to take a New York one without waiting.6 Fraser was not there. They handed me a packet from America, a Translation of Eckermann's Conversations with Goethe,7 which I will by and by send to my Mother; for you there seemed to be nothing lying. The Sterlings, Mrs Sterling and Mrs Major Sterling,8 called yesterday on chance; the old Stimabile at Brighton, the young one making ready for Canada; Jane was up there in the evening, having been out when they called here. John is well at Cifton [sic]. Elizabeth Fergus is wedded,—last monday, as the Newspapers9 and a letter left with the Sterlings announced: “Mrs Compopoli,” quod faustum sit [may she be happy]!10 Jane is gone thither even now. Hunt and Craik also found us yesterday; interrupted my “dead silence” for a while. I lent Hunt the Eckermann; Craik was as kind and wearisome as ever. No news have I heard of the smallest moment,—unless it be that our Chelsea omnibuses now take you to the City for sixpence, if you account that of moment! I walked to Hyde Park after nightfall yesterday; I am going up to town today. In short, we have had the most prosperous journey that was possible; all is right here, and I, with work daily, shall grow right too. The Meister will occupy me continually for ten days or so; we shall then see. Silence!

About midway between Birmm and London our rainy morning cleared up into a grey, damp, rainless day, which yesterday also was; I doubt it continued raining all the while in Lancashire and northward, over poor Jamie among others. Today is bright brisk sunshine, wind at N. W. I hope Jamie has this too. Tell him I admire his healthy equanimity, his honest solidity of mind; and will thank him for many things, in thought, more than I ever did in word. To all of you, ye kind good souls, what can I send but thanks, heartfelt thanks. Well fare it with you all; at a distance, since it cannot be near! I was an ungainly ill man while loitering there; but you have forgiven me, you have pitied me: I shall in reality be much better now. And so enough for today, dear Jack. Take my Mother to Dumfries, the first bright glimpse of weather you have; the drive will do her good. Settle with Austin about his money. Write to me when anything definite occurs; in a few days whether there be anything definite or not. Adieu, dear Brother. Good be with you all ever!

T. Carlyle

If I can get old newspapers I will send some, one to Annan, one to Dumfries; but do you announce us there articulately so soon as may be.— Let Isabella send her Brother's address.11 I heard he was at Scotsbrig and did not see me, for the first time three days ago! That her Father was there I well remember, but that any other was there I never knew or guessed till then. —Here is that infatuated Craik again! I will find some means of casting him to his own side of the gutter, one of these days. Here one has a right to be free from bores, if free from little else. I will off into town with him; that is the shortest—for once.— Adieu, again.— Jane is gone out, or she would send you all her remembrances in words. She has written to her Mother. I will not take her atravelling again for some time—to America or elsewhither!