TC TO THOMAS STORY SPEDDING ; 12 August 1841; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18410812-TC-TSS-01; CL 13: 212-214
TC TO THOMAS STORY SPEDDING
Newby, Annan, N.B. 12 Augt, 1841—
Dear Mr Spedding,
We look daily, from all our windows here, out at your Mountains, or the grey storm-veil of your mountains; and had been often thinking of you before your letter came.1 A visit from us, which depends on two parties, Destiny and Mortal men, is predetermined by one of these: we will hope that the other will not, as so often before, play us false! As proof that resolve is already passing into action; tho' small action, learn that I have last night procured from Fraser of Regent Street a travelling map of Cumberland, significant I do believe of your very footpaths; with this I hope to drive and fare: to such length have we already gone. I fancied that I knew Helvellyn and Saddle-back here;2 this morning I try to confirm them by the new authority; but the light is never good: not once, for seven years, have I seen these beautifullest mountains of a right colour; sometimes about sunset they get to be, not of azure, but of a kind of mournful dirty bishop's-purple, which is their best; for which too I am thankful. Not a peak of them that is not rich with old memories for me; sad and beautiful as Life is, as Death is. On the whole, it is long since I have had so interesting a Dialogue with any of my Fellow-creatures as with this waste sandy ever-moaning Tide-flood of the Solway! A great, an ugly, inarticulate, lamentable but veracious kind of thing; with hoarse voice as from Eternity; of whose meaning there is no end. And my friends the Seamews, the Gulls and the Sandlarks—not to say the Halve-net Fishers, and the two-and-thirty Winds of heaven, bringing cloud-fields and savage wind-music out of all lands under the Sky, and from the very Sky itself! Cockneydom shrinks all into the size of a worm-eaten walnut, and this whole existence of ours with its Peel-ministries and solar systems is worth little and worth much!— Let us be thankful.—
We quit this place precisely about the time of your return out of Yorkshire;3 I think the very day before. We have then a visit of about a week to my Mother-in-law's “Templand, Thornhill, Dumfries”; after which,—we think seriously of what is next to be done!
The great obstacle here is, getting across the Firth. At Wigton, I think you once said, we are but some 16 miles from you? From Wigton here we can scarcely be above 7 or 8; not above 15 even at Scotsbrig from which we should likeliest start. To go round by Carlisle is heart-breaking; to stay all night in an Inn,—with the beautiful likelihood, among others, of not sleeping; of coming to you blear-eyed, shattered, half-distracted and undone! Some how or other we must manage to get on in a single day. It seems there is a man hereabouts, there are men, who will “guide” a bad old gig and quiet horse over to Bowness at low-water, and we ourselves can go at high-water and find it ready there. Do we come by Ireby after Wigton, or how? Some way or other we must actually try to come,—and not waste our map, and so much else!
For the rest, pray let us have nobody at all, except the Colonial Secretary and what the ground naturally brings.4 We bargain for pot-luck in all senses; pot-luck, the Colonial Secretary and a little tobacco. If Speech come, well; if Silence (as the Colonial Secretary understands), still better. I should like to climb Skiddaw; but there will be no weather for it. I could also hope to make acquaintance with Long Meg and her Daughters, unless their place be too distant;—old Druid Meg!5 We must drive down one day moreover and see the good Miss Fenwick;6 then back again by you, and see the Marshalls.7 My Wife, you observe, counts at present on going with me. We shall have for all these enterprises something like a week of time. After which the Pilgrimess bends towards Tynemouth and Miss Martineau; the Pilgrim not thitherward (having been there already), elsewhither, into unknown Space.
On the whole if you let us hear from you the day after your return, it will be as speedy to address, “Scotsbrig, Ecclefechan” (Thornhill lies rather apart from Mail ways); I will answer shortly: we shall see better then what face Destiny makes. Much too, alas, must depend on the weather!—
Adieu, dear hospitable Spedding. Remember us in all kindliness to the Lady Bountiful;8 to the sardonic Ex-Secretary. Yours always